Skip to main content

"There were plagues! I know there were plagues!"

Our first seder after getting married. One bedroom apartment in married student housing, us and four guests: a Catholic friend from grad school and his fiance (also Catholic, of course), and a Jewish friend with his "significant other" (not Jewish, of course). We got the good hard-cover Union haggadas and had just finished the whole thing. Said all the text, sang all the songs (as best as we could...), and gotten all the way to the back hard cover. No plagues. No allusion to plagues. We had a JPS bible that my wife had gotten for her Bat Mitzvah. I found my way to the book of Exodus, then to the the Moses meeting with Pharoh. "Yes! Look! Plagues. I knew there were plagues."

In retrospect, I realize that that was the beginning for me; the first step on the journey that let to where I am today.

I'd grown up nominally reform. That is, at home we lit chanuka candles, didn't have a christmas tree. At my (paternal) grandparents house we had a passover seder. We went to sunday school. We went to a reform temple till I was about 10, then our family had some sort of falling out with the rabbi there and so we switched to a conservative temple till I was 14. We then moved to Lake Tahoe and my formal (such as it was) religious affiliation with temples ended. We still lit chanuka candles at home, of course; and more than "of course", we did not ever, ever, had a christmas tree. We were Jewish, after all! We also celebrated Thanksgiving and Halloween and July 4 and whatnot. And we went to my mother's family to celebrate Christmas (more about that later...).

So what, you are wondering, was the big deal about no plagues? I certainly didn't actually believe that the plagues happened; or any other bible stories for that matter. Oh, surely something happened or some things happened; but the stories as we had them recorded were certainly fabrications built on some long lost true event. So what, you are still wondering, was the big deal.

As I said, I had rarely attended a Jewish service since moving to Lake Tahoe. Until, that is, I met my wife. She was very religious. She and her mother went to Temple every friday night. She ate matzah on passover, heard the shofar on Rosh HaShanna, fasted on Yom Kippur, and had a seder every single year. So I started going with her to friday night services, and it brought back some of those warm feelings I had had growing up and going to temple. Moreover, getting married meant starting a family at some point, and I felt is was important that children have a strong foundation of good values. I used to say that just like a building needs a good foundation, we all need a good foundation of values. Just like it doesn't matter too much which particular foundation you have as long as it is strong and firm; so too, it doesn't matter too much what religion/value system you subscribe to, as long as it is strong and firm.

But Reform Judaism had done the unforgivable; they had openly and blatantly lied; seemingly without compunction. If there is an elephant in your living room, you don't just ignore it! If you don't like that plagues, you can try to explain that they are allegorical, or that they were a step toward away from paganism that we don't need anymore, or any of dozens of other ways they have been dealt with by the non-Orthodox communities. But you don't simply pretend that they are irrelevant to Jewish history and identity! This was not a philosophy or foundation of belief system that you could even start with.

I think I realized at the time that I was rejecting Reform Judaism. I did not, however, appreciate that my thinking about that haggadah and the blatant dishonesty it revealed about Refom Judasim would eventually leave me with no choice but to embrace Orthodox Judaism!

Comments

Joel said…
This is not too dissimilar to one of my watershed moments -- when I read the 3rd paragraph of krias shema, and realized that the reform prayer book deleted the inconvenient portion about not following after one's one mind and heart, right before l'ma'an tizkaru (which for some reason, they kept). The dishonesty stunned me.

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…