He is Jewish so of course noted with some interest my recent quest to attend a seder. He was particularly keen to comment on a speculation that I included in my first report on the matter:
"As the Lubavitchers are very fundamentalist, I think we might perhaps conclude that we see the basic difference between Jewish love and Christian love there. Jewish love is for Jews and Christian love is for all mankind"
I will let him take up the story from there. What I reproduce is an email he sent me which I reproduce with his permission. I am particularly glad to reproduce it because I think he strives hard for balance in the same way that I hope I do:
I just saw these comments and wanted to just say a couple of things: Jewish love is a mixed bag, and a result of 2000 years (or more) of anti-Semitism. There's a real chicken-and-egg thing...did intolerance lead to hate against Jews or did hate against Jews lead to our being intolerant? A little of both. In fact, according to our own tenets, we are supposed to love everyone, don't damn anyone to hell, accept converts...which was once quite easy, until persecution and even laws demanding death for those who converted Christians kind of put the kibbosh on that. I am not saying any of this is good, but it's what happened.
Because of my own background, I have been buffetted by the problems. My dad, being a Holocaust survivor, was intolerant to the idea that I would marry out, but even if they were to have an Orthodox and sincere conversion...no good. However, he even admitted it was wrong per the tenets of the faith, and he was not rational about it, because of what he had undergone. On the other hand, he was head of a microbiology lab and a university professor...and those who worked under him loved him, and he had a number of them who worked for him for 30 or more years, and none were Jewish...i.e. he treated them almost as if family...we still hear from them occasionally, though he's been gone 25 years now.
In the congregation I used to go, there are a number of converts, and I was very close with a convert and his family when in college. And it's an Orthodox congregation. I now go to a small Chabad synagogue, and there are converts-in-training there....now, you can say it's only because they are potentially Jews and that's why they are treated well...it would be untrue. I have never heard that particular Chabad rabbi (and like all groups, Chabad has no-goodniks and saints and everything in between) talk down Christians or Christianity. True, there is talk of "love of Israel", i.e. the Jewish people, but there is no negative talk.
Ironically, also, yesterday, I was at my old congregation for a bar mitzvah...and the rabbi there made a speech talking about precisely about how we need to be more outgoing, interact with the rest of the world. He was talking about the Seder and Passover, which is both a uniquely particularistic Jewish holiday, but has universal themes of freedom and liberty. But even in our household, at our Seder, and most of my family is Orthodox, we talk of the liberation from bondage in the historical sense, but leading to the Redemption of all Mankind in the Messianic Era. It is NOT limited to Jews (in fact, we talk about the Seven Noahide Laws, which if followed, enable non-Jews to go to the World-to-Come, or be labeled "righteous" or whatever...and in fact, what we did was make it much harder for ourselves, in a kind of nobless oblige fashion, to follow all the crazy laws we have, as Jews, to get there....we didn't expect anyone else to have to do that. In fact, one of the rationales now for not actively seeking converts (versus allowing conversion if pursued) is that "it's hard to be a Jew", an old saying, derived from both the external problems of anti-Semitism but MORE so from the internal obligations.
There are also plenty of laws about how to treat the stranger...and that's what the rabbi was speaking of...but yes, over the centuries, we withdrew and became quite chauvinist at times...it's an incredibly complex topic. I'm not trying to excuse the Chabad folks there...my family would have the same problems here, meaning my mother and my sister, though I wouldn't mind at all and would LOVE to have you as a guest...I think you would add immensely to the discussions we have every year.
You probably have been warned, though, that the Reform...and I don't know how they are in Australia, but here, they are of course extremely liberal in every bad sense of the word, and I'm sorry you won't be able to attend a more traditional Seder. That doesn't mean that the one you'll be going to will be bad, or will have some of the ultra-liberal memes going on that we see here...but I wouldn't be shocked. Not all of it is bad...a lot of it is the usual liberal fairy-tale utopian ideals, but without a shred of common sense...but oftentimes far removed from the Jewish (as some of us see it) aspects, and so watered down as to be too universally-themed...a lot of kumbaya and can't we all just get along nonsense.
I don't know, for instance, if they will have this paragraph at the end, which we include:
"Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations that know Thee not, and upon kingdoms that did not call upon Thy name. For they have consumed Jacob, and laid waste his habitation. Pour out Thy rage upon them, and let Thy fury overtake them. Pursue them in anger and destroy them, from under the heavens of the LORD."
You can imagine that my dad would say these with a bit of passion. On the other hand, there is a lot about the stranger, and "let all those who are hungry come and eat"...and doesn't say "Jewish hungry". Mixed bag.
I would say it would be good to find a traditional haggadah, the 'book' that's used to retell the story of the Exodus, but not quite in any fashion one would recognize from the Bible. But even then, it would be good to see if someone can give you one that is annotated and has explanations/footnotes, because even for those of us who have done this for 50 years, there are still passages that make no sense...it's VERY different than one would expect, and is not a simple retelling of the story. In turn, it will be VERY different than the Reform version...as example, here's something I found on the Internet:
Or, even better, a broader article about the various Haggadot available...even at our Orthodox table, we use a lot of different versions, with different commentaries, though all are based on traditional sources for the commentaries...no "feminist" or "Humanist" ones here.
Probably more information than you wanted or needed, but I thought I'd try to clarify. I feel somewhat qualified to do this, having grown up with not only my dad, but with my mother's parents, who are now also gone; My grandfather's father was murdered in front of my grandfather, during the 1905 Revolution, but it was as much because he was Jewish, according to my grandfather...and my grandmother was from Poland, and experienced anti-Semitism there...pogroms...but lived to tell the tale.
Nevertheless, though my grandmother would spit on the sidewalk if she saw a priest or nun...the Polish Catholic Church was virulently anti-Semitic back when (Pope John Paul being a saint in my eyes, truly, as he was so different in that regards, as I actually believe Ratzinger to be too)....my grandparents were beloved by those they dealt with, Jewish or non-Jewish, because even with their own prejudices, they were able to overcome those in their day-to-day dealings and treated everyone as their equals, or judged them solely on their behavior, rather than on their background. But I grew up in the 60's, with "peace, love and rock'n roll", and so found all this stuff antiquated and silly...and then realized it wasn't! But I've genuinely tried to look at it from every perspective.
The "Chosen People" thing...even that is rife with complications. We werent' chosen to be the overlords nor the "best"...it was us being chosen to do obligations, to show a way. INCREDIBLY difficult to not be pain-in-the-ass "I know better than you" vs. "I'm just going to show by example"...and we're not always successful at it. But I can tell you that it is what we are SUPPOSED to do, to live and show by example, not be being utopianists who know it all...though liberal Jews, as all liberals do, go and do that. So the irony (and I'll finish finally) is that the most liberal Jews are the ones that know the least about Judaism, but are in the forefront of every nut movement from Communism to every dubious "rights" group...
I try to live by the creed of just trying to be a good human being, as were my grandparents and my dad, and treat everyone well, regardless of background, because that is the REAL creed Judaism is supposed to follow. I work in a hospital and I think there are a total of about 3 Jewish workers...I'm the only one in the Emergency room...but I love my coworkers and (I hope) they love me, even though we have such different backgrounds.
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