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TRIP AROUND THE SUN

 

39 of 52  Jews (Conservative)

 

Thoughts during the week:

 

As is becoming usual, I remembered more that should have been included in last week’s report. Most of it has to do with the personality of this pastor. In churches like this one, the pastor’s personality has everything to do with the success of the congregation. This large church was filled to the gills.

 

The closest I could compare him to is one of those really good demonstrators at the fair – you’ve enjoyed them. They take a set of knives and do magic with them – or a fancy blender that goes so fast it cooks from friction – making hot soup from a medley of raw vegetables and a little water and salt. Then they pass it out in little cups talking the whole time about your health and how much money you are going to save. They are so excited for us all.

 

Pastor Clint was a master. He screamed with delight – he walked back and forth like Tigger the Tiger – “WO! Be a Tigger for JESUS!!” He cried and had a broken voice at will. Don’t get this wrong, please – I liked this guy. When someone has this kind of talent, I always hope his motives are good – because with good motives, a salesman is our friend – with bad motives, he can do great harm. Meeting his boy was a bit of comfort for me. Things like this make one human. He invited each new visitor to stand and introduce themselves, and he asked, “How did you find us?” I said I drove by and met Paul. He said, “Paul is a great guy!” Asking another visitor, the visitor said, “I saw you on TV. – You look better there!” Pastor Clint stood stunned for seconds – and then yelled out with delight, “I like this guy!!” Everyone was still laughing – and Clint the pastor was definitely enjoying his goat-hood. During our little ride together in the hotrod, we talked some. He said, “I’ll bet you have a ball in this car.” I said, “Oh yes – it gets me lots of attention.” He looked at me knowingly, and I said, punching him in the side a little, “Me and you like attention.” “Ha!” he said, “Life is too short!” On returning in the hotrod, he yelled out again to the congregation gathered in front of the church, “Be a Tigger for Jesus!”

 

I like both the humor and the substance of that phrase with Tigger in it. The pastor had declared Tigger to be his favorite cartoon character; he’s one of mine also. I don’t care much for Pooh. Eyore is actually kind of interesting. There are lots of good people who move slow. “Enthusiasm” literally means “God within.” There are forces other than God  that (or who) also can have a similar effect – both good ones and otherwise.

 

Sometimes we get a bit of real data when we hear words that come without preparation and thought. What does a fundamentalist mean when he declares, “Life is too short.” It indicates a need to get it now – in this life – a heaven on Earth position – not the “I’m saved forever and this life is nothing attitude.” I think this pastor is very different from his parishioners – smarter – but it’s still a position from which he is able to do lots of good – or otherwise. Is there a scripture in which someone says “Eat, Drink, and be Merry, for tomorrow we die?” Or is that from Shakespeare or somewhere else? I know I’ve heard it from the pulpit many times as something to which we should not subscribe.

The Visit:

 

Jewish – Conservative

 

Ner Tamid – 16770-A West Bernardo Drive

 

When I arrived, I knew enough to get one of the little caps and put it on. After being seated, however, the Rabbi came to me and asked, “Are you married?” I said, “Yes – I am married.” He then took me back out and asked me to take a long scarf-like cloth that I was to drape across my shoulders – the two ends hanging in the front. Later I talked with someone about this – and when he heard of the question about whether I was married, he was puzzled – he said I should wear it whether married or not. The marriage question may have been about something else – maybe where I was sitting or something ???

 

The first nearly an hour was spent singing and the Rabbi reading – but essentially all in Hebrew. Once in a while there was “transliteration” in the book – that’s where the English pronunciations of the Hebrew words are written so people who don’t know Hebrew could sound out the readings and the songs.

 

 

This all leads to very poor music, as even most of the Jews do not know the Hebrew. I thought it might be hard to have a report on anything – if the meeting continued in this way.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an example from the web of transliteration:

 

nilavup paattu nilavup paattu...oar naaL kaettaen
moongil kaattil moongil kaattil...naanum padiththaen

nilavup paattu nilavup paattu oar naaL kaettaen
moongil kaattil moongil kaattil naanum padiththaen
nilavup paattu nilavup paattu oar naaL kaettaen
moongil kaattil moongil kaattil naanum padiththaen
andha isaiyin ragasiyam iru uyirukkup purindhadhu
iru uyirukkup purindhadhu ingu yaarukkuth therindhadhu
isaiyil kalandhu midhakkum thenRalae isaiyin magaLaip paarththadhillaiyoa

Then we read these and pronounce them – and the magic of Hebrew comes from our mouths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is an example of some actual Hebrew: (Sorry about the length – it’s a picture from the web – not actually characters – comes as a unit.)

