Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A very Jewish Christmas


Scots Pine in the Snow.jpg
Originally uploaded by OpenEye.
BG and I have been totally lacksadaisical about every holiday this year. My birthday is July 4th, but instead of going into the city to see the Macy's Fourth of July fireworks spectacular, I fell asleep on the couch before they even showed it on TV. For BG's Halloween birthday, I had all sorts of ghoulish plans, but they all fell through because BG decided to just stay home and party. For Thanksgiving, instead of at least going to BG's local diner for a nice turkey dinner, BG made some instant mashed potatoes, cannned gravy, and canned cranberry sauce. The cranberry sauce had the little berries in it, which was a disappointment to me since I prefer the jellied kind.

Likewise, this Christmas looks to be the most aesetic we've had yet. We didn't put up BG's small fake tree this year, but instead went Zen by turning on the fake bonsai with fiber optic lights that BG's brother gave him last spring when BG's whole famiily got together. Although at the time I thought it was way tacky, it is actually quite beautiful, with different colored fiber optic lights slowly changing colors and flowing into each other. I think of it as a Zen Christmas tree--simple and elegant. If my camera's batteries worked, I would have tried to capture the "real" fake tree, but here is a real one instead. Awesome, no?

In any case, for some reason, last night on Christmas Eve I started to think about the connection between Christianity and Judaism--maybe because our little Zen bonsai looks more like a Chanukkah bush (lol)--if there really is such a thing. Not to mention the fact that my mother was Jewish, which makes me automatically one of the tribe by Jewish law. One caveat: I'm writing this off the top of my crazy head, so if any details are innacurate, feel free to chastize me if you care to.

From what I understand, Jesus was a learned Jew, and was likely referred to as a Rabbi in his day. In Judea, the Romans allowed the Jews to practice their faith and in essence govern themselves. In matters of civil and criminal law, the elders of the Temple prevailed above all. The emergence of Jesus was a threat to this authority, as well as an affront to their religious traditions and rituals.

Jesus was far from the first or last man claiming to be the Messiah, and I'm sure the elders saw him as just another false prophet. Although it may not be politically correct to say this, I have no trouble with the notion that the Jews rather than the Romans were ultimately responsible for killing Christ. However, it was his destiny to be betrayed by his own people, for he was the ultimate sacrificial lamb.

In the Jewish tradition of old, as in other ancient religions, offerings were made to the Lord, including animal sacrifices. The story of Abraham and Issac demonstrates how crucial this ritual was for the Jews, and how seriously they took any edict from a demanding God--even if it meant (potentially) sacrificing their own son, as God did Jesus.

There is an old saying, profound in its simplicity: "It's hard to be a Jew." The Jews have been persecuted since time immemorial. They were slaves in Egypt, and perpetually wandered the world trying to find a hospitable home. In modern times, the Holocaust and the rabid anti-Semitism of many Muslims proves that the most virulent and unreaoning hatred of the Jews is very much alive and well. Just as the Elders of the temple viewed Jesus as a dangerous blasphemer, mocking their traditions, so some gentiles still see Jews as an affront and a threat.

For me, Jesus was the ultimate Jew--he was persecuted and martyred, but by his own bretheren. More ironic still is that rather than follow his simple teachings during the centuries that followed, some Christians made it their mission to convert the Jews or kill them if they failed to comply. It is indeed ironic that some Christians forget the simple fact that Jesus was Jewish, and the sacrifice he endured was the logical culmination of what it meant and means to be a persecuted minority.

Although Chanukkah is now associated with Christmas, it is a relatively minor Jewish holdiay. Passover, however, is both a major Jewish holiday--a celebration of the Jews' escape from the bondage of their Egyptian captors--and a holiday with a vital connection to Christianity. It is more than notable that the Last Supper was, indeed, a Passover seder, which traditionally included a Pascal lamb as part of the feast.

