To my Jewish readers, (belated) Happy New Year.
Special shout out and toda (thanks) goes to the Hillel Group at UBC who kindly invited to a Rosh Shanah dinner last night (my first). In the old days, I would have been called a God-fearer, i.e. a righteous Gentile who worships the God of Israel and follows the Seven Noahide Commandments (and not the full 613 in Rabbinic Judaism).
When I would introduce myself to folks and say my name was Chris there was a moment of confusion and trepidation flash across most faces. But then I explained what was going on and all was well. Really lovely people. It was the first time I had worn a yarmukle since I visited a few synagogues in Vancouver two years ago as part of my inter-religious dialogue class. And before that since I traveled to Europe when I was in college and went into the famed Synagogue in Prague (pic here) which was one of the most tragic-moving-spiritual places on earth I’ve ever been.
The reason I was invited to this meal is that temporarily the Hillel group at UBC is housed in my school, the Vancouver School of (Christian) Theology. The Hillel folks are busy building their own place, but in the meantime we are fortunate to have them residing on the 2nd floor of our building. So the dinner was in the school and I was just going past their office and dropped into say Happy New Year and then they invited me to the dinner (there were three of us non-Jews in the room). Huge turnout. Fantastic food. Wonderful occasion.
And also deeply sacred and moving. The father of the Executive Director, who was a Holocaust Survivor, read the traditional prayer:
Baruch atah Adonai Elohenu Melech ha-olam, ha-motzi l’chem min ha-eretz. Amayn.
“Blessed are you Lord God, King of the Universe [or Eternity], you bring bread from the earth.”
In the Prophet Isaiah, there is a vision of the Nations (later read: Gentiles, in Hebrew go’im) streaming to the Temple in Jerusalem throwing off their idols to worship the one true God. I had a feeling this was something of that kind of moment last night.
Edit I: During writing this post, I had a flashback. When I was in the Jesuit order and studied for a year at Fordham (Master’s Level in Continental Philosophy), there was a fellow grad student I knew named Tova. Beautiful girl who had a little crush on me. Unfortunately I had vows of celibacy then so that was a non-starter. She was a secular Jew, and I think part of her fascination was to be the one to make the good Christian boy break his vows. Not sure on that one. She was a Wolveirine (in her undegrad days) and I as a Buckeye had good fights/football watching times and discussions over the existence (and justice) of God back in the BX. I thought of her because her name Tova (meaning good, like in Mazel Tov) is the same as in the L’Shona Tova (Happy/Good New Year) greeting from last night. Also reminds me of my sadness in not living any longer in NYC.