Sunday, March 16, 2008

VAYIKRa: 5768 God's cry to Moses (with comments)

Posted by Av_a
Comments: 3

It is strange how we rather seem to flounder again and deeper in the mud. There is no real way for any of us living in Eretz Israel to feel at ease with morals. Mud is natural. "Griaz" means "dirt" in Russian. So we can get painted into mud, covered with brown, green, dark black and get better. From Pesach 5766 to Passover 5767, our Israeli society has been profoundly hurt and deceived by the moral, economical, ethical, political, military, religious hypocrisy, imposture combined with corruption and presence of the establishment. It faced a war in Lebanon that is denounced in many aspects. Fraud and stratagems constitute our daily two/multi-faceted dish of speciousness.

The heads of the different sectors of responsibility are of the same generation as Moses, Aaron, the leaders of the Israelites who were brought from jail to freedom. They lost a generation of idolaters in the wilderness. Morally speaking, there is seemingly little difference between that generation of the golden calf and the Tent of the Ark and our Israeli and/or leaders and gurus at the moment. We are all confused and lost and attracted by some legal lawlessness.

Maybe worse in one aspect: Israel appears to be at pain with the spiritual combat for accepting the Mitzvot/Commandments led by the generation of the desert. Teachings and education are the real challenge of a true Jewish and Israeli way of living. Thus, we are responsible for each other in good as in evil.

The parshat hashavua or weekly portion read is VAYIKRa = "And (God) called (Moses)" (Vayikra/Leviticus 1:1-5:26). The verb states God's call to Moses and is the Hebrew name of the third Book of the Chumash (Five Books of Moses). In Greek, the Book is called "Ton Levitikon - Biblion ton Leviton, Lat.: Leviticus = the Book of the Levites". The Book explains to the Israelites how to be a nation of priests and reach the realm of holiness. This week, the portion mainly refers to the sacrifices offered for the sins of the people and of the nasi (head, leader).

The Book begins as follows: "Vayikra el Moshe - and calling to Moses / vayidaber HaShem alav - and spoke the Lord to him / me'ohel mo'ed le'mor = from the Tent of Meeting saying." The verbs "daber (speak) and l'emor (say) are used in a way rather close to the giving of the Ten Paroles. It starts in a special way: "Vayikra" = "And (God) called". The translation is not exact. "Kara / keri" means to call, name, invite. "From the day that the Lord created the world, there was no man that called the Holy One Blessed be He Lord, until Abraham called Him Lord" (Gen. 15:19) (Berachot 7b). Then: "A child does not know to call his parents 'abba-imma/dad-mom' before it has tasted grain food" (Sanhedrin 70b - which makes sense in connection with Passover and Pentecost). It also means "to read, recite": "He called to read from the Book of the Torah must read no less than three verses" (Megillah 4, 74b). The root also means "to join, meet, to call with a loud voice". "Mikra = reading, visible congregation". It can be a very basic cry: "Uvshem HaShem ekra / I shall call (cry, scream, invoke) to the Lord" (Tehillim 117:4). There is another word which resembles to this "cry-call": "HaShem yeshu'ati - Lord, my deliverance / yom-tza'akti = I cry out during the day" (Psalm 88:2).

We have seen since the time the Israelites were packing up and fleeing from Egypt, how God called them, convoked them. The birth cry of an infant that hardly can utter any sound. At birth, an essential moment is the first voice cry that opens and develops the lungs, allows breathing, life. God called the people several times in order to prepare them to be opened out to their new freedom. Here, only Moses heard this "vayikra - call (from God)", again covering all guilt and sin (the golden calf, lack of patience of the priest Aaron, the people). God entrusts Moses with the most sacred Book about the Jewish call to be a "kingdom of priests" and "to be holy". All the sacrifices (except that of thanksgiving/ zevach todah) are on suspended, but, they are at the soul and heart of the Jewish Service of God. It might be possible to say that God called Moses as to serve Him as a newborn child. The "V = vav = "and" = a new connection", the "y/yod" is the smallest letter but designates the 10 of the normal quorum of people for the prayer. The final "alef" is usually printed as a small letter because this service of priesthood and holiness requires a lot of humility.

Thus it starts with the guidelines detailing the sacrifices to perform "im/if" (Lev. 4:2) the people will commit certain sins. The problem is then a sort of evaluation of the guilt and, subsequently, what sacrifice should be offered by the priest adequately. It should be noted that sin is "conditional". Guilt is never evident and this is a real intriguing spiritual question. Would it suggest, as Isaac B. Singer, who wrote as a sort of rather blasé apikoros, that Jews may go through sin and be rescued "untouched by guilt"? This is rather a long-term overtime statement that the priestly call of the Jews has often preserved them from being affected by sin? Still, a pagan who believes in God is higher than a high priest (Avodah Zarah 4b).