If the Jews were the "chosen people," they were, I believe, chosen to suffer as part of the price for being so, because their God, like a demanding father, expected obedience and sacrifice from his most favored children. Jesus, to me, was the ultimate chosen one of the chosen people--God's only begotten son--and those who adhere to their Jewish beliefs continue to be maligned and persecuted to this very day, much as Jesus was centuries ago.

One of the most moving films I've even seen is the Last Temptation of Christ, which explored the notion of Christ as half-human and half-divine. Because of his humanity, he suffered as any man would suffer; experienced pain and doubt and fear. This is one reason his sacrifice is so meaningful, and why to me Christ represents the essence of what it means to be Jewish as well as Christian.

I'm writing this in the wee hours of Christmas morning. I doubt that too many of you will be surfing the Web today, but nevertheless I wanted to wish-- to all who celebrate it--a very merry Christmas.

44 Comments:

At 9:32 AM, Blogger !ce said...

This reminds me of how I used to sit in church, stare at the artwork depicting Jesus, and imagine what he looked like nude, and what it would have been like to make out with him.

I would like to remind the people that December 25th is the birthday of Alannah Myles. Perhaps everyone thinks there should be a "black velvet" cake?

 
At 10:04 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

Ice:

Although even I am not old enough to have actually been there, I am pretty certain that Jesus, being from the Middle East as far as I know, would not have looked like a Renaissance painting by DaVinci with flowing blond hair and blue eyes. Some people even think Jesus was black, which I suppose is possible, since there are Ethiopian Jews.

Black Velvet if you please?

 
At 11:57 AM, Blogger Leesa said...

Merry Christmas, Elvira :)
The zen tree is too cool.

 
At 4:40 PM, Blogger !ce said...

That's cool. I already know someone with blonde hair and blue eyes whom I get along with really well. Oh wait, that's right. I can't convince him that he's not straight. At least he's nice.

 
At 5:23 PM, Blogger Walker said...

Great Post
I think the holidays are not about how you spend them but who you spend them with.
Something I would like to throw your way.
The other day I realized something odd, or enlightening.
In Greek mythology there are 12 gods and their creator would Kronos.
Sounds familiar
hmmmmmmmm food for thought.

Merry Christmas

 
At 7:01 PM, Blogger Justine said...

a very merry jewish Chistmas to you, E :-)
I'm in total agreement.

 
At 9:36 PM, Anonymous paula said...

Merry Christmas,

And Happy Chanukkah!

 
At 11:25 PM, Blogger !ce said...

I believe that all religions are basically cults. The mainstram organized ones just don't kill you for leaving. In support of my "cult" theory, I submit the catty way that people who are even slightly religious act toward nonbelievers. I will say this, though. Without Judaism, Christianity and Islam would not exist. Also, I have a bit of admiration toward Buddhists because they manage to think on such a deep level while still maintaining their individual identities. The same is true of great artists. I really relate to Van Gogh myself.

 
At 11:11 AM, Blogger artdetective said...

As a Unitarian -- we celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, the Solstice, and Kwanzaa -- thank you for this thoughtful holiday post, and a very merry to you!

 
At 11:14 AM, Blogger Squid Vicious said...

Happy Boxing Day!

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger Amber said...

Many years ago, I mentioned something about Jesus being a Jew to my Catholic ex-mother-in-law; she laughed at me and asked me where I got such a ridiculous idea?

O_o

Needless to say, we didn't discuss theology very much. ;-P Intelligent woman, really. She wasn't stupid, but yet...all she knew about her religion was what she'd been told.

Because everyone knows Jesus was a Christian. Blonde and blue-eyed, too. Spoke English as well, I'm sure.

pokes self in eye with sharp stick out of frustration

I've read the bible cover to cover now about 3 and 1/2 times; back when I was a precocious kidlet into my early teens and by the time I did the final halfway-through, skipping around read, around 13 or so...I decided it was basically hogwash.

Very interesting book on many levels; historical, cultural, even spiritual, but essentially about as "real" as Bullfinch's Mythology.

Christmas for me is secular; Santa Claus, the tree, all that. I love the spiritual songs too, but that's because they are so beautiful.

