The other day I read an essay written by one of our grandsons. His thesis was that we Jews all have the same roots. True and nice! But, wow, have we found different routes to challenge those roots.
Let me backtrack. Right now I’m suffering with one of the worst colds of my life, a horror which I no doubt picked up from the fellow Jew who sat next to me in Economy Class on a United plane a few days before my symptoms emerged. You know the kinds of flights these are. The guy next to you might have plague but there’s just no other seat available so you tough it out. I toughed and now I’m miserable. Hopefully time will work its magic. Wash your hands after reading this.
I hadn’t put on my seatbelt when he started to chat. I normally am averse to plane chats., But something about this man intrigued me. First of all, on a US domestic flight you can’t count on your seatmate being Jewish. You can count on your seatmate being NOT Jewish. This guy was obviously Jewish. As my late mother might have said, “He had the map of Jerusalem on his face.” Not so his wife who had a magen david around her neck and a pretty face which didn’t look Jewish to me. And the book she was reading was filled with religious symbols, large enough for me to see from my aisle to her window; not the typical airplane trashy novel at all. And some interesting drawings that looked pretty Christian to me. She was fervently praying. Not in fear of crashing She was actually calm and poised. I am guessing that this is her normal reading material, at home and elsewhere. But it was all in English and something was “off.” As a matter of fact, a lot was off.
Our conversation started with the UN resolution which was hot off the press that day. Before I delved I played it safe and inquired whether he was Jewish. He had a short beard, wore a cap (like my grandfather wore in the 40’s), a cap which makes it hard to tell if he’s protecting himself from the weather or if he’s an observant Yid. Turns out I never figured that out, believe it or not, because of all the complications that arose immediately. He told me he’s Jewish. I’m not sure if he’s observant in our traditional ways.
He started asking me about God, by using His name. Not the typical opening on a crowded 737, and not the normal way of speaking about H. My neighbor had become a bar mitzvah in a New Jersey Conservative shul, had gone through six years of Hebrew School. Both parents were born Jewish, one of Rumanian stock and one of Polish stock. Sounded pretty typical. But there was something. The God question was my first confirmed suspicion. He was heading somewhere.
He was heading actually to Yeshua. And Scriptures. He had adopted a belief in Yeshua, whom he called moschiach, as a young adult. He married a Catholic woman and they raised their three now adult children with his beliefs as the family minhag. This meant that they studied scriptures, believed in moschiach celebrated both Christian and Jewish holy days. He described the decor at his home during the concurrent Christmas and Chanukah holidays. In detail.
His career is to wander the world teaching scriptures. He had just returned from Mongolia. Next stop was India. Literally all over the world. I don’t know whether the fact that he considers himself Jewish enters his teachings. I do assume he gets paid.
But remember those New Jersey parents! Typical lower middle class suburban Jews. They’re now in olam ha ba but, before they left, they also joined their son and his wife and children in belief in Yeshua. Truth is stranger than fiction, isn’t it?
I know. I know. Jews for Jesus. All over. At train stations and airports and wandering the sidewalks of big cities. I always ignore them……or worse I’m sorry to say. But this man was inches from me, close enough to give me the cold of the century. Not so easy to ignore him.
So enter Israel into this rather unusual biography. He’s pretty pissed at our holiest land. Why? He and the missus tried to make aliyah, not once but twice. Two times Israel said no. I tried to explain that I believed the law of return applied to Jews. He was indignant (not angry; he’s met people like me before). “I am Jewish. Of course I am.” I suggested that perhaps Israel considered him an apostate. He didn’t buy that. He told me he didn’t drop any aspect of his Judaism. He just added to it. I even suggested that his wife isn’t Jewish so maybe that’s a requirement in fulfilling the law of return requirements.
He didn’t accept any of it and apparently something happened during the second attempt. His wife was put in jail! At the airport. Overnight. Then the two of them were put on a plane and sent back to America with orders never to return to Israel. He’s no fan of Israel. There must have been a little disagreement!
I was proud of myself. I stayed calm. We broached other topics. Parted friends. We did not exchange email addresses or phone numbers, or even names.
And then I reflected on who and what is Jew? In a survey this guy would answer that he’s Jewish. So would I. I’m indisputably Jewish but, in many eyes, not Jewish enough. He’s very disputably Jewish. Really not enough Jewish! So should our opinions mesh? Are we still roots of that same tree. I know my grandson wasn’t thinking along those lines when he wrote his essay. But we Jews have lots to disagree about these days and I think our roots are very tangled.
Just today I read about the chayal who was convicted in an Israeli court of manslaughter in the shooting death of a terrorist. I agree with the decision, even though I have a young grandson who’s also a chayal. When a boy or girl becomes a chayal, that is more a day of maturation than their bar or bat mitzvah day. Our soldiers have to be mature and reflect Jewish values….real Jewish values Yet, many many of my fellow Israelis don’t agree. They argue that this young man should not be punished.
Then there’s the whole thing about the US Embassy and the newly appointed American ambassador. I fear bloodletting with Trump and his choice. Others support both. Hard to reconcile how they do, for me, but they do. Their Jewish values and my Jewish values are in dissonance. Here’s a time when I long to be proven wrong! But I expect to be proven right.
And then we have the UN Resolution and the Kerry speech. I abhor both of these events. Kerry forgot the few ounces of Jew-genes that he was born with and the UN building should be turned into condos. So evil of them to blast away at Israel and ignore the atrocities in Sudan, Syria and lots of other world places. I can’t resolve the politics in Israel. Nor can anyone else. My opinion is that the vote was anti-Semitic….because it was. Let’s let Israel solve its own problems. As a voter I hope to have the chance to elect a government that reflects my values.
So what good can we make out of this tangled mess. There might be something. Just can’t think of it now. Blame it on the lousy cold.