Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sechel tov: acumen

"One day is like thousand years, - k'yom etmol\כיום אתמול = like yesterday" (Tehillim 90:4). We live in a country that is fascinated, obsessed and dramatically anxious about the burden of history to open up the gates of future.

This is the challenge that Israel has decided to face eagerly, with passion. At the moment, it fades among some youths with mixed feelings of "can't help", "what to do?", a sort of easy-going life that is not so sweet, but happens in a wonderful homely family atmosphere. We need cuddling and act as if our faces turned to some chalamish\חלמיש - shuttled sniper-like rocky looks (Jeremiah 5:3). Just look at people, in particular in Jerusalem.

Our people usually have usually mild, tender faces and looks, like the flesh of the gazelles and the hinds which are a futurist spiritual must or mitzvah (Song 2:7). They would often seem blind, blocked and opaque or, when the nation demonstrates, cruelty, fanatic, zealot spirit or wrath may overcome our speech and thus affect our relationships to others.

We are in the days of Hanukka 5769 and the twinkling lights lit every night should remind us, beyond any folklore or opposition to other religions, that the Temple of the Jewish spirit survives and miraculously reinvigorates "al hanissim veal hateshu'ot\על הניסים ועל התשועות - because of the wonders and saving actions" taken by God till nowadays. This 1000 years = 1 yesterday's day thing is fantastic. It only proceeds from a revelation. Just test it: Jews will describe a landscape and say, today (or yesterday) there is nothing here? Wait, a normal Jew will say, don't worry, we have time, no emergency, if not today or tomorrow, then in 100, 200, 500 years there will be something that will grow and improve the life of the inhabitants. It does not mean there won't be any problems, you bet! We can't live without problems! Israel without problems is like a dried out or more correctly a dreamy source in the wilderness.

We come to Shabbat Miqetz\מקץ . It was at the end of two years (and Pharaoh was dreaming)? (Bereishit 41:1-44:17). Pharaoh has dreams. These are not day-dreams; they are envisioning nightmares. There are the good/fat and the bad/lean cows. Only a son of Israel-Yaakov\יעקב-ישראל, the imprisoned Joseph could tell him to cool down because things are very simple. Firstly, Pharaoh will have to face two series of seven years. The first part is terrifically milky and prosperous, the second one, he will stay with nil (= "not a bean" in Latin).

This week, the haftarah\הפטרה (prophetic reading) is taken from the First Book of the Kings /Melachim Alef\מלכים א' 3:15-4:1. It is at the heart of age-long tests that God proposes to the human beings: what do we expect from God?

Solomon asked something special of God: he did not ask for some material instruments of power or wealth. He asked for more insight, for chochmah\חכמה = wisdom. If young people could know (have experience) and elderly people could only have the strength! True, but the youths sometimes would need to be capable to do things and later on to get ready to know and understand. This week, King Solomon is totally new in his reign over Israel. The haftarah underlines how he instinctively could discern who the true mother of a baby. Two nashim zonot\נשים זונות ? women prostitutes are disputing a child and the young king gave it to the real mom. He acted with wisdom and common sense. He had awoken from a dream to exercise right and justice for the sake of his own being chosen by God. The women were who they were but responded to sincere or insincere maternal feelings.

In Hebrew, chacham\חכם = wise, to grow wise, be a scholar, stimulate a person's mind by ingenious suggestions. By the time they will resurrect, they will be finally able to meet to discuss their pending cases with more insights? (Niddah 70). The insights consist in going far beyond past and present, but rather to envision a situation as a whole and fulfillment. This includes a birthing capacity and chakhamah\חכמה = midwife, a knowhow that is the model of true wisdom (patience till right time, insights, self-control and authority). The Talmud may at times make strange statements: Avira de'ar'a Israel machkim\ אוירה דארע ישראל מחכים= the climate (atmosphere) of Eretz Israel makes wise? (Bava Bathra 158b). At least, chachmot bantah beytah\חכמות בנתה ביתה = (all forms of) wisdom(s) built her house and carved its seven pillars? (Mishley/Prov. 9:1).

This refers to the Shechinah or the Divine Presence, but the house is stable as the Temple was. Bereishit/Genesis is a book of dreamers whose brain world comes to be fashionable and real. Lawrence of Arabia's "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" is certainly a masterpiece with regards to his experience of unifying the Arab tribes while Israel was trying to conceive the baby State of Israel.

Now, the problem with this weekly portion and related prophetic reading is how we understand worshiping today and whom we would worship. We can be very superstitious. Dreams are like a certificate of authenticity given by God to every Jewish soul that every single soul can have full access to knowledge and understanding, thus including the chinuch haMitzvot\חינוך המצות ? the teaching of the Commandments as living and burning lights.

King Solomon had returned a child to his rightful mother: she did not want him to be cut by the sword! Eh, the king was really wise to get to that wisdom! Hagios Nikolaos is the saint that cared for children and supposedly still distributes gold or presents. Wisdom consists in helping the children. Here they are the true kings, far too much most of the time. Indeed, they need supported and not abandoned to their own search or solitude. Wisdom is parallel to the joys of the feasts of the Lights.

On the one hand, we pathetically look for miracles that can save us from pitiful situations. God is indeed merciful and full of loving-kindness. Still, rain falls on the righteous and the unjust. Millions of babes, men, women, children die out of hunger, poverty. Wisdom also means that we are able to build up and not systematically to destroy. We seem to be much too spoiled at this point. We got fat or phat. We need the fat cows because they allow us passing across bad times of need. Still, our lives develop or scroll down as if it is absolutely impossible to control human fate and personal destinies.

In the upcoming years we may, in the Western societies, to get to more in-depth understanding of the gentleman's agreement passed by God with Satan in the prologue to the Book of Job. Rich or poor, wealthy or needy, humans have the right not to be deceived by the spiritual leaders. On the contrary, "spiritual guides or heads" have to bow and kneel down to earth and take upon themselves the sins or misdeeds of their fellow people and carry them to the Divine Presence. This is the normal way an Eastern Orthodox priest hears a confession.

In Israeli society we rarely think in terms of solidarity with any single soul. We select our people and friends, acquaintance among our "chosen ones". It can be hurtful. It may be totally wrong. Joseph tested his brothers. He required the presence of his younger brother Benjamin. He tested them by accusing them of theft; his brothers could have stolen the cup.

In times of famine, deprivation and indigence, souls sink down and often turn to be ruthless. The days after Nativity usually remind in all denominations that some individuals were killed for the sake of the Messiah; the children murdered by Herod and St. Stephen, i.a.

King David was a young shepherd. God chose him unexpectedly. He sent his lover's husband to war in order to kill him; the son he had with Batsheva did not live. Still, he remains the Messiah in the Jewish tradition. He wrote - with the assistance of his inspired secretaries and other men the best of the Jewish prayers of the heart - the Tehillim\תהילים - the Book of the Psalms. He was banned on building the Temple. And the same happened with his son, Solomon. A man who had the insights to ask for more wisdom in order to lead his people. He got the wisdom. In the end, he had so many women that they drove him away from the Way and the kingship of Israel split.

Joseph's brothers did not understand they were meeting with their brother. It would be good for us to feel that we are pardoned. Evil deeds and crimes, transgressions often change us into ruthless icy stones. Joseph slowly brought his brothers to feel they were delivered: freed and birthed to new times. This is a good omen for us today.

av Aleksandr [winogradsky frenkel]

December 26/13, 2008 - 29 Kislev 5769 - כ"ט דכסלו תשס"ט
Marc Chagall's flight to Egypt

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gone with the Flood, a child is given

Strange times... and by the way, why should they seemingly be strange or a bit bizarre? Some months ago, the shopkeepers and restaurant owners at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem got stunned by the sudden waves of tourists and pilgrims arriving from former communist countries. They stared in particular at the huge crowds of Russians that visit the Holy places of Christianity. They asked me "in shock": how long will it endure?" We had gone through months, 7 years of absence of real tourism. In Bethlehem, big hotels, many guest-houses had been built for the 2000th. The rooms were empty and some walls were falling down.

Today is the 27th of Kislev 5769\כ"ז דכסלו תשס"ט, the day that, in the Jewish tradition, commemorates how the Flood rains stopped. God decided by His own penance not to erase the living from the earth or to destroy His creation. Tonight is the eve of the Feast of the Nativity for the Westerners and all the Christian Churches and movements that follow the Gregorian calendar. This concerns the whole world because this calendar has been adopted by most countries in the secular and business world. The Protestants adopted it lately and maintained for a long time the use of the Orthodox Julian calendar. Nonetheless, it would be ridiculous to split at this point. All the media in the world account how the "Patriarch of Jerusalem" went today to the Manger Square in Bethlehem, entered the basilica of the Nativity. In fact, after he went down the grotto located under the Orthodox Church, he will celebrate the midnight Mass in the Church of Saint Catherine. We cannot help, but the world seems to forget at the moment that the Roman Catholic Church had first canceled the Latin patriarchate in Jerusalem and then reestablished the see toward the end of the19th century. It is not canonical to have two "patriarchs" in the same city. It was not possible for Jerusalem, the fifth and last patriarchate which was recognized in 451AD.!!! There had happened all the events but it took time before Jerusalem got some recognition from the "sister" Churches. In the news, there is a full ignorance and confusion about who is who and what events happened and why, rooted in which cultural and spiritual backgrounds and soils.

Frankly, it is known that we have to humble ourselves in the face of God. But competition can give the way to some humbling the others and let them think that history developed like a bliss of love kissing. Definitely not. At the present, the whole of the Christian world in the Holy Land (Israel, Palestine and Jordan) is swarming and buzzing around about which denomination is first.... It is a silent, foxy mental fight. Nobody would argue about who is second or third! Indeed, people would not really mind. The main problem is not raised by ranking and honors.

