Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ochel: Lanky, chubby or meaty?

Judaism is built upon strong foundations. As large, big and enormous as the basic "avanim levanot/ white stones" that can seen at the Western Wall. True, the visible stones are not the foundations: these can be slightly seen under the tunnel on the side for men and they are planted deep beneath the earth on the place. Heavy blocks were weighing up the Temple Mount. Weighty blocks of stone brought as living pieces to support and protect the Divine Presence.

"Even - stone" is curious in Hebrew. English comes from Old Norse "Steinur", cf. Germ. "Stein", Du. "Steen" used to describe rocks, from Sanskrit "Styayate - hard pieces of standing material that thicken, curdle", Gr. "Stear - fat". Lat. "Petrus - stone = Gr. Petros, Syriac Kaifa = head) refer to weight and strength. The same with Gr."Lithos" that generated "Lithium", used for energetic power and a specific medicine correcting and reinvigorating mental mood. Slavic "Kamen' - kamyi", linked to "hammer", also echoes these energizing capacities. On the other hand, Slavic “Stena” means “wall”, not necessarily made of stones.

Hebrew supposedly comes from the same concept of "power, strength”: "even” from “avar” (with an alef) : to be bent, thick, pressed" as: "throwing a (heavy) stones into a leather bottle has no effect because it is indigestible" (Pessahim 12b). Evarim/n = meat or "three meats as edible parts of an animal limb (Shekalim 8, 3); "ever - male genital member" and tower of protection in a city (Hullin 101b, Sanhedrin 107a), just as in English Slang ("testicles")."The corpse was put on a closing immovable stone" (Niddah 69b) which is found in the Gospel with Lazarus' resurrection (John 11:39) and Jesus' removal of the tombstone (John 20:1).

"Even shtiyah - foundation stone" occupied the place of the Holy Ark in the Second Temple (Yoma 5, 3). It means a place of birth for feeding newborn babes (the faithful) as "oven [linked to beyn = between and banah = to construct]" which means "the passage or vagina through which the embryo goes out" as in "the place here the child comes to light" (Sota 11b; cf. Ex. Rabba 1). But “even” may also be compared to “holid ben/banim – to birth sons” as in the psalm: “Im HaShem lo yivneh vayit – unless the Lord builds the house, those whose build it labor in vain” (Tehillim 127, 1). John the Baptist has a very clear saying: “I tell you, God is able from these stones (avanim), can raise children (banim) to Abraham” (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8).

Most memorials were made of stones, from the gigantic Easter Island/Rapa Nui human form monolithic statues to Stonehenge (Stone gallows) mystical circles in Great Britain that resemble the Celtic “men/maen hir – long (high stone)” that point to the sky in Brittany or Wales. “Dolmens” are rather flat large stones under which people were buried and also a place for banquets as most cemeteries and burial places are in most civilizations. As a strange move inducing that the earth is fed by coffins and human limbs, which, in return, should receive some food brought or offered by the survivors.

On the one hand, stones symbolize the hospitality and conviviality of solid weighing in substances. They seem to point toward the high. Interestingly, till the end of the Roman architectural style, churches were “flat” just as synagogues or mosques. Gothic belfries should the human pretence to reach out to heaven, sort of “Babel-like” dream to attain God. On August 6th for the Western and August 19th for the Eastern Orthodox Churches, Christianity celebrated a feast that seemingly does not exist in Judaism: the Transfiguration of Jesus of Nazareth on a high mountain. Is it Mount Tabor? Or did the event take place in Jerusalem or some other Northern mountain?

The Greek word is “metamorphosis” because the “shape/form” of the Jesus changed and “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became dazzlingly white as light’ (Luke 9: 29) as he was discussing with Moses and Elijah. It is said in the Gospel of Matthew that this occurred six days after Shimon-Peter (Shimon bar Yona; cf. Ben Sirach chapter 51 and new Kippur service in the rebuilt Temple) confessed Jesus as “the Messiah, the son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). Six days later supposedly imply that it was by the time of the feast of the Booths/Sukkot. But the point is that Jesus appeared in a discussion with Moses and Elijah. Shimon-Peter suggested building three tents/dwellings. And then a bright cloud overshadowed them. For the very first time in the Gospel, a voice (cf. Bat Qol = Spirit of God) told the apostles that Jesus was “the beloved son” (Matthew 17: 1-8).

