Monday, June 9, 2008

בת קול - The voice of the Presence

We are on Shabbat Naso in which is read the longest reading portion in the Book of Bemidbar/Numbers 4:21-7:89. It deals with the laws governing the service inside the Tent of the Meeting, also the status of “nazir – nazarite” (who goes away or aside from the society, abstains from drinking wine. He gets God’s crown on his head and a total spirit of freedom. This has always been a major life choice in Judaism, but too often confronted with Christian monastics views as lifeless. R. Shimon bar Yochai was a nazirite – so? Longhair down to thighs – eyes of burning interiority or hippy-yuppie tripping to some isolated mount (Bhutan as Phuket island in Thailand are en vogue). Eastern Orthodox monks have the same look while, in the West, shaven skulls are humbly “clean-cut”. Jewish ancient nazarites as Christian monks are called to control their desires and thus be free – also from counting and polishing their hair constantly.

Firstly, there is the verse of Bemidbar/Numbers 6:22-27 called the “Birkat Kohanim\ברכת כהנים – Priestly Blessing”. The blessing is recited daily and has been throughout the age in most peculiar places of the world. This year, we want to climb up the Temple Mount. Then we must be aware that this blessing is the last priestly and sacrificial act perpetually performed by the Jews and inherited from the Temple Service. It implicitly extends God’s blessing to all the Nations and the kohanim are totally overshadowed by their prayer-shawls, they separate their fingers to let the Shekhinah\שכינה come through and reach out to the people. Chosen? Yes, but not for ourselves. Someway, spirituality always stumbles between low-profiled humility and high-tech arrogance.

Luther had translated with a rare exactitude the Massoretic verse of Num. 7:89: “Moses…would hear the Voice “spoken him - meddaber elav\מדבר עליו –redend zu sich” from above the cover (kaporet\כפורת) of the Tent”. This is a grammatical quiz that is very intriguing. R. Leibowitz traces back to Maimonides as to Rashi. “meddaber” is a reflexive “mitdaber, shortened into meddaber”. It means that God was speaking to Himself when meeting with Moses. This is the quiz, a permanent quiz. Everything comes from Him and returns to Him (cf. John 13:3). Mishley\משלי Proverbs16:4 stated likewise that “God makes everything for Himself”. Thus, it means that from Moses to us and ahead of us God only discusses with Himself and shares what humans are able to understand, cope with, deny at times or rediscover fortuitously.

This Saturday-Sunday, all the Christian Churches will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost and the Spreading of the Holy Spirit. One of the very interesting decisions taken by the Roman Catholic Church during the Second Council of Vatican (1965) was to reintroduce, as a consequence of common studies and dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, various prayers to the Holy Spirit during the liturgies. Oriental Churches have always been very Spirit-oriented as the “Ruah Elokim merachefet, the Spirit of God was sweeping as the eagle over the water” (Gen. 1:2). Pentecost is Greek for Arabic Hamsin (sounds like sharav!) = 50. It seems to be confusing for some Jews abroad. The Russians call the Feast “Most Holy Troytza\Пресвятая Троица” which underscores the very complex definition of the Trinity vs. One God. Monday is more specifically the “Day of the Holy Spirit”.

Somehow, Shavuot and Pentecost, in multifaceted ways in the Jewish and Christian traditions, point out that we are reinvigorated by God’s Gifts Who blows into our nostrils the soul of warmth and comfort. Maybe we get to human and spiritual warmth, eh like good pastries, look around and have a question: “Can we tame each other?”

There cannot be any debt in the face of the Giving of the Torah (Written and Oral). No pretence. No claims to be first or last. There is the silence that as people were grilling up their jewels in the desert to shape a new deity, God pardoned them. But when it happens, we suddenly rush to the archives. Archives are the past. They explain the past, they may not show any evidence of what the future will be. In all former communist countries, all sorts of spiritual and Church groups helped the local Church. In response, most post-communist Churches dig out here and there contract and bills and properties and holes, ecavations or some cave with villas... The Holy Land is spending the Releasing year of the שמיטה releasing and resting of land year like planning some Manhattan futurist sharing of goods.

In that sense, the Ten Paroles\דברות should remind us that God unexpectedly acts in such a human context. It is important that humane projects could be revised and corrected by the One Who created the world and brought out of serfdom.

Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel

June 9, 2008 – 6 deSivan 5768

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