The question is whether we understand the historic thread that started with a group of believers at mount Zion, continued by the development of the early Church in Jerusalem composed of Jews that decided to adopt the Gentiles, the Holy Sepulcher. With regards to the Nativity of Jesus, the Christian texts mention he was from Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, the city of King David, was rescued from the murder of the children organized by king Herod (The Innocent children) and returned from Egypt to Eretz Israel\ארץ ישראל and lived in Galilee, Nazareth. This is the same apparent confusion that we fall into, trapped by our human desires and goals. The whole life of Jesus is dealing with miracles that are beyond nature. It has nothing to do with our subcomputation about who is first and/or last and vice versa.

Indeed, Nativity can only make sense if we believe in the resurrection of the dead. Resurrection is at the heart of the Jewish and Christian faith, though in separate moods at the moment. Resurrection means that Jesus is born to everlasting life and thus the believers expect his (second) coming. It is simple: either Jesus is the Messiah or he is not. The same question is pending at the present. When Jesus was born, the shepherds sang the glory of God, the Magi (the three wise men) brought their presents to the "king", to the new-born. They came from the East, certainly Gentiles or proselytes who had been taught by the Jews of Persia or Mesopotamia. There was a very strong and vivid expectation of the coming of the Messiah in a time of great political and economic turmoil in the area.

The Nativity of Jesus is not really known with much precision. The New testament was firstly written over decades after the death of Jesus and the main witnesses. There are some evident marks, given in a very Semitic way: the census decreed by Caesar Augustus when Cyrenius was governor of Syria (Luke 1:1-2); then the verse "The fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilatus being governor of Judaea, and Herod being the tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests" (Luke 3:1-2).

This statement constitutes a special mark given by Evangelist Luke who was a proselyte and wrote to the Gentiles. But we miss formal and precise information. This is on line with the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth; either we believe or we do not believe; either we have doubts or we trust. And this is at the core of the Christian faith, because no human being was born a Christian. This is something that deals with personal and intimate conviction received and accepted by other believers. The challenge is exceptional and immense. Faith has nothing to do with might, power, proclaiming and preaching abiliities.

This is why Nativity is not the main aspect of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Of course it is essential. But his "birth to eternal life" three days after his crucifixion at the Golgotha opened up the realm of faith in the resurrected Messiah or Christ. This is very deeply felt in the Holy Land: the Christians are not those who celebrate the birth of Jesus. The "taking flesh of the Savior (salvation = yeshu'ah - ישועה ) is comparable to the "bessurot tovot - בשורות טובות - good tidings, "rejoicing taking flesh" in Hebrew and in many thanksgiving Jewish writings and prayers about "food"). Still, as long as we shall maintain intellectual speculations and surveys, we can reach many points of parallelisms. We remain in the realm of "arguing competition". Humble faith in God - whatever manner - means to mirror God's encounter with human souls. It has nothing to do with fights, ranks, pro's and con's.

Thus, when the Evangelist reports: "(the other day - after Jesus died on the Cross - the chief priests and the Pharisees came together to Pilate saying: we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive 'after three days, I will rise again'. Therefore command that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night and steal him away and say to the people 'He is risen from the dead'; so the last error shall be worse than the first". Pilate said to them: you have a watch; go your way and make it as sure as you can." So they went and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone and setting a watch". (Matthew 27:65-66).

It should be underscored how two lines are significant: a strong knowledge of all the possible roots of the Gospel, including the Nativity with faith in the resurrection. From the time of his birth till his death, Jesus faced and overcame the defying powers of idolatry, credulity and virtual influence. X-mas has nothing to do with trading, business, embattled spirits. We have to look at the symbols and not lose our minds in them. Nobody will ever birth again Jesus as the Messiah. He will not be found anew in a manger. Jesus did not know about X-mas carols, X-mas gifts. When the Church celebrates the "taking flesh and coming of Jesus" she announces his coming in glory as stated in the Creed. His birth and resurrection are thus reflection the oneness and uniqueness of events that can only be contemplated with faith and is linked to Love.

I answered one year ago to my fellow people at Jaffa Gate that the move is only starting at the present. I use to tell them that they can't rally imagine what will be going on in the upcoming years and decades or centuries, provided that the situation will not change. This sounds a bit paradoxical. While Christianity seemingly has to abruptly face the reality of Islam in all of the Arab countries and the Middle-East, there are crowds of pilgrims and tourists rush to the Holy Land, in particular to Palestinian Bethlehem. The city is now under Muslim control and law. The visitors arrive via Israel. This is a new move that will grow. It is a very simple matter: the Russian faithful have always come to the Holy Sites. They are never afraid by wars, conflicts. They come to pray and spend some time in the footsteps of Jesus.

The Federation of Russia and most Orthodox faithful from the former communist countries will come because they reconnect with a very old tradition. Then, there are other republics at the present: citizens of Ukraine, Baltic counties, Central Asia, Caucasus, Georgians, Armenians. This definitely raises the number of the numerous and big groups of pilgrims who are ready to come.

This years there is a sort of paradox: on the one hand, the Gaza Strip remains a kind of "trash" area, of people living in inhumane conditions. It is a place of lawlessness, with tunnels bringing in narcotics and throwing desperate snipers on the Negev. The Via maris has nothing to do with the ancient tribes of all Mediterranean nations. It is a real prison and framed area fenced by the will of the superpowers. What kind of Nativity time? What way to the Sea? What Samshon? Jungle supported by jungle. On the other hand, the Judaean region lost its Christian inhabitants who left the country, most it should also be known that most of them are today in the Merkaz\מרכז - Central part of Israel. More and more Jerusalem Easterners and Christians who left Bethlehem, Beit Jala or Beit Sahur ask for the Israeli Identity card they were proposed and refused four decades ago. The Old City of East-Jerusalem is more and more under Muslim comtrol and the Sha'ariya tends to be applied as general rule. There is only one or two Christian leaders left.

In this intriguing atmosphere that show the revolving perpetuum and renewal of history, the 13 heads of the Churches sign their season's greetings una voce in a formal order and without full respect for the standardized ranking among them. Don't think this is a political statement. Volens nolens, I admit the historic reality that the Rum Orthodox Church of Jerusalem is headed by the Greek monastics in Jerusalem. It is also the case in the Sinai, at the Mount Ekatherina monastery. The Arab Palestinian clergy is intermingled, descent of mixed couples composed of Greek wanderers and settlers and local Arabs and/or Near East survivors of the genocide perpetrated in Asia Minor by the Ottoman empire. The [British] Anglican (Episcopalian) in the North and the [German] Lutheran in the South: colonization does not disappear from frightened scary memories that are at pain with updating.

Thirty years ago, it was clear that Bethlehem was losing the soul of Christianity just as it happens at the present in Iraq, the original cradle of monotheism. But one thing was evident, just evident but difficult to anticipate: the rush of the pilgrims coming from abroad as a part of the tremendous memorizing capacity of unexpected faith revivals.It only starts. The move will develop and spread: the Russians will come en masse. Nothing is small or narrow with the Russians. It is always wide, broad, immense.

The Palestinians had not thought of that though many of them studied in Soviet universities and have their shops today in Jerusalem and in the Old City. The Jews who came to build the State of Israel from the time of the first Aliyah in the 1880s arrived from the Russian empire. They continue to arrive. They are not Russian, Ukrainian, Bielorussian, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, or Tadjiks or from Caucasus. They are newcomers to Israel and many of the clergy and the Muslims would hardly cope with such a change that grows more and more real along the decades.

It is time for the Christian world to recognize Judaism and Israel for who they are. Not to connect diplomatically with some hopes that the construction will soon fall down and die out. It will not. The Churches are not lost. They are stumbling in trouble. The Churches are today under Israeli control. They never could contemplate such an "ab-surdum" that, at first glance, does not correspond to any traditional teaching of Christendom. There is a big misunderstanding about the eschaton and the end-of-time expectations (cf. St. Paul's epistle to the Romans ch. 9-11).

Israel has her views and train their specialists with regards to the views that Jews may consider Christianity with her specific vision. It often drifts away from the normative teachings and surveys that developed in the ecumenical period that followed the second world war and the awakening of some European consciousness about what has been done against the jews throughout ages of stiff ignorance and rejection. At the present, Christianity is presented to the foreigners in a "new Israeli" way that slowly integrates something that is personal and does not necessarily match with the traditional Jewish points of view.

The remnants of the traditional Churches would try to "convert" any soul to whatever denomination. Islam is often attacked as trying to convert by force the local Christians - in particular women. Still, the Holy Land area will always be a place of encounter, a shelter, a place of transition, with much flexible cultural and mental sensitivity.

The Church of Jerusalem is basically one or she does not exist and will not survive. I would never make any difference among the "members of the local Jerusalem community". It is evident that this unity rises from huge linguistic and cultural identity backgrounds and feelings. But the Church is born of the Holy Spirit and shall endure because of that, beyond any human or organizational framework or patterns.

This why the way only opens up for new relations between the faithful. For decades, the Russian Church has been separated from the ecumenical dialogue in Jerusalem. She also maintains a certain theological distance and prudently considers the way the other Christian denominations behave in a post-Ottoman ruled period.

Whatever financial and economic crash concerned, the Russian faithful will show with various multitudes. They also arrive from the Ukraine, from Asia, America. Thus, Christendom only starts in this birthing 21st century. Most of the Churches would speculate about "new paganism, new catechization". Faith always needs to be reinvigorated. Indeed, the task is huge for all community of faithful.

We may think that the universal extension of religious proclamation all over the planet is diminishing in the Holy Land and in the Near and Middle East. We go through very cruel times and troubles. This is true. The way seems foggy and dark, with all sorts of humans embattled in dizziness. In the coming years, as it showed this year already, thousands and thousands of pilgrims will visit the Holy Sites. This goes far beyond any tactical and political prospects. True, it causes again and again "the fall and rising of many [in Israel]" (Luke 2:34). It remains a sign of contradiction for any human soul.

