I love the small word so often said after we have made some shopping: "Titchadesh (m) - titchadshi (f) = renew yourself" which means "come back soon and buy more next time”. I used to kid my friends in Scandinavia. In Denmark, guests who meet their hosts who had invited them to supper or to spend an evening with friends at their home use to say "Tak for sidst - thanks for last (time)". Of course, I used to answer in accordance with the speech in force, lol, but also to kindly add kidding: "Tak for naest - thanks for the next (time)". What is over is over, by Jove. But by God's finger, everything is open, so let's look ahead and there is no need to take any appointment. Things will be nicer and cuter than last time if we don't plan too much. Scheduling is a working requirement. It also includes a part of intuition, personal readiness to any sorts of events. The future is more than any past.
The present is made of overleaping micro-seconds. Last year, the title of Rosh HaShanah’s blog was “Chidush”. Greek has it: “hapax” is a unique element, not only a one-shot, but something that is and only can be singled out. Thus, it is (brand) new. “Titchadesh / titchadshi” don’t sound very singling out. When I leave the shop with my new purchases, they might firstly be old rags and recurrent “on sale anachot, bargains”, absolutely impossible to sell out anywhere, like “ten-hand clothe shmattes”.
This may be considered as brand newness for a lot of people. Not only fashion, but Jews love fashion-creativity and it is a part of this one day excited then depressed impression to be in… like having butterflies in our stomachs. We love when new habits or events get fixed and ritualized. This is just impossible for the Jewish tradition. Look how the present tense is so often marked by the addition in a word of a “vav” /o, u/ that connects tiny instants with immediate, short and long-term periods. It hooks up with forwardness. Israel is not interesting because it is so young and foxy, clever and witty, appealing and nagging, whining without going hay wiring. Israel is not even yet a young maiden like Isaac B. Singer’s Yentl of about 60. Beer, wine and chickpeas will never replace fresh apples dipped in pure honey and glasses of tea or our local cow milk. But “Titchadshi, Israel = renew Israel” is a must.
The parshat hashavua or reading portion of the Shabbat “Haazinu (and “Shuvah") is short: it is the song sung by Moses before he died and was buried in an unknown place in order to gather together with his ancestors. It has a glimpse of resurrection, eternity, a taste of connectedness with the forefathers. The text is read in Devarim/Deuteronomy 32:1-52: “Haazinu hashamayim va’adaberah – Give ear, heavens, and I shall speak”. The song is very special and rhythmic in Hebrew. It ought to be written with width and breadth on two separate columns on a scroll.
It rolls up and down fate and destiny, good luck and mainly miracles worked out by God for the community of Israel. Baal HaTurim pointed out that Moses intends to say that heavens will listen to God’s words, which, according to the gematria, corresponds to 613, i.e. the number of Mitzvot. It is a good manner to tell the Israelites that the Lord had done magnificent prodigies for their sake and that they should appraise these terrific deeds, “giving ear to the 613 Mitzvot or Commandments”. Instead, the Israelites appeared to be rebellious, stiff-necked and stubborn, churlish, spoiled, odious. Indeed, Moses had spent his life swallowed in a glitch, risky and not so reputable affair.
In the present, “maazinim/ot – listeners” are required “on air” in all sorts of programs. I feel at home when, in the middle of the night, Mimi Karmi anxiously asks “yesh lanu maazin, maazinah al hakav? – do we have a listener online?” And looking for her glasses, she would write down the name of the maazin/ah carefully spelling out the letters… The memory of singing Israel on Reshet Bet, living history made of battles, struggles, joyous songs, old released hits that still echo in the heart of good ol’ folks Eretz Israel. Songs can really be bests: The Song of the Song is definitely the weekly best. Still, over and over again we shall have Group Abba till they will be 120. Mimi Karmi’s program is mixing up Palmach and freshness of the first days, showing the newness of Hebrew. Singing, as music, is the pen of our souls as we say in Yiddish.
Yes, a lot of people make a lot of criticisms about Israel. Some are skeptical with regards to her future. Skepticism has always reigned at this point. Would the young maiden have lost her mythical and naïve innocence? Did she grow insane, bewildered, unreasonably lost? This is at the core of the reading portion of this Shabbat Haazinu / give ear! We use the old Father language (of God) and our thirst for new conquering our own identity should invite us to open our capacity to full openness, always more openness in order to avoid developing our old / new defects described and sung by Moses.
Are we “a nation void of sense / goy ovad etzut – without understanding in them / ve’eyn bahem tevunah”(Deut. 32:28)? In the tradition, it means that the Jewish community may step down and behave like any pagan nation that put aside or abandoned the ways of discernment. This is a real danger. We can plant trees and beautiful flowers and forget to exercise perspicacity. Moses warned: the Mitzvot constitute the living body. We cannot change the Mitzvot into some instrumental utilitarian elements. Israel is challenged in 5768 by the birthing power of the Divine Presence in this Land during this year of shemittah/remittance and rest of the grounds. These Mitzvot are not our property. They are God’s releasing words to conceive and materialize what may lead to the betterment and repair of what is wrong. Each small letter of a mitzvah is like the heart-blazing - not consumed bush at the Sinai. The Commandments are the big treasure that allows the humans to get to their fulfillment.
Prisons are full of gangsters, thieves and murderers. Yet they are captive. Just as Moses who was unsurpassed by the prophets in Israel and still would not die in the Land because he had killed an Egyptian in order to save a Hebrew. Hospitals are also full of patients affects by heavy diseases, injured – apparently destroyed destinies for the rest of their lives. A generation died of sickness in the wilderness in order to allow an ethical nation to enter into the Land of the ancestors. Moses has brought two Luchot – agendas –Tablets showing the essence of God’s utterances to the rescued. They were grilling their gold into a calf and Moses broke the first Tablets. This is great because, as the Jewish Sages point out, God is not in stone tablets. He is the time and eternity Scheduler.
Trekking around the world, young Israelis try to discover other cultures and ways of living in India at the moment, but also throughout Asia. It has often been a great problem for other religions to envision deities linked to human beings in a chronological and coherent time system. in Hinduism, “Brahma’s minute” “deploys” billions and billions of years that can expire by the sole goodwill of a divinity.
On the other hand, Christianity is based upon the six days of the Creation and a fulfillment that continues its development. Christianity may hesitate between total achievement and the coming of Jesus in glory “to judge the living and the dead” (creed). The inestimable value of Jewishness is to deliver each soul from any kind of burden. This is the meaning of new years. If we can give an ear (“ozen”) we may receive some insights about the value of this New Year.
Two modern rabbis, the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rav J. B. Soloveitchik, shared a real concern. Is a Jew allowed to leave Eretz Israel if he returned to the Land? This is a pending quest / sheilah. This year of remittance and resting of the grounds should allow interrogating as to why there is a State of the Jews.
For the Muslims, Ramadan, the month of fast, has also started on September 12th or 13th, a time of return to God and God seeking. With regards to Israel, her existence cannot be limited – though it is important – to providing a shelter for the Jews. As the Land should be resting for better growth in the future, the spiritual response is how we show the value of times and periods, without appropriation or pretence. I always considered that I am given an immense blessing to be living in Eretz Israel and help connecting beyond cultural and spiritual estrangements.
Shanah tovah – chatimah tovah to the readers, bloggers and the Jerusalem Post teams.