We love orange, a bright and warming-up color, full of hope. Orange (Katom) is up-to-the-decade, modern, trendy, somehow as purple while black is beyond fashion. Orange is the color of the quiet Ukrainian revolution that cannot be resolved adequately but is deeply rooted in peaceful movements among the various trends of the Ukrainian society (pro-Moscow, Russian-speakers in the East, Ukrainian-speakers and separatists, autonomists, independents in other regions). In the region, Katom recalls Gush Katif and the after-pullout mishmash.
Adom/adumah means red in Hebrew and refers to "red" as the blood that circulates through the veins of Adam and silently (bedom) maintains him alive. Shoshanah adumah (red rose) in the Canticle (7:3, cf. midrash Rabbah) euphemistically describing female menstruation (Niddah 9b). We have also the parah adumah (red heifer, cow) used for the purification ceremonies and expected each year in order to correctly perform the order of the Yom HaKippurim, the Day of Atonement (Num. 19; Avodah Zarah 24a; Sukka 2,53d). Finally, with a slight vowel change, Edom is Esau's name mostly used to designate a gentile nation, alien to God, in particular the Romans and subsequently "Christianity" as is developed throughout the ages.
Red became a sign of beauty, life, freshness (King David), purification as also of alienation to God and strong opposition as when Jacob usurped Esau’s rights. This will be at the heart of the parshat hashavua "Vayetzei = and he (Jacob) went out", the reading portion that we shall study at the end of this week.
Orange is en vogue. Red is fashion. In Russian, krasnyi corresponds to the color that is highly appreciated by the Slavic cultures. Still, the Krasnaia Ploschad = the Red Square basically means the Beautiful (Krassivaia) Square because its warm and flamboyant color is considered as a major element of the Kremlin area which continues to shelter Lenin's tomb, one of the most visited monuments in the world.
Ninety years! Not even a century, not a hundred (100) years yet. And a sort of blackout, universal silence about the emergence of one of the major events that affected the whole world during the 20th century till it finally seemed to collapse with the fall of communism in the former Soviet Union, its East European satellites and some other countries. Cuba, China, North Korea i. a. consider they substantiate the spirit of communism. The October-November Russian Soviet and Bolshevik (major-extremist) Red Revolution started 90 years ago, about the same period as Lord Balfour that Her Majesty’s government favorably viewed the establishment of a (Jewish) national home in Palestine. Balfour's Declaration was the British response to the Russian Zionists, Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolov.
Moreover, on November 29th, 1947, i.e. sixty years ago within a few days, after much hesitation from the part of President Truman, the UN Special Committee on Palestine voted for the partition of Eretz Israel and the creation of a Jewish State. It was on Shabbat,16 b'kislev 5708. Crowds gathered to dance joyfully in Eretz and in New York. As some month later on the Independence Day, David Ben Gurion said that "he felt no gaiety but a lot of anxiety". Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog declared: "After a darkness of two thousand years, the dawn of redemption has broken". Judah L. Magnes who had steadfastly fought for a bi-national state wrote: "It looks like trouble".
Now, is there or is there not a link between the Red Revolution, the Balfour Declaration, and this continuous trouble that persists along the decades? How can we point out the essential role of the Olam Hamitzvot - the world of the Commandments as showing this particular dawn of redemption beyond times of tragedies?
Russians are en vogue in the country and somehow they irritate those who like to teach them how to become true Jews and Israelis. A very large immigration composed of Jews, half, quarter of Jewish descent and even less. Newcomers that rushed into the country after 70 years of communist rule and ideology, strongly combated by the Westerners, to begin with the North American Jews and non-Jews. Some refiuzniki (fighters, resistants) slowly arrived thirty years ago or were thrown out from the Soviet Gan Eden into satanic Israel, sometimes in transit via Schoenau in Austria. After the fall of communism, almost all former Soviet Union citizens who came to Israel directly arrived by plane or some ship from the Ukraine (Romania or Istanbul for some rare cases). They were immediately given their Israeli citizenship (or the possibility to get it rather quickly). They knew only few things about Judaism. They rarely spoke of their backgrounds. They were assimilated to some hybrid pan-Russian falsely internationally universal nation. The better part of the newcomers originally came from the Ukraine, Belarus where the tsarist Empire had forced them to settle. Jews? Undoubtedly for some bigger part - certainly not according to the Halachah, indeed Jewish with regards to the Nazi rules that governed the deportation and extermination of the Jews during the time of the Shoah. A lot of them do speak Yiddish as also Farsi-Tat (Persian because their ancestors did not return to Jerusalem by the time of Cyrus' decree).