Instead of the Sacrifices, we stumble along interpretations. This week, we read the Great Code of the Jewish priesthood. We should bear in mind that Aaron died because as a priest, he committed the sin of idolatry in order to satisfy the desperate Hebrews. But Moses did not enter the Land because, though killing a stranger, he had committed a murder. Killing is strongly definitely prohibited by Jewish faith. In our situation, with so much hatred and will to destroy the Israeli reality, it is evident that the Israeli army has the right to consider all sorts of possibilities to counter irrational hatred. Thus, it may sound bizarre to see some Rabbis bless some acts of revenge. "Nekamah = judgment, punishment but it comes from and goes back to God: gdolah nekamah... divine judgment is great for it is placed between two divine names (Berachot 33a). Or: what revenge is meant? The judgment for the evil they did to Israel velo nikmat adam = and it cannot be a revenge executed by man (Midrash Tehillim 146:7).

Clerics of all religions may often be drifted by their weakness and it might be understandable that extreme positions has often overcome patience, insightful analysis and simply true faith in God's Paroles. It is the difficult time to grow lower as the small "alef" at the end of "VAYIKRa".

On the other hand, there is a second aspect in the reading portion: it is obvious that the people have to ask the high priest to offer the chatat, offering for the expiation of their sins, if (im) they are aware of having committed some. Punishment may affect them, according to God's will. But intriguingly, the nasi (head, governor, ruler) is treated otherwise. "Asher – as, as a consequence of his sin, the nasi/ruler" is totally responsible for his sins (Lev. 4:22). Many contemporary thinkers consider that this weekly portion is essential in the situation of our Israeli society. "im - if, in the event" the people or even the priests come to commit sins, there is an apparent provision that softens the burden of any punishment. This is not the case for the leaders, rulers, managerial staff that get corrupt. They stubbornly try to walk ahead in their muddy sins. The statement is realistic and so divinely human: a leader is called to get corrupt. Thus, he is under the direct responsibility - not only checking - of the nation because Israel is called to holiness.

On this First Sunday of the Great Lent, the Christian Orthodox Church commemorates.

The "Feast of the Orthodoxy, i.e. the true upright Faith". It was finally accepted to restore the Icons in 843. Icons that should normally be painted according to the biblical rule. In this respect, the faithful face the same temptations as all believers: to make idols of what shows holiness. To impose faith when free love/ahavat chinam is stronger than any crooked projects.

During Great Lent, the believers read the prayer written by Ephrem the Syrian: "O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, idle curiosity, lust for power and idle talk./ But grant unto me, Your servant, a spirit of integrity, humility, patience and love./ Indeed, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brothers and sisters. For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen". (Greek version). This supplication addressed to the Father Who is in heaven is really up-to-the-minute/second in the present.

I thank God that I could develop almost two years and a full annual text comment cycle showing the profound link that exists between Judaism and Christianity. In our context of Israeli society going through swirling disturbances, it is great that I could do it, though often in difficult conditions shared with many bloggers. Still, The Jerusalem Post launched it and I hope we shall continue through a link on the blogroll.

This blog cannot be a source of profit. Scanning the tragic but irrational path of Jewish-Christian connection, in particular in Israel, is like a weird challenge that faces rejection, deaf-mute reactions or political cant. It does not match with ratings and numberings combined with technical defects. Therefore, I am grateful I could write it here. I shall continue and soon be published as a book.

I prefer to stop this form of publication with the parashat VaYIKRa which is a life point in the Jewish yearly cycle.

Comments: Post your own comment
1 | The only suggestion that I have is that your blog provides a unique “bridge building” dimension. That religious differences are a major cause of Middle East tensions and that your life experience with many sides enables you to present diverse religious ideas that can be helpful in developing mutual understanding and respect. This is no minor issue. This blog must continue, James
James - Israel - United States, Thursday Mar 13, 2008
2 | Many thanks Av_a for sharing your deep understanding of the christian and jewish worlds. Your work is very important, especially at a time of fear and despair. It is a true witnessing that faith brings us to gather beyond our differences.
Barukh - Paris, Friday Mar 14, 2008
3 | I read your blogs since you started. The are lively, serious. They oblige to effort and this is very important.You are not looking for easiness, but you insist on our situation here and the link between two traditions. To my knowledge, you are the only one who roots Christianity to Judaism without offending anyone. Most blogs are published once in while now in this daily. You continue the good work and I hope that the Jerusalem Post and you could continue in decent conditions. It has definitely not been the case for too often. You have to continue. Shimon
Shimon - Israel, Saturday Mar 15, 2008

1 comment:

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