Q: Why is there anti-semitism? What is it about the Jewish culture that causes this to occur? — B., via firstname.lastname@example.org
A: You've asked me why some people hate other people, and I wish I could answer you in a way that might both explain and end hatred of any person. I'll try, but hatred, like love, is a deep and recondite human instinct.
The first explanation for hatred in general is that we're taught to hate by our families. This is the Rodgers and Hammerstein answer. Their great musical "South Pacific" features a song about prejudice, including the words, "You've got to be taught to hate and fear. You've got to be taught from year to year. It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear. You've got to be carefully taught."
Of course, this doesn't explain hatred of Jews, blacks, Christians or anyone else. It just explains where the hatred comes from and why it's so hard to eradicate. We're sometimes taught to hate by the same people who taught us to love. This makes it very hard to reject parts of what we were brought up to believe and embrace other parts.
Another explanation, particularly for anti-semitism, is our religious teachings. The Christian teaching that the Jews killed Christ has produced two millennia of anti-semitism. The Catholic Church rejected this "teaching of contempt" in the mid-1960s at the Second Vatican Council and in its transformational document, Nostra Aetate.
The facts are that the Romans killed Jesus, and blaming anyone living today for this act is historically and morally misguided. I love our sacred Scriptures, but I must admit that they're filled not only with inspirational moral teachings that have civilized the world, but also with problematic texts that have made life difficult for women, Jews and homosexuals.
I don't believe that the use of Scripture to bolster prejudice is consonant with the main thrust of our revealed scriptures to treat our neighbors as we would wish to be treated.
Finally, I urge you to be careful in wording your question as you did: "What is it about the Jewish culture that causes this to occur?" This is like asking, "What is it about blacks that causes racism?" The answer is: nothing.
Victims of prejudice are not responsible for the prejudice that wounds them. The question to ask is: "What is it about haters that causes them to reject innocent people?" Dear God, I wish I knew.
What Father Tom Hartman and I learned in our work together as the God Squad was that the end of prejudice comes from the bottom up, not the top down. It doesn't come from big institutions making pronouncements to other big institutions.
Hatred ends, as Tommy would always say, when "we look across the fence at our neighbor who's a different religion or color or anything, and we become his or her friend." Friendship is the only medicine I know for the disease of hatred.
Q: Why was the temple never rebuilt after the Romans destroyed it? I know it had been rebuilt after other wars, when the people were much poorer than today. Thank you for taking the time to read this. We enjoyed your visit to our parish in Bayside when we had our anniversary year. — Sister C., Bayside, N.Y., via email@example.com
A: The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 before the common era by the Babylonians, rebuilt in 516, then destroyed again by the Romans in the year 70 of the common era. The simple answer to your question is that from the year 70 until the six-day war in Israel in 1967, Jews did not have political or military sovereignty over the Temple Mount.
During the period of Moslem control, two holy buildings were erected on the Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque. It is a violation of Jewish law to destroy a place of worship of another faith, therefore the State of Israel never considered for a moment destroying these sacred Moslem sites to make room to rebuild the temple.
Furthermore, there's a Jewish belief that only the Messiah can rebuild the temple as part of the coming of the Messianic Age (for Christians with the same belief, it would, of course, be the second coming). Since the Messiah has not come, the temple cannot be rebuilt.
My own personal view is that I'm glad the temple won't be rebuilt because that would require a return to Jewish animal sacrifices on the altar and an inherited Jewish priesthood. I'm happier with rabbis instead of priests in Judaism, and much happier with animals as pets rather than as burnt sacrifices.
(Send QUESTIONS ONLY to The God Squad via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)