I usually add to the locals that the move only begins because they don't know the incredibly rich and great fighting spirit of the Eastern Orthodox as also of the ancient Oriental Churches. It is a prophetic move. It is not limited to the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Christianity does not die out in the Middle East. Faith is like the snake shown by Moses in the desert and raised up like Jesus on the stake. This is why the point is to be able to embody and assemble the Body marked by the sign of eternity and Love. A new "skin" grows and changes the aspect of what is visible. It does not alter the meaning of redemption.

In the forthcoming years, Asian, North and South American pilgrims will come to Bethlehem as today bigger flocks of Philippinos and Chinese, Japanese. Jerusalem is dual: heavenly and earthly and the keys of death cannot prevail.

"For with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37).

Av Aleksandr [winogradsky frenkel]

December 25/12, 2008 - 28 deKislev 5769 - כ"ח דכסלו תשס"ט

Friday, December 19, 2008

Little oil lamp: a surplus of light

Feasts are mostly considered as regular and cherished rendezvous celebrated all through the year. Hanukkah or the "Feast of the Lights" is a special moment. The festivities might have mentally begun for some people with Halloween. The Russians introduced Santa Claus' clone festival in some Ded Moroz\дед Мороз (Granpa "Freeze") mainly consisting of sweets, cakes, letters to get some gifts by the end of the civilian year. Well pumpkins, carrots, Thanksgiving turkeys, chocolates... It is time to get the sufganyot\סופגניות or jelly dough nuts that are more and more sophisticated. The Ashkenazim prefer to add the "latkes\לאטקעס - fried potatoes pancakes". Of course a lot of balloons. We love balloons at all times in this country and a lot of mishloach\משלוח - gifts or chanikke-gelt\חנוכה-געלט, special Hanukkah money for the children. Today, December 19th is the St. Nikolaos day and it is celebrated in the West on December 6th. From that day till January 19th (Feast of the Theophany, Old style) Jews and Christians are involved in a period of rejoicing in the light.

In Israel and in the diaspora, mixed families developed a sort of "Chrismukkah", combining Hanukkah with Christmas are slowly replaced by separate and more coherent feasts. Finally, there is a kind of secular "chres'mas" feast that is more secular in some parts of the country, showing unclear X-mas trees and Santa Claus intertwined with candles...

With regards to Hanukkah, during eight days from Sunday 21 of to Monday 29th/Kislev 24 (at night) - Tevet 2 - כסלו כ"ד עד טבת ב, the Jews will light the seven candles by using the first one, the shamash\שמש = server. Huge candelabra lightning usually organized by the Lubavitch ChaBaD. Joyous days for times of uncertainty. One thing is sure: light overcame and overcome darkness and " Nes Gadol Haya Po\נס גדול היה פה - a big miracle happened here (in Israel) or Sham - there (as viewed from the diasporas)". It is more luminous to interrogate your “dreyd’\דריידלl or savivon\סביבון” (little top) about your future than any soothsayer in town. Hanukkah is the only Jewish feast that leaps over two months: it starts on Kislev 24 and ends on Tevet 2 . The shamash (server) used to light the candles is the source of flushing sun brightness (shemesh\שמש). Indeed, Hanukkah is more lunar reminding about how the Moon births each month then disappears still constantly showing again as a sign of Divine Providence and care.

Miracles are God's flickering winke-winke signs or signals. But even if God shows much confidence in us - quite unbelievable by the way! - what is more important to learn or experience this year through this feast? A victory? God's constancy? our survival and humankind's existence? Or God's shining pardon when we hardly can stand or appreciate each other?

The parshat hashavua (weekly pericope) recounts how Joseph, Jacob's preferred son had received a splendid tunic. His competences and good look inflamed his brothers’jealousy. They sold him to an Ishmaelite, He steadfastly refused to be seduced by Potifar's wife who managed to put him in jail. There he was interpreting dreams with insights and finally was called to explain Pharaoh's nightmares about some cows' forms. He thus predicted seven superproductive years followed by seven years of hunger. So get ready to spare and develop your economic system was Joseph final touch to Pharaoh who assigned him as his chief governor. Last but not least, in Genesis 38, the role game between Tamar and Judah, who cheated and abused her... or each other.

This is totally on line with Hanukkah. It is evident that we can connect Hanukkah to the historical events that happened when the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus Epiphanes decided to annihilate the Jews in 167 B.C. We always focus on the Maccabees revolt and fight. True. To begin with, it is important to underscore the terrible passivity of the Jews in times when pleasures, leisures and la-la land ways of living were more agreeable with some Greek tact than to make one's existence a sacrifice for the traditional realm of the Mitzvot/ Commandments. This is a constant test for the Jews. We easily can trap ourselves in some pleasuring places and habits.

This should be a real alerting alarm for some members of the Jewish communities: Jews do love life and know how to enjoy it to the fullest. We can really feel profound insights in accomplishing the divine statement on the seventh day of the creation: "It was very good - היה טוב מאד ". For the Gentile world it echoes like a permanent alert: take care, good care and be careful, not to fall into misdeeds or transgression. We have a simple example at the present with the Madoff banking disaster. He just behaved in accordance with the rest of the bank system corrupt managers; just a bit too much because Jews have to behave...

The same as for Exodus from Egypt: once free in the desert, the ancestors regretted “Egyptian onions”! – not some latkes or sufganyot for which one can get nuts and lose full dough. In that particular case, they were ready to lose their souls and brains but return to what was their usual food + slavery = wonderland. Now, as concerns the Greek culture that had spread throughout ancient world, the prestige of the language, culture, refined lifestyles, ancient Greek salads or so as we do love them, the music that spaces us out, all these habits developed into slowdowns toward the observance of the Jewish traditions and Temples services. At least, Greek culture focuses on beauty, absence of scars, hedonistic and philosophical positions. The Jews got re-operated – rejecting Judaism and the sign of circumcision – in order to participate, for example, in the Olympic games.

Is it so remote from our way of living? We live in a Jewish State. It is a blessing if we can really and freely accept the yoke of the Mitzvot\מצות. It may happen that we behave as part-time new pagan people that arrived in Israel from any part of the world. We would not wear one kippah or woman head cover at home (abroad) and suddenly would get three on the top. At some bus stations very pious young boys and girls are disguised as Halloween pumpkins till they get into the bus, put on the yarmulke, change their look into more modesty.

A real Jew must accept constraints that are not easy to observe. It requires in-depth education and training. Thus, the Maccabees acted as true fighters, but in a way that is rather similar to the despotism imposed by the then-hated Greeks. The problem was that the Syrian-Greek emperor decided to destroy the Jewish way of living by imposing a ban on three major "Mitzvot" / Commandments of the Torah: a) To cancel the sanctifying of the New Month (Rosh chodesh\ראש חודש-ר"ח); b) To abolish the Brit-Milah\ברית מילה (circumcision) the sign of the Covenant with Abraham; and c) To suppress the celebration of the Shabbat, the day on which the Jewish Community recognizes that God is the Creator of the Universe and that He gave His Law (Torah\תורה) in order to comply with His Will. This is meaningful in comparison to "incarnation". Jews are born from Jewish feminine wombs that mirror the Temple/Holy of Holies\דביר . By suppressing circumcision in the flesh and the measures of special times and delays (new moon, Shabbat), Jews were not obliged to "assimilate. They lost there salt and taste of Divine Presence.

High Priest Matityahu ben Yohanan, from the town of Modi'in decided to fight Antiochus in order to preserve the values. Was it a “national - nationalistic” movement? It mainly preserved God, His morals and Words. They evicted the oppressors after three years of harsh struggle but the victory was mainly a spiritual miracle. They took over the Temple of Jerusalem and needed to purify and to re-dedicate it. They found a single cruse of olive oil and could light the lamps of the menorah (candelabra, a "lamp" in Hebrew), which burnt for eight days in a row.

The miracle of the light showed at that time the importance of spiritual struggle and resistance, which are still very much an up-to-date challenge. We might often give up our religious forces and abandon the commandments of God.

There are two ways in destroying a community of faithful and this concerns not only the Jewish Community but also the Christians: a) Physical annihilation as the Jews were exterminated during World War II at the time of the Shoah/ Churban\שואה-חורבן (reduction to nothing) (catastrophe) and previously mentioned in the Bible in the small scroll of Esther. This is the Feast of Purim. b) Cultural annihilation, which is often very subtle and not very clear to determine and the purifying of the Temple by the Hasmoneans shows this particular kind of spiritual behavior giving to God the right and first place. In the Christian world this is very similar to the spiritual resistance of the saints and martyrs throughout history, especially over the 20th century.

The first step of the struggle conducted by the Maccabees ended on 25 Kislev and this is one of the explanations given for the name of the Feast: Hanukkah, i.e. "HaNUKH\הנוך" = "they rested [on the KH\כ"ה = 25]" to be compared with "Hankiyah\הנכיה-deduction, diminution " as stated: "Sota V, 20: "a Pharisee "from deduction" who pretends "I take from what is mine" (I stint myself) in order to do a good deed").

In fact the word is mentioned in the Second Book of the Maccabees since Hanukkah\חנוכה is "dedication, inauguration" (Talmud Tractate Shabbat 21b). This tiny lamp of oil was found unexpectedly. Would it be possible to compared this to the song we sing during Pessach: “Dayeinu\דינו” :”If God had only done such and such a miracle… that would have sufficed”? Indeed, we are not strong in our faith. At times, we might understand that what is imperiled, in ourselves as in our society, is precisely God’s Presence and steadfastness. It did suffice for God’s witnesses that one single oil lamp was ready to burn. They rededicated the Temple.

In this respect, Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount are interesting: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses it taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is not longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:13-17).

Chag Urim sameach! חג אורים שמח

Av Aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

December 19/6, 2008 - 22 Kislev 5769 - כ"ב דכסלו תשס"ט

בחיכל שלמה - בית-כנסת הגדול בירושלים
Heichal Shlomo - Jerusalem

Akathist to Saint Nicholas

St Nicholas is the patron of travelers, and we pray to him for deliverance from
floods, poverty, or any misfortunes. He has promised to help those who
remember his parents, Theophanes and Nonna.