 

 

I, of course, have no idea what it says – but more important, most of the Jews also do not. This emotional attachment to a language has always puzzled me. The Catholics used to speak the Mass only in Latin. Why would they do this? Men put together these languages. They are more like science than religion – they are not sacred, but simply useful. Right now – right here – English is the most useful to have a successful meeting – perhaps Spanish is next – and it falls off quickly from there.

 

While all this was going on, I was trying to follow – and get a minute in between to look at the Torah – and the commentary – to try to get a comparison with what I saw with the Reformed Jews. (It was easier there, as about half of it was in English – and transliteration was available for all of it – making it more possible to keep on the right page.)

 

I was not successful in finding commentary on the plagues – in particular the killing of the firstborn of the Egyptians – but I did find this – referring to landmarks during the Exodus:

 

The landmarks mentioned in these verses have long ago disappeared, and cannot be identified with certainly. The precision, however, with which they are designated, guarantees that the spots were once well known.

 

(This was interesting – because the precision of the historical writings is used to help determine the truth of them – rather than taking the position, “This is God’s word, period.”)

 

Continuing: No portion of the world outside of Palestine was more familiar to the Israelites than the western border with Egypt; no event in Bible history more perennially popular than the story of the deliverance from Egypt.

 

(Several interesting things here – “Bible” is acceptable as a synonym for “Torah.” There is, however, no Old Testament – and certainly no New Testament. It is simply the Bible or the Torah. “Popular” is not the same in meaning at all as “important.” To us, it appears that the Passover is the most important thing of all to the Jews – but Jews recognize that it is not so much the most important – as the most popular.)

 

Continuing: “the Lord looked forth.” Metaphorical for lightning. One glance of God’s eye sufficed to throw into hopeless confusion the enemies of his redeemed firstborn.

 

(The firstborn – released from the destroying angel by the miracle of Passover – are here regarded as the ones Pharaoh was after – rather than all the Hebrew slaves. This as if the deliverance of the firstborn was a deliverance from Pharaoh – not from the destroying angel. If this really happened as written in the Old Testament or the Torah – then it seems to me it was not from Pharaoh, but from God that the firstborn needed to be protected and delivered. Then of course, all the Hebrews needed to be delivered from Pharaoh. In other words, the miracle of the lamb’s blood was to be saved from God – not from Pharaoh.)

 

Continuing: “discomfited.” Threw into confusion. The text does not allude to the means whereby the panic of the Egyptians was produced. The Psalmist supplies this omission. “The clouds flooded forth waters; the skies sent out a sound. The voice of thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lighted up the world, etc.

 

(At the other meeting – this confusion was given as a possible interpretation of “killing of firstborn.” They became so confused it was no longer clear who was firstborn and who was not – thus – the death of the firstborn. I could not find this same opinion in this commentary. I still suspect it may be there, but that I just didn’t find it.)

 

Now two most interesting topics came from the Rabbi’s talk – (IN ENGLISH)

 

{I value English only as a scientist and for communication where we live; it has no religious significance to me. I did request an English-speaking mission, because I thought I could do a better job using the language I knew. All three boys served in Spanish-speaking missions – and can now have private conversation in my presence.}

 

Topic One: Muslim Terrorism

 

(This Rabbi had been very soft-spoken up to now – but his enthusiasm became very visible and audible now.)

 

We are told over and over and over when we hear of Muslim terrorism, that the vast majority of Muslim people are not terrorists, but peace-loving people. That’s entirely accurate and entirely irrelevant.

 

The passive behavior of the vast majority of Germans under Hitler did nothing to stop the killing of Jews.

 

The vast majority of Russians under Stalin would not themselves have killed Jews and other innocent people – but that didn’t stop what was happening.

 

It is meaningless at best and terribly evil at worst to say that a large majority is non-violent.

