Monday, August 11, 2008

Tu Be'Av: Love me, tender...

It is a hit, because it only can be a hit and we are so mild and cute, nice and lovely: "Mi ohev otach yoter mimeni\מי אוהב אותך יותר ממני = who loves you more than I love you" is the sort of syrupy, ever broadcast song sung by many local singers.

We are so much in need of care, cuddling, hugging. Our hearts wnt to share with a soul mate, a sweetheart, beloved, girl/boyfriend. We plan our dates - now speed-dating because we run, run, have no time... Just to get a boo, someone we can love more than anybody else... Is it the price of solitude? Or are humans really born to love? The rape of the Sabine women is a Roman Empire saga. It supposedly consisted in the abduction of women. Indeed, the abduction conducted to raping. Moses firmly condemned the raping of Rape of foreign women in the name of God because it is an act of idolatry.

As time passes, it is so amazing and weird to read the news about the development of different attitudes in Israeli society. Rape, incest, men raping their wives, women raping men at times, children or teens submitted to sexual assaults. The head of the State crashed down for forced carnal temptations which were not that evidenced.

The Semites are inspirited by violence and baseless instinct of possession. This is what is softly meant by "yoter mimeni\יותר ממני = who loves you more that I do?". Good enough: a very honey-honey song with sugar and slow-slow rhythm but the guy does possess the girl and that's it. And girls can possess guys and guys think they own their friends. Dat's love, nu-nu?

Tu Be'Av\טו באב is the 15th of the month of Av (08/15.16, 2008). It is usually called "Chag HaAhavah\חג האהבה = Feast of love". We are very fond of such feasts that allow giving flowers or presents to our special ones. It may happen that the special one may grow to two, well… say no more, but there can be no special one at all. The worldwide celebrated Saint Valentine’s Day, in February, would seem rather parallel. This is not really the case. Tu Be’Av\וט באב (like Tu bishvat\טו בשבט = New Year of the Trees) falls on the 15th day of the Jewish month. Jewish Love Day falls in the middle of the month of Av, i.e. one of the most tragic months in the Jewish history with the Ninth (tisha) of Av that for ever memorizes the “saddest days” of the two destructions of the Temple and of the city of Jerusalem.

The 15th day always marks in the Jewish calendar the short time of the lunar cycle monthly recurring “full moon” (“Hayireah bimlu’o\הירח במלואו”). This is why the indefectible faithfulness of God was disclosed so many times throughout history as mentioned by Talmud Taanit 26a, 30-31b. Disasters, destructions, death, exterminations never abate Jewishness. On Tu Be’Av, in the heat of the summer, should be the most joyous day of the year when the moon is full as ready to birthing new times and seasons.

We are a society that permanently faces despair with “va’irbu smachot be’Israel\וירבו שמחות בישראל = let joys multiply in Israel”. Joys and hope overcome any drifting to despair. Sarah’s laughter, lack of faith and lie (“I did not laugh” she said to the angels), Yochanan Ben Zakkai’s bursting into laughter at the sight of the foxes creeping out of the Devir\דביר/Holy of Holies inaugurated times of hope and redemption. Do we have the same spirit in the present? Balloons, hagigot\חגיגות/festive encounters overwhelmingly constitute a positive point of our society. There is more: Tisha Be’Av is the destruction that aims to reducing God’s Presence to nil. Iremind the project to annihilate Her, defile and abate the spiritual nuisance shown by Jewish existence and faith. This itches and rebukes the pagans.

Let’s talk a bit about tradition: it is said that Yom Kippur and Tu Be’Av are the two happiest days of the Jewish year. This relies upon the related birthing process that overleaps death and opens up new months and times (Taanit 4,3). On that very day of the 15th of Av, in the fortieth year in the wilderness, the Israelites stopped dying in the desert.

It is a clear sign of joy shown by the reply of the women to the punishment imposed by God to those who did believe the spies who slandered against Moses. Indeed, men were and remain too important for women. Here is the interesting point of “the feast of love”: the daughters of Zelophehad came to speak with Moses and the priest Eleazar and they were upset (Num.27:1-11). Their father had died in the desert, there were no men and they wanted men and inheritance! This is the very Hebrew counter-point to “the rape of the Sabine women”! This also became a day of loving and wooing freedom in a very tribally structured society.