Akathist to Saint Nicholas

Kontakion 1
O champion wonderworker and superb servant of Christ, thou who pourest out for all
the world the most precious myrrh of mercy and an inexhaustible sea of miracles, I
praise thee with love, O Saint Nicholas; and as thou art one having boldness towards the
Lord, from all dangers do thou deliver us, that we may cry to thee:
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Ekos 1
An angel in manner though earthly by nature did the Creator reveal thee to be; for,
foreseeing the fruitful beauty of thy soul, blessed Nicholas, He taught all to cry to thee:

Rejoice, thou who wast purified from thy motherʹs womb!
Rejoice, thou who wast sanctified even unto the end!
Rejoice, thou who didst amaze thy parents by thy birth!
Rejoice, thou who didst manifest power of soul straightway after birth!
Rejoice, plant of the land of promise!
Rejoice, flower of divine planting! Rejoice, virtuous vine of Christʹs vineyard!
Rejoice, wonderworking tree of the Paradise of Jesus!
Rejoice, lily of paradisiacal growth!
Rejoice, myrrh of the fragrance of Christ!
Rejoice, for through thee lamentation is banished!
Rejoice, for through thee rejoicing is brought to pass!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 2
Seeing the effusion of thy myrrh, O divinely‐wise one, our souls and bodies are
enlightened, understanding thee to be a wonderful, living source of unction, O
Nicholas; for with miracles poured out like water through the Grace of God thou fillest
them that faithfully cry unto God:

Ekos 2
Teaching incomprehensible knowledge about the Holy Trinity thou wast a champion of
the confession of the Orthodox Faith with the holy fathers in Nicaea; for thou didst
confess the Son equal to the Father, co‐everlasting and co‐enthroned, and thou didst
denounce the foolish Arius. Therefore the faithful have learned to sing to thee:

Rejoice, great pillar of piety!
Rejoice, city of refuge for the faithful!
Rejoice, firm stronghold of Orthodoxy!
Rejoice, venerable vessel and praise of the Holy Trinity!
Rejoice, thou who didst preach the Son of equal honor with the Father!
Rejoice, thou who didst expel the demonized Arius from the council of the saints!
Rejoice, father, glorious beauty of the fathers!
Rejoice, wise goodness of all the divinely wise!
Rejoice, thou who utterest fiery words!
Rejoice, thou who guidest thy flock so well!
Rejoice, for through thee faith is strengthened!
Rejoice, for through thee heresy is overthrown!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 3
Through power given thee from on high thou didst wipe away every tear from the face
of those in cruel suffering, O God‐bearing Father Nicholas; for thou wast shown to be a
feeder of the hungry, a superb pilot of those on the high seas, a healer of the ailing, and
thou hast proved to be a helper to all who cry unto God:

Ekos 3
Truly, Father Nicholas, a song should be sung to thee from Heaven, and not from earth;
for how can a mere man proclaim the greatness of thy holiness? But we, conquered by
thy love, cry unto thee:

Rejoice, model of lambs and shepherds!
Rejoice, holy purification of mortals!
Rejoice, container of great virtues!
Rejoice, pure and honorable abode of holiness!
Rejoice, all‐luminous lamp, beloved by all!
Rejoice, light golden‐rayed and blameless!
Rejoice, worthy converser with angels!
Rejoice, good guide of men!
Rejoice, pious rule of faith!
Rejoice, model of spiritual meekness!
Rejoice, for through thee we are delivered from bodily passions!
Rejoice, for through thee we are filled with spiritual delights!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 4
A storm of bewilderment confuseth our minds: How can we worthily hymn thy
wonders, O blessed Nicholas? For no one could count them, even though he had many
tongues and willed to tell them; but we make bold to sing to God Who is wonderfully
glorified in thee:

Ekos 4
People near and far heard of the greatness of thy miracles, O divinely‐wise Nicholas, for
in the air with the delicate wings of Grace thou art accustomed to forewarn all those in
misfortune, quickly delivering all who cry to thee:

Rejoice, deliverance from sorrow!
Rejoice, gift of Grace!
Rejoice, dispeller of unexpected evils!
Rejoice, planter of good desires!
Rejoice, quick comforter of those in misfortune!
Rejoice, dread punisher of wrongdoers!
Rejoice, abyss of miracles poured out by God!
Rejoice, tablets of the law of Christ written by God!
Rejoice, strong uplifting of the fallen!
Rejoice, support of them that stand a right!
Rejoice, for through thee all deception is exposed!
Rejoice, for through thee all truth is realized!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 5
Thou didst appear as a divinely‐moving star, guiding those who sailed upon the cruel
sea who were once threatened with imminent death if thou hadst not come to the help
of those who called upon thee, O wonderworker Saint Nicholas; for, having forbidden
the flying demons who shamelessly wanted to sink the ship, thou didst drive them
away, and didst teach the faithful whom God saveth through thee to cry:

Ekos 5
The maidens, prepared for a dishonorable marriage because of their poverty, saw thy
great compassion to the poor, O most‐blessed Father Nicholas, when by night thou
secretly gavest their aged father three bundles of gold, thereby saving him and his
daughters from falling into sin. Wherefore, thou hearest from all:

Rejoice, treasury of great mercy!
Rejoice, friend who provided provisions for people!
Rejoice, food and consolation of those who flee unto thee!
Rejoice, inexhaustible bread of the hungry!
Rejoice, God‐given wealth of those living in poverty on earth!
Rejoice, speedy uplifting of paupers!
Rejoice, quick hearing of the needy!
Rejoice, acceptable care of the sorrowful!
Rejoice, blameless provider for the three maidens!
Rejoice, fervent guardian of purity!
Rejoice, hope of the hopeless!
Rejoice, delight of all the world!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 6
The whole world proclaimeth thee, O most blessed Nicholas, as a quick intercessor in
adversities; for oftentimes preceding those that travel by land and sail upon the sea thou
helpest them in a single hour, at the same time keeping from evils all who cry unto God:

Ekos 6
Thou didst shine as a living light, bringing deliverance to the generals who received
sentence to an unjust death, when they called upon thee, O good shepherd Nicholas.
Thou didst quickly appear in a dream to the Emperor, terrifying him and ordering him
to release them unharmed. Therefore, together with them we also gratefully cry unto

Rejoice, thou who helpest them that fervently call upon thee!
Rejoice, thou who deliverest from unjust death!
Rejoice, thou who preservest from false accusation!
Rejoice, thou who destroyest the counsels of the unrighteous! Rejoice, thou who
tearest lies to shreds like cobwebs!
Rejoice, thou who gloriously exaltest truth!
Rejoice, deliverance of the innocent from their fetters!
Rejoice, revival of the dead!
Rejoice, revealer of righteousness!
Rejoice, exposer of unrighteousness!
Rejoice, for through thee the innocent were saved from the sword!
Rejoice, for through thee they enjoyed the light!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 7
Desiring to dispel the blasphemous stench of heresy, thou didst appear as a truly
fragrant, mystical myrrh, O Nicholas; by shepherding the people of Myra, thou hast
filled the whole world with thy gracious myrrh. Dispel also from us the stench of
abominable sin that we may acceptably cry unto God:

Ekos 7
We understand thee to be a new Noah, a guide of the Ark of salvation, O holy Father
Nicholas, who drivest away the storm of all evils by thy direction, and bringest divine
calm to those who cry to thee:

Rejoice, calm harbor of the storm‐tossed!
Rejoice, sure protection of those who are drowning!
Rejoice, good pilot of those who sail upon the deeps!
Rejoice, thou who rulest the raging of the sea!
Rejoice, guidance of those in whirlwinds!
Rejoice, warmth of those in frosts!
Rejoice, radiance that dispellest the gloom of sorrow!
Rejoice, light that illuminest all the ends of the earth!
Rejoice, thou who deliverest people from the abyss of sin!
Rejoice, thou who castest Satan into the abyss of hades!
Rejoice, for through thee we boldly invoke the abyss of Godʹs compassion!
Rejoice, for as ones rescued through thee from the flood of wrath, we find peace
with God!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 8
A strange wonder is thy sacred church shown to be to those who flock to thee, O blessed
Nicholas; for by offering in it even a small supplication, we receive healing from great
illnesses, if only, after God, we place our hope in thee, faithfully crying aloud:

Ekos 8
Thou art truly a helper to all, O God‐bearing Nicholas, and thou hast gathered together
all that flee unto thee, for thou art a deliverer, a nourisher, and a quick healer to all on
earth, moving all to cry out in praise to thee:

Rejoice, source of all kinds of healing!
Rejoice, helper of those that suffer cruelly!
Rejoice, dawn shining for those wandering in the night of sin!
Rejoice, heaven‐sent dew for those in the heat of labors!
Rejoice, thou who givest prosperity to those in need!
Rejoice, thou who preparest an abundance for those that ask!
Rejoice, thou who often foresees requests!
Rejoice, thou who restorest strength to the aged and gray‐headed!
Rejoice, convicter of many who have strayed from
the true way! Rejoice, faithful steward of the mysteries of God! Rejoice, for
through thee we conquer envy! Rejoice, for through thee we lead a moral life!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 9
Assuage all our pains, O our great intercessor Nicholas, dispensing gracious healings,
delighting our souls, and gladdening the hearts of all that fervently hasten to thee for
help and cry unto God:

Ekos 9
The falsely‐theorizing orators of the ungodly, we see, were put to shame by thee, O
divinely‐wise Father Nicholas; for thou didst confute Arius the blasphemer who
divided the Godhead, and Sabellius who mingled the persons of the Holy Trinity, and
thou hast strengthened us in Orthodoxy. Therefore we cry unto thee:

Rejoice, shield that defendest piety!
Rejoice, sword that cuttest down impiety!
Rejoice, teacher of the divine commandments!
Rejoice, destroyer of impious doctrines!
Rejoice, ladder set up by God by which we ascend to Heaven!
Rejoice, God‐given protection, by which many are sheltered!
Rejoice, thou who makest wise the unwise by thy sayings!
Rejoice, thou who movest the slothful by thy example!
Rejoice, inextinguishable brightness of Godʹs commandments!
Rejoice, most luminous ray of the Lordʹs statutes! Rejoice, for through thy
teaching the heads of heretics are broken!
Rejoice, for through thee the faithful are counted worthy of glory!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 10
Desiring to save thy soul, thou didst truly subject thy body to the spirit, O our Father
Nicholas; for first by silence and wrestling with thoughts, thou didst join contemplation
to activity; and by contemplation thou didst acquire perfect knowledge with which thou
didst boldly converse with God and angels, always crying:

Ekos 10
Thou art a rampart, O most blessed one, to those who praise thy miracles, and to all that
have recourse to thine intercession; wherefore, free also us, who are poor in virtue, from
poverty, temptations, illness, and needs of various kinds, as we cry unto thee:

Rejoice, thou who rescuest from eternal misery!
Rejoice, thou who bestowest incorruptible riches!
Rejoice, imperishable food for those that hunger after righteousness!
Rejoice, inexhaustible drink for those that thirst for life!
Rejoice, thou who preservest from revolution and war!
Rejoice, thou who freest us from chains and imprisonment!
Rejoice, glorious intercessor in misfortunes!
Rejoice, great defender in temptations!
Rejoice, thou who hast rescued many from destruction!
Rejoice, thou who hast kept countless numbers unharmed!
Rejoice, for through thee sinners escape a frightful death!
Rejoice, for through thee those who repent obtain eternal life!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 11
A song to the Most Holy Trinity didst thou bring, surpassing others in thought, word,
and deed, O most blessed Nicholas; for with much searching thou didst explain the
precepts of the true Faith, guiding us to sing with faith, hope, and love to the one God in

Ekos 11
We see thee as a brilliant and inextinguishable ray for those in the darkness of this life,
O God‐chosen Father Nicholas; for thou conversest with the immaterial angelic lights
concerning the uncreated light of the Trinity, and thou enlightenest the souls of the
faithful who cry unto thee:

Rejoice, radiance of the Three‐sunned Light!
Rejoice, daystar of the never‐setting Sun!
Rejoice, lamp kindled by the Divine Flame!
Rejoice, for thou hast quenched the demonic flame of impiety!
Rejoice, bright preaching of the Orthodox Faith!
Rejoice, luminous radiance of the light of the Gospel!
Rejoice, lightning that consumest heresy!
Rejoice, thunder that terrifies sinners!
Rejoice, teacher of true knowledge!
Rejoice, revealer of the secret mind!
Rejoice, for through thee the worship of the creatures hath been abolished!
Rejoice, for through thee we have learned to worship the Creator in the Trinity!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 12
Knowing the Grace that hath been given thee by God, we long and joyfully celebrate thy
memory, O most glorious Father Nicholas, and with all our soul we flee to thy
wonderful intercession; unable to count thy glorious deeds which are like the sands of
the seashore and the multitude of the stars, being at a loss to understand, we cry unto

Ekos 12
While we sing of thy wonders, we praise thee, O all‐praised Nicholas; for in thee God
Who is glorified in the Trinity is wonderfully glorified. But even if we were to offer thee
a multitude of psalms and hymns composed from the soul, O holy wonderworker, we
should do nothing to equal the gift of thy miracles, and amazed by them we cry unto

Rejoice, servant of the King of kings and Lord of lords!
Rejoice, co‐dweller with His heavenly servants!
Rejoice, support of faithful kings!
Rejoice, exaltation of the race of Christians!
Rejoice, namesake of victory! Rejoice, eminent victor!
Rejoice, mirror of all the virtues!
Rejoice, strong buttress of all who flee unto thee!
Rejoice, after God and the Theotokos, all our hope!
Rejoice, health of our bodies and salvation of our souls!
Rejoice, for through thee we are delivered from eternal death!
Rejoice, for through thee we are deemed worthy of eternal life!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 13
O most holy and most wonderful Father Nicholas, con‐solation of all in sorrow, accept
our present offering, and entreat the Lord that we be delivered from Gehenna through
thy God‐pleasing intercession, that with thee we may sing:

Alleluia! Thrice.

And again Ekos 1 and Kontakion 1.

Prayer to Saint Nicholas

O all‐praised and all‐honored hierarch, great wonderworker, saint of Christ, Father
Nicholas, man of God and faithful servant, man of love, chosen vessel, strong pillar of
the Church, most brilliant lamp, star that illuminest and enlightenest the whole world:
thou art a righteous man that didst flourish like a palm tree planted in the courts of his
Lord; dwelling in Myra thou hast diffused the fragrance of myrrh, and thou pourest out
the ever‐flowing myrrh of the Grace of God. By thy presence, most Holy Father, the sea
was sanctified when thy most wonderful relics were carried from east to west to the city
of Bari, to praise the name of the Lord. O most superb and marvelous wonderworker,
speedy helper, fervent intercessor, good shepherd that saveth the rational flock from all
dangers, we glorify and magnify thee as the hope of all Christians, a fountain of
miracles, a defender of the faithful, a most wise teacher, a feeder of the hungry, the
gladness of those that mourn, clothing of the naked, healer of the sick, pilot of those that
sail the sea, liberator of prisoners, nourisher and protector of widows and orphans,
guardian of chastity, gentle tutor of children, support of the aged, guide of fasters, rest
of those that labor, abundant riches of the poor and needy. Hearken unto us that pray
unto thee and flee to thy protection, show thy mediation on our behalf with the Most
High, and obtain through thy God‐pleasing intercessions all that is useful for the
salvation of our souls and bodies; keep this holy habitation (or this church), every city
and town, and every Christian country, and the people that dwell therein, from all
oppression through thy help; for we know, we know that the prayer of a righteous man
availeth much for good; and after the Most‐blessed Virgin Mary, we have thee as a
righteous mediator with the All‐merciful God, and to thy fervent intercession and
protection we humbly hasten. Do thou keep us, as a watchful and good shepherd, from
all enemies, pestilence, earthquake, hail, famine, flood, fire, the sword, the invasion of
enemies, and in all our misfortunes and afflictions do thou give us a helping hand and
open the doors of Godʹs compassion; for we are unworthy to look upon the height of
Heaven because of the multitude of ourʹ iniquities; we are bound by the bonds of sin
and have not done the will of our Creator nor kept His commandments. Wherefore, we
bow the knees of our broken and humble heart to our Maker, and we ask thy fatherly
intercession with Him: Help us, O Servant of God, lest we perish with our sins, deliver
us from all evil, and from every adverse thing, direct our minds and strengthen our
hearts in the Orthodox Faith, which, through thy mediation and intercession, neither
wounds, nor threats, nor plague, nor the wrath of our Creator shall lessen; but grant that
we may live a peaceful life here and see the good things in the land of the living,
glorifying the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God glorified and worshipped in
Trinity, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Out of the pit

We are soon coming to the chag Hanukah\חג חנוכה - the feast of dedication, service of God and education (chinuch\חינוך), lights, endurance, material miracle with the oil on December 222nd at night = 25 Kislev 5769\כ"ה בכסלו תשס"טl.

This Shabbat Vayeshev\וישב - (Jacob) lived (in the land of his father's sojourns, Eretz Canaan\ארץ כנען), the weekly Torah reading is from Bereishit\בראשית 37:1-40:23. It is said: "Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons because he was his son born in the old age and he made him a striped tunic (k’tonet pasim\כתונת פסים). Joseph was talented and passed on the evil gossip his brothers had to their father.

The weekly reading portion is dedicated to Joseph special biography: a seventeen years old shepherd pasturing the sheep; a dreamer: vayyachalam chalom\ויחלם חלום - Joseph had a (leading ahead) dream. Joseph develops dreams that would come to maturity along an long-term extended period of time and somehow still unaccomplished at the present. He was sold by his brothers who were so jealous that they could not get to killing him. Division may at times save the lives of some people endangered by enemies that would not agree on such a simple issue as a murder and thus choose a distorted solution. This is why ransoming the prisoners has been a major mitzvah in all Jewish communities until now. In Israel, this obliges making every possible efforts to redeem and obtain the liberation of Israeli soldiers captured by other armies.

It is the kind of basic mitzvah and remains an indisputable sign of "love towards our fellow people". Indeed, Jews observing the Mitzvot and developing a loving and caring spirit of love toward God and any human being cannot betray any single Jew the way Joseph was sold by his embezzled brothers. Ransoming is a must as it has always been in force throughout the history of Christianity. It steadfastly supports and immensely helped the Jews in the process of ascending to Israel.

The prophetic reading is from the Book of the Prophet Amos (2:6-3:8). The main problem consists of considering how we accept or reject the realm of the Mitzvot as a true way to freedom. "For four (transgressions of Israel), I will not pardon them (lo ashivenu\לא אשיבנו: we shall not give any positive response or change of penance) for their selling of a righteous man for money (michram bekesef tzadik\מכרם בכסף צדיק) and a destitute/poor man for shoes (veevyon baavur na'alayim\ואביון בעבור נעליים) ... And a man and his father go to a betrothed young girl (naarah\נערה) to profane My Holy Name (cf. Tamar) (Amos 2:7).

These are the issues that we have to face this week with regards to history. They envision Joseph's fate and destiny, Judah's affair with Tamar, Potifar's wife harassing Joseph show the development of what is wrong and can be corrected and lead to freedom after false possession or desires and treason.

The Talmud has it about the roots machar\מכר – to sell, mecher\מכר – sale, makkar – be acquainted, friends, mecherut\מכרות – sales/neighboring friends. Thus, “the seller is presumed to sell liberally, i.e. all except what is excluded (and ought to be defined)” (Bava Bathra 64b). Or, “a man can be sold for his theft, not a woman” (Sota 1c). But Joseph had not usurped, captured or, worse, bought his father’s love. Jealousy remains a spiritual disease or discomfort that was ravaging Joseph’s brothers. Then, Joseph and his brothers could not anticipate the far-reaching spiritual significance of their mutual attitudes and decisions. When the Prophet Amos recounts the events, he envisions something of what history has brought from the limping of Israel and its survival that still stuns or even stupefies the Nations and the Jews alike.

The real question we face on this day is that God made something, a dealing – ‘alila\עלילה (“He is terrible in his dealings with man, Tehillim 66:5”). Whatever faith, philosophical, doubtful attitude, humans seem to miss the chance of really getting to know if God accepts goodwill or exerts a strict determination. Suddenly, Nov.29th/19th events show; they are beyond any human control. We forget this or think we are strong when we are simply looking for some way-out. Freedom is not a way-out. It is life to the full.

History and psychology show that human beings thirst for power, might, desires, revenge, selfishness. We assist to some beyond the fancy scenario of ethical and economic collapse. Is it a sinking series of multi-layered depraved segments of modern society? A simple comparison is possible: the "panem et circences - bread and circus" way of living developed in Rome caused its fall and destruction. Giving daily amount of money for free food and gambling or attending the circus slaughtering parties encouraged a whole society to drift down to laziness and low commitment to true social and industrial developments.

Joseph was not only talented: his father loved him. We rarely do understand what love means in truth. Is it dedication? sacrifice for the others? It certainly does not mean that people dare sell their souls by selling humans to other humans as economic slaves or physical playmates. True, we act like that. Worse of all, spiritual leaders are deposed in all denominations for such misconducts: money, sex also deeply affect the lives of our communities. Should we be judgmental? Or, on the other hand, there are ways of pardon. Thrown into the pit, Joseph survived and was sold. A pit is not meant to trade human souls. Either they dry out and are visited by snakes and scorpios or they collect resourceful waters from above.

Joseph survived in the pit and he resisted to Potiphar's wife and her desires. This combat openly led to the calling to manage Egypt with insightful prophetic visions.We need the same at this point. We need flickering lights that shine and break through the walls of despair. There might be upheavals in many countries as a consequence of the present moral and economic crash. It had been envisioned by some bank leaders some 30 years ago. I worked with them and we could think that societal clashes would have shown up earlier. Actually, the catastrophe is at hand, not in terms of a picturesque Hollywood script. Life and humans can turn to wolves, lions, eager opacity full of insensitive feelings.

Where is Joseph today? Just a parallel question uttered by the Jews who survived the Shoah: "Where was our modern Esther?". Joseph had told Pharaoh about the seven rich and seven poor years. God requires realistic envisioning of the future. The same happened with Jesus of Nazareth: it does not mean anybody possess him. It requires more insights into the value of the Commandments and of our days.

When John the Baptist spoke of Jesus of Nazareth, he said: "He who comes after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose"(John 1:27). Similarly, Jesus declared: "When I sent you without purse and scrip and sandals (shoes), did you lack anything? And they answered: Nothing!" (Luke 22:35).

Av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

December 18/5, 2008 - 21 Kislev 5769 - כ"א דכסלו תשס"ט

The Magen David Adom intervenes to save all the inhabitants of Israel. They need support and prayers. They need volunteers. They need respect and recognition. They need gratitude. They are often in Joseph's and John's situation...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Night till dawn wrestling

[This short text was readily published in the Jerusalem Post last year. Still, it makes sense to compare it with the events that occur in the Church and our search for identity].

This Shabbat Vayishlach\וישלח [And (Jacob) sent (messengers)] is read in Bereishit 32:1-36:43. The haftarah – prophetic version is to be found in Prophet Hosea 11:7-12:12 (Ashkenazim) and Ovadyah 1:1-21 (Sefardim). On the one hand, Ya’akov wrestled a whole night till dawn with a man (ish immo) (Gen. 32:25-33). He fought alone, wrestling with himself and subsequently with God because this struggle was a combat for maturity. In such a situation, souls are compelled to fight against what is invisible, a sort of hidden punching-ball that injures till we reach our identity. We remain alone, as Jacob was that night when he became Israel. Thus, he is the fruit of Abraham’s blessing. Isaac remained alone and obediently accepted his life in full loneliness. Jacob faced a war, wounded his hip and the sinew for ever. In being alone they got the call to have lots of children, more numerous than the sand!

Still, Isaac met Rebecca through the shadchen-servant as he was coming from the outskirts, ba mibo (Gen. 24:63), from outside of what could be considered as the spiritual battlefield for prolonging the blessing, from the outskirts of his self. This loose attitude is en vogue at the moment. It is also a sort of lack of self-determination that shows a lot of sufferings, some hardships in clear and conscious acceptance of who we are. This is one aspect of Isaac’s personality because he mainly acted alone because he trusted God and Abraham. As shown by many rabbis, Abraham similarly treated Ishmael (sending him into exile) and Isaac (substituting him by the ram) in a kind of double Akeidah\עקידה or bond/binding that isolated them for the time of their lives and history. God’s reward to spiritual solitude is get large communities.

This is why Jacob’s petition: “Hagidah-na shemcha\הגידה-נא שמך – please tell me your name” (Gen. 32:30) is so intriguing and significant. This phrase is astonishingly close to gid hanasheh\גיד הנשה – the sinew of the hip/thigh that the Jews are not allowed to eat (Gen.32:33) as it caused injury to Jacob for ever, keeping him limping in the face of God. Why should you know my Name? the question corresponds to the very sinew that allows human beings to walk in discovering life and announce how difficult it may be to assume God’s election. We are rather reluctant to see the close connection that links our interrogating God about His Name with our physical shape that shows the Image and Likeness of God with much precision.

Interestingly, Jacob returns to Isaac’house and can bury him with Abraham at the cave of Machpelah.

The haftarah accounts: “In the womb, Jacob seized his brother’s heel, and with his strength he overcame (Sarah) (an angel of) God. He struggled with an angel and prevailed (Hosea 12:4-5). “sharah/sari”, playing on alternative “shin and sin” consonants, refers to loosening, overcoming of a place, to dwell, take lodging.

Jacob’s wrestling to reaching his “self” is a real face-to-face with God. “The exiled community of the children of Israel who are in Eretz Canaan\ארץ כנען, Tzarfat\צרפת, and the exile of Jerusalem in Sefarad will take possession of the cities. And saviors will ascend Mount Zion to judge Mount Esau and then the Lord will have total dominion” (Ovadyah 20).

A disciple of Paul of Tarsus wrote an appealing verse about the strange path we often have to go through, seemingly as tortuous like Jacob’s fight: “In your struggle against sin you have not resisted to the point of shedding blood. You have also forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons: “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by Him; for whom the Lord loves, He disciplines; He scourges every son He acknowledges” (Proverbs 3:11-12; Deut. 8:5)” (To the Hebrews 12:5-6).

Podvig: Spiritual achievement

Geshem - dozhd' : дождь-גשם! Rain! Rainy day for the funerals of late Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and All Rus/Russia's. He passed away on December 5th and was buried on Tuesday 9th of December - 26 November, 2008. The long wonderful chanting in Slavonic was accompanying the peaceful wailing of the Eastern Orthodox heads of the Church. All the Orthodox Churches were represented: Bartholomaios I of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch who quietly presided the ceremony, Patriarch Elia of Georgia, Patriarch Daniel of Romania, Archbishop Leo of Finland, Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro/Cernagora in the name of the Serbian Patriarch Pavle, Metropolitan Hieronymos of Athens-Greece, Archbishop Anastaseos of Albania. Metropolitan Hesychios represented Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem along with the representatives of the local Churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Cyprus, Czech Lands and Slovakia, Bulgaria. Metropolitan Demetrios from the United States was there as also the hierarchy of the Russian Church Abroad. Cardinals R. Etchegarray and W.Kaspers came in the name of Pope Benedict XVI.

The "Zaupokoinaia Bozhestvennaia Liturgiya -заупокойная Божественная Литургия - The Divine Liturgy for the repose of the soul of the late Patriarch" was conducted by the locum tenens, Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, a huge number of clergy, monastic and lay people. Some parts were read in different languages; English, Finnish. Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk read the "epitimia - praying letter of remittance of all sins" and put the document in the hands of the late patriarch. President Medvedev and PM Putin joined all the people for the "tselovanye\целование - last kiss". The open coffin was carried to a car and brought to the place of burial at St. Aleksii church at Yelokov.

It was raining as the cars and small buses drove slowly to the place, with green and white wreaths of roses thrown in the church and along the way. The "slowly chanted Trishagion - Trisviatoe\трисвятое" accompanied the patriarch and crowds were standing under the rain. There is something that inhabits the Russian Orthodox Church: "teshena\тишина - quietness". During Vespers, one chants the ancient Jerusalemite verses of the hymn: "phos hilaron - joyous light in Greek - Quiet/peaceful Light - tikhiy Svet\тихий Свет" in Slavonic. The same atmosphere was to be felt during the funerals - tears and emotions, a lot of self-control. Maybe some sort of general surprise to be there and celebrate openly and freely the burial of the first patriarch who headed the Russian Orthodox Church in full freedom.

On December 10th, The Holy Synod had a meeting and decided that the process of the election of the new patriarch will be held from January 25 and 26 in a first preparatory encounter of the representatives (bishops, clergy, monks and lay people in accordance with the rules in force in the Russian Orthodox Church). Then the election will take place on January 27-29, declared today Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad who headed the first meeting at St. Daniel's Monastery in view to open the process of electing the 16th patriarch. The locum tenens responded to the journalists. The Israeli press has barely accounted the event of the passing away and funerals of the late patriarch. The country is embattled in the coming elections of Knesset 18 and a lot of other problems. "Novosti" - the Russian site in Israel connected with Interfax gave all the details of the procedure.

