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Their introduction to wife swapping.
Michael, though busy tearing at the silver gift-wrap that covers the book we got him, manages to look at me, his lightly freckled face a picture of curiosity. "Dad, did Judah Maccabee and Jesus know each other?" He already knows that Judah Maccabee led the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid Empire. He also knows that the oil for the temple that was supposed to last just one day lasted eight.
"No, Jesus was born over a hundred years after Judah died," I tell him.
"Oh," he says, then finishes unwrapping his gift, "Charlotte's Web," E.B. White's classic novel about a pig's friendship with a spider. "My teacher recommended we read this." He looks a little disappointed until he unwraps his other gift, a skateboard. Crystal gets a talking doll and a pair of roller skates. In addition, we throw in a set of Lego building blocks for both of them.
As we watch our kids sort out the colorful plastic blocks, I figure they're too absorbed in play to inquire further into the meaning of the holidays. But then Crystal asks if Judah Maccabee rose from the dead like Jesus. "Nobody in Jewish history ever did that," I say. "Not even Moses, who the bible says talked to God face to face."
Jill cuts in with a gentle reminder. "Au contraire. Jesus was a Jew, remember. And so were most of his disciples."
Michael looks up, surprised. "Jesus was Jewish?"
"Yes," I nod, "but-__
"So why don't you believe in him the way mom does, dad?"
"Well, because the Jews in Jesus' time expected the true messiah to free them from the yoke of Roman oppression," I explain, reiterating what one of my Hebrew schoolteachers told me years ago. "Jesus didn't do that, therefore, they couldn't accept him as the real messiah."
"That's not the way Christians see it," Jill says, addressing Michael. "Christ died for our sins so we could have salvation in the afterlife. He couldn't stop the Romans from doing bad things to people or the Germans from doing bad things in World War Two, the war your grandfather fought in."
Crystal finishes snapping some blocks together and looks up. "Penelope said that people who don't believe in Jesus will go to hell," she says, quoting one of her classmates. She looks at her mom, drawing a worried expression. "Will daddy go to hell?"
"Of course not," Jill says, emphatically. "Your dad is a good man, and good people go to heaven." She winks at me. "So you can just tell your friend Penelope she's wrong."
I can't say I'm a firm believer in heaven or hell. Still, it's nice getting my wife's stamp of approval in front of our kids. If she's right, then my soul's trip into heaven is secured. Crystal smiles, looks relieved.
"On the other hand," Jill continues, "he's only known one-third of God, the Father. He's missing the Son and Holy Ghost."
I raise my eyebrows, stunned by her comment. This is a new twist added to our past discussion on the subject. "Jill, the triple Godhead is another major sticking point between Jews and Christians," I say, my tone slightly testy. "We believe in only one God, not three." Then I quote the ancient watchwords of Judaism. "Hear O Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is One."
"Stan, Christians believe in only one Supreme Being as well. We got that from you guys. Just think of the Godhead as an amalgamation of what you call Adonai. Not an easy concept to understand, I must admit."
"I'll say. Anyway, I can't accept it because for no other reason, I wasn't raised believing it. Again, we're taught that Moses is the only Jew who ever spoke with God directly. Moses never describes what God looks like because he can't, not in human terms, anyway. Our faith teaches that God would NEVER take human form, not even for Moses. "
"Except he did," Jill says softly, "two-thousand years ago, give or take. One day I believe you'll see that."
"When daddy's in heaven, right mom?" Michael says. He and his sister sit cross-legged on the rug, their attention diverted from their gifts to our discussion.
"Right, that's when," Jill says.
She looks so beautiful in the morning, with her long blond tresse