The first refiuzniki were, as Nathan Sharansky, true fighters for the sake of Zion. Some of them were Christian Orthodox priests, as Yuri Edelstein’s father who is famous. Some others were Gentiles, accepted by the State of Israel to go up to Jerusalem with their Jewish parentage. The situation is quite unique in history! True atheistically-educated people, rooted in all possible tribes and nations composing the former Soviet Union and satellites regions or republics, suddenly discovered they were fully entitled to be Israeli citizens. The weird part is that many had discovered the Church in between.
Many were hardly Jewish by faith or background. True, they were driven to come to Israel for various reasons. Many would admit that the economic collapse and historical uncertainty decided them to make their aliyah to the State of the Jews. In comparison, the situation would be rather similar if a sudden anti-Semitic rash would affect the United States and Canada. A large part of the North American Jews have no real roots in the world of the Mitzvot and would hardly be able to prove their Jewishness, as it often happened to the former Soviet newcomers.
A mirroring situation? Definitely. It is a part of the same drama and hope that has been on air since the erosion of the civilization of Yiddishkayt in Eastern Europe, started 120 years ago seemingly climaxing with their eradication during World War II.
It took a certain time to convince Lenin to return to Russia and take the lead of the Red Revolution. The Bolshevik revolution was led by a two names joint-personality: Lenin-Trotsky (aka Bronstein). No use to trace back to Marx-Engels. Jews foresaw socialism and the red revolution as a part of some messianic move that would apparently remove the noblesse and the bourgeoisie and chip down the realm of the Mitzvot, making it a proletarian egalitarian codex. Some think that communism is devilish. It would be useful to positively consider the widespread development of education, culture, some sort of Slavic-inspirited freedom, high level of technology and this special mixture of lies combined with purity and truth, rectitude and assistance to all the nations that grew in some rude and rough areas. The international druzhba (friendship) that preceded the American tendency and is rooted in the civil commandment of love and human assistance (chevrut). As mentioned in a previous blog in August about the 70th anniversary of Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous region, we might overestimate the West and misunderstand the real qualities brought by the former Soviet olim to Israeli society. Ballets, theatres, orchestras, medical and hi-tech professions, tours without borders throughout the country allow the emergence of new Israeli that would not say yes to any system of thought or faith. They maybe double-minded incidentally, but it is a profit in times of research.
So why is there such a silence about this 90th anniversary of the Red Revolution? Most political conflicts show they are featured according to the same “past” communist patterns. From Angela Merkel to Vladimir Putin, with various choices – the communist era brought the pioneers to Israel and they clutched to the fundamentals of righteousness. The world of chassidut and Yiddishkayt only found refuge in the United States, trying to save what had sustained true Jewishness and got secularized in the “communist” dream of all human rights and equality.
Late Rav Yeshayahu Leibowitz was a typical heir of the Riga world of Yiddishkayt and had a true understanding and experience of the Mitzvot. He noted how educated the Russian youngsters are when they arrive from Soviet schools. He and they had in common the same teaching methods. He knew that the first kibbutzim were conceived in the then-Belorussia, dealing with fight for equal rights and care. He had faced the German seeds that led to National-Socialism and had also crossed the path of the Chabad that struggled against the consequences of the Red Revolution.
We know today that this ideological system cannot simply be rejected because it curiously relies upon some curved Messianic Jewish call to justice and equality. In that sense, “ordinary, anonymous people” are the produce of such a society. Pope John-Paul II was a major actor in the fall of communism because he understood it from inside and positively. It is far too early to measure the return to faith of the Eastern Orthodox Churches and protestant sects.
Whatever huge problems are related, in the present, to what happened 90 years ago with the Red Revolution, the Balfour Declaration and the UN vote (60 years ago), the Rav Leibowitz would not have kept silent. He did underscore in his explanation of Jacob’s peculiar vocation. By usurping his brother’s birthright, Yaakov chose to journey through a hellish life made of failures and wandering on a distorted path. God’s correction and confidence thus showed as the constant miracle as with the coming lights of Kislev.