Tuesday, April 15, 2008

RONI : Kaire - Rejoice

At 6pm. last Friday, we shall go down in procession to the Holy Sepulcher, with Patriarch Theophilos III and the members of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, to read for the last time during Great Lent the magnificent sequence of the "Theotokos - the Mother of God" as we did each Friday at the end of the day. We have seen that it could be possible to sketch out various possible connections between the Mother of Jesus Immanuel - i.e. "mother of God" - usually translated into Hebrew by "Yoledet El " although this expression sounds too much "foreign". The "Unespoused virgin" of the Theotokos hymnography rather corresponds in Semitic thought to the roots that derive from "almeyatho " as I tried to briefly explain in a previous note."Hebrew "Kallah - corresponds to the same notion of absolute purity, integrity at a physical as well as at a spiritual point of view.

The major question, with regards to these annual readings, is how avoiding being trapped by the rituals. On the contrary, it suggests how to envision and to understand the updates to which they relates beyond slight changes within societies of various moral and ethical tendencies. It is somehow useless to systematically contradict the "negation of virginity" as shown in present literature and thoughts coming mainly from the Anglo-Saxon world. Judaism - as Christianity - have experience too much "fear, fright, angst, attraction-repulsion toward sex" that led to a profound imprinting and misunderstanding of what sex means and purity proposes from God's Presence and Reign.

This task should be positively accomplished and it is quite a paradox in Judaism, e.g., that married rabbis and scholars could write down such stupid statements as those that are found in the description of the woman essential female and femnine menstrual cycle (Machzor, Tractate Niddah ). Let's say that there would be a sin - there is no original sin for the Jews as for the Eastern Orthodox Church - it is just clumsy and stubborn over generations to focus on the condemnation of half of humanity - i.e. women because of some apparently picturesque sharing of a wrong fruit, namely an "apple" which - according to the Torah is definitely not mentioned and in the Mishna is the "fig - tenah " that corresponds to the tree of teaching, as comparable with the "pip'l" in the Buddhist tradition.

Negative judgmental positions against women, their stand and role in the society although they can be venerated and almost falsely venerated as goodesses on the other hand shows a deep lack of spiritual comfort and ease everywhere. It is not only a matter of patraiach or matriarch tradition. It deals with the purity of life seed (zera'im ) as described in the first treatise of the the Mishnah. Chanting the Theotokos in the Eastern Orthodox Church corresponds in some way to the fulfillment of the Song of the Song: "do not wake dont awaken love till it finds its pleasure", which doe not relate to sole and exclusive sexual, sensual, physical but all-encompassing emotions that clutch God to mankind. Such binding is only possible through women. And of course without exclusion of any human gender.

At this point our society is profoundly sick, deeply insane. In our generation, and in the State of Israel - somehow also in Palestine and the neighboring countries, life standards are very high and people can grow very old. There is no special requirement for early sex or physical experience, except a tragic feeling of mechanical loneliness. People hardly can share on the long-term and physical emotions turn in showing a real "Angst vor Leben - life anxiety". Thus, it would be essential to show the backgrounds and roots of the Theotokos hymnography and the song that could explain with realism the way that can lead to authentic purity.

Mariam the Egyptian was born in Alexandria and lived in the 4-5th century. It is essnetial that the Eastern Orthodox tradition dedicates the last Sunday before Lazarus Sunday to such a saint. She was supposedly 12 years old when she started to live as a prostitute. The interesting point is that she explained to Saint Sozymas that she was so eagerly driven by her passion for lust that she did not even wanted to be paid by her clients and preferred to beg for her living. This aspect of a "teen age" woman (girl) can show at the present the same it did for her in the first Christian centuries. She was certainly more mature than usual girls of her age, though this does not mean a lot in our region where it is frequent to marry at 15 years old.

Lust should not only be understood as a devilish passion without control or that loses any control. Just as men should never been left alone and God had the wisdom to repair Adam's solitude, women need extreme respect and true "untouched" love because of the huge amount of possible emotions that they have in their insides, hearts and feelings, intuition and rational wisdom too.The miracle that happened to Mary of Egypt as she decided to enter the Holy Sepucher and could pass the gate by some invisible barrier, led her to the icon of the Virgin, where she prayed and then entered freely the sanctuary. Such accounts should be read with insights in order to understand God's salvific pedagogy. She fled to the desert near Jordan, the monastery of Saint Nicholas where she met with saint Zozimas who brought her each year the Eucharist - in fact he found her lying dead at the place where he had communicated her the first year. Her body was not corrupt.

