Monday, September 29, 2008
New breathing into our nostrils
We are now in the process of Rosh HaShanah, heading into a new portion of universal time through Jewish binoculars that will sweep across the months to come. A delightful and delicatessen-sugar-tasty (matukah\מתוקה) anniversary of the creation. Firstly, Rosh HaShanah eve 5769 started on Elul 25, 5768 (09/25/2008) according to the Tradition. Rosh HaShanah\ראש השנה commemorates the final action as stated every Shabbat eve for the lighting of the candles: “Sixth day: thus the heavens and the earth were completed and all their multitude" (Genesis/Bereshit 1:31-2:1-3). The Lord blessed the seventh day and hallowed it because on it "God rested from all the work that He had been in the process to do (pursue) in creation.” (Bereshit 2:3).
We might have not paid attention that 5769 started up runs throughout a period of one month, leaping from Elul 5768 and will develop till the last day of the Feast of the Booths (Sukkot\סוכות), Shemini Atzeret\שמיני עצרת. In the end, New Year reboots on Simchat Torah\שמחת תורה (The Joy of the Torah). The year restarts by reading the Book of Genesis/Bereshit\בראשית, in his quality of “bridegroom of the Living Law\chatan Torah\חתן תורה”. In between we swing along our own journey, meditate, pray, rejoice a lot, have a lot of keyf\כייף = fun, spoil ourselves and others with gifts, though it is also a time for charities and volunteering, in particular if we are aware of what is going these years in Israel and within the Jewish communities.
True, Rosh HaShanah often looks like some x-mas or Sylvester days that would have reduced if not erased the spiritual essence of such a peculiar time of revival. We may behave with much carefreeness and show total or partial lack of reflection on the future. Our days scroll down and we look forward to acting with decency. Eating too much and growing fat, launching balloons, buying nice pants or skirts, clothes. Others get some rest in Eilat or abroad. It is indeed a time of joy, enjoying the festivals and often some vacation, family and community humane warmth.
Sephardic and Oriental/(Mizrachim) Jews read the “Slichot\סליחות” – the beautiful prayers of “pardon and forgiveness” over Elul. Ashkenazic Jews begin to read them at midnight, on the Shabbat before Rosh HaShanah until Yom HaKippurim\יום הכפורים, the Day of Atonement.
Interestingly, the feast begins before we are aware it starts (Elul 25) and Yom Kippur is still not the “end of time” barrier for a good “judgement”. An extended series of days for a special journey in order to seal our names for a good mazal or chance in the Book of Life. As if God was slow to anger that He would snuffle or cry to get us back to Him: “erech apayim\ארך האפיים” = lit. “long nostrils/anger’s)…!
If we have a real look at the Kahal Israel – Community od Israel, we notice it lacks clear unity, though unity is obvious and authentic. Elul 25, 5768 recalled the launching process of universal creation that highlighted intensively on the first day. Wrong! There is no “first” day, but a “yom echad\יום אחד”, Day One. A day of fulfillment, of special oneness between God and His creation. Then, seven days later we shall reach Tishri 1st, 5769 (honey and apple dipping on that joyful atmosphere day) with grandpa+mom Adam & Eve enjoying the uniqueness of the Gan Eden. They were totally connected and in communion with El Bore HaKol Yakhol\אל בורא הכל יכול (the Creator of all the universe).
Again, full matching that weds clouds, stars, plants, small beasts and cattle, humans with Eloqim Echad, the One God: “tov me’od\טוב מאד” (very good, nicely) and “me’od - מאד” ’s consonants are the same as in Adam. Unique and gorgeous as in a perfect marriage: “vayikhlu\ויכלו – and were completed, matched, wedded” heaven and earth/the entire universe/galaxies on the sixth day. To begin with, New Year 5769 is a wedding that we celebrate with flavor.
Subsequently, we have ten days to reconnect with God (beyn adam leMakom\בין אדם ךמקום) and our fellow humans (beyn adam lechav’ro\בין אדם לחברו). Some people might think it is very boring. Why should we ask for forgiveness and pardon someone? Israeli society may also be too ritualistic. Some Jews consider they are skillful enough and can repent even before they sin. We are “nora metzuyanim\נורא מצוינים” (a sort of awesome pride of excellence). Still, Judaism relies on the “anavim\ענויים” (the poor, those who expect everything from God’s will). It is rather difficult to scan our souls and brain and fix “chata’im\חטאים – trespasses” that made us step beyond a mark, once or repeatedly. Frankly, Jews are very free-spirited about sins as if they do experience that cursings can turn to blessings and black/shadowy can get white, redeemed (= refunded over a long-term period).
Days or awe and fright without fear. I mean that “nora\נורא” = “awesome, frightful” comes from “yare\ירא” – “to tremble, fear, revere or shun”. “Yere khet\ירא חטא = shunning sin” (Talmud Nedarim 8a). Tractate Sanhedrin 106a presupposes that “Yir’ah\יראה” is “an object of fear = an idol. When Abraham is about to slay and offer Itzchak in the Akedat Itzchak\עקדת יצחק = Isaac’s binding in Genesis 22:14, HaShem/the Lord "Yireh\ירא - provides" with a ram. Yes, fear does exist. It a basic instinct animal and human feeling, mainly uncontrolled or scarcely bearable.
In Greek it is “peira/πειρα” (trial, experience) as from German: “fahren” (to travel) – Gefahr (danger, risk or ambush). In Hebrew, “nissayon\נסיון” show the close connection between “test, temptation” and “to leave for an unknown journey”. The Yamim nora’im\ימים נוראים - "Days of fear and brightness" are not dark: they seemingly rise from ancient darkness of separation from God and to repair the link through the spiritual journey with His light that was shining (“ya’ir\יאיר”) on Day One. It is a way to brightness, full of light (“or\אור”) whiter than snow (Psalms 18:1; 51:9).
We are never strong. We show off with pretence, knowing that we are feeble. God gives us courage. We may unconsciously overcome frightful situations or events. “Awe” comes from Indo-European “aghis” = German “Angst”, French “angoisse, anxiété”, i.e. to be anxious, depressed, frightened.
This has to deal with the famous biblical “dies irae” (day of violent divine anger and punishment) that corresponds to “yom hadin\יום הדין” (Day of judgement). It does not mean at all we have to be judgemental. Just the way around! We can visit our best wrongdoers and those we harmed with much honey, sweet words, cakes or presents. It can be really nice when we are in our situation: enemies and friends alike. We prefer to hide our feelings and say some odd “shalom uslikha\שלום וסליחה – peace/hi and my apologies!” in a very formal way rather than to give a hand, even to our worst enemies. We could call this a series of “days of awe without fear”. In the course of new year 5769, we will have to overcome some horrible feeling of fright. It overshadows our irascibility and pride will be cleaned up by the irony of new unexpected events.
Yom Kippur is the day of at-ONE-ment. English is the only language to express that forgiveness and pardon are bound to unity; and that kind of pardon is so special that it sends us out this year to a wide range of people. Indeed, humankind is one and unique as God’s reign over the creation.
This has something to do with the very short moment of Jesus’ transfiguration at Mount Tabor. His disciples Peter-Shimon (Kaypha), James (Yaakov) and John were asleep. Suddenly, Peter sees Jesus talking beyond time with Moses and the Prophet Elijah. A short instant of eternal brightness and oneness. (Matthew 17:1-13).
av Aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]
September 29, 2008 – כ"ט דאלול תשס