Human Nature

An intriguing aspect of the holiday of Passover is the fact that we are not supposed to be so overjoyed at our freedom from Egyptian slavery. Imagine being told that we aren't supposed to laugh, sing, or dance too much after having been enslaved for over 200 years! Imagine restraining ourselves after crossing the Sea of Reeds and watching the Egyptian army drown! Human nature would have us instinctively jumping up and down with joy and delight and even yelling insults and curses at the Egyptians as they died.

But that's the lesson we learn from the rabbis related to Passover. We take drops of wine from the kiddush cup at the seder as we recite the 10 plagues and we omit 2 psalms from the Hallel service on the last 6 days of the holiday to decrease our joy. We need to recognize that Egyptians died so that we could be free.

Religion doesn't reflect human nature, it responds to it and teaches us how to perfect it. If there are flaws in our character then religious tradition teaches how to correct them and rise above them.

Such was not the case in the Good Friday sermon at the Vatican on April 2. In that homily the priest - Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa - acted instinctively. He was self defensive about the charges of sexual abuse being brought against the Catholic Church. Even more outrageous was the comparison of these attacks to the history of attacks on Jews.

The priest's words speak volumes about prejudice, denial, and abuse. But they also reflect how far that priest needs to go to realize what his religious goals should be. Rise above natural tendencies and seek higher ground in self realization, reflection, and repentance.

When we perfect ourselves then we can drink a full cup of wine and sing all the psalms of Hallel!