Interestingly, they also put on line an interview of Archbishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria who is the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate in Central Europe and at the European Communities. As readily exposed in other notes, he is a young and very talented theologian, clergyman, linguist and a brilliant musician. He had recently been contacted by some members of the O.C.A. [Orthodox Church of America] in view to possibly become the head of the local North America Church that had been granted autocephaly by in 1970, under the strong influence of Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad [St. Petersburg], a man of great prestige and openness. Metropolitan Nikodim had previously headed the Moscow Patriarchate Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem in 1968. He was known for his ecumenical views and interfaith openness. It definitely impressed some of the Greek clergy who studied at the Leningrad theological Academy while he was metropolitan there.

Many of the the Russian newcomers to Israel - and most of the Soviet educated Russian Orthodox believers would have presumed that one of the major Greek Orthodox Patriarchate metropolitan who somehow and seemingly had been under strong influence of metropolitan Nikodim would have been elected as patriarch of Jerusalem when late Patriarch Diodoros passed away. This is a typical Russian and Soviet "vue de l'esprit" - it was not totally imaginary if the idiom needs to be translated into English. It was not real for many reasons. This why the election of the new head of the Moscow Church is so meaningful.

Patriarch Aleksii was not a careerist. His father was a priest and had spent some time in jail. Patriarch Aleksii was also a married man who divorced his wife and became a monk at a time of dire communistic dictatorship. In his interview on June 10, 1991 published in Izvestia, the then-newly elected patriarch declared that it was" incumbent upon him to take over the responsibility of all that had happened in the life of his Church: not only the good part, but also the dark and sorrowful pages". He had added: "I ask all those who suffered from concessions, silences, forced passivity and these declaration of loyalty (the declaration of late Patriarch Sergei under communist rule) for forgiveness, understanding and to pray for me... When [our] society is split by ethnic and political contradictions, the Church should be the place where the most different people should be able to understand each other and live in unity..." (idem). These elements called to him an immense activity of maintaining constant balance among all the tendencies that showed and continue to show up at a time of "restoration".

Thus, Archbishop Hilarion added today that, in his opinion, the new patriarch should chosen among the members of the Holy Synod. He pointed out that all the members knew late Patriarch Aleksii for years and always accompanied him. Thus, it would be good to choose of them in order to prolong the actions of HH. Aleksii II. Metropolitan Kyrill underscored that the vote will be secret at that each eparchy [diocese] will be granted full freedom to send the delegates of their choice, provided that the final voting quorum will be composed of 29 members.

Is it too early to detect who might be elected to head the Patriarchate of Moscow? It is a bit too early for different reasons. There is a general tendency in the life of the Churches at the present to try to assign "heirs" or very close co-workers as successors at the head of important sees. Whatever tradition concerned, it is evident that Pope Benedict XVI had accompanied and worked together with late Pope John Paul II over 20 years. In a period of a foreseeable chaotic international situation, the Holy Spirit did choose a man of strong competence and wide experience that can implement some decisions that he might have initiated together with John Paul II.

Interestingly, Patriarch Aleksii II had visited Paris a year ago, which was an unprecedented for a Russian patriarch; he attended some services at the cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris together with Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris who today is heading the French Bishop conference. This was unheard for a Russian Patriarch to enter a Catholic Church and participate in the veneration of the Thorn Crown relics kept in the French cathedral. Following the steps of late Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger who visited the Soviet Union twenty years ago, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois paid a visit to late Patriarch Aleksii in Moscow just a month a go. He traveled to the Solovski island monastery that was a huge concentration and labor camp under the communist regime. A lot of clergy and faithful died there as martyrs. He also went to Fr. Alexander Men's church of Novaia Derevnia where Cardinal Lustiger and the murdered priest had met for a short while.

Indeed, Cardinal A. Vingt-Trois was assigned archbishop of Paris when Cardinal Lustiger retired. They had been working together for more than 20 years. "Duration" and struggling for faith may explain this trend that also shows in other parts of the world. It is relevant and makes sense as compared with the present situation of the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad has accompanied and worked with Patriarch Aleksii over a very long and faithful period of time. At this point, he is the locum tenens and a relevant candidate with a wide range of rich experience and contacts in the Church. The Russian Church showed up again with much power and has to define its action and position toward the eparchies/dioceses inside and outside of the former Soviet republics. Some became independent States. The situation is special showing a large scope of liberal to very strict and traditional attitudes. Time is very significant for the Slavs and the Russian soul.

Curiously enough, there may also be some young candidates, if any. Archbishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria was about to be called to head the "Orthodox Church in America". It is special to hear his voice today. He is not an exception, though engaged in a very peculiar international and theological ministry. The members of the Synod of the Church Abroad is also getting new. Basically, it should be too early to elect a "young patriarch" in a Church and cultural environment that does trust the elders. Many things are not known to the other Churches and show unexpectedly.

Patriarch Aleksii II had visited Israel from March 27th to April 1st, 1991. He has then met late Patriarch Diodoros I [Journal of the Patriarchate of Moscow, 1991, Nr 6]. This was a traditional journey and visit to the Holy Land and the Holy site of the Mother of All the Churches. Patriarchs Aleksii I and Pimen had visited Jerusalem in 1946 and 1972. Patriarch Aleksii III participated in many of the Services of the Holy Week. He had to postpone his pilgrimage till March because of the problem in the Gulf. This point should be noted: it shows some similarities with the situation at the present, though with new parameters that will be discussed by the new patriarch, in particular with regards to the State of Israel.

On Sunday 31st of March, 1991, [Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem - Palm Sunday, Orthodox date], Patriarchs Aleksii and Diodoros had celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Anastasis/Holy Sepulcher Church. At that time, Patriarch Aleksii also led some Divine Liturgies at the Russian ecclesiastical mission near Safra Square, the Eyn Karem monastery [Gornenskii monastir] located in West Jerusalem.

Patriarch Aleksii met at that time with Haim Herzog, the President of the State of Israel and Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir on March 28, 1991. This meeting allowed strengthening the re-establishment of the relationships between Soviet Union and Israel and was noted as a positive point.

Morever, in the presence of Patriarch Diodoros of Jerusalem, they discussed the problems of real estate and properties of the Russian ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem . The Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Palestine had been established in 1847 by the then- Moscow Synod. Until 1917, it mainly took care of the thousands pilgrims from the Russian Empire. It has been a very ancient tradition of the Russian Orthodox believers to come to the Holy Sites in the Holy Land. By 1947 - i.e. one century after the foundation of the Mission - Israel decided to return the real estate and properties located in West Jerusalem to the Patriarchate of Moscow. three other monasteries were under the control of the Church Abroad (Eleona, Gethsemane, Mamre). Other sites were disputed in the Palestinian Territories until and after the Six Day war. At the present, there is still a problem about the building located at Safra Square. Let's say that real estate and property problems are still pending.

Patriarch Aleksii inaugurated his ministry with this very prophetic visit of the head of the Moscow Patriarchate in Jerusalem. Since 1991, times and circumstances have intensively changed. He had visited Yad VaShem, the Deportation and Shoah memorial place that evolved into a whole Institute of research and Studies. He had declared: "The Russian Orthodox Church will definitely fight anti-Semitism in Soviet Union". When he was metropolitan of Leningrad, Aleksii had also spoken, in 1989, by the time of the perestroika and after the celebration of the millennium of the baptism of the Rus', against all forms of intolerance. They sadly affect some sectors of the post-communist society.
"Zlobost'\злобость - wickedness" is a strong sociological and cultural tendency that attacks the souls everywhere.

True, spiritual connections and challenges can also be positive.

av Aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

December 10/November 27, 2008 - 14 deKislev 5769 - י"ד דכסלו תשס"ט

church of fr. Aleksandr Men'.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Voice of the Church [Part 4 - Hebrew in the Church]

Is there any connection between the destiny of St. Sergius and St Vladimir Institutes of Orthodox Theology and, eventually the actual development of the Church in Israeli society? It is well-known that many Arabs from various Middle-Eastern countries were educated at St. Sergius and St. Vladimir and graduated, at times in both Institutes. Indeed, clergy and lay people of all origins study in the two educational theological establishments. I focus on Israeli society only with rejecting the Arabs. The Arab Christian Churches are very important and numerous priests were trained in France and in the United States.

In fact, St. Sergius and St Vladimir's Institutes are somehow connected with the renewal or new possible to challenge the creation of "Hebrew in the Church" within Israeli society. To begin with, this is due to the reality that many theologians who taught or studied at the two institutes were of Jewish descent, converted Jews or married to people of Jewish origin. Many settled for a while in Israel and left the country for various reasons.

Firstly, in the middle of the 19th century, the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem did bless Fr.Levinson to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and the other Eastern Orthodox Service in Hebrew. The translation was given the blessing of the Moscow Synod in 1851 and I was given a photocopy of the text in 1980. It is sheltered at the present on a microfilm at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It is in Slavonic and Hebrew. The Slavonic part includes prayers for the then-reigning members of the Czar. The Hebrew version is very rabbinical, which is quite overwhelming in the present. By the time the translation was officially allowed, the Russian Synod was somehow aware that the Hebrew language - as Arabic with regards to Qu'ran Arabic - must correspond with the native tradition of the speakers: Jewish and Muslim people. This corresponds with the Aleutian language used for the translation of the Divine Service in the Eastern Orthodox church by the time St. Tikhon was a bishop in Alaska and decided to allow the Services in the vernacular Aleutian language.

This confirms that - at that time - the decision was very forward and insightful. It was also correct and respectful of the meaning of the words. This is not the case at the present for the Hebrew text in use in the Roman Latin Rite translation of the Mass and the other prayers. So, it means that the Russian Church intervened in the process of Hebrew in the Eastern Orthodox Church of the then Holy Land. In 1851, Hebrew was slowly reviving. This is why Eliezer Ben Yehudah did find some speakers from Jaffa to Jerusalem. There is more: The Eastern Orthodox anaphora's and Services have phrases that show very close to the Jewish roots of the prayers, in particular, those used in the Machzor\מחזור [festive prayer-books] linked to Yom HaKippurim\יום הכיפורים, the Day of Atonement.

