Monday, May 19, 2008

Peh: God's mouth converses

Of course, what to do? Our earthly time is a night and day struggle for life, in many evident aspects; at times, things would be more wildly off-the-wall. Israeli society and Jewishness get to the point as if they would be forced to searching their reality, identity, actions. Pesach is the drama about good health: good ears when God’s mouth speaks (Peh siach). Solid travailing wombs to birth a nation, some grains of sechel (discernment).

As long as Jews can play games between rich and poor, needy and schnorrers, schmooze about fate and money, jewelry, trading, career, show to be "klug un intelligent ober a biss'l paskudne = clever and well-educated but a bit obnoxious in their behaviors", things are abnormal. Say that tons of people, nations have the nerve to be arrogant. One peculiar component of this "essence" is the pretence to be best, first, successful, prestigious, mighty (though ready to help at your early convenience), undauntedly powerful. It sounds like our chutzpah, but the word brings forth another point of view: "how irrepressible (chatzifah) is the land of Israel that is still productive after all devastations" (Y. Talmud Taanit IV:69b). This is the real prodigy this year!

There is more in Judaism. Things deal with constant, steady, persistent combat. Not the simple basic fight we have to face because of long-long-long-term, age-long and stubborn rejection, hatred or misunderstanding. This is normal. And it is normal because of what happened in this Yaakov's wrestling overnight. It belongs to the standards of alterity and similarity between God and Israel. This wrestling is the artifact of the original Pesach event.

Theodore Herzl's "I have a dream" is somehow parallel to Martin Luther King's message. Parallel because abnormal according to the basic rules governing societies, but making dreams come true because of faith. Pesach gives each Jew to know who he is for the benefit of collectivities.

This goes far beyond Jacob's special call to be Israel. Abraham was the "ivri - going across the two rivers". Yaakov crossed the ford of Yabbok: note that Ya-Bo -k is the reversed order of the letters in Ya-Ko-v (heel, limp) and it is said: "VaYeAVeK ish imo - and a man wrestled with him" (v. 25) as he was remained alone: the real wrestling now deals, in loneliness - though not solitude - with his special oneness and identity. Like Abraham he has to choose new priorities and geographical orientations. He was "standing behind on his heels (EKev)"; from now on, he will face humankind and himself because the "unknown" fighter was both of divine and human nature. He called the place "Peniel" because he fought timelessly overnight in a human and divine Panim el panim = face to face encounter. Was it Esau, Jacob's own shadow? both God and the brothers? "God created us in His image and likeness" (Genesis 1:27). But moreover, it seems at this point that God concealed something definitely substantial with Jacob becoming Israel. Adam found his fulfillment in the removing of "tzela - rib, side, shadow" (Genesis 2:18) because he was alone. Jacob was alone during the wrestling. Adam woke up and found his wholeness in Eve/Chawah, the woman who is indeed the crown of creation. The same happens during that combat in which Jacob urged the "ish - man" to tell his name. In return, he is hurt at his hip and his "tzolea - limping, walking" is crooked to one side ("Are the paralyzed and crippled to punish him who holds?" Pessakti Rabbati 13). He is no more alone but "achieved, whole" = "shalem, strangely also "sholem = loyal (Genesis 33:18). His new name is that of a "feminine" mildness given upon birth from Jewish women that "shall make the crooked straight (yashar) = Yisrael" (Isaiah 40:4). This combat ended at "alot hashachar = the breaking or ascending of dawn". It is an identity rebirth: Jacob wrestled and removed the useless clue of "dirty dust = abak" (cf. Yaakov, ekev = heel, Yabbok) in order to be able to face his destiny. He became Israel and birthed the Community envisioning what repeatedly happened at Beth-El as dawn broke, i.e. is "making a sort of aliyah-ascent". He has been injured but he relocated to achieving Israel's true goal as a firstly multi-faceted tribe who has to share the blessings with all the nations.

The main problem is whether we accept or not that this wrestling is not a victory per se; this inner combat empowers us to struggle for life in whatever circumstances of our lives without ever stepping down because we witness for much more than ourselves.

When Jesus of Nazareth was dying, he said to John, his disciple to take Mary his mother to his home. Say he rose from the dead, then met with Maria Magdalena. Jesus saw "the unbelievable woman" who will powerfully convince the scary disciples that the Master is alive! As Adam welcomed Eve, mother of the living, after a sleep comparable to death and solitude. This lines out with Yaakov becoming Israel, the father of the twelve Tribes, one Community, both injured and unwillingly reinforced. Thus, Rachel died after having birthed Benyamin, the first "son of Abraham" to be born in the land of Canaan. What firstly appeared to look like a cheating story turned into a dream that come true at dawn breaking and continues to interrogate :"hagidah-na shmecha - tell me Your Name?" that can be viewed in the injured "gid hanashe - sinew of the thigh". As Sarah for Abraham, Rachel for Yaakov, Mary Magdalene for Jesus, women (Aramaic 'nesha') remove, discard wounds and debts and save men, i.e. humankind (Talmud Berakhot 17b/Chullin 91a).

Indeed, "[Christians] dwell in their own fatherlands, but as if sojourners in them; they share all things as citizens, and suffer all things as strangers. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is a foreign country." (Letter to Diognetus). How curious that Jews experienced the same and in both a terrible and marvelous way and have to respond to this situation with much righteousness in our generation. Freedom remains the goal.

Chag Pesach sameach

Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel

Facebook contact: Av Aleksandr http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1126861596

April 17, 2008 - 12 deNissan 5768

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