Deeply invested in blindness: we are all Jews now.
The sobering, jolting truth of a phase penned by Liel Liebowitz: we are all Jews now, shouts out to us.
“Maybe it was the spirited conversation, or maybe just the spirits served liberally throughout the evening, but at some point I turned to my friends, raised my glass, and made a toast. “Mazal tov,” I said. “You’re all Jews now.”
The line got a big laugh, but I was being serious. Growing up in what, until five or six years ago, felt like a very different America, my friends had no way of knowing what life as an embattled minority might feel like. Their beliefs, give or take a few articles of faith, were so ubiquitous in the public discourse that they hardly needed stating: Of course we all love America and believe in its divine election. Of course we all cheer and yearn for warm, tightly knit families offering love and support. Of course we worship a mighty God, divergent as our religious practices and affiliations may be. Sure, here and there a fiery and divisive issue might have popped into view, reminding my friends that some of their neighbors held wildly different convictions, but what they could expect at such contentious moments was a debate, not a crusade, because America was America, and because they, normal Americans, were the majority.
Because my hometown was two-thirds Jewish, our closest neighbors were orthodox Jews, and many of my best friends have been Jews, since childhood, I’ve been attracted to the Jewish people. Later, in adulthood, although I called myself an atheist, it was at the orthodox wedding of two dear Jewish friends where the beauty of the Hebrew and the ancient rituals, evoked profound yearning for substance, rules, solid ground: Truth.
There’s a surfeit of wisdom in this essay
for us, the newly persecuted. And also humor. I’ve read it a few times now and chuckle at the author’s reminiscence about a dinner—in Texas, which produces a grin now that I’m back— with a “diverse group of Jews, Evangelicals, young, old, musicians and professors with little in common except shared belief in family, faith and nation.”
If anyone can teach us about our new status in America, it’s Jews.
Newly persecuted, huh?
Yes, that’s us, we who believe that the Commandments don’t change. That He meant every word recorded in the Gospel.
Consider the Justice Department targeting of orthodox Catholics as “violent extremists. And then there’s Hillary Clinton’s label of prolifers as domestic terrorists and war criminals. Of course, those Christians and Catholics who’ve adapted God’s law to their own are exempted. It’s us “Biblical Christians and Jews who are now the public enemy.
Author Leibowitz’s advice to us is classically blunt, practical and serious:
- Don’t talk to those who hate you.
- Agree with whatever epithets are hurled-racist, misogynist, fascist.
- Start educating one another in scripture, in what we know is Truth.
- Stay focused.
It’s critically important to recall what we’re dealing with here:
Evil has no positive nature but its loss receives a name: evil…evil then, Evil, then, is the act itself of choosing the lesser good. To Augustine the source of evil is in the free will of persons: “And I strained to perceive what I now heard, that free-will was the cause of our doing ill.”5 Evil was a “perversion of the will, turned aside from…God” to lesser things.6
Last Sunday’s Gospel
tells the tale of the man who was blind from birth who Jesus walks by and heals. It’s a long Gospel and can be read in entirety here. “Some people looked for a reason why the man was blind, suggesting it was punishment for his sins. Others did not believe he was really blind, and thus did not believe in the miracle. The man’s parents, worried about the anger of the synagogue officials, were afraid to say anything. All these cases, the Pope said, show “hearts closed in front of the sign of Jesus: because they seek a culprit, because they do not know how to be surprised, because they do not want to change, because they are blocked by fear.”
Barron’s explanation goes far deeper, revealing that this tale contains each of our stories. The blind man is not only restored to physical sight, but spiritual. When “his being is rubbed into our sin-sick eyes, we begin properly to see.” In reply to all the skeptics claiming that you cannot be the same guy, the man’s answer is translated as “Yeah, it’s me.”
But in the original Greek he says, “Ego eimi.” Or “I am.” Precisely what the Lord tells Moses His Name is: I Am.
Why? Recall what happens with the sacrament of Baptism, we are restored to our proper roles as Sons and Daughters of God; we’re immersed in Christ.
But the reaction of the powerful to this wondrous miracle?
They throw the healed man out of the synagogue!
Harrassment, questioning the man’s legitimacy, demonizing Christ.
Liel Leibowitz ends his both sobering and delightful piece
with these comments, “So welcome, my Christian friends, to the mishpocha, Hebrew for “family.” We’re all on the outside now, but we’re outside together, a communion of believers, happy and passionate and committed to a life of truth and beauty. Let’s celebrate!”