This developed after the destructions of the Temple. TYu Be'Av is also a way to reconnecting with God as the Living One/Loving One. young girls and women could dress humbly and go dancing through the streets and on the squares and look for some nice lad and possible bridegroom. It was a “duty-free” day in the sense that women could marry any member of any tribe as also, the sons of the tribe of Benjamin.

As the Zohar states, the Jewish people can be compared with the moon: going up and falling down, wander here and there and, right out of a sudden, they will be reaching goals before getting lost again. But every step allows enhancing the quality of a new rise toward God and the Mitzvot.

“Veahavta lereacha kamocha\ואהבת לרעך כמוך – and you shall love your fellowman as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18). We are submitted to “love” because human beings and feelings were shaped in the image and likeness of God.

We just remembered the destruction of the Temples on Tisha Be'Av. The first Temple was ruined because of rational and conscious hatred that infected the priestly nation. The second Temple was razed out of a baseless / irrational hatred. Now what happens if we compare these two reasons that prevailed for the destructions with the joyful “full moon” matchmaking festival of the “feast of love”. Sex is very important in Judaism because flesh, carnal desires are normal in the Jewish tradiiton. But intimacy constitutes a very small part of what love implies and encompasses. Nonetheless, at the present, in Israeli society, it shows to prevail as it always did throughout the TaNaKh: with much confusion of feelings, irrational pulses or slanders. True love relies on stability, patience, pardon, abandonment. Quite a challenge in a "one shot society"!

When the daughters of Zelophehad came to petition Moses, they did not ask for love: they asked for men and inheritance, which means they wanted to birth babies and be secured as women. Women do need to be financially and socially secured even if they often initiate or support business developed by men.

These daughters had a basic request: we need men to prolong the tribe – indeed all the tribes – that died in the wilderness and we need money, land, properties. At this point, it is evident that Tu Be’Av is a feast for women as they choose their partners, friends, special ones or husbands. Men often don’t get to that. It is at times horrible to observe or even to audit how women are treated with much disregard and total lack of respect in Israeli society and Jewishness. It is incredible that the number of battered women, as also men and children continues to increase. Each sex is more and more victimized by rapes, incest and this is in full contradiction with the realm of the Mitzvot a proper and traditional, usual family and lifestyle.

Love does not only consist in lovemaking... with condoms, pills, abortion. True, intimacy is often reduced to a speechless relationship without sincere and open talk. It may show a self-centered egoistic pleasing relationship. There is often nothing to share except bones playing with bones under skin. The Jewish tradition has developed a highly positive view of sexuality. At the present, the situation is a bit confused. Personalized desires of groups, individuals, egoistic and rather childlike behaviors tend to unbalance the relationships in new couples.

I recently heard two female newcomers explaining that, according to the tradition, they were only obliged to have sex with their husbands on a regular basis, wash up the dishes, keep the house clean and get the more possible money. Plain and simple. This is another aspect in a country where it is rather difficult to marry and, till today, to find love outside of one’s own tribe (Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Mizrachim… and why not any other tribe living in Eretz Esrael).

Love is a gift, a real gift sent by God. Love is a true miracle that prolongs everyday and "מחדש מעשי בראשית \ renews the work of the first commencement". Love shows at any age. A woman physician was visiting Jerusalem with her daughter who was leaving for the Army. They were not Jewish according to the Halachah. The mother suddenly asked: “Is it so important to be Jewish?” Her husband had abandoned her. She was surprised when I replied: “Don’t you think that love is more important than anything else?”. A rabbi contacted me once. He did not know what to do: his wife got fascinated by the Gospel right out of the blue moon. We had exceptional discussions. Yes, he was entitled to divorce her, but, she was still Jewish and, by the way, did he love her? He decided not to quit her.

Jesus started his preaching by assisting at a marriage in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11) and he never rejected the two Jewish miztvot/commandments of marriage nd priesthood. “Love” is a major motto for any Christian believer, just as “joy” (Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Seraphim of Sarov). “Love” became a "human and divine reality" in Christendom that changed the heathen world into milder, more caring, compassionate collectivities. We don’t have any idea of the hideous violence that existed in the Barbarian society. It should compared with the recent emergence of new paganism.

This year, on Tu Be’av it would be so sweet to be so tender, like God: “HaShem, El rachum vechanun, Lord, Lord of mercy and loving-kindness\יי יי אל רחום וחנון”.

av Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel
August 11, 2008 – י דאב תשס"ח
sunbird (Israel)

No comments: