Blog of archpriest aleksandr abraham winogradsky frenkel in charge of th orthodox faithful within israeli society.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Itim-Z'manim: time brings up every generation
In these days of harvesting, we would prefer to assemble and rejoice, feel together and forget for a short while that daily life and events show how split and distant. It depends on the place where we were brought up, educated, the places we live in right now and with whom we socialize at a certain time, period of our own individual and collective development. This obliges us to take times and delays into consideration.
There is an interesting root in Talmudic Hebrew: "Qat/QaTa\קט-קטא" that means "to pluck" and "be a fragment, chip". It is linked to "Qataf\קטף - to harvest". It is written: "If he plucks, thus gains anything, the plucks a piece of coal - if he loses, he loses a pearl" (Terumot 8, 45d). This saying means that a man risks his life for a trifle. A small chip that firstly appears as meaningless, senseless and vain. Let's put it in other words. In Pessikta Rabba deRabbi Kahana 21, it is said: "that student is a chip from the rock of Mount Sinai”. It means that he is "changed into a rare precious stone of knowledge spared from the rocky wilderness of the Sinai and the Giving of the Luchot\לוחות (Tablets) (cf. Sanhedrin 4, 22a “qetoa\קטוע”).
This is what is great in Jewishness and all the Jewish traditions: from gambling and trifling we are basically called to hear God’s voice Who assembles chips and cuts or diminish our pride or selfishness to shape things “fine” – “qatat\קטט” as stated: “the one who beats (“meqatqet\מקטקט – makes even by beating”) to make the web close or to make the woof even” (Shabbat 12, 13c). Curiously, John the Baptist said something rather similar: “The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase but I must decrease. The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all (John 3:29-31).
This echoes Shabbat Bereishit\בראשית with the account of the Creation in the Book of Genesis. We read and hear again the shaping, making of the worlds, with all the air, natural plants, small and bigger animals and human beings living on this earth. It makes sense that humans wrote and accounted the story for humans. From the very beginning, it shows that all creatures are profoundly of their "solitude" in the immensity of swirling galaxies - aratzot\ארצות . Let's imagine that HaAretz - the Earth has some brains... Skies, moon, sun and the stars do accompany our planet. Adam is the only "soul" to understand that he has no companion. God saved him by shaping Eve\Chavah, the mother of all the living (humans). Thus she also allowed humankind to be aware of time. She has the eternal positive task to give birth and get conscious that human beings and evolving over generations. This is why Hebrew uses "toledot\ = history, birthings".
In the course of the 20th century, women finally got to their natural right and ability to understand how they function. They reached tremendous and unprecedented scientific knowledge of who they are as females. Sadly enough, males continue to think they have a right to control or rule over women. The point is that beyond the terrible infringements that often affect them in most parts of the world (rapes, torture, sexual abuse, lack of basic rights), women are more and more active in politics, sciences, techniques, literature, army as we have in Israel. Judaism is based on women creativity. The existence of the State of Israel may obliges a society to update their social relationships. It will take generations. It is not problem of men getting a bit "feminized". There is a crisis of fatherhood.
For the first time since the days of creation, women can birth from 14 till 60 years. It is possible to clone human beings and to change their genetic data and development, even in the womb of the bearing women and/or before insemination and fertilization. This raises a wide range of true moral questions. The Jews have the answer in the Talmud that encompasses all that is extant. The problem is to act with wisdom and reach healthy flexible answers.
On the other hand, women and men alike often feel abandoned to loneliness. This constitutes a spiritual and humane nonsense with regards to the good deed realized by the Creator. God blessed lonely Adam with the fashioning of an insightful ezer kenegdo\עזר כנגדו = a companion, helper, "aide-de-camp". Israel has a long tradition of a need for caring moms: Golda Meir, Daliah Itzik today. Tsipi Livni and numerous women acting in various contexts challenge this situation of loneliness. The Most High showed compassion for the whole of humanity by shaping Eve to "accompany" Adam (anisa in Semitic languages; oriignal root for ishah\אשה = woman". He was no more left alone. There is an in-depth solitude of each individual. But each human being is allowed, has the right to find the right half body (companion; chetzi guf\חצי גוף ).
The Churches have always felt - whatever their internal ethics in force - that unity fundamentally depends on the way womanhood is appreciated. Mary, the Mother of Jesus Immanuel, is the "image of the Church" worn as a panagia, a small icon that is the sign of being a bishop, a Church overseer.
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The reader is called the “Chatan Bereishit\חתן בראשית – the bridegroom of Genesis”. He testifies that God shaped the world and not the humans; and humankind did not wake up by some sophisticated or unreasonable project. All beings come into the world in order to pass over - depart. The major effect is that we grow old from the very first day we come out of our mother’s womb but we cannot grow old. On the contrary, a believer, might progressively get to the point, eventually preceded by terrible pains and sufferings, that s/he quits timeless eternity to live through an age that terribly extended from the original big bang. Thus, we are young “chaps” as regards the bridegrooms who are cut in time to get creative as family, job and learning partners. This is a reversed envisioning of our life, our duration.
There is a problem of lack of confidence: we would like to build, but are quick to destroy. It is so strange to spend some time in a Danish city garden. The children can fight like anywhere else, but if they get the material, they will always start to build something and avoid any destroying. This might explain why the Danes created the “Lego” or construction games. It is amazing to look at these little boys and girls naturally playing peacefully with a spirit of building something.
As always in the Semitic realm, “QaTaTa\קטטא = quarrel, dispute, discord (music, sounds)” with a preference to one sole and unique example: “beyno l’veynah\בינו לבינה – relations between (man and woman, spouses). “Qatatah” is the exact opposite to “shalom\שלום – peace”.
“if husband and wife have a strong dispute before his death (of the husband), they are vain” (Yevamot 15, 1). The root developed into an engrossing word: “sheqet\שקט – silence”. Considering the Talmudic references mentioned above that enroot the basic meaning of the word, things are not so simple in the TaNaKh and the Oral Law. “Shaqat haolam\שקט העולם – the world remained undisturbed” (Avodah Zarah 3a, Yalkut Habakuk 563) reflects a statement found both in Genesis and the Book of Job: “VeHu yishqit be’olamo\והוא ישקיט בעולמו = He (the Lord) is and remains unconcerned about His world (Gen. Rabbah 36; cf. Job 36:29).
This suggests that God might be careless (“shalev\שלו”) or feel too much “at ease” with His creation. A Russian saying states: “Every uttered word is a lie and silence covers a lot of sins (Saint Seraphim of Sarov). The problem is that “the ease of the wicked / resha’im is bad for themselves as for the world” (Sanhedrin 8, 5).
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It should be noted that true silence is positive in the Jewish tradition. Silence may resemble a destruction: for example, in Hebrew, the sheva consists in removing a vowel and change it into some sort of “silent” /e/ sound: “shalom > sh’lom ha’ish\שלום האיש – peace > the peace of the man”. Indeed, “sheva” corresponds to “shoah\שואה – destruction”. Nonetheless, “silence” shows “quietness, be even, balanced, at ease”. Silence may introduce some fear (death) or narcissistic self-mirroring that opens up the dreams of some suffering souls. “Shakut\שקוט = a forehead that recedes abruptly”, which can be good for donning the tefillin (Berachot 43b).
On the other hand, silence is a mere reality. Absolute dumbness, total absence of decibels is not possible. Even gesture and the language of the deaf and dumb include their uttering some moaning, groaning or raw sounds produced by the throat.
How shall we positively respond this year to God's call to decency? The Hoshanah Rabbah sequence “Mevasser mevasser veomer\מבשר מבשר ואומר – He comes to embody and announce the good news” is one of the most wonderful piyutim / chants that can give some hope to share. Job’s final exclamation: “I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6) echoes the original Abraham’s words to God for the sake of Sodom: “I am but dust and ashes” (Bereishit 18:27).
It is not a repeatedly nihilistic statement. The good tidings also propose to to foresee far beyond all the kinds of turbulence and nonsense that seemingly overcome us. "Chipped, split, broken souls" are constantly called to renewal and repair.
Linguist, Psychology and Logotherapy. Worked as international consultant (Socio-culture & Need for Sense). Specialized in bi/multi-linguistic traumas.
Professor of Judaism in the Orthodox and Catholic Theological Institutes in Jerusalem, Copenhagen, Paris, correspondent to Stellenbosch University (SA). Archpriest and patriarchal envoy of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios in charge of the assistance to the Hebrew and Jewish language-educated believers living in Israeli society. Acting within the Rum-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and celebrate in Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, Ukrainian, Slavonic with also the local Arabic and Greek.
Specialist of Aramaic in the Jewish and Eastern ancient Church traditions. Counselor for Jewish Art Heritage to be repatriated to Israel from Ukraine. Spiritual guide (духовник) of the Ukrainian living in the Holy Land. Programs on Galey Tsahal; blogger in the Jerusalem Post, Le Monde, Letterdash (English, French, Hebrew). in The Marker (Yiddish). Visitors of the sick, injured, prisoners; soldiers.