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An Unusual Guest At Our Model Seder

An Unusual Guest At Our Model Seder

A "Christian" woman's odyssy towards freedom (from Egypt).

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An Unusual Guest At Our Model Seder 
A "Christian" woman's odyssy towards freedom (from Egypt).
By Rabbi Zushe Greenberg


Near our first Passover in Solon, just about five years ago, we had a most unusual guest. 

About a week before our model seder, I was approached by a woman while standing in a local supermarket. 

"Excuse me, sir," the woman asked, " are you a Rabbi ? " 

When she learned that her guess was right, the woman, named Connie told me she was studying the Book of Exodus, at her church in Hudson. She was very interested in seeing how the Jews (she used the term " Chosen People") celebrate and commemorate the Exodus. 

I invited her to the Chabad Jewish Center of Solon model seder. She said she would try to come. 

That Saturday night, when the model Seder was about to begin, in from the door walked Connie and Pam a friend from her Bible class. 

The evening began with a Havdala service, marking the end of the Shabbat, and I was surprised to see that Pam seemed vaguely familiar with the service. 

During the seder, Pam made educated comments about various traditions. She knew why Matza was eaten, the significance of the bitter herbs, and even seemed to recognize the taste of Charoset. 

I wondered about such a traditional Christian woman being so informed about Judaism. When we took a break for the "Shulchan Aruch Meal" where we served Passover refreshments, she asked me, "What is your background, Rabbi? " 

I explained to her that I grew up in Israel but my parents immigrated from Russia when I was an infant. 

"Oh, my parents are also from the Soviet Union," the 40 year old woman said. "From Russia ?" I wondered aloud. "Yes," she replied. "And actually, they were Jewish too!" Seeing my surprised look, she explained that she grew up in Los Angeles, with Jewish parents but a very limited Jewish education or participation. She recalled attending services periodically for Shabbat and holidays. 

As a teenager, her strong urge for spirituality was not satisfied by her local Rabbi. Through friends, she got involved in a nearby church, and before long she decided to convert to Christianity. 

"This is the first Jewish event that I attended for the last twenty years," she said. 

Now it was my turn to surprise her. "According to Jewish law, you are still Jewish " I told her. "Once a Jew, always a Jew. All the conversions in the world can not take away one's Jewish soul." 

A major part of the evening was spent discussing Jewish philosophy and then we proceeded with the Seder. Upon reaching the Afikoman, Pam was moved to tears. 

Before Pam left I asked her if she would like to be put on our mailing list, and she said yes. 

Six months passed by, and it was Yom Kippur eve. The room‚ was full of solemn worshippers, as Kol Nidre was about to begin. I saw this woman walk through our door a second time and take a seat. 

Later, Pam had apologized for not telling us that she was coming. She had been tossing the idea back and forth for weeks. At the last minute, she couldn't keep herself away "Of all the prayers and Jewish ceremonies" she said, "the Kol Nidre tunes kept haunting me all these years." She just had to hear it sung once again. 

She had also asked my wife if she had time to teach her Hebrew. They set up a weekly lesson. 

Not long after, her husband, (who was not Jewish) was transferred and the whole family moved away. We tried to keep in contact with her, but it only worked for a while. Three years passed by. The third time she came into our lives was via a telephone call. Pam was living in Rochester, NY and she wondered if we could hook her up with the local Chabad Rabbi because, it seemed her daughter was showing interest in learning Hebrew. 

Looking for a happy ending? Well, since then we have not heard from her again. But meeting Pam those times for me made a famous Chasidic expression come alive. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi M.M. Schneerson of righteous memory would often emphasize, "One must never underestimate a Jewish soul." 

Each and every Jew possesses a Divine soul, which is 'part' of G‑d above. The soul is constantly searching and striving to get closer to G‑d, and to its Jewish roots. 

This is actually what Passover is all about. Passover is the festival of liberation. Our Sages teach us "in every generation, and every day, a Jew must see himself as if he had that day been liberated from Egypt." 

Freedom was not won once and for all. It needs constant guarding because every environment carries its own equivalent of `Egypt" - a power to undermine the freedom of a Jew. 

Perhaps the most potent threat comes from the individual himself. Every day he must personally "go out from Egypt", he must escape from the limits, temptations and obstructions that his physical existence places in the way of his spiritual fulfillment. 

I hope that by this year, Pam will leave her "personal Egypt" and once and for all rejoin the Jewish nation as we celebrate Passover, the Festival of Liberation.

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