A Jew Goes to Handel's “Messiah” at Christmas

Some reflections on how we Jews cope with the majority culture around us, provoked by Handel’s beautifully crafted 1741 oratorio.

The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys with the Concert Royal performing Handel’s Messiah in New York in December 2013. Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images.

The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys with the Concert Royal performing Handel’s Messiah in New York in December 2013. Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images.

Observation
Dec. 22 2020
About the author

Seymour Epstein consults in Jewish education and community planning and was the director of Toronto’s Board of Jewish Education. He is the author of The Esther Scroll (2019).

While in an Orthodox home a few weeks before Christmas one year I noticed some red-and-white-striped candy canes on display. The lady of the house quickly noted that they were kosher with a reliable hekhsher (a funny thought in itself), and that she loved the Christmas spirit and the decorations. Not to worry: there were neither tree nor lights in this observant home. But the moment got me thinking of how we Jews cope with the majority culture around us, and I immediately arranged to attend, once again, George Frideric Handel’s famous 1741 oratorio, Messiah, a Christmas favorite even though it was intended for Easter.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Christmas, Classical music, Music