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HolyGround >> The Pesach Sedar as a defense of Jewish Faith

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3/10/10 12:30 PM
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Edited: 03/10/10 12:35 PM
Member Since: 7/24/08
Posts: 1263
Funny, I see the previous post about the Monk and philosopher...

The Kuzari was written by Yehuda Halevi in 1140 which sought to answer how an ancient king of Kazzar's suddenly converted to Judaism.  It wasn't an historical account, but no one knew why this king just suddenly converted.  So Yheuda Halevi tried to answer this question with his interpretation, albeit with some favoritism involved.  He may not have answered the question but what he did was give an educated answer which is educational to how and why Jews live as we do.

So this interperative story goes like this.  The King of Kuzar had a profound dream and suddenly wanted to become religious but didn't know which religion to subscribe to.  So instead of deciding on his own he called for consultation from a philosopher, a priest, an Imam and a Rabbi.  (Spoiler)  The Rabbi wins but the answer is interesting enough we all can get an idea why Jews live as they do...

A very very broken down basic summary of arguments -
1) The philosopher gave an aristotilian, cosmological, metaphysical argument which didn't connect with him on a spiritual level
2) The Priest's explained the virgin birth, death on the cross, and connections to G-d through love and peace and although love and peace made sense the king wasn't about to take a leap of faith on some of the other principles involved.  The king wanted more proof.
3) The Imam did connect with the King and did present a proof, the Koran. 
4) The Rabbi said to him:  "We believe in the G-d of Avraham, Ytzchak and Yaakov, Who took the Jews out of Egypt with great wonders and miracles, Who sustained them in the desert, and Who gave them the land of Cannan as their inheritance after he split both the Red Sea and the Jordon River with great miracles.  This G-d sent Moshe to give His Torah, and later (he sent) thousands of prophets throughout history who exhorted the populace to follow the Torah, and who taught about the great reward for those who observed it and the heavy punishment for those who violate it.  We believe in everything written in the Torah, which contains a massive amount of information. 
  Said the Kuzari:  "I was correct in my original resolve not to query a Jew, because I knew taht Jews have lost their connection to their past and have no depth for wisdom.  This is no doubt a result of their hisotry of destitution and misery, which has left them without any positive characteristics.  You, Jew, should have said that you believe in a Creator, Who organizes and oversees the universe and Who created you and sustains you, and other such ideas which are universal to all religions.  Those ideas are the real reasons to pursue truth and emulate the Creator's righteousness and wisdom.

But he ended up converting to Judaism not because of proof but because of the idea that experience can be passed on.  Judaism is experience passed on not proven.  How empowering is it when a family can pass on from generation to generation an experience so powerful that it effects you today?  That effect from the past is your make up today too.

But experience passed on can't be Just words...

  And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword.  Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.

To sum up the story King Ahab issued a warrent to kill all the Jewish prophets who hid in a cave and Elijah came out and challenged the pagen priests to a showdown.  He said you build your alter and I'll build mine and see who's G-d consumes the sacrifice.  Well, the pagen priests gods didn't consume anything and Elijiah's did and the King saw this and immediately killed the pagen priests letting the Jewish prophets live. 

So King Ahab goes home and tells Jezebel his wife.  It's not that she didn't buy the story, she didn't experience what he did whitnessing the Jewish G-d consume the sacrifice.  So the idea of experiencing the story has something to do with the transmission of information.  Had Jezebel been able to feel what King Ahab did she may not have called for Elijiah's death. 

The Pesach Haggadah says "Even if all of us were wise, all of us understanding, all of us knowing the Torah, it is a mitzvah (connection) to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt. 

Rav Soloveitchic delivers much commentary based on the teaching of Kierkegard.  Although he, Kierkegard, became a member of the Nazi party he did leave it and offered no explanation as to why so Jews consider him an antisemite but Rav Soloveitchic did attend one of his classes in Berlin, hence Solveitchic's use of his perspectives.  One of Kierkegards philosophies involving Time is that we may understand time as 1pm, 2pm, 3pm etc but we are also a culmination of our history and our futures.  The fact we know we are running a race, or going to work tomorrow or going to die affects us in the present moment as does our history of what we've experienced.  By re-living an experience that hasn't happened to us can ultimately impact our lives in a similar way. 
When we go see a movie we walk away infused to a degree with what we experienced.  So when Jews participate in a Sedar we try not only telling the story but reliving as much as we can.  In fact, much of the dress we have today: beards, payas, Tzitzis (the fringed garment) Teffilin all go back to Sinai the keeping Kosher, all that and more, the holidays etc.. all Bring us back to moments where G-d interacted with humanity. 
So it's not that Jews can or can't prove the existance of G-d it's not in proofs or miricals which happen or don't happen or get recognized or not recognized.  It's in the re-living of and experience that gets passed down from generation to generation.  Through that re-living, that past becomes our present our knowledge that we'll be re-living these experiences in the future also become who we are right now.  The depth of the study we put into the structure of this life creates powerful experiences that can be trusted.  All that past and all that future creates a series of moments where heaven is brought into earth.  
3/14/10 11:29 PM
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Member Since: 12/9/05
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Is there a tradition or commandment to stay up / keeping vigil all night on Passover?
3/17/10 3:00 PM
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Edited: 03/17/10 3:00 PM
Member Since: 7/24/08
Posts: 1275
The entire Haggadah, the “telling” of the story of our redemption from Egypt at the seder, is built around the concept of “When your child shall ask you... You shall tell your child.” Exodus 13:8, 14. 

So there is a legal presetent called maaseh rav meaning "The force of precedent is great" which means when a Sage advances a legal opionion into law by way of action that action sets the opionion into law.  When 12 sages in the Haggadah sat down and discussed the Exodus from Egypt on Passover they enacted a law or the custom of staying up all night discussing the Exodus.  I'd say it's a tradition or custom, I don't think its a law.  Families usually drop off as interested as they are.  If they're not that interested they wrap the night up early where as more interested families will stay up all night.  I'd do it but I'd be the only one in my family up that late... 

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