Why should we care?

Today, most of us read the bible in form of a translation. This, when paired with a lack of theological and historical background, can be dangerously misleading, in the New Testament especially. So some Christians get the impression that Jews are the antithesis to Christians, when nothing could be further from the truth.

In recent issues of our Bulletin, I have tried to give a rough sketch of the Jewish calendar. Having only about 300–400 words available, it could only serve to whet the appetite, but from small seeds big plants can grow, and from those eventually fruit. And we need these, to nourish our own faith and to grow. For the biblical references, where provided, are not the only link of Jewish and Christian faith. We must never forget that our Lord himself was born a Jew, and died a Jew, and rose again to be The Christ, not the first Christian. What's more, all the Apostles were Jews, too, and their teaching was deeply steeped in their Jewishness. Jesus himself repeatedly either quoted from or referred to the oral tradition of his people, which later would be written down to become the Mishnah, the core of the Talmud. The Apostle Paul quoted from the Midrashim, the Jewish search for meaning in the scriptures, almost as if those were canonical books of the bible. After all, he was a student of Rabbi Gamaliel, whose wisdom features prominently in the Talmud, too.

The early church was eager to separate themselves from the Jews, especially at a time when the church tried to merge with the Roman Empire. In their eagerness, however, much was lost. The link between Easter and Passover was deliberately severed, New Testament (and even Old Testament) writings were increasingly interpreted in an anti-Jewish way. All that was still in common was either covered up, hijacked, or abandoned altogether.

What followed was a never-ending story of persecution. Only very recently have Christian Churches taken the initiative, and started to move towards reconciliation (the Jews tried it first, but the Churches would not listen).

Having a head start of about 3000 years, however, the Jewish religion seems to be almost out of reach for Christian comprehension. Getting a feeling for their calendar can be a start. What do they celebrate? How do they do it, and why? What is the idea behind it?

Getting to know those festivals a little more can help to get closer to our older brothers in faith, and maybe even to build a bridge one day, after the bitter family feud of centuries. In the Talmud, the section dealing with the festivals is called "Appointments", because the festivals are meant to be encounters with God, fixed in time.

And we, too, can be a part of that, not as gate crashers, but as guests. For our Father prepared the table.

By: Martin Liebig
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November 2003: Contents | Change | Time flies | Oeverdieck | Why care?
Editorial team:
Romesh Modayil [romeshmodayil@yahoo.com], Andrew Bossom [rewboss@hotmail.com], Martin Liebig
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