I'm always drawn towards the message of Peace, Love and Goodwill on earth, no matter what the source may be.

And yes, "The Last Temptation of Christ" was an amazing movie. At the time I just wanted to see it because of the uproar. After I saw it, I couldn't understand why the big fuss. As you say, it clearly defined the sacrifice he made. And why it was so hard. It was very moving for me and I'm not a Christian. I can only imagine that a Christian would be even MORE moved than I was.

I think most of the Christians who had a problem with it must have been the ones who had never seen it and were going (again!) solely on what they had heard.

 
At 12:56 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Leesa:

Merry Christmas! I love bonsai--they are amazing. From what I hear, in order to cultivate them, you practically have to nurture them as you would a favorite child. Fortunately, our fake one will live on--lol.

 
At 12:57 PM, Blogger NewYorkMoments said...

Merry/Happy Whatever :-)

God, everyone knows it's nearly impossible for me to be serious about anything...I just don't have it in me. And when I AM serious, I'm usually ranting about something.

Anyway, hope you're enjoying the season :-)

 
At 1:02 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Ice:

That reminds me, speaking of Christians and Jews--many years ago, when BG was young and very hunky (now he's older but still hunky), his "owners" (bosses) at the hardware store he worked at sometimes called him "Jewboy" and other times "Our Lord" because for awhile he had long straight blonde hair and a longish beard. Another Jewish guy used to say that he had "the body of a Greek god" (he was straight and married --just envious.) Even Andy Warhol used to come in to buy art supplies (BG ran the art department) and make goo goo eyes at him. Holy BG!

Just thought you'd enjoy that little story somehow.

 
At 1:06 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Walker:

There's a lot of overlap amongst the religions, and from what I understand, some of the Christmas and Easter traditions are derived from Greek and Roman myths. I think you touched on this re: Halloween on one of your posts. And some Latino cultures practice Santeria, where their old saints are "disguised" under the mantle of the Catholic saints.

I learned about Greek and Roman myths and legends as a young child and still remember the amazing tales. Yes, it is an interesting phenom you pointed out.

 
At 1:07 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Justine:

Happy Christmas! Thanks--I didn't know if anyone even read this, let alone agree--lol.

 
At 1:08 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Paula:

Merry Christmas--glad you still posted a bit during your holiday sabbatical!

 
At 1:17 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Ice:

Well, organized religions in the west actually may be hazardous to your health--like if you work in an abortion clinic and fanatics decide to bomb it in the name of the "sanctity of life."

There';s also a great deal of church and state intermingling that's going on lately and it scares the shit out of me. It is the ultimate irony that though most religions promote peace and harmony, their leaders often practice intolerance and greed.

Jesus said something to the Pharisees to the effect of: "you wash the outside of the cup, but the inside is corrupt and full of dead man's bones." Some Orthodox Jews follow all the arduous rituals of their religion, but some can also forget to practice tolerance as well.

I am attracted to religions that also have a strong philosophical basis, like Buddism and Judaism--but I'm not a practicing anything right now. Christianity also--Jesus' parables and philosophy make good sense even if you're not Christian. Though I can't do the turning the other cheek thing to well--but who can, really?

Can I now assume you resent us Jews for being the predecessors of Christianity and Islam?

 
At 1:18 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Artdetective:

Unitarianism sounds awesome. Happy holidays to you!

 
At 1:19 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Squid:

Same to you, SV.

PS: did you turn your foot upside down?

 
At 1:27 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Amber:

I'm totally with you on this one. I do find Western religions historically fascinating.

My ex-b/f's parents, who were Catholic, started a Bible study group where they'd meet at each other's houses. One of the women was a German expatriate who complained about the "niggers and the Jews." They should have deported that Nazi bitch. There was also a debate about whether Barbra Striesand had the right to come out with a Christmas album. Nice, huh?

Hard to believe that some Christians actually forget or don't even realize that Jesus was Jewish. It boggles the mind. I guess some of them didn't get the memo, or don't read the Bible too often.

