Monday, March 10, 2008

Pekudey hamishkan: the records of the Dwelling

The word "adam" has different meanings and is involved in various circumstances of human life, activities and specificities . This is what we had developed last week about the "Shema Israel" and its commandment relating to loving God "with all your might - meodecha". It makes sense and it is also significant that the letters that are used to write the word meod "very - might, power, strength" are the same as "adam", the emblem of human personality and name of the first divine clay and earth fashioning. It makes sense because God's creation and activities have reached its highest technical level with human nature, brains, abilities, physical strengths, creativity. A poodle weekending for four days with "dad and mom" from the sof shavua to the motzaei Shabbat (end of Saturday) in Eilat would not be excitedly creative. On the other hand, the people rushing to the city and its beach have developed all kinds of sophisticated tools, roads, housings, off-shore entertainments, visits to the fish of the Red Sea and then, wow, the same fish are available on sale at the supermarket, cut and cleanly frozen. I it is thus understandable that there is a connection between "all your might - meodecha" and the identity of humans as tank-thinkers, builders using their body and brain resources.

The parshat hashavua or weekly reading portion Vayakhel-Pekudei closes the Book of Shemot or Exodus. As Nahmanide pointed out it is intrinsically the Book of the exile and the redemption. But then Rashi had said that it would have been convenient to begin the TaNaKh with this specific Book that shows the destiny of the Jewish people as a sort of model of the human history and discovery of God's will and path. As we go forth on the way to Pesach, it is important that our basic DNA is always tracking us back to specific reflections. So many nations, races, ethnicities, tongues are intermingling like a melting-pot (indeed not the same way as the golden calf) described by the Jewish tradition. This is connected with the creation of the world and of Adam as the first and unique ancestor of all the human beings that have lived and are to be born at the present and in the future on earth. Talmud Sanhedrin 98b suggests an intriguing way of collecting parts of earth in order to shape Adam: God would have taken from the Land of Israel to fashion Adam's head and from all the soils of all the parts of the world to make his other members, i.e. neck, chest, arms, fingers, legs etc. This shows how the rabbinic tradition focuses on the importance of the Land of Israel "Eretz Israel" as being at the heart and initial of the very nature and call of humankind, perceived as a unique entity.

It may thus be very important in the way our Israeli society evolves amidst a series of hardships and cultural confusion about identity of who we are and why we are a part of the State of Israel in its present development. Say that everything that is given to the Jews is a model for all the humans. Yes, true, but only if the "ol shamayim - the yoke of heaven" or the existential part of the mitzvot are not disconnected from our uniqueness and singularity common to any person that receives a spiritual breath from God into their nostrils. Pesach models the humans according the revelation that the Jews were in exile from the Land of Canaan. Not only from that Land, but the very fundamental events that constituted the Jewish identity found there achievement in the fact that God gave them a land. Even in that promise, the Land, i.e. "Eretz Israel" does not suffice. There is more. A nation born to a wandering, fugitive Aramean (Deuteronomy/ Devarim 27:5) found its soul, goal, identity in a special Land. Until now, it bears the marks of a wrestling fight that made him Israel. Then, the land is indeed a part of some external historical imprint that memorizes the ground, the landscape, the air and atmosphere in the bones of the Jewish people.

This is why Adam's shaping is reputedly accounted as having taken place in Jerusalem is also a sort of "exile and redemption" views. The Gan Eden is located a bit up to the North-East, and not precisely in the Land of Canaan or Israel. It is evident that "adam" is linked to different roots that are also pretty much relevant. Adam has been shaped out of "adamah - earth". Both words relate to "dam, damdam" that means: "To be red, viscous, thick, dark”, thus "to grow, get red, shiny, like blushing faces". Bereishit Rabba 17 is considered in the Targum as the sefer deadam harishon = the account or allegorical book of Adam containing all generations and their leaders from the beginning to resurrection, i.e. destinies of humanity (cf. Ex. Rabba 40; Bava Metzia 85b). "Adamah" is made of thick and moist, earth and clay as the potter takes "efer - sand and dust" which is male and "adamah - clay" which is female (Gen. Rabba 14). "Adamah" is also think like clay and is similar to a 'seal' (Shabbat 8,5). Then, "dam = liquid" and means "blood, life". God created all human beings in His Image and Likeness and then "He diminished the divine image (demut) by neglecting the propagation of man" (Yevamot 63b). This induces that every human does mirror God in a small likeness that is not extended and remains measured, humble. "Dom / damam" means "in silent, dumb, at rest". Human beings are not only like clay and dust, sand in hands of the potter (cf. Prophet Isaiah).

