Yesterday my wife Linda and I joined my oldest son and his family to celebrate the fourteenth birthday of one of our grandchildren. Actually, it was a day ahead of schedule, her actual birthday is today. October 3, which this year falls on Rosh Hashanah, She attends a public school here in Lee County, and so has today off from classes due to the Jewish New Year. She was delighted.
My oldest grandson though was not. He attends a Roman Catholic high school, which is not closed today. "That's not fair," he said, "We should have it off too! After all, Jesus was Jewish!" We all chuckled, and agreed, what he said made perfect sense.
Reflecting on it though, I was reminded that despite all the work that has been done in recent years to "recover" the Jewishness of Jesus, work that has been done by both Jewish and Christian scholars, many people forget, and some, sadly, do not even know, that Jesus was indeed a Jew. A practicing Jew.
One of the scholars who has been at the forefront of this movement is Amy-Jill Levine, of Vanderbilt. In her book The Misunderstood Jew she reminds readers of the importance of understanding Jesus in his first-century Jewish context. "By seeing Jesus as a Jew with regard to both belief and practice, Christians can develop a deeper appreciation for the teachings of the church."
I agree. And while I understand why my oldest grandson is in school today, despite his wishes, I wonder if any of his Christian teachers are taking advantage of this "teachable moment" and helping him and his fellow students better understand Jesus as a Jew?
For all my Jewish friends, Shavnah Tovah--Happy New Year! And for those of us who are Christian, let us find in the High Holidays a reminder of our Jewish roots.