This opportunity came to us as a result of a two-day Jewish/Mormon Conference held this weekend in our neck of the woods. Hubders had been asked to be the local LDS representative for the question/answer session, and since the Rabbi (from L.A.) wanted to speak in an LDS congregation it was arranged for the two of them to speak at a combined Priesthood/Relief Society in our ward.
Our church starts at 1:00 pm. The Rabbi wanted to meet with Hubders at 11:00 and since he would have to eat somewhere, I had Hubders invite him to dinner, fully expecting him to decline because of kosher issues. But he seemed grateful for the invitation and when asked, said that we could serve anything we wanted; however, since we asked, he didn't eat pork or shell fish and didn't mix meat and dairy. Grateful that I wouldn't have to worry about which bowls I prepared which food in, and that I only had to make minor adjustments (no milk in the mashed potatoes etc), I nevertheless felt the weight of hosting a Rabbi for dinner.
The Rabbi was humble, gracious, personable, and clearly wouldn't have complained regardless what fare we had offered him. He was willing to sit with our family and explain what a Rabbi was and what he did. He consented to offer a blessing on the food (the first motzi ever uttered in our home) and taught us as he did so. He was interested in all our children had to say, even when Girlie-Whirl babbled on about nothing. It wasn't long before my worries over whether the meal was kosher were banished and we simply enjoyed each others company like old friends.
Sunday was one of those huge days for Hubders (you know the kind). He spoke in Sacrament Meeting, it was his week to teach Gospel Doctrine class, he spoke with the Rabbi during priesthood/Relief Society, and then participated in the question/answer discussion at the Jewish/Mormon conference in the evening. He was grateful when it was all over and tried to minimize his roll, but as his wife, I was all sorts of impressed. Gonna have to sew the buttons back on my blouse!!
The sister who introduced Hubders at the conference is a good friend and rather than just read his bio (thank you!--don't you hate it when they just read what's already printed on the program?) she spoke more personally of attending his classes, his depth of scriptural knowledge, his enthusiasm as a teacher, etc and she ended by saying that even after twenty-five years of marriage, he still opens every door for his wife; which he does, but who knew that she'd noticed it! I sat there in the audience and enjoyed hearing someone sing the praises of my man and resolved to take his kindnesses to me less for granted.
The whole weekend was unforgettable. Our family has always had an affinity for Judaism. We own a menorah, shofar, Torah scroll, prayer shawl and yarmulke; and have taught multiple Jewish folk songs to our children. I've loved reading Chaim Potok's The Chosen to my children because I feel it gives them a window into the lives, strugglings and faith of modern Jewry. But our ties to the Jewish community have been enhanced and deepened because of the conference. On Saturday, after the dialogue at the synagogue, I was able to attend the Jewish worship service, which happened to be a Bar Mitzvah. Although much of the service, being mostly in Hebrew, was lost on me, parts of it were deeply moving.
As one who loves the standard works and wants very much to help my children come to understand the power of the word of God, I felt a great kinship there. The Rabbi spoke of their ancestor's love for the Torah. He then took the Torah scrolls out of the ark, handed them to the father, who handed them to the mother, who handed them to the older son, who handed them to Jacob (whose Bar Mitzvah it was), who then held them in his arms and carried them through the aisles of the congregation as members kissed their fingertips and then touched the breastplate of the Torah. Their obvious joy in the scriptures and their desire to pass that joy onto their children is a commonality that transcends dogma.
I hope to continue the dialogue with our Jewish neighbors. I believe it was helpful and interesting to members of both faiths. A Rabbi who sat by Hubders on the stand last night continually asked him questions of clarification as the LDS speaker gave his address. I carried on religious conversations with my daughter-in-law's mother and her grandfather's girl friend (both Jewish), something I never imagined doing. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach said in 2003, "The Mormons are our brothers, the Christians are our kin." After this conference, I feel that familial relationship more than ever and am looking forward to the next family reunion.
I'm still mulling the weekend over in my mind and it will be some time before I feel like I have a handle on all that happened and what it means. The most obvious lesson is that they, like us, truly love God and want to live his law. The differences between our religions which divide us are nothing compared to the similarities which ought to unite us as believers in God and in his word.