 

Few Palestinians strap bombs to their children, but the majority support this by word or by silence.

 

(Most Mormons supported a belief in God’s curse against the Negro race this same way – by voice or by silence. If someone wanted to speak out against it, he was not allowed to speak – or told to change his subject. I suspect that Muslims who speak out against Muslim terrorism are not popular. I know that no one did when I visited the Muslims – they talked instead of how Allah had turned millions of Jews into monkeys.)

 

What is said daily about Jews in Mosques is no different from what was said in Germany about Jews before the Holocaust.

 

Their peaceful lifestyle is doing nothing to stop the violence.

 

Islamic groups have criticized individual acts of violence, like 9/11 – but no Islamic group has criticized Islamic terrorism in general.

 

(I don’t find I can argue very strongly against this position. I can say with surety, however, that Jews celebrate terrorism every year when they celebrate Passover. The killing of the firstborn was terrorism, pure and simple. It always seems that our terrorism is justified or even heroic, while the other guy’s terrorism is evil and completely without justification.)

 

(The truth is that terrorism is simply the war tool of the weak against the strong. David could not meet the giant hand to hand, so he acted from afar with a new tool of war that the big guy didn’t understand. That’s part of why it makes no sense to believe it was God who killed the firstborn of the Egyptians – that would be the strongest, God, against the weaker Pharaoh.  It must surely have been a tool of the weaker, the Hebrews, against the stronger, Pharaoh.) Why would God use terrorism, when he could simply have taken out the Pharaoh and any others necessary for the escape? God don’t shoot pool, He don’t play football, and He don’t fight wars – we do these things, and we have a tendency to pray that God will help us win.)

 

Topic Two: Most important of the Ten Commandments.

 

What is the most important of the Ten Commandments?

 

Individuals in the congregation responded in whispers or little more – and what I heard was “Thou shalt have no other Gods.” I also thought this would be the Rabbi’s answer. I also whispered that answer.

 

You may think it’s the one concerning the unity of the one and only God, but that is not it – not according to The Rabbis.

 

(Now this phrase is interesting in itself – this is a Rabbi speaking – who are “The Rabbis?” I think it must be like our “General Authorities.”)

 

According to The Rabbis, the most important is: “Honor thy Father and thy Mother.”

 

If we do not honor parents, then also we will not honor grandparents – and we will not honor great grandparents – and eventually we dishonor God – as the Father of us all.

 

(How literal is this to Jews? – It appears here that God is in our genealogy. This becomes clear later.)

 

But honoring our parents, according to The Rabbis, means also to honor our teachers.

 

Then his question: If a parent and a teacher are both in trouble, who do we redeem first?

 

(I hear from the congregation – Parents.)

 

No – the answer is that we redeem the teacher first. If the parent also is an honorable teacher, then they are the same. A parent is a teacher.

 

He said, “Judaism does not honor biological parenthood.”

 

(Boy – do we see otherwise – born to a Jewish mother, one is automatically a Jew – but even within this congregation, their answer did not agree with what the Rabbi was saying – so it may well be that the doctrine (The Rabbis) supports his contention rather than what most Jews actually do. We have much doctrine like this also, that is, doctrines the majority of us do not follow. We don’t want a list, do we?)

 

(Now – with parenthood having naught to do with biology – God does become the Parent of us all – because He is the teacher of us all, which, among Jews, is far more to be honored than a biological link. So much for the study of the genes – genealogy. Rather than study the sire of the sire of the sire, Jews might like to ferret out the teacher of the teacher of the teacher. Probably a much harder job.)

 

With transliteration, then, we had some music.

 

And the Rabbi gave us a bit of comedy relief, which was welcomed by all.

 

“What is the difference between a British person and a Jew?”

 

“The British person leaves without saying goodbye.”

 

“The Jew says goodbye over and over - and then never leaves.”

 

And then a retired couple were brought up front. They are joining a group in Jerusalem to work with women who need help – concerning problems with the aftermath of terrorism, etc. They were excited to be going – and much honored here.

 

The Rabbi said in his closing, “May you be a blessing to your new neighbors as you have been to us.” There were tears among the people.

 

 

39 of 52  Jews (Conservative)

 

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