Note: I am doing a short series of postings about a few of the more memorable church services I have witnessed. These entries took place years ago, and they are taken from my private journal.
You remember Judge Ito? From O.J.’s trial? One evening in Houston, I visited a synagogue. I suppose I was hoping to “sit at the feet of Gamaliel”, as it were, to hear a wise old rabbi dispensing wisdom.
So much for the idea that all rabbis are wise…
3 March 1995 Friday
This evening I went to synagogue at the Congregation for Reform Judaism. The ambience was closer to what you would find in a Presbyterian church, except all the teaching was from Torah and some of it was in Hebrew.
Rabbi was a pompous sounding fellow and his homily was disappointing. He spoke on the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob. Rabbi posed the question of what are we to make of this bowl of lentils for your birthright deal. Here was the future patriarch of Israel involved in a highly questionable deal.
First, rabbi summed up the traditional rabbinic teaching on the subject: Jacob’s motives were good because he knew that Esau was unfit to be a leader. Then rabbi asked what might have happened if Esau had taken his case to a rabbinic court: we’ll never know, rabbi said, because rabbinic courts didn’t exist yet.
The rabbi moved to the heart of his lesson: what would Judge Ito do with this deal?
I thought: You’re kidding. Judge Ito??
Rabbi talked about how Jacob’s deal with Esau fit into modern contract law. In rabbi’s opinion, Judge Ito would uphold the deal. “That’s the end of the matter,” the rabbi said, and he rapped a gavel on the podium for effect. That was the sum total of the rabbi’s lesson: Judge Ito would likely uphold the deal between Jacob and Esau.