This directly reminds or traces back to Abraham and Moses as God’s acting messengers. There is a key similarity and parallelism that should be taken into account: Moses died in the wilderness and nobody knows where his grave is located. He someway physically disappeared as nil. Prophet Elijah ascended in a whirl-wind to heaven in the Merkavah / chariot and horses of fire while Elisha, his disciple was staring at the scene with the hope to get a double share of spiritual strength from his master (2 Kings 2:9-12). Jesus was subject to a process of “transfiguration – metamorphosis – Hebrew “hishtanut – change”.

The correct word should be taken from the root “tselem – face / “hitstallamut” means “action to be taken in picture” in Modern Hebrew. But “tselem”, in the Jewish traditions, refer to “Image (dark)”, “painted matter” (Avot 3, 14), “even image, take, painting”; or, “pay honor to the image of the Lord! (= respect humans)” (Tanhumah Mishpatim 19). Yiddish and Hebrew use the word for “the (Christian) cross” considered as an object of idolatry. On the other hand, “Hit’orerut – waking up” and “hit’arut – deep rooting-in” would be convenient because they express a change of “’or – skin, thus face and like waking up from another realm”.

We are strong. Everywhere we go, we hear that we are strong, as Israeli society composed of many nations and various people coming from the whole world. The Jews are strong, the Muslims are strong. The Christians are strong. Our strength is exactly like the mythical fairy tales we condemn about the idols or the godly wars in the Antiquity that turned to be Hollywood rubbish. We are so ancient that, when we unexpectedly, get refreshed and updated, we only can appear to be strong. Or, we think we are mighty, powerful. And every group in Israel is so energetic, exquisitely forceful!

Actually, we go far too deep into framing process. We are segmented, fragmented, broken down according the traditional Jewish patterns of emunah / faith vs secular life, but piety is cut down like thin slices of some in between kosher meat that we could not share. On the one hand, we want to be fit, firm, slim, nice and credible, as those above stones, rock building or monuments. On the other hand, are overfed and often fed up, chubby and meaty, full of oil and still would pretend ascending to heaven by our own forces. We look like tough people full of diet articles of faith or weighed-out commandments that we hardly can share.

I gave the two distinct examples of stones and apparent weight or density and lightness of a flashing change with regards to men whose grave are either empty or void because it shows the hardships to really adhere to the spiritual substance of our lives at the present. Look, as in a paradox, we would accept to belong to various Jewish streams as long as they don’t bother our own micro-stream. At this point, if a huge Passover Seder was organized throughout the country, a unique Pesach Seder, very few of us would accept to share the account of the Aggadah, the order of the memorial Seder, the way meals were cooked… and the spiritual meaning of such an event. We would exclude some non-Halachic Jews, all sorts of Christians. Thus, where would the Muslims and Baha’is find their place?

I have a heavily handicapped daughter with a very peculiar syndrome. She cannot stop eating. Then, she is of course on a permanent diet. The refrigerator is locked, the kitchen is locked, she always finds something edible and she is a real gourmet. Is she over-weight or chubby, compulsorily driven to “swallow or eat up” without suffering from any hunger or lack of food? It is a genetic defect that will certainly be corrected for the coming generations.

This syndrome does exist in our society as a sign of “transgressions”. We are noshing all the day out of fear and because we love to nurture and nourish ourselves and others. It seems to be not sufficient at this point in feeding the poor and the homeless. The discomfort that affects my daughter and can hardly be controlled is a pending interrogation in a society that wastes goods, food, time, morality and might not be able to share a Seder to the full. Indeed, we are together and this can be so nice at times.

Man will not only live of bread (Devarim 8:3; cf. Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4). Israel and Christianity have a common sign of sharing bread and a goal, a call to nurture and feed the world with the Mitzvot and the Reign of God. This implies a constant upgrading to reach out the victims: Peru, China, India as Gaza and….

By the way, what about New Orleans?