Sometimes a writer discovers what they actually wrote from the reactions they get from their readers. This is what happened to me after yesterday’s post. I thank those of you who made comments.
I have to confess that I sometimes get a little sassy-pants when I write which I was doing when I commented that I had asked one of my professors about the birds and fauna of Israel. I said that he responded to me as though I were a child interrupting his teaching. That did not happen. I did ask a professor about the birds and the fauna but he was kind and considerate in his response, genuinely sorry that he couldn’t answer my questions. Sorry for my misrepresentation.
As for my desire to know about the Jesus’ Jewish religious practice, it is not really correct that we didn’t talk about any of these. There are two Jewish festivals that we talked about extensively. The first was when we visited the place of the Transfiguration believed to have occured on Mount Tabor. The way I envision it, Jesus had gone there with three of his disciples to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. If you read the story you see that they put up tents which could have meant camping but I think referred to the structures Jews put up during this festival. The rooms at St. George were assigned names as well as numbers and my room was “Mt. Tabor.” I considered this significant because I had written stories of the disciples’ experience there with Jesus.
The Feast of Tabernacles isn’t generally known in Christian circles, but Jews know it well as days when they construct “tents” outside their houses, more like canopies that protected them from the sun. (As an aside, we saw these types of structures used by modern day Bedouins in the desert by the Dead Sea.) Under this canopy, Jewish families set a table and eat there in a celebrative manner with friends and family. They are remembering that their ancestors traveled in the wilderness for 40 years where they had not houses but tents in which to rest and eat together. I see the Transfiguration is a conversion story, when Jesus’ disciples came to grasp a truth that they hadn’t been able to understand until then. It had to do with the identity of Jesus, but I think about their own identities as well.
When we visited the site, I found a beautiful grassy spot on the Mount nestled in a circle of trees that would have been a perfect spot for Jesus and his friends to set up camp. I imagined them sitting around a fire at night or early in the morning, sharing their stories with one another. It was a practice to allow time at each site students’ to meditate. On Tabor, there in that spot I sat and wrote what I thought the disciples and Jesus might have talked about. It was profound to think of them there deepening their relationship with one another just as a camping experience might do for friends today.
The other Jewish festival which Christians are more familiar with is the Passover because it is deemed to be the feast Jesus and his followers were celebrating the night before he died. We went to a place known as the “Upper Room” where it is believed this meal took place. It was larger than I thought. This pleased me because I had imagined, unlike Leonardo DaVinci, that the gathering was much larger and more inclusive than just Jesus and the 12 apostles. I imagine Jesus’ family being there and the disciples’ families, as well. Perhaps even some close friends would have been there, such as Lazarus, Mary and Martha. The room would have easily accommodated a group of 40 or 50.
So I take back the hint that there was no sharing of Jesus’ Jewish expression. I have to admit that I wanted to know more yet, but the class had its syllabus to attend to. The professors were always willing to answer questions we had as we ate and relaxed together. Many of my questions were attended to but many others are left for me to research on my own here in Minnesota.