Saturday, August 13, 2005

Chabad House

I went to the Chabad House last night to share Shabbat with Orthodox Hasidic Jews. It was a truly beautiful experience. The Rabbi and his wife were a young couple with three adorable children, 4, 5 and 7 months. They were irresistible. It was warm. They were welcoming, and for me this was an opportunity of a lifetime. I have read and been fascinated by Hasidism since I was 19. I'm now 41. That's a long time to carry a torch. We lit candles, sang, had service, ate, argued, drank 12 year old scotch, and in general had a blast. I look forward to returning, especially with my sons. But as I sat there and watched and listened to 4 year old Esther sing her "Welcome Shabbat" song, my joy was indescribably bitter sweet.
I married a man from India at the age of 21. If you don't know this, foreign students tend to stick together. And why not? They are strangers in a strange land, after all. So when we got married I met an incredible amount of people from all over the world. The were 19 nationalities represented at our wedding. I learned. I learned how to ask questions. How to be respectful. How to be open. But sitting at the Rabbi's table last night, I felt such a sense of Deja Vu. I thought to myself, "How many times have I sat at a table just like this and shared a family meal with Indians, Muslims, Asians, Christians, Hispanics, African Americans....My God! We are so much alike!"
During the meal, the end times were brought up, fasting was brought up, being the "chosen people" was brought up, Israel was brought up. I have had this conversation with Muslims, Jews, and Christians, each group claiming to be "God's chosen people". The Jews and Muslims claiming to have permission to annihilate the unbelievers... And now the Christians seem to have happily jumped on the annihilation bandwagon...All three groups utterly and devoutly believing their claims. How do you reconcile THAT!?! My saddest moment was when Rabbi Yossi said they would know when the Messiah had come because there would be peace on Earth. I despaired for an answer.
You know, I am sold out for Christ. I believe He is the one. But I also know that when we see the term "chosen" in the scripture, it is paired with the word "servant". Isaiah 41:8 "But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen,..." I have heard it said that God saves us to be a trophy of His grace. And that would certainly be an apt description of the definition of what it means to be chosen among most of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims I have met. But think about it...what is a trophy good for? It sits on the shelf, calling attention to itself. You rarely put anything in it. And you sure don't pour anything out of it.... In fact, many times, it just gathers dust while calling attention to glories past. It is usually one of the least serviceable items you will find in any given house....
In Isaiah 42:1, we again see this mystical pairing of the words servant and chosen... "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;" He continues on throughout the 42nd chapter talking about the purpose for which His chosen one has been called: to bring forth justice, to be a light to the gentiles, to open blind eyes, to free captives from prison, to release from the dungeons those who sit in darkness...

Sounds mysteriously like hard work, sounds like service to others...not something trophies are known for.

Perhaps the answer I despaired of won't be found in us trying to convince each other that WE are truly "the chosen." Maybe our answer will be found in redefining what being "chosen" really means...

8 comments:

Constantine said...

Hello mi amiga,

If I may ask, what brought you to the table of Orthodox Hasidic Jews?

voixdange said...

I have a friend who is seeking to become more Orthodox. I went with her.

Constantine said...

"We...ate, argued, drank 12 year old scotch, and in general had a blast."

I can relate! I don't ever seem to have these type of evenings with Christians (at least not "serious" ones). The above happens for me either by myself or with my secular friends. I think it's time for a Sapphire & tonic. :)

voixdange said...

I don't ever seem to have these type of evenings with Christians.

More's the pity.
What do the uptight inherit?

madcapmum said...

It's a shame, isn't it? My best nights of raucous theology were spent in the company of derelict musicians and actors. Now I seem to have an incorrigibly respectable life hedged in by my allergies, and it feels so grey and banal.

Constantine said...

The question begged is what makes them uptight?

madcapmum said...

My "group" was composed of people who teetered on the edge of social acceptability and addictions. They lived large and loud, but I decided that their families were paying too high a price for their exuberance.

I didn't want to raise my children or subject my marriage to those constraints. Does that make me uptight? I don't know, I think about that sometimes.

The only communities I've encountered that seem to approach that level of interpersonal relationship were what I would classify as religious cults. They certainly spent a lot of time visiting and making music, but there wasn't the honesty and abandon that comes with the admission that you don't measure up and you're never going to measure up. They were very rigid about what was acceptable spirituality and what wasn't.

voixdange said...

"They were very rigid about what was acceptable spirituality and what wasn't."

Yes,I would agree with that assesment MCM. We can get very legalistic about our religion. And I guess that was what Christ was encountering when he talked about how they had criticized John the Baptist for his ascetic lifestyle, and then turned around and called Christ a drunkard and a glutton because He came eating and drinking..." but you know that was really grape juice! *Wink wink*

I like what Paul writes in Colossians 2:20-23 about following the rules of "do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" and while they have an appearance of wisdom they lack any real value in restraining sensual indulgence... And I won't be patronizing enough to go into how of course we don't go overboard...we all know that...