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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Whatever... just don't show up on my doorstep!

I'm always thankful for slow news days.  Not only do slow news days usually mean just a little less mayhem in the region where I live, but they also allow the silly, meaningless stories to be reported.

Take for example the 'big' story over the past couple of days about the Pope reinstating an obscure Good Friday Mass that contains language that is somewhat less than flattering towards the Jews.


Puleeze, is this really worth getting worked up over?  I think not.

Let's take a look at what all the excitement is about:

Back in the early 1960's, Pope John XXIII met with a holocaust survivor named Jules Isaac who pointed out that a segment of the Good Friday Mass, which included prayers for the conversion of "Perfidious" (treasonous) Jews, was not really in keeping with the spirit of sensitivity and reconciliation that the church was trying to project. 

Seemingly as a result of this meeting, the Pope ordered that the the offending segment of the mass be removed... and everyone lived happily ever after. 

Sort of.

Look, it was the sixties and people were starting to become a little more enlightened about things like offending one-another's sensibilities, so this kind of request was perfectly in keeping with with the times.  But don't make the mistake of thinking that it changed anyone's ideology/theology one iota.  It didn't.

The Catholic church still continued to believe (like most religions) that theirs was the true path to salvation, and as a result maintained a fervent hope that non-believers (including the Jews) would 'see the light' and convert to Catholicism.

I have to say, I don't really have a problem with that.  I mean, how different is a Catholic praying for us 'perfidious' Jews to see the light and convert to Christianity from, say, the lines in our 'Aleinu' (with which we end all our prayers) that say:

"He has not made us like the nations of the lands and has not emplaced us like the families of the earth; for He has not assigned our portion like theirs nor our lot like all their multitudes. For they bow to vanity and emptiness and pray to a g-d which helps not." [emphasis mine]

and further along:

"Therefore we put our hope in You, Hashem our G-d, that we may soon see Your mighty splendor, to remove detestable idolatry from the earth, and false g-ds will be utterly cut off, to perfect the universe through the Almighty's sovereignty." [emphasis mine]  *

People, I'm an observant Jew and recite these lines three times a day (more frequently on Shabbat and holidays), and I have no illusions about exactly what they mean.  It means we think we're right and they're wrong.

Sure, the 'aleinu' may not specify a particular religion or group by name, but the reference is clearly to idolaters (polytheists) of which there are no lack in the world. 

My point is that it's problematic to demand that Catholics avoid praying that we Jews will be enlightened and convert when 'aleinu' isn't exactly a charitable prayer that the idolater's eyes might be opened to the truth of monotheism (although such sentiments are found elsewhere in Jewish texts/liturgy).

One can make the argument that Jews of the middle ages could be forgiven for viewing the Christian prayers for the conversion of Perfidious Jews to be an exhortation to the faithful to go out and convert Jews by force (or kill them trying).  But by the 1960s one couldn't really make that argument.  It was about sensitivity and mending fences.

As it turns out, the whole uproar over the Good Friday mass was pretty much over nothing... at least as far s the Jews are concerned.  The 'Tridentine Mass' that the Pope has reauthorized uses the text from after the 1962 decision to remove the offensive reference to the Jews. 

In fact, the decision to authorize this traditional (some might say archaic) Mass was more about the language in which it would be recited than the words it contained.  You see, aside from the sensitivity problem the Church was having with the Jewish community, it was having a communication crisis in a world congregation that was becoming less and less comfortable with Latin!  At the same time that the potentially offensive bits were removed from the liturgy, Masses were ordered to be performed in the local languages so that people would know what was being said.

Unfortunately, the decision caused a schism in the Church and a small group of about 3000 Catholics from France and Italy insisted on continuing with the Latin Mass.  As a result, their bishops were excommunicated by John Paul II.  Considering that the watchwords of the times were reconciliation and mending fences, the result for this small splinter group was anything but conciliatory.

Which brings us to the news that the current pope is taking what seems to be a step back in time by reauthorizing a Mass that had fallen from favor, and even allowing the recitation of Latin Masses (on a case-by-case basis). 

Rather than ask ourselves if this is good or bad for the Jews.. it is probably more correct to ask if it even concern us?

Pretty much all religions have a tendency to view themselves as the correct path to enlightenment, salvation and/or paradise.  This can be problematic when one religion spawns another or where two or more religions exist in close proximity to one another.  The results can range from something as benign (albeit offensive/annoying) as people ringing your doorbell on Saturday morning and wanting to save your soul... to things as destructive as Jihads and Crusades

But this current decision by Pope Benedict XVIth is not an act of aggression nor an offense against any external faith.   And it certainly wasn't anything worrisome aimed at the Jews.

In my humble opinion, it is perfectly valid for Catholics to hold an internal debate over whether Papal decrees are good or bad for the Church.  But, for a change, we Jews have no dog in this fight and should just butt out of something that really has nothing to do with us.

And that's all I have to say about that.

* Translation Source


Posted by David Bogner on July 3, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (34) | TrackBack

Monday, July 02, 2007

Treppenwitz M.B.E. (Messenger Boy Extraordinaire)

Have you ever had someone ask you to do them a small favor... and in the process you come away with such a nice warm feeling inside for having done this tiny thing that it feels more like they did you a favor?

An 'only in the blogosphere' story worth sharing... go read it here.


Posted by David Bogner on July 2, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Only in Israel (number, um... I've lost count)

We went away this past shabbat... something that we almost never do.  It's not that we don't have friends (we do), or that our friends don't extend invitations (they do).  We are simply hopeless home-bodies, and it takes a lot of pestering to dislodge us from our comfortable nest.

Anyway, this past shabbat we were in Hashmonaim visiting some friends we've know pretty much forever.  Words like 'enjoyable' and 'restful' don't even begin to describe the weekend!

The husband and I played together for years in the NY music business, and I've known the wife since she was in high school.  We even made aliyah together on the same flight, and we (the familial 'we') were both pregnant at the time.  It was a wonderful, and long-over-due get-together and their wonderful children and ours got along swimmingly.  Their beautiful yellow Lab was even the perfect hostess to our black lab mix, Jordan.

If that was all there was to tell it would have been enough to go down as among the nicest weekends we've had in ages.  But why stop there?  They also invited some other old friends of ours to lunch on shabbat... and with them came a house-guest of theirs; a player in the newly inaugurated Israel Baseball League.

Yes, we got to share a meal and a few hours of leisure with a professional baseball player (#11 on the Petach Tikvah Pioneers if you have a roster handy) who happens to be one of the few observant Jews in the league!

Our older son, Gilad (who just got finished playing in his little league's all star game) was in awe... and BTW, so was his old man!

We haven't been to an IBL game yet, but you can bet that now that we actually know one of the players we'll make it our business to get out to the ballpark for at least a few games this season!

Now if only Israel could produce a decent hot dog...


Posted by David Bogner on July 1, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack