Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hakafot: Rejoicing in going around

"Shemini Atzeret/Simhat Torah - "שמיני עצרת\שמחת תורה" have started in Israel and consist of two feasts in one eve, one night and day, two days in the diasporas. The main wors are interesting with regards to two different festivals: Atzeret marks the end of Sukkot as a final touch to the Hoshanot/Prayers for pardon and salvation. At night, all the Sifrei Torah - ספרי תורה/Scrolls of the Torah are carried in joyous circles around the "bima-almenor - במה - אלמנור/pulpit" and recall the seven goings around Jericho, later around the Mount of Olives, then the Mikdash/Temple. These are "hakafot - הקפות", which has very special and intriguing meanings, some of them being much significant in our present swinging economic system. E.g.: root "naqaf / נקף = to surround" > "They surrounded the camp with utensils and saddles (Erubin I,8[15b]) and ropes for marking the Shabbat (Erubin 9b)" - "to surround a place" = <...gardens or orchards to make them inaccessible> (Erubin 53b). "To cause to go around: <"I shall make them go around 40 yers in the desert" (Mekhilta Beshalach 1)... until he (the Nazirite) has hair grown around his hair" (Sanhedrin 8,1)>; thus the same verbal root also refers to "cutting all round or the corners of the head as of the field (hair locks/pe'ot/peiyes-ותפא) (Nazir 57b).

Interestingly - at least for the present turbulence affecting the economic swinging system, "naqaf" also means "to sell on terms", i.e. for a special period of time, a cycle/tekufah- תקופה): "the shopkeeper allowed credit" in Avot 3:16 = . BECAUSE : "eyn nakkifin / אין נקיפין... > there is no loan allowed on time = compared with Mark 3:29: "insult against the Spirit will never be pardoned".

The initial root was "quf - קוף/ turn, make circle", which does not seem to be connected with "kof - קוף/ ape" often mentioned in the Mishnah. ON THE OTHER HAND, "hakafah / הקפה " firstly refers to holiness and the circles around the altar > "hakafot hamizbeach - הקפות המזבח/the going around the altar with the bouquet = Lulav\לולב" (the move may be compared with the going around with the incense-burner in most Oriental Churches, also the Roman Church at times). The word mainly means "a going around that lead to a new cycle of time". The seven goings around show that the year is over and reached its fulfillment.

This aspect is not very clear for the believers and need some clear call to meditation and cosideration of what happens during the several annual "circling cycles, periods, turns of the sun, solstices" > "tekufat - - - equinoxes/solstices < תקופת ניסן\תמוז\תשרי\טבת" (Rosh Hashanah 8a). The famous saying "time is money" suddenly makes sense these days. Well, it is an old reflection grounded on a meditation expressed with the root linked to the "hakafot". Indeed, "tekufah - תקופה" also refer to "debts for merchandise that ought to be paid at certain seasons (Sanhedrin 68b)/ "tekufat chanut - תקופת חנות" are the shop debts which are not submitted to the limitation provided during the Sabbatical year (She'ebiit 10,1). The Scrolls are thus a sign of time and sanctity for the Jews who are sealed for a new year. The Scrolls are "sacred things" and therefore, it is not possible to touch the text with the finger. Subsequently, dancing with the Scrolls allows to climaxing rejoicing. It should be respected by non-Jews, not to supersede this privilege also linked to the Birkat Kohanim = ברכת כהנים, the priestly blessing, the unique remaining act from the time when the Temple was extant. Holding the Scrolls in the arms could someway be compared to au "Eucharistic" enthusiastic gesture, a special participation in the Divine Presence. Indeed, it is the "service of Israel" to show such a Presence to the world and to gather in all the "mishpechot goyim - משפחות גוים" (Psalm 22:28) because of a special privilege that cannot be denied or taken over as stated by Paul of Tarsus: "... Children of Israel, to whom pertains... the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promise" (Romans 9:4). The Scrolls substantiate, embody the Presence of the Bore HaKol Yakhol - בורא הכל יכול, the Creation of All-things. The Feast of Simhat Torah appeared later. At the present there are seven "aliyot - אליות = ascents to the bema to do a reading". The year is closed with the portion "VeZot Haberachah\וזאת הברכה" in Devarim/Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12, about the blessings given by Moses. The new cycle starts by the reading of Genesis done by the chatan Bereishit\חתן בראשית - the bridegroom of "In head > in commencement, firstly".

At this point, each denomination is called to gather by the time of Sukkot, "hechag - The Feast" par excellence. This is the time that the Jewish community celebrates on the eighth day of the Assembly/atzeret- . This feast is parallel to the account of Jesus, standing in the Temple on the last day of the great Feast (the Booths) (John 7:37). The new cycle of reading Genesis is specific to the Jewish congregations. It should be noted that during the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), the faithful Muslims also turn around the Ka'aba, circumbulating around the the big cube that shelters the ancient Black Stone tracking back to Abraham-Ibrahim and even to Adam and Eve (cf. Rosh Hashanah is the anniversation of the creation for the Jews). In the Holy Sepulcher, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox use to make three goings around the Tomb of Jesus.

We are in a period of slow moves towards assembling different spiritual identities. Such attempts resemble the pangs of birth in view to reach more connection and unity.

av Aleksandr

October 22/9, 2008 - 23 deTishri 5769 - כ"ג דתשרי תשס"ט

ספר תורה על הבמה - Scroll of the Torah
הר הבית - Temple Mount
קבר ישוע אמנאל הנצרי - Edicule of the tomb of Jesus in the Holy Sepulcher - Anastasis

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