By Harriet P. Gross
Proselytizing rears its head for me every year. The calendar conjunction of Passover and Easter makes it inevitable, it seems that some Christians — plus those Jews who call themselves “Messianics” since they profess a belief in Jesus — want to draw me into their folds.
This year, someone has returned me to the mailing list of “Issues,” a publication subtitled “A Messianic Jewish Perspective.” But my “benefactor” of course remains anonymous.
I’m not among those Jews who get annoyed each spring when white crosses begin popping up on greening lawns like early seasonal flowers. Live and let live, I say. On Easter morning, the little crosses get turned around so that this message appears: “He is risen.” This is OK with me. Free speech, freedom of worship, private property and all that. I know the Resurrection is a cornerstone of Christian belief, and I honor it as such. I do not, however, enjoy it appearing in my mailbox. Freedom FROM religion should be honored as well.
The seasonal “attacks” are sometimes subtle, other times not so much. They may be offered somewhat slyly, or come down as hard as a hammer to the head. The latter is the case with “Issues,” whose message is a standard one: Why are you not a “complete” Jew? “Complete” in this context means, “Why don’t you step beyond the time-honored tenets of Judaism to accept Jesus as the messiah? Why don’t you accept his God-ness and add the ‘New Testament’ to your belief in the ‘Old’?”
I’m especially annoyed that these attempts to convince and convert come anonymously; I am not going to attempt answering someone(s) unknown, except by quoting once again that old Yiddish proverb: One individual cannot dance at two weddings at the same time.
My true friends among believing Christians — not the so-called Messianic Jews — send me notes and cards wishing a happy Passover, and I send them the same sentiments for Easter. We recognize and honor each other’s beliefs, and let matters of religion go at that. But sometimes a new acquaintance gets her hopes up and tries to slip something “subtle” into the message. Try this for an example:
“Just as you are celebrating the blood of the Passover lamb protecting the Israelites from God’s wrath as they prepared to leave Egypt and allowing them to enter the Promised Land, we are about to celebrate the blood of Jesus saving us from God’s wrath and allowing us to enter God’s presence eternally in heaven. May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Whom we all worship, enrich your Passover celebration. And may His unchangeable Word enlighten every day of your celebration and ours.” This sounds to me sweet and thoughtful on the surface, yet there’s something dangerous seething beneath it.
And sometimes, even a relative can’t resist. I have a cousin-by-marriage who belongs to a Christian church that studies and honors its roots in Judaism. This year, the personal message added to the print on her annual springtime card read: “May you have a blessed, joyous Passover as you celebrate with remembrance the true story of Exodus 12.” Fair enough, I guess. Yet she couldn’t resist adding another few words, written on a yellow sticky note appended to the card: “I’m so excited! Going to a Messianic Passover celebration with a group of friends from my church.”
What should I say? What can I say? Maybe there’s really nothing to say except this:
There should be three R’s for Christians and so-called Messianic Jews during the Passover/Easter season, just as there are for basic learning. The first is Resurrection. I acknowledge its importance to those who believe in it. But numbers two and three are grounded in the solid Jewish beliefs of those like myself. Please honor us with Respect, and exercise religious Restraint. Do those things, and I’ll continue to read your anonymous gift of “Issues” whenever it arrives in my mailbox.