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BCRC Interfaith Weekend

02/22/2019 07:33:27 AM


Seth Leventhal

Our recent Interfaith Dialogue Event featuring Rabbi Joe Charnes, scholar in residence, and Rev. Annabelle Markey and Rev. Joseph Vought from Community Lutheran Church in Sterling was a wonderful event, enjoyed by many in both our congregation and by our guests from the church, as well as other friends.

On Friday Feb. 8, Rabbi Joe led a ‘Soul of the Sabbath’ program, in which the traditional Erev Shabbat service was replaced by an in-depth discussion of the rituals of the Sabbath and their underlying significance, as well as a separate discussion time led by Rabbi Amy and Pastor Annabelle with visiting teens from CLC, St. Andrews Episcopal Church and BCRC. As those of us who have taken Rabbi Amy’s Hebrew classes know, the word ‘Shabbat’ is derived from the Hebrew root ‘Shin-Bet-Tav’ which means ‘cease, desist or stop’. Rabbi Joe discussed this meaning of the Shabbat, how it provides an opportunity to ‘stop’ at the end of a busy week, but on the other hand, is also an opportunity to ‘begin again’. He explained how the rituals of the Shabbat service provide us with an opportunity to stop, reflect, then begin again. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed a delicious Shabbat dinner.

On Saturday Feb 9, we had a light sabbath supper followed by a Havdalah service, followed by a panel discussion: “Living Theology: A Conversation with Two Rabbis and Two Pastors”, featuring Rabbi Amy and Rabbi Joe, and the two guest pastors in a dialogue comparing and contrasting the perspectives of Judaism and Lutheranism. As we discovered, both religions have much in common and significant differences, which makes for a broader vision of how to be human.

The discussion started with a comparison of how the two religions view sin – a seemingly straightforward topic, but we soon saw from the discussion there are different ways to approach it. Martin Luther viewed sin as ‘the soul turned in on itself’. Following his philosophy, Lutheranism views all of us as both sinners and saints – that is, we all have sin in ourselves, but through belief, we can achieve grace through the presence of Christ in our hearts. 

In Judaism, on the other hand, we believe that people are born pure, but there is an inclination toward sin if you follow the wrong path or engage in excess. Belief, in itself, will not rescue us from sin, but we can redeem ourselves by following Torah. (That is, ‘Torah’ defined as the totality of Jewish commandments, laws, teaching, culture and practice, not solely as a scroll you find in the ark at a synagogue). 

My personal takeaway from this discussion was that both religions have a common view of ‘right’ vs. ‘wrong’. However, there are differing views on what will redeem you – in Lutheranism, they take a more internalized view, that taking Christ into your heart will set you on the path of saint rather than sinner, while the Jewish view is that you redeem yourself by your acts, by following God’s law as embodied in Torah. And that was just the start! It was a great way to bring religion alive for the attendees.

Thank to Tracy Cirone, Muriel Gardner, and the many volunteers who helped to present this program, to our members who contributed food, and to the Tikva Fund for their sponsorship of this great event. And thanks to Rabbi Amy and Pastor Annabelle for their valuable edits of my theological writings!


Wed, March 29 2023 7 Nisan 5783