The coming weekly reading portion Vayikra - Leviticus we shall commence to read the Book of the Levites and the commandments referring to the priestly service of the children of Israel. Eretz Israel, the Land of Israel, is an inherent and rudimentary part of the Jewish memory as constantly reinvigorated. At this point, we go out of an exile that was the bondage in Egypt. God's housing and Temple instruments will later be taken into the exile to Babylon. Before they entered again the Land of Canaan where the ancestors had received their call to serve God, the Israelites are marked by the seal of this specific adamah, earth and birthplace. They will have to endure the same torments during the time of exile in Babylon. On the one hand, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob-Israel tied them up to a spiritual native land that stamped their identity. The same memorizing process did happen by the time of the exile in Mesopotamia. But they had the Temple instruments with them. The Jewish identity carries that throughout all the exiles, not as a national expectation to get some piece of land. We reach to the core of the faith. This deals with a permanent overtime rental agreement which is only founded on freedom, free access and use and relies on faith and trust in God.

This makes the Jews "very (bney) adam - human" or look like 'damim' = Martians, inhabitants of the Red Planet. This is certainly not comparable to E.T. and other streams that would presuppose that the Israelite and the Jewish heritage came from other worlds. Just the opposite! We are opaquely and intensively the signs that we all were born in Zion (Tehillim 87:5). The movement of return to Zion includes a big part of the major messianic development that has existed in the Jewish traditions throughout the ages. The Israeli German-born philosopher Gerschom Scholem has envisioned this aspect in his books and writings about the famous false messiah Shabtai Zvi. Indeed a false messiah, but the return to Eretz Israel that he provoked en masse shows an uncommon spiritual identity that spread all through the diasporas, irrigating them with the spirit and essence of the Land of Israel. G. Scholem had the nerve to impose to one of his students, a Jew from Prague, David Flusser, who had just turned to be an Orthodox Jew to teach Christianity at the University of Jerusalem, which the involuntary candidate first accepted reluctantly. The whole thing was very insightful and is grounded in the German participation of a spiritual view of the States of the Jews. Martin Buber had collected and saved the Chassidic accounts, Abraham Heschel had shown the all-humane attitude of Jewishness. R. Y. Leibowitz was shrieking his call to true and free Judaism he had gotten from Riga to Germany, where he became a physician specialized in chemistry.

Today, the Jews return to Zion in a way that is very parallel to what happened to the Jacob-Israel descent when they fled from Egypt and erred in the wilderness among a molten calf and pieces of manna, the Luchot/Tablets. It sounds like a national movement comparable to the independence of Montenegro (Chernogora) amidst some Balkans (root for "balagan - mess") turmoil. Or the controversial independence of Kosovo and North Ossetia. Time settles what is wrought in emergency.

And here they met with other people, cultures and beliefs. Are they that human? Will Judaism and a new nation show they are human as inscribed in the Mitzvot. Interestingly, Jesus of Nazareth said: "You will receive a power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth" (Acts of the Apostles 1:8). This dispersion has resembled the Jewish scattering processes. The return of Israel challenges any movie scenario. And what will be next? In the meanwhile, local people conquered, lost, seized again, sold, were forced to leave a Land of transition that spiritually imprinted a small nation of wandering Arameans.

The silent red and dark liquid blood that irrigates our hearts and souls face a difficulty to meet with others. They all grew estranged to each other, leaving aside the liquid of life that energizes all the children of man. Slowly, since the Darfur disaster is online in the country, the Israelites (Izrail'tiany = Israelites and Israelis in Russian) might progressively recognize the Armenian genocide, the various genocides that affected most of the oldest Churches of Jerusalem (Syro-Orthodox, Assyrians, Greeks). Too often, it is easier to visit old stones than to encounter with open-mindedness those who are not buildings, but living of silent blood liquid in shape of clay and earth. And we are not on Mars... Totally, definitely right out of the blue moon, we are on earth, in Jerusalem, rescued and alive. Israel is a true human and spiritual laboratory on the eve of Nissan 5768, en route to the Feasts of Pesach and Easter.

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