Michael Marissen's analysis of the librettist's possible anti-Semitism may be right, but he is wrong to tar Handel as well with this brush. Pietists taught Handel sympathy for the Jews, a respect strengthened by his liberalism. And his oratorios on Jewish themes -- ''Esther,'' ''Judas Maccabaeus'' and others -- wove ancient Hebrew heroism and suffering in a way favorable to Jews and the cause of liberty. His ''Messiah'' librettist's anti-Semitic sentiments should not obscure Handel's very positive relationship with Judaism.
I am personally devastated to learn that the ''Hallelujah'' chorus was written to celebrate the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.