Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Eykev - Subsequently...
According to the Julian calendar, some traditional Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 18-19 which corresponds to 08/06 in the Gregorian calendar. This is an interesting point. We see how the geo-strategic map of the world and the borders of many countries are revised or reconsidered. Specialists speak of "ethnic cleansing". In other regions, from former Yugoslavia to Caucasus and the Middle East, we could speak of a "spiritual cleansing". The main issue is that this is definitely not new but belongs to the heritage of religious schisms and estrangements. Still, it implies that there are some invariants. Some factors never change and this is most intriguing.
This lines with the parshat hashavua/reading portion of this week: “Ekev\עקב - Subsequently, if you hearken these judgments…” in Devarim/Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25. God insists on a specific commandment, given to the Israelites and constantly repeated, again and again, for the sake of their faith in God as humans living among humankind. Devarim 6;4: “Hear Israel/\שמע ישראל - Shma’ Israel” that links obedience to the Only One, to the acceptance of hearing His Paroles.
The reading portion of this week profoundly insists on the fact that humans must love God with their full intellectual and emotional capacities joined to their financial and economical assets. Again, after the destruction of the Temples and the Feast of love on Tu Be’Av, how can we figure out what love implies?
Let’s get further and again scrutinize whether “love/ahavah\אהבה” is humanly evident. The mitzvah is focusing on God alone. We often think as if it would suffice to ascertain our love to the Most High. This mitzvah does not imply any expectation of promise or reward from God. True, Jacob woke up at Bethel, he vowed in a down-to-earth way: “If God will be with me and keep me in this way I go and give me bread to eat and raiment to put on so that I come back home in peace, then God shall be my God” (Bereishit 28:20).
I like this vow pretty much. It is not ecstatic… Jacob is the son of his mom who coached him to cheat his father Isaac. The boy is a normal nudnik and so many of us behave as if El Shaddai would be some Bituach leumi/national medical care and social assistance + first aid + recurrent money basket provider. But this is so humane. So real.
There is more as regards any Jew: Abraham and his descent have nothing to do with any kind of ethnic or tribal or sub-tribal distinctive features. “In you, all the Nations (and generations) will experience how blessed they are” (Gen. 12:3). This relies on true love. Love is more than justice and righteousness included in “ahavah\אהבה”. Love obliges human beings to do and give always more, much and even too much. Still, it is not enough. Look, Abraham was a sort of Moshe Rabbenu. He argued to save some inhabitants of Sodom: he disputed with God about the number of righteous, if any. But the Zohar (Book of Splendor) considers that he did not accomplish his real duty. It is useless to count the just. There was more to do, said R. Eliezer ben Azariyah, and he did not push God into that: Abraham did not require God’s pardon and loving-kindness (Zohar 106a).On the other hand, Moses had intervened for the sake of the Israelites after the golden calf. This makes the difference.
This is why it is important to “Understand that the Lord Your God does not give you this land to possess it for your righteousness; for you are a stiff-necked people (am-koshey-oref\עם קשי ערף). Remember and never forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day you went out of the Land of Egypt till you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord (mamrim haytem im HaShem\ממרים הייתם עם ה)” (Deut. 9:6-7). “Mamre” has different meanings, from the place of hospitality to rebellion. Strangely enough, the Israelites are called to serve as a priestly nation among "the tribes of the world".
Hillel said: “Love the humans” (Avot 1,2). Similarly, “When you hurt your fellowman (reacha\רעך) even very slightly, do reckon this as something important, but if you show him much loving-kindness, consider this is a tiny thing” says the Abot deRabbi Nathan (B, 27a). Indeed, there is no difference between human beings but this too often turns to be a parrot-fashion speech – God “does execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loves the stranger in giving him food and clothes. Thus, love the stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Devarim 10:18-19).
We are going through the hardships of hideous hurricanes of hatred and estrangements. This shows, for example, in some of the major former Soviet cities as a "wickedness tendency - злобность". It is included in Hebrew in "lashon haraah\לשון הרעה" (+/-: slander, gossip, bad, calumny, wickedness".
When faith is distorted to some administrative or political issues/challenges, modern inter-tribal relationships are spoiled and defile God’s Oneness. The rules in force in the State of the Jews seemingly have a certain know-how and experience of how to save the fundamentals of the inspired Mitzvot and divine warning given in the wilderness.
Within a few days, we shall enter new month Ellul\אלול. This month paves the way for the time of Rosh HaShanah without any feast until New Year. It is a month of silent meditation.
On August 6th 2008, there was the 63rd anniversary of the first nuclear/atomic bombing over Hiroshima at 8.15 am., local time. A so-called gadget “Little Boy” was nuked up as “a song of death” (Baghavad Gita (11,32) read by J.R. Oppenheimer on July 16, 1945 citing his personal translation of the text: “I am Death, the destroyer of the worlds”. The exact version should have been: “I became Time and my task, at the present, is to destroy” in a place called “Trinity” where the scientists blew up the first nuclear bomb.
The cream of the crops of the modern scientists launched the process of some future possible Sodom without being gods. They were Jews and Christians and referred to some alien famous poetry. They were fascinated by a hopeless spirit of destruction. How bizarre that these scientists chose August 6th, the day on which the Western Churches celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus: as he was speaking with Moses and Elijah, he appeared whiter and brighter for a short while of eternity, eternal life with God (Matthew 17:2).
At the moment, we are all potentially nuking each other potentially. Last year, it was from Iran/Modern Persia to Iraq. Don't forget Pakistan and Afghanistan and add Caucasus and the Ukraine. There was Chechnya. There is more this year: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Georgia. Still, “the Lord of Hosts established the world by His wisdom, and by His understanding stretched out the heavens… and He makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth” (Jeremiah 51:15-16).
“Chag\חג” means “feast” as also “chagigah\חגיגה” which is very “festive”. We love feasts. Israeli society loves to joyously celebrate events with balloons and bubbles, cakes and simple gifts. We may not be very conscious that our feasts are like elliptic dances stretching out to more and more wisdom. Thus, they participate in the expansion of space inside of creation, intruding like whirling circles. “Chagog\חגוג = to dance, whirl, go circling, wheel”. The TaNaKh says: “I was there when He drew a circle on the face of the (void) deep / Ani bechuko chug al pney tehum\אני בחקו חוג על פני תהום” (Proverb 8:27). Thus, God “sits above the circle of the earth / chug haaretz\חוג הארץ and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers”. Many things draw back to “circle” without framing in Hebrew: “Kadur\כדור = circle, round, ball, pill” as in “kadur haaretz\כדור הארץ = earth, globe” or “kadur regel\כדור רגל = football” that may often be used to say that there is a messy situation or conflicts.
“Kadar\כדר = to be arched, rounded” as in: “The sign of eggs of clean birds (sign of life) arched on the top and rounded, i.e. rolling” (Hullin 64a). The Gospel, in particular the Book of Apocalypse / Revelation, scrolls up and down the same gyrating movement in the vision of the 24 elders sitting around the Throne of glory. They elliptically unfold the scroll of eternity that “love is strong and even stronger than death. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame” (Song 8:6).
We need people who, in a glimpse or through their lives, show the brightness of transfiguration. It is a tiny but eternal sign of mutation toward fulfillment.
av Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel
August 18, 2008 - יז באב תשס"ח
The photograph: Life path can be risky; faith is also a narrow shaky bridge ... like here is Ekaterinenburg/Svedlovsk (Russia).