This early week blog intends to reflect upon common sources, roots or mixers between Kahal Israel (the Community of Israel) and Christianity at a special level on the eve of the Yom Kaddish klali - General Kaddish Day on the 10th of Tevet 5768 / December 19, 2007.
With regard to our personal lives, politics, economics, emotions, psychology, the media, time passes and disappears with "no return". Let's take the example of death: we live with deadlines. They could be goal points. But deadlines imply a final ineluctable end, period. In Hebrew, we love to say at the present: besofo shel davar = finally; nobody would speak of a betechilato shel davar (to begin with). We can't wait for things to start, and still know that there is an end and no comeback. In 1975, at the end of the wars in Cambodia, Lao and mainly Vietnam, I met a lot of Asian refugees. Thirty years have passed and some even became Israeli citizens. A lot settled in North America and Europe. Along with the Tibetans, they allowed the world to become more Tao (the Way), Kungfu, Shiatzu or Tantric (Tibetan Buddhism). Some women and children refugees had been raped by pirates who attacked their little overcrowded boats. Women would even avoid being interviewed by men officers and were lighting candles in churches, certainly not in a pagoda (temple).
The tranquility of the Awaken (Buddha) relies upon the fact that life consists of suffering and to get control of our ego till it dies. Similarly, "fighters" in former Yugoslavia would have assembled their enemies (whether Catholics or orthodox or Muslims) and set them on fire till they would all perish in terrible suffering. I saw parallel atrocities with Lebanese refugees of all origins in 1976 and later. My wife's sister-in-law has lost all her family in the savage killing organized by the Nazis in Oradour-sur-Glane (France) in 1942: they had gathered all the inhabitants in the village church and the barns and slaughtered them all. I have no family left: more than 400 members of my family (both sides) were slaughtered by the Nazis, mostly in concentration camps. But it is so usual here that it is at least worth trying to be a real mentch, fond of humanity.
The problem with "emunah" (faith, confidence) is that we cannot easily get to such a conviction. This requires trust: we often were deceived, then Understanding: who understands us and are we in-depth committed to understand someone, others, close or foreign, ourselves? Creeds and beliefs would often turn to repeat stiff-necked or obstinate secure dogmas. Job's peacefully stated after his horrible test: "Indeed, I spoke without understanding of things beyond me, which I did not know. Hear now and I will speak; I will ask and You will inform me. I had heard you with my ears, but I see You with my eyes..." (Job 42:3-4).
This year, Thursday 19th of December 2007, corresponds to the 10th of Tevet 5767. It is the day when "in the ninth year of his reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar moved against Jerusalem with his whole army. He besieged it, and they built towers against it all round" (II King. 25:1). Prophet Ezekiel carefully recorded the "exact day - et-etzem hayom hazeh (Ezekiel 24:2) which marks the beginning of the Churban/destruction of the First Temple. Asarah beTevet (Tevet 10th) is thus a fast day. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has also decided that it is the Yom HaKaddish HaKlali - General Kaddish memorial day for all those who perished on unknown dates during the Shoah. This underscores a strong link between the Temple and us as living divine dwellings, made of sinews, muscles, bones, limbs, brains (cf. Prophet Ezekiel 37). It means that we shall leave 2007 after a mourning day for those who perished, because, whatever personal moral attitudes, they had the mark of God's blessing to witness that love (life) is fierce(r) as (than) death - ki 'azah khamavet ahavah (Song 8:6).
The Kaddish is one of the most ancient prayers said by the Jews. It tracks back to the exile in Babylon. This Aramaic word means "holy" and the whole text is in this language, except the famous "osseh shalom bimromav - He Who makes peace in the High, may also make peace upon us and upon All Israel and say Amen" (with variants), which is in Hebrew and sung upon landing in Israel or other conventions. The point is that there are five different texts of the Kaddish to be said on various occasions. The Prayer is in Aramaic, the then colloquial tongue and understood by everybody, both Jews and non-Jews, which was important for the proclamation of God's Reign that embraces every creature. Although the "Kaddish yatom - orphan's (mourner's) Kaddish" is the most famous text, none of the Kaddish variations focus on death. They exclusively refer to life, God as life-Giver, His Name, Kingdom, Reign over the creation. Many Jews who lived in remote places have often kept with much respect the transliteration in Russian, Latin, Arabic, Greek, Chinese script of the text that they would recite without understanding the meaning of the words. They would even be very surprised to discover it is an utmost strength-empowering prayer for more blessings. In Yiddish, Kaddishele is the one who is chosen to say the prayer for some people without descent.
True, nobody confessing the God of the Living is alone or left without "blessed memory - zichrono/a livrachah" ("vechnaia pamiat - eternal memory" in the Byzantine Churches, with lists of names read at some Services). It is evident that, at the Yad VaShem Memorial Center, the constant recall of the 1.500.000 children whose names are pronounced in Hebrew, Yiddish and English insists on humans killed in their early age.
To begin with, the prayer was uttered after learning a portion of the Torah or the Talmud or a sermon delivered by rabbis. Rabbinical Kaddish (deRabbanan) continues to be a major blessing after learning. The rabbis teach God's Scriptures to disciples who embody the community. Upon Israel and her rabbis and their disciples (students), and upon all those busy in the Torah, here and in every other site, that they and you have peace, grace and kindness, mercy and long life, and abundant nourishment, salvation from their Father (Avuhon) Who is in heaven and say: Amen.
Faith proceeds from a community that accepts to be taught and thus turns to God and His teachers from generation to generation. This is fundamentally a dynamic action.
The Orphan's (or mourners') Kaddish Yatom was seemingly adopted rather lately 13th c.). It shows how it firmly imprints us with life and does not refer at all to death. It is recited everyday during the thirty days of mourning, and the yohrzeit - anniversary of death. It must be pronounced slowly and with much respect. Burial Kaddish (de'itchadata) focuses on the world-to-come, the rebuild of Jerusalem and the Temple, opening an era of ulma'qar pulchana nuchra - the erasure of foreign (pagan) worship from the earth and the renewal of the Service to the Holy One.
The very kernel of the Kaddish always starts with the wonderful words based on Prophet Ezekiel 38:23: "Itgaddal veyitqaddash... Exalted and sanctified be the Great Name (of God) in the world that He created according to His Will and may His Kingdom reign (be established), may His salvation blossom and His anointed come near (not Ashkenazi text), in your lifetime and in the days of All the House of Israel, speedily and soon and say: Amen."
Full Kaddish (Shalem) inserts: "Titqabel na tzlot'hon... May the supplications and prayers of All Israel be received by her Father Who art in heaven (Avuhun divshamaya, also in Aramaic)". This lines word for word with Jesus prayer as he taught his disciples how to call upon the heavenly Father: "Our Father Who art in heaven (Avun divshmaya) - hallowed be Your Name (yitqadash Shmekha) -may Your Kingdom come - Your Will be done (khirute)" (cf. Matthew 6:9-14).
As the civilian calendar shifts, it is maybe good that it corresponds to the General Kaddish memorial day and the fast of Tevet 10th. We are imperiled with wars, immoral breaches, cultural and spiritual downfalls. The world is submitted to violence, misery. On this shemittah year, the earth is sick with warming-up threats. Here, some visitors would wander along all possible fences and walls except offer a prayer at the Western Wall where Jesus stood daily (Luke 19:47). Unexpectedly, the Kaddish comprehends those who, as so many of our citizens, were Jews for a very small part of their identity and though sentenced to death, a lot of Christians, Gypsies, people entrapped by error or miserable informers, gays and lesbians, Slavs and communists, disabled and mentally sick. Kaddish does look back into the past... On the contrary, it envisions how the living may produce life and enjoy it without harming it.
Indeed the Kaddish includes the words that let us climb up from earthly humans to their heaven Father and backwards as a ladder or even an escalator... in our days, speedily and soon.
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Original: Av_a blog 39: Emunah: death or faith.
Friday, December 29th, 2006 - 8 deTevet 5767