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Comments for entry Passionate Matthew
I have been thinking about the St. Matthew Passion since LN brought it up. It reminded me that I actually took a Catholic girl on a date to see the Bach version performed by the Boston Symphony when I was a student at Boston Conservatory (for one year). She was a pretty blond, probably of German or Polish background. Her name, I think, was Martha and she played classical guitar.
I remember it now like it was yesterday. We sat through the several hours that this piece takes. We listened to the amazing music, reading a translation of the words from the program as the music progressed. I remember getting feelings of anger and sorrow as I read words about the Jews that I knew were not true.
I am listening to the Passion right now. Have been on and off throughout the day. Here are some of the words:
"Then the high priest rent his clothes saying: 'He hath spoken blasphemy'. They (the crowd) said: 'He is guilty of death! The did they spit in his face, and buffeted him, and others smote him..."
Come on, give me a break! The Jews were the most literate people in the ancient world. The Torah and the Talmud are full of sayings such as, "You shall not hate they brother in thy heart", and "Justice, justice shall you follow". It is highly offensive to see this false portrayal of the Jews. Clearly, in my opinion, this kind of politically motivated writing came from the Romans who edited the New Testament. It is the beginnings of systemic anti-Semitism...make the Jews look like a crazed, violent group of killers, and then justify hatred of them.
This is then bourne out by the story of the Roman governor sticking up for poor Jesus, while the crowd yells, "Crucify him!" So, you see, the Romans are actually the good guys. Yeah, right. And the Jews are the bloodthirsty God killers. Then in an unbelievably brazen attack against the Jews, Matthew has the crowd say to Pilate, "His blood be upon us, and on our children"!!!!!!!!!!!
Can you imagine that the Jews actually said that! Why on earth would they want the blood of anyone on them. And on their children? How sick is that? Especially since in the Torah God says, "The sins of the father should not be on the son, or the sins of the son on the father. Everyone will be punished for his own sins." This is a transparent attempt by the Roman editors of the New Testament to justify the hatred, and murder of Jews. "After all THE JEWS said that the blood of Jesus SHOULD be on them and their children, so we can kill them and their children throughout the generations!" Uggggghhhhhh!
Anyway...getting back to my cute, blond Catholic girl...I was sitting next to her in my own private hell, getting angrier and angrier as the text of this piece by Bach is justifying the centuries of riots, pogroms, expulsions, and holocausts against my people. And I look over at her and see an angelic look in her eyes. I can see she is coming under the spell of the music and words.
Finally we get to the end of the piece and the chorus is singing about Jesus in his grave, saying, "We sit ourselves down in tears and call to thee in the grave, Sweet repose, rest sweetly". I am thinking, "Thank God this is almost over. Maybe I can take her out for a drink and get her back to my dorm room and salvage the night". But then I look over to see tears in her eyes and I realize that see is totally buying this Passion. I realize that she is indeed a believing Catholic, and not only does she believe that Jesus died for her sins, she also believes the horrible things that Matthew said about the Jews. Suddenly I realize that our days as a couple are numbered. Will she ever understand how terrible it feels to a Jew to hear those twisted stories? Will I ever be able to pray to a "God" who has a book that says such nasty things about my ancestors?
On the way home she started talking about her faith in Jesus and how moved she was. Then she wondered why I didn't cry. There it was, like a lead balloon. I tried to be as tactful as possible saying that I thought it was a good story but I don't really believe in it. I could see she was amazed that after that moving experience I could walk away a non-believer. I don't think we ever went out again.
This is the kind of deep stuff that goes on between people that most people never talk about. I don't think I ever talked about this before. Certainly I never wrote about it before. But this is real stuff. This is the pain that Jews often feel when confronted by Christianity. Christians think of their religion as nothing but goodness, and think of themselves as spreading the gospel of love. But they hurt the hell out of Jews when they spread these type of stories. Who would want to have stories spread about their ancestors saying that they spit on God, and yelled for his death, and actually asked that his blood be upon them and their children? And then when you know the history, and you know that millions of Jews were attacked and murdered throughout the centuries because of these very stories... it is hard to see them as just someone's beliefs. When someone's beliefs have killed your great grandparents, that is no small matter. It took me many years to get over my anger at these stories. Part of what has helped me get over it is the knowledge that many Christians no longer believe these stories as the literal truth. They still believe in Jesus but they accept that these stories were probably edited by the Romans, and in any case, are not "the point". The point is love, and on that I can agree.
Wow! I'm sure I said too much. But I guess I'm glad that I finally got to tell that story. I had forgotten it, but I guess the music opened up that part of my brain, and the Passion of Minsky came spilling out.
Now, believe it or not, I'm going to listen to the rest of Bach's Passion...but I don't think I will be reading the translation this time!
Author: Von Cello Eintrag from 22.03.2008
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