Again, the same for the rabbis. Most Church Fathers wrote unbelievable accounts about female temptation capacities. Malehood has not more insights in spiritual life. I have always been "shocked" in a way by saint Augustine's attitude: he had a wife or say a women he lived with for the better part of his life and a son. He never really took care of her or of his son although, at that time, he could anyway have become the priest, bishop and spiritual leader. There is a sort of permanent disdain or mocking towards women liberation movements. This is definitely not interesting here. Mariam does not want to be a man. She was ready to seduce any man to get her drops of lust. And this is very dangerous in ethical life. Israeli society will come to Pesach 5768 within a few day in a year of remittance for the land and release of the debts (shmittah ). Instead, former president Katzav as other probable ministries and high ranking personalities show themselves a in sex-obsessed, raping society that is totally the opposite of why the Hebrew could leave Egypt and after a sin of idolatry enter le Land of Canaan.

When Zosimas found Mary in the wilderness to give her the Communion, she was lying dead and nude. She was also nude when she had met him and had asked for his cover. She was apparently nude: she had to the extreme gotten away from the world and brought, in her nakedness the newness of love. In terms of newness, it is definitely time for men to get more perceptive of the very human and achieving nature (physis = acting force) of women’s redemption role. Judaism and Christianity have shown that at length and got stiff-headed responses from males. The distance that cannot be reduced from the women side to maleness causes a long, very long-term absence of balance, whereas God proposed unity and equity.

These are not simple feelings. They are difficult to explain and put into words that people can accept and make theirs, for their betterment, for being more gentle and capable to feel aat ease in their civilization.

Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel

April 14, 2008 - 9 de'Nissan 5768

Sheket: Silence

Is it possible to compare what is happening at the present in the Near and Middle-East to some "fading of faith, disappearance of faith, fading of faith as salt of the earth" (Matt. 5:13; Mk 9:50)? This would expand from Turkey down to Ethiopia through the traditional regions that link Mesopotamia to Egypt as the birth cradle of faith in One Living God.

I would believe with all my faith that we are only witness to the dawn of faith in God and that, more than any "magushe - Magi" - we only approach to the cradle of Christendom. This presupposes that our eyes are open and in alert and not stiff or lame by the burden of history.

We usually consider that we live in a Westernized civilization. This has been the case since the apparent conquest of the Europeans that spread over the planet in the past two thousand years. Before that period, and the Roman Empire per se, Sumer has been the cradle of a civilized think-tank that developed toward the West of Mesopotamia and to the East.Faith in the One God cannot avoid a profound reflection upon Zaratushtra and the ethical questions of "good and evil", acceptable or damageable.I have a Syrian Orthodox picture of a 5th century Cross that clearly shows a portrait of Buddha as image of Christ as both the Awaken and Jesus and Nazareth hold the same instruments of power, the scepter and the scroll.In the past two thousand years, the good news of salvation spread throughout the world because of the Jews and the Christians, from a specific local place based in the Mediterranean region. But It has hardly been the work of the Western Church alone for some very clear reason:the soldatesque combat of faith against Evil often became too refined in its psychological ways and pretence. On the other hand, the methods that spiritually allow to reach to a God making all things divine have been deprived by useless techniques. Love cannot be technical. As some Jesuits have noted with much insights before the time of the perestroika, the fall of communism in former Soviet Union, (Fr. Rouleau, sj), Christianity is poor in the West. This is a humbling reality that we would not easily be accepted. The West cannot forget that it did not generate the Bible or the Gospel and the Epistles. They firstly only exist or seem to exist in their Greek original forms based on a Semitic way of thinking and announcement. The Fathers of the Church wrote in Greek but also in Syriac, Coptic, later Armenian, Gheez, Georgian and Arabic. The Yemenite peninsula, facing Ethiopia combined for a time the Talmudic, Nestorian, Syriac, "Jacobite" traditions while the West was systematically destroying the most ancient local mythologies. The same process showed also by the time of the Baptism of the Rus.

True Westerners do know that they are indebted to the Oriental traditions and rooted in them. In the present, this also supposes the capacity to humble and not pretend that spiritual or superpower models may continue to lead the world because of irrefutable business developments that extended some spiritual "overcome" or pre-supposed "victories". Westerners pathetically need to constant referring to the traditions of the Fathers. They can only be understood in a full and positive parallelism with the Jewish traditions that developed in the Mesopotamian academies and regions. On the other hand, the Eastern Church maybe confused by the fact that Revelation took place locally and in cultural realms that continue to develop or rise again unexpectedly.

Israel shows the evidence of a dangerous and persistent temptation for all believers: faith and culture have been intermingled, mixed up and led to more confusion. This may explain why foreign Christians - in particular - may adopt some attitudes of partisanship in facing the others (Jews, Islam). The Easterners may not be able to distinguish between faith and culture. No culture or tongue can encompass the wholeness of the Revelation. Thus, it is not possible, for any of us at this stage, to judge who a soul is, provided that the mystery of Election given to Israel by humbleness of God calls any soul to do things "greater that the Lord Jesus Himself". This is the core point of humans on their way to become God Whom they receive.