It will certainly be possible in the near future to survey the existing connections in a similar way that has been used by the Western theologians and proved that Judaism and Christianity rely upon the same founding basements. It may take some time for the Oriental Churches and the present Jews because of the profound and real estrangement that separates Jewishness and Eastern Christianity. It should be interesting not to scan this connection with any missionary spirit. Many students of St. Vladimir's Seminary do experience a unique possibility to be in a sort of "regular" soft encounter with the Orthodox Jews of New York. This would not be thinkable in any other place. Still, it is also the heritage of a close relationship that existed in the East-European countries and Jewish settlements and villages.

By the same time, the Church of England decided to assign Bishop Solomon Alexander Pollack who was the first Anglican (now Episcopalian) bishop in Jerusalem. He translated the "Book of Common Prayers" into Hebrew, also in accordance the the rabbinic roots. Fr. Kurt Hruby, whom I replaced at St. Sergius Institute for the "Journées Liturgiques de Saint Serge", had given me a copy of the original book in 1978. The bishop is barely reminded in St. George Cathedral in Jerusalem. The Anglican-Episcopalian Services in Hebrew ceased in 1947. The Messianic movement took over the heritage of the movement that survived after World War II in Bessarabia and Siberia. I made a full "euchology" prayerbook [thanksgiving prayerbook] "Zevach todah\זבח תודה - Thanksgiving Sacrifice, fruit of the words of our tongues" published at Peeters in the Orientalia, 1989. It is a proposal for a "native Hebrew prayer" on line with the Oriental fundamental traditions. it was used by some scattered groups of various origins.

On the other hand, it should be noted that shortly before the time of the perestroika and the fall of the communist regime in the Soviet Union and the satellite countries, some Russian and Romanian arrived in Israel and were willing to pray in Hebrew within the framework of the local Church that is under the omophoron of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. By that time, the two Russian Ecclesiastical Missions (Moscow Patriarchate and the Church Abroad) were not reunified as at the present. The Russian archives had no file with regards to the use of Hebrew in the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem in the19th and 20th centuries.

After the perestroika, some pious Orthodox believers arrived, in particular after 1988 and the big "rush" with numerous Orthodox newcomers. The goal of this part of the note is to show the involvement of the two Institutes. Thus, the local Patriarchate of Jerusalem accepted the presence of some priests and allowed them to celebrate in Hebrew. Interestingly, this has been possible 20 years ago though they had to face a lot of hardships.

The Church process is still intriguing and appealing. Archbishop Georges (Wagner) of Evdokia was born into a German Lutheran family in Berlin. He came to Paris and was ordained a deacon and a priest in 1955 by Metropolitan Nikolai of the Moscow Patriarchate in Paris. He was a specialist in Liturgics and Canon Law that he taught for years at the St. Sergius Institute. Indeed, he was in touch with Fr. Alexander Schmemann and the Board of Professors in the United States. He was tonsured a monk in 1971 and elected assistant bishop of Archbishop. Georges (Tarassoff) of Syracuse, head of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Russian Orthodox Exarchate. in Western Europe. He was consecrated as bishop in Paris on October 3, 1971. In May 1981, he was elected to be the successor of Abp. Georges (Tarassoff), a capacity in which he served until his death in Paris on April 6, 1993.

He ordained two priests so that they could serve in Israeli society. This was a meaningful decision. I do not discuss the context and circumstances. His follower, late Archbishop Sergei of Evkarpia, also took the decision to ordain me in the same move. I was sent to Jerusalem upon the personal recommendation of Patriarch Bartholomaios Ist, with the spiritual support of late Metropolitan Emilianos of Silyvria and several other theologians of various jurisdictions.

"Hebrew in the Church" will be one of the existing challenges that the future patriarch of Moscow and All Russia will have to meet with insights and adequacy. Late Patriarch Aleksii II was against Anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism. In fact, the two words refer to two separate matters.

It may be a bit provoking, but the Russian Church enjoys, for the time being, the opportunity to expand and bring forth the real value of the Slavic and native Eastern Orthodox tradition as shown by the Slavonic heritage. This heritage has too often been barred and denied by force. Church Slavonic is basically a word-to-word translation from Church Greek into a pan-Slavic sort of Esperanto. Greek has to face the same problems and would need some "revamping updating". Indeed, the Eastern Churches cannot avoid Greek. They implement something that has been carried by this special Mediterranean tongue, full of Semitic vernacular phrases.

The Russian Church reflects something of a widely open and broad-minded universal spirit that is unique. This is why it would be so important for the upcoming generations to overcome spiritual, theological, ethnic, cultural and linguistic prejudices against Jewishness. Many metropolitans, bishops and priests of Jewish descent have been ordained in the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, in the Church Abroad and various Russian jurisdictions over the past century till the perestroika and the fall of communism.

Interestingly, Hebrew disappeared in the two Ecclesiastical bodies that had viewed with favor the use of Hebrew in the 19th century in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Strangely, it took place at the dawn of the revival of Hebrew as a living tongue. Pioneering Church bodies like the Russian Moscow Mission and the Church of England (and Ireland, sic!) progressively and intentionally got astray from Hebrew way of living.

In the reports and articles that I wrote over the decade, I had the opportunity to describe with much precision the negative attitudes of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, in particular the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Russian Ecclesiastical Missions. I did it with the care to understand a process and definitely not to adopt any judgmental views or to convey any kinds of gossiping. I was told that "I got what I had been looking for" as said a very high-ranking Orthodox leader in the West.

Indeed, "Hebrew" is not the real question faced by the Russian Orthodox Church. There is a very serious theological interrogation about how to define present day Judaism with regards to positive existence of the State of the Jews (Judenstaat). The Russian Federation considers at the present that Israel would be the "second Russian country in the world", as stated by Vladimir Putin some time ago.

During the time of the communists, a lot of Jews found their way in serving in the Church at all the levels of the Russian hierarchy. This is still the case until now for the elder ones, in particular for some important bishops who would never speak of that openly. It has been a serious matter for the positive survival of the Russian Orthodox Church in many areas. The same phenomenon is known for Poland and Romania. Many "pnevmatiki - duchovniki - spiritual fathers" were and are still of Jewish descent and showed their heritage in the way they developed their ministry among the faithful. Late Fr. Elijah Shmain who was ordained by Archbishop Georgyi Wagner, served in Israel for years before he returned to Moscow via Paris was much aware of being a Jew... and an Israeli Eastern Orthodox priest. Nonetheless, he has spent many years in a camp. Still, he experienced the rejection of the Russian hierarchy, though was always supported by the Russians in the West. Before the perestroika was implemented, Fr. Alexander Men became a symbol of this hideous and uncontrolled hatred towards Jews and "aliens" in the Soviet society. The ax that killed him reminds both the pogroms and the murders of so-called "uniates". I am totally baffled to meet with numerous clergy educated in the Soviet society that are systematically denied any ministry in the Church "at the present". It is a period of transition.

The issue does not deal with individuals. The real question is to know how Judaism and the constant parallel development of the most important spiritual Chassidic movements inside of a profoundly Eastern Orthodox context can positively allow a mutual recognition between Israel and the Church.

This is why Fr. Alexander Schmemann's 25th anniversary also makes sense in this view. It may appear that it is not a fundamental aspect of his theology. It is indeed. Fr. Alexander Schmemann - as the school that showed up in the West by the time of the "émigration" and the creation of St. Sergius Institute widely opened the scopes of the Russian Orthodox Church to universal and local, native and planetary envisioning of the plerome of redemption, the Ecclesia universa.

The approach of the "native" Churches as reflected in the West and North America should allow some in-depth reconsidering of the relevant value of Jewishness and Israelity today for the future of the Eastern Orthodox Church, in particular the Slavonic-speaking communities. There are numerous significant factors that should open the gates for overcoming hostility and estrangement.

It will take time. The passing away of late Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and All Rus, eternal memory, is a founding moment. I pointed out that there is some glimpse from Above. He was the patriarch who headed the Russian Orthodox Church from the time of communism over perestroika till the fall of communism. He maintained and enlarged the integrity and redeployment of the Russian Church inside of the former Soviet Union. He gained the return of the Church Abroad. Those who remained out of the Communion of the Russian Orthodox Church (Church of the Resistance, Fighting or Alternative Church, Church in Exile) still position themselves as somehow "linked from afar at the moment" from the Moscow Patriarchate. This means that he led a tantamount work that can show frail or dubious. His time was made of "incredible events and changes that only launched a tremendous process. Hopefully, the Russian Church will get astray from wrong-doers of all sorts that will give them the opportunity, for the first time after the atheistic period of apostasy, to meet with the Jewish and new Israeli body as survivors rescued by God's Providence.

The Israeli Church reality is a basic notion that also relates to other Churches: the Romanian, Polish, Slovak, Serbian, and even Albanian new-released autocephalous or self-ruled or indefinite ecclesiastical Bodies. This also concerns, for instance, the Macedonian community as I experienced in the past two years. At this point, this is coping with the discussions and research conducted by Fr. Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff. I am convinced the Russian Church will show its "breadth, length, depth, profundity" provided she will not be denied or put aside by the others.

This will require more than patience. It will require a lot of quiet and peaceful spirit of pardoning actions. The Jews are the natives of the Church and they do remain according to Paul of Tarsus (Romans 9-4). We hardly can understand with exactitude what the apostle meant or how we can update it for the time being. The matter is new for the Russian Orthodox Church. And it will take time before they will accept that the former Soviets visiting Israel or birthing Palestine as pilgrims, or sick hosted in Israeli hospitals or tourists are not Russian anymore. It will pass rather quickly. Still, Jews and Russians are intertwined to bear witness of Divine Providence and loving-kindness.

av Aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

December/ 9/November 26, 2009 - 12 deKislev 5769 - י"ב דכסלו תשס"ט

Russian monk [photo - a FB friend]
נזיר רוסי