Monday, April 9, 2018

the anti-semitic interface

Pesach has technically been over for a couple days now, but the seder-holding family to which I am honorary sundry sensibly decided that yesterday was a better Sunday for gathering than the previous Sunday, so that's when we had it.

We usually gather at 4 pm, and I would be working that afternoon; but it usually takes us a while before we sit down, and the seder is about half ritual before it gets to the serious eating, so with hosts' consent I said I'd be late. I expected to and indeed arrived about 5, and we got started immediately thereafter.

One of the early rituals is to wash away the cares of the day. You hold your hands out over a bowl and your neighbor pours from a pitcher of water over them, and then you say what you would like to wash away and all respond, "So be it." These cares often range from anxiety attacks to "about thirty pounds," but this year I had something unusually specific.

What I'd been at work doing was not my usual task of attending a concert for review, but a panel discussion. The SF Bach Choir, prior to performing the St. John Passion next month, decided to convene a passel of religious scholars to ask the question, "Was Bach anti-Semitic?"

That was what I had just spent two hours listening to them talk about, and by then I was really eager to wash it away, preferably with the aid of a few cups of the Pesach ritual wine.

But now it's the next morning, I have my notes before me, and I'm ready to begin creating the write-up I was sent there to make. (And the answer to the question? It was pretty much, "Yes, but not nearly as anti-Semitic as Martin Luther.")

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