To Market I Go

Today’s blog is going to be pretty short, with a brief theological reflection at the end! This morning, after a good, but slightly treacherous run around the Old City [Suffice it to say that millions upon millions of pilgrim feet have made the stones of the Old City slick as ice, and when they are wet, you have to be really careful. The area right outside the Zion gate is particularly deadly], I walked out to the Mahaneh Yehuda, which is this fabulous outdoor market, with vendors selling every kind of food item imaginable, as well as kitsch, clothing, kippahs, and candy. I pulled the following information off Wikipedia [so glad they are up and running again!]: “Mahane Yehuda market is bounded by Jaffa Road to the north, Agrippas Street to the south, Beit Yaakov Street to the west, and Kiach Street to the east. The market itself has two major streets: Eitz Chaim Street (the covered market) and Mahane Yehuda Street (the open-air market). Bisecting these two streets are smaller streets named for fruits and nuts: Afarsek (Peach) Street, Agas (Pear) Street, Egoz (Walnut) Street, Shaked (Almond) Street, Shezif (Plum) Street, Tapuach (Apple) Street, and Tut (Berry) Street.” The marketplace was established in the late 19th century, and it got its name in the late 1920s. The walk along Jaffa street was really nice, too–it goes along the path of a new light rail train, which everyone seems to really like. It is very new, and only became fully operational on Dec. 1st, 2011. And, while I was walking, I succumbed to a bit of Americana–suddenly, on the corner, a “Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf” shop appeared out of nowhere! [This is the first chain, other than McDonald’s, I have seen–no Starbucks, which seems surprising to me]. And, I simply could not resist the lure of the mocha ice blended. I tasted of the coffee, and it was sweet! The young woman who took my order was really nice–she has only been living here four months, but she loves it, and is seriously considering “making aliyah,” if she can get her Hebrew good enough to go to college here. I wonder how many other young people feel as she does–is it common or rare these days? Anyway, I had a great time wandering around the marketplace–people were really stocking up for Shabbat [and, apparently, no one brings their own bags–EVERYONE was using plastic bags! If anyplace needs an envirosac intervention, it’s this place!], and the bus stop was so crowded, with people waiting to get home with all their purchases–bread, vegetables, meat, fish, sweets, nuts, spices, etc., etc. The only thing I bought was some flowers to take to my Shabbat hosts tonight–they have some beautiful flowers here. I was tempted by many other things, including all the interesting breads and the sweets, but I didn’t indulge [I have been trying to resist the temptation of seeing new foods and thinking that I must eat them, whether I am hungry or not!]. I also walked around and found the Gerard Behar Center, which is where the Eichmann trial took place. I knew it because I had seen it from afar yesterday, but there wasn’t any plaque or anything marking the place, as far as I could tell. Somehow I thought there would be. [Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Mossad swept in and kidnapped Eichmann from Argentina and brought him back to Israel for trial without going through any formal channels. Needless, to say, Argentina wasn’t happy about it!] The other thing I looked up when I got home was the information about all the painted lions I have seen around the city [like the Dala Horses in Lindsborg–and the many, many other “animal parades” that pepper different cities: that trend of scattering painted animals around a city began in Zurich, with cows, in 1988]. Indeed, the Jerusalem Lion Project began around 10 years ago–there were roughly 80 lions spread throughout the city. In my walking, I have seen about 8 or so, and some of them really need touching up! I read that some of them were sold for charity, so I don’t know how many are left around. OK–that’s enough of that. I am going out to synagogue tonight [Reformed] and then supper, so I’ll have to report on that tomorrow. In the meantime, I keep meaning to share something Marty was telling us about a week or so ago–it’s about the priests, and the law. She reminded us that in the Old Testament, there are two lines of priests, the house of Aaron & the Levites. When David established the temple in Jerusalem, being no fool, he assigned a priest from each line to be high priest. But, when Solomon was vying for the throne, only Zadok, the Aaronite priest, supported him; the Levite supported his brother. So, when Solomon took the throne, he exiled the Levite to Anathoth [where Jeremiah was born]. From then on, to be a high priest, you had to be able to trace your lineage back to Zadok. And the descendants of Zadok became, in the New Testament, the Sadducees. This sort of helps explain why modern Judaism [rabbinic Judaism] can be traced back to the Pharisees. There were only four major sects of Judaism in the time of Jesus: the Essenes, who were extreme ascetics and fled the world altogether; the Zealots, who were the fighters and were wiped out by Rome; the Sadducees, who were so tied to the temple, that when the temple was destroyed they were out of commission, basically; and the Pharisees, who were able to make the transition from temple to Torah [they were well-equipped to do this anyway, since they were the interpreters of the law]. All of this biblical history led to a quick discussion about the law itself, which, unfortunately, gets a bad rap in Lutheranism [as it is typically contrasted with the gospel, along the lines of: “The law kills, but the gospel gives life.”] Marty was reminding us how, in Judaism, the law is understood as a wonderful gift–a way to live life to the fullest & richest, not a restrictive set of burdensome commands. I think it will be important for the interreligious work I am doing with Judaism to think more about how Jewish understandings of the law might helpfully inform Christian anthropology, and the way we understand our relationship to God. I think it can/should be thought of in positive terms as well, not just as a negative, a foil for the gospel. There is something to be said, I think, for structuring one’s whole life around God’s commands: just like today at the market. Extensive preparations are required in order to properly observe the Sabbath–everything closes early today, so that everyone can get ready and be prepared: it dominates everyone’s agenda today; and of course, it IS the order the day tonight/tomorrow. I’d like to think more about what the rich, multi-layered Jewish understanding of “keeping the law” might teach Christianity, where “the law” often gets constricted down to specific moral [even more–sexual] prohibitions, which don’t allow for the depth and complexity of the whole concept of “the law” to be expressed, I think.

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