I hate the knee jerk reactions to any potentially controversial film. These dimwits don't realize that they are actually helping boost box office sales even if they never see the movie. Keeping your head in the sand is a mentally and spiritually impoverished way to live.

 
At 1:29 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

newyorkmoments:

Merry, Happy, etc etc.

Rants are cool! Your subway rant was the ultimate--you expressed my sentiments exactly, but with humor too. Humorous rants are the absolute best.

 
At 2:45 PM, Blogger NewYorkMoments said...

By the way, I totally don't get the "turn the other cheek" thing. If I do, it's only because I think the offender is too insignificant to care about. Otherwise, my only thoughts are of "revenge."

*laughs evilly*

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Newyorkmoments:

Ditto for "judge not, lest ye be judged." Yes, it does make sense in some contexts, but a lot of times it's just a poor excuse for enabling assholes and creeps to be...well...assholes and creeps with impunity.

You go, girl!

 
At 3:55 PM, Blogger Webmiztris said...

hope you're having a wonderful holiday, elvira!!

 
At 5:24 PM, Blogger !ce said...

Not a matter of resentment. I think of it as thankless work. Judaism gets no real credit, but Christianity and Islam are huge, and not as sensical.

 
At 8:46 PM, Blogger Crazy.Spoiled.bLitch. said...

Hey is still sounds like your BD was better than mine! :-)

 
At 2:29 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

Webmiztris:

Thanks! Same to you! If you're out on the town, may your partying be dork and creepo free.

 
At 2:31 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

Ice:

Wow, that's a great insight!

 
At 2:32 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

crazy.spoiled.blitch:

Oy! Your brithday must have blown chunks if it was worse than mine!

 
At 9:37 AM, Blogger fugusashi said...

you said:

"...glad you still posted a bit during your holiday sabbatical!"


Elvira, I think I need to call Blogaholics Anonymous.

 
At 5:12 PM, Blogger e.e. said...

hey e.b....

This was a fantastic post... sorry I am late on commenting.
How wonderful a summary of the life of Jesus and how poignant it is, no matter our religion, for all of us to remember his origins.
I grew up Catholic but I also have spent time trying to learn other faiths, as a lesson of tolerance as well as a lesson of self-realization.
I also learned about Greek and Roman myths and legends as a young child, and they were among the most facinating tales for me, next to the tales of the bible.
Although it's not my fave channel, Fox News did a "who is Jesus" segment over the holiday... and irt was actually pretty good.
But heck, I should have come here... it was a much more beautiful summary!
xoxx
e-e/crazykitty

 
At 2:31 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

Paula:

Yeah, I tried calling Blogaholic Anonymous, but their phone lines were overamped with desperate callers. And I hate those automated menus they have:

If this is a blogging emergency, hang up and call 911.

For mild to moderate blog withdrawal, press 1.

For severe to fatal blog withdrawal, press 2.

All other callers, press 3 or go out and take a walk around the block, get some fresh air, and get a life.

 
At 2:40 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

crazylittlekitty:

Oh wow..thanks!

Both my ex-boyfriend and BG grew up Catholic, went to parochial school, were altar boys, the whole megillah. Both of them are now lapsed Catholics with PTSD from the nuns' stories of burning in hell if you touch your weenie or something.

So what does it mean to this Jew girl? Well, I'm now more fascinated with their religion than they are. Christmas night they had "The Greatest Story Ever Told" on. I switched it on during the scene when Max von Sydow (aka Jesus) was bringing Lazarus back to life. BG insisted on changing the channel and watching Cold Case Files. Right smack in the middle of a miracle--how rude!

And while I'm at it, may I say that the young Max von Sydow made a pretty cool Jesus. If you have to envision Jesus as a blonde haired, blue eyed goy, rather than a swarthy Semite, Max is your man.

(Sorry, I'm in a very irreverent mood.)

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger !ce said...

Cold Case Files is a sexy show. It's right up there with The New Detectives and Forensic Files. So why isn't everyone singing Emmylou Harris at this time?

