Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Rabbi, My Scripture Study Class and Interfaith Dialogue

A few months ago I decided to take a course at a nearby Synagogue. I had never been to the synagogue in my town, but I have been to others for weddings and bar mitzvahs. Having grown up in Brooklyn in a neighborhood where Christians and Jews lived alongside each other, my husband and I have many Jewish friends. So when I saw a course offered in a local newspaper on Jewish mysticism, which was advertised as open to all, I decided to go as it is a topic I am interested in. I invited members from my parish Scripture Study class but others weren't able to go, so I went alone. I approached the class as I do all things pertaining to God and God's word, with openness and receptivity. I was pleasantly surprised that when I attended the class and happened to mention I was Christian, I was welcomed graciously. I was tapped on the shoulder and thanked by members of the congregation for coming.
I loved hearing God's word in the Hebrew Scriptures read in Hebrew and also interpreted by the Rabbi and I learned a lot during the course.
It was a great experience. And so when our parish Scripture Study started again after the summer break, I mentioned how impressed I was with the course, with the whole experience and with the Rabbi, who was also very welcoming and knowledgeable. (But I did stress to my Scripture Study members that I didn't want them going to the pastor of our Church to say that I was converting to Judaism.......I know how these things go and how actions can be misinterpreted.) They laughed but I got my message across!
And so the discussion began. And it went on and on. And as a result of my taking that initiative, the Rabbi was invited to our Catholic Scripture Study class to give a talk. Ironically,  (or according to God's providence), we have been studying and reflecting upon the Old Testament, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to invite the Rabbi and he generously accepted. Of course, we asked the Pastor first and he thought it was a great idea.
And so last Monday we had the opportunity to welcome a Rabbi to speak to our class on the Hebrew Scriptures and the different levels at which they can be read. We studied and discussed Genesis 18.
The Rabbi handed out the text and a sheet with questions. We were trying to get beyond "P'shat" the surface level and a simple understanding to "Sod" the hidden meaning in the Scripture and what the lessons are that can be gleaned from the text. It was very enlightening for all of us.
The Rabbi was pleased that he was reaching out to the community and he learned from us as well.
In my opinion, one of the ways to world peace is through listening, learning, accepting, respecting and understanding that God's will for all people is peace, harmony, tolerance, and understanding.
We did our own little part to bring that about and the dialogue will continue, I hope.

(I decided not to give the Rabbi's name since I didn't ask permission about writing this.)