One of the privileges of being a blogger is that one gets in touch with many people whom one would not otherwise know at all. One person whose correspondence I particularly appreciate is the man I mentioned on a previous occasion as a descendant of The Landlord of "The Sun".
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.
Looks like there's a scandal attached to the Olympic torch relay and the pro-Tibetan protests against it. See here. The Chinese Communists may have got a bit too devious.
Grown-up politics goes up in flames: "While many have complained that the Chinese politburo is using the Olympics to promote a positive image of itself, which is no doubt true, the protests against China seem to be a no less spectacular self-advertisement. This was apparent in their theatrical nature -- that is, the protesters' self-dramatisation of moral virtue. Nowhere was this more evident than in the protests that seemed to be aimed at the TV cameras, and in the seeming determination to get arrested (there were 37 arrests in total). All you had to do was try to leap the security barrier, and make for the torch, whereupon you would be pounced upon by the police."
Don't laugh: Hillary portrays herself as a Pro-Gun Churchgoer: "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton managed to co-opt Mr. Obama's message of hope and optimism, beginning a speech in Valparaiso, Ind., by talking about how positive and "fundamentally optimistic" Americans are. "We don't get bogged down and looking back - we're always looking forward," she said, as heavy applause nearly drowned out her words. "Whatever obstacle we see, we get over it. Whatever challenge we have, we meet it. We're the problem-solvers, we're the innovators, we're the people who make the better future." For the third time since Mr. Obama's remarks were made public Friday night, Mrs. Clinton criticized him at length, saying his comments seemed "kind of elitist and out of touch." "I disagree with Senator Obama's assertion that people in our country cling to guns and have certain attitudes about immigration or trade simply out of frustration," she said. She described herself as a pro-gun churchgoer, recalling that her father taught her how to shoot a gun when she was a young girl and said that her faith "is the faith of my parents and my grandparents." [There's NOTHING that Leftists will shrink from saying if it will get them power]
McCain to win: "John McCain is in very good shape for the general election run. The Republicans have landed on the one candidate in their party ideally suited for the race this year, with broad appeal among Democrats and independents, a veteran and war hero during a time of war, a candidate with a reputation for being a straight talker (and not talking down to voters, or outright lying to them), and with real strength in larger swing states. McCain is also benefiting from the fact that the Democrats continue to snipe at each other rather than at him, and each candidate has exposed weaknesses in the other, which become ammunition for McCain in the fall campaign. Though there are more polls being generated this year than ever before, only two organizations are currently tracking national head-to-head matchups between McCain and either Obama or Clinton: Rasmussen and Gallup. My preferred poll is the Rasmussen survey, even though the Gallup survey has a larger daily sample, because Rasmussen also frequently conducts state polls, and has the tightest likely voter screen. The latest four day results from Rasmussen give McCain an 8 point lead nationally over either Clinton or Obama."
Another source of energy for the Green/Left to hate: "Japan is celebrating a groundbreaking science experiment in the Arctic permafrost that may eventually reshape the country's fragile economy and Tokyo's relationships with the outside world. For an unprecedented six straight days, a state-backed drilling company has managed to extract industrial quantities of natural gas from underground sources of methane hydrate - a form of gas-rich ice once thought to exist only on the moons of Saturn. In fact, the seabeds around the Japanese coast turn out to conceal massive deposits of the elusive sorbet-like compound in their depths, and a country that has long assumed it had virtually no fossil fuels could now be sitting on energy reserves containing 100 years' fuel. Critically for Japan, which imports 99.7 per cent of the oil, gas and coal needed to run its vast economy, the lumps of energy-filled ice offer the tantalising promise of a little energy independence. Environmentalists, though, are horrified"
For more postings from me, see OBAMA WATCH, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN.
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A lesson in Australian: When an Australian calls someone a "big-noter", he is saying that the person is a chronic and rather pathetic seeker of admiration -- as in someone who often pulls out "big notes" (e.g. $100.00 bills) to pay for things, thus endeavouring to create the impression that he is rich. The term describes the mentality rather than the actual behavior with money and it aptly describes many Leftists. When they purport to show "compassion" by advocating things that cost themselves nothing (e.g. advocating more taxes on "the rich" to help "the poor"), an Australian might say that the Leftist is "big-noting himself". There is a recent example of the usage here. The term conveys contempt. There is a wise description of Australians generally here
The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)