27 May 2006

A Haggadah

It occurred to me the other day that Jesus was Jewish. Which shouldn't have come as such great surprise. In fact, it wasn't ... it came as more of a "Duh" moment. So, I've been reading a few books that bridge the divide between Judaism and Christianity. One of them has proved particularly fascinating, The Parables: Jewish Tradition, Christian Interpretation, by Brad H. Young.

He begins with a description of Jewish haggadah, or what we might more easily recognize as a fable; a story with a moral point. There are some finer points to it, because most haggadah are developed to inspire points of the Torah, or the like. But for my purposes here, this description will be enough. I liked this haggadah found on page 9 of the book and thought I'd share it with all of you. Here is some lead-in that most Jewish listeners would know and then the haggadah follows:

"A fine example of haggadah is found in the sstory of Rabbi Eleazer's encounter with the exceedingly ugly man. Unlike the exceedingly ugly man, who probably had labored menially throughout the day, R. Eleazer had the privilege of devoting himself entriely to the study of Torah. His master was R. Meir, and R. Eleazer and his beloved teacher had spent the day learning the deeper things of God.

The Rabbi and the Exceedingly Ugly Man

On one occasion Rabbi Eleazer son of Rabbi Simeon was coming from Migdal Gedor, from the house of his teacher. He was riding leisurely on his donkey by the riverside and was feeling happy and elated because he had studied much Torah. There he chanced to meet an exceedingly ugly man who greeted him, "Peace be upon you, rabbi." He, however, did not return his greeting but instead said to him, "Raca ['Empty one' or 'Good for nothing'] how ugly you are! Is everyone in your town as ugly as you are?" The man replied: "I do not know, but go and tell the craftsman who made me, 'How ugly is the vessel which you have made.'" When R. Eleazer realized that he had sinned he dismounted from the donkey and prostrated himself before the man and to him, "I submit myself to you, forgive me!"

R. Eleazer could not hold his tongue. When he encountered the exceedingly ugly man, all he could think about was that ugliness. When he made his stinging insult, he failed to see each person as created in the image of God."


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