 
At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Blackie,

It's fitting that Jesus was a Jew. Jewish written history is better recorded than most. Even early non-Christians such as Josephus, have accuarately documented Jesus's activities through His life. Others have been able to support documentation that was written only a few decades past His death. (Little time to allow myths to form). Both Romans and non-Jews would soon find value in what was said and written about Him w/i a few short years. Even those Jews who persecuted early Christians, (Saul/Paul of Tarsus), realized the great connection of Jesus as being a Jew.

What better connection of His ancestry than to go back some 42 generations to Abraham, which Jews certainly relate to. Any Christian who fails to understand Jesus's background as a Jew really isn't interested in finding the truth about what they think they might believe.

I like that movie too with Max. I guess it's somewhat incorrect to think of Jesus as a white guy, but I know he wasn't born Dec 25th either. I still celebrate His birth every year then, and know there's much more to my search to find the X-Mas feeling than an overblown commercial bonanza like most of us see every December all around us.

This time of season has to be much more for Jew, Christian, Muslim, and non-believers, than just a few happy sayings in the hallway as our neighbors pass on by. I'm sure I will continue to be blessed every year at this time by those I know, love, and meet by some type of happenstance. And, with each visit by others at X-Mas, I hope all will find their own peace and joy to whatever meaning they discover.

BLLB

 
At 4:18 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

Ice:

Don't get me wrong--I love those murder shows. I have to confess that sometimes I'm only paying half-attention to them but the narrator's voice is so soothing somehow that it's like a balm for my soul.

You might consider starting an Emmylou blog--or a blog about all your fave rave female chanteuses.

 
At 4:30 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

BLLB:

Yes, there's a reason we say that our ethics are based on Judaeo-Christian beliefs. Islam is also connnected to both religions, as I believe they honor all the prophets of these three religions.

I guess it was sometime after I realized there is no Santa Claus that my dad told me Christmas was a "pagan holiday." Not that he didn't believe; he just realized that there is apparently no historic record of Jesus' exact date of birth. But as you said, that's hardly the point. Nor does it matter what Jesus looked like or what color he was--though some would disagree.

This Christmas Eve, a church bell was chiming out Christmas carols near BG's apartment, and we could hear them from his window. Though I get sick of hearing the commercial Christmas carols (after all, how many pop singers can put a new spin on them anyway?) there was something magical and spiritual about hearing them this way. As you said, I think the point of the holiday season is to try to feel a sense of connection, peace, and love for one another. A tough one to follow, but well worth shooting for.

 
At 11:29 AM, Blogger !ce said...

It seems to me that a guy by the name of Gene Galusha narrates most of those types of shows. I know for sure he narrates Forensic Files and New Detectives.

Oh, but what to put on such a blog?

 
At 6:23 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

Ice:

Well, in that case, Gene Galusha's voice is like a tranquilizer to me.

I think your enthusiasm for all those divas could produce a fab blog.

 
At 6:03 PM, Blogger !ce said...

Actually, if you go to the Forensic Files website, he doesn't look like he sounds. It's really interesting.

 
At 6:10 PM, Blogger !ce said...

What are your thoughts on Emmylou Harris? I have a jacket that makes me feel like Emmylou if I wear it. I have a pair of boots that makes me feel like Pat Benatar, but I rarely wear them because they are not good for walking or being on one's feet. A lot of times I feel like Mariah Carey or Alannah Myles. I found some Richard Marx casettes in my car the other night. I've been listening a lot lately. They make me feel like Celine.

 
At 7:13 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

Ice:

Thanks for the link to the Forensic website. Yeah, isn't it funny how you get an image of someone you've never seen--like a narrator or writer--in your head, and then you're totally surprised when they don't look anything like that in person? Weird.

Speaking of weird--I know you love the divas, so as I've said, I wonder why you don't speak of them and do homage to them on your site.

 
At 12:31 PM, Blogger !ce said...

I'll consider some diva commentary as soon as I figure out exactly what to say.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home