There might be at the moment a process of confusing mixture - a mishmash - in which Christians look at each other as wolves AND sheep. but they cannot be both! The miracle in which we are called to participate is that the Western and Oriental Churches should accept and recognize why each survived and did not develop; they grew and disappeared; they wanted power and got the mark of martyrdom = witnesses. Who could have thought with clarity that the Eastern Churches would rise from the stake of atheism or dictatorships in their original countries and get on the path of a witnessing action: man is called to be sanctifying?

Some people would call that "struggle for life"; it is different from "Drang auf Leben that, in German, rather underscores impulsive forces allowing life to grow and fight for the good combat. "Russian "Bor'ba za zhizn" is a fighting effort, often at pains, to preserve and save life. What makes the spiritual destiny of Israel totally unique is that it comes back to a home whose leasing contract does not exist except in the Oral and Written Laws transmitted flawlessly down the generations till we reach this "instant" inside our history. Jews are or can be back. Or they reject and deny that just as others can back this story and then turn against and erase the idea that they could even support such a project.

Because this history is mainly comparable to the spiritual splits that affected the Churches over the past two thousand years. Some stiff cultural attitudes do trace back to the Great Schism of 1054 between Western and Eastern parts of the Undivided Church. A difference of alphabet can maintain very strong barriers even in very educated circles. But what was totally unexpected is such a gathering-in at the utmost universal sense of the human image and stand while the Mediterranean Churches broke down and down again. They had the desire and strong will to achieve this full unity.

Indeed, we go through fascinating times because they revolve what we would think predictable and will open the way to others: India, China, Africa are only at the dawn of experiencing what Passover may imply. Thus, if we are sincere, we are like children that, year after year stare at the marvels of saving nights.

Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel

Tazria: Seeds for childbirth

We continue our trip to late Pesach 5768 in this Shabbat "Tazria' (Woman in childbirth-bringing forth seed) - Metzora". Two parashiyot / weekly portions are read, i.e. a full coherent text about physical morals from the Book of Vayikra/ Leviticus 12:1-13:59-14:1-15:33.

Shabbat Shemini, last week recounted the awareness of how we are called to acknowledge God's holiness and try to become holy or sanctify His Name in such a way that morals, and the overwhelming highness of the Mitzvot / Commandments, can surpass any discouragement.

We hardly can meet our souls. It could be strange or funny. Some people would be likely to figure out what their souls look like because of the shape of their body. It does not mean that their appreciation about their shape is correct in terms of beauty or ugliness. Yes, our soul is in our body and not the body in our soul. How curious that most spiritual teachings in Judaism assume that the whole Oneness of God is visualized like the "bassar achat = one flesh" (= mental capacity to valuate news). We continuously break down our mental and physical life into two different, slice-fragmented parts that supposedly would not co-function in harmony. Tazria deals with human body as an active seed birthing shrine of the soul. It starts with birthing a male and ends with all sorts impurities that may affect womanhood. Both reading portions are linked to show us what the Kahal rav is, the holy congregation as a whole.

We shall celebrate Pesach: the first step of a delivery for a nation birthed by God. We came from serfdom to freedom, with a persistent taste of groping around in the wild. This fierce emptiness - safe God's Presence - continues to quest the ethical Jewish entity. Bound to God and thus tempted to look backwards and perish. Is idolatry appetizing as a golden calf?

I once had a very interesting discussion with a specialist of anthropological arts. He would not consider that circumcision has any corporeal and genuine basis in the Jewish backgrounds. Purity, full cleanness of skin has proven to be essential among the Nations. The Shoah survivors were tattooed systematically, but not all of them were circumcised nor even considered as Jews according to the Halachah. This is one of the most striking paradoxical points of "identity / counter-identity" of the Israeli society.

Pesach/Passover is the feast of offering the first fruits. It develops till the chag haBikkurim/first fruits) on Shavuot/Pentecost. Thus, reading portion Tazria’ starts as follows: "Ishah shetazria' veyaldah zakhar - a woman who will bring forth (birth) the seed and bear a male (son)... shall be unclean seven days; on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised - beyom shemini yimol bassar orlato" (Lev. 12:1-4). And during 33 days, the woman shall remain in a state of "damei taharah - blood cleaning process".

Two key factors appear in the first verse of the reading and are developed as a whole throughout the Shabbat meaning: God extends our call to do our best as humans in order to reach holiness and sanctify our life in our bodies. The woman is thus the place of sacredness, breeding and growing of the seeds (Zera'im is the first Order of the Mishnah). Before speaking of rash, eruption, tzora'at is not "leper"; it is a generic word for all skin abnormalities, peculiarities or diseases, the portion focus on the fact that we are submitted to physical and sexual morals or total absence of accepting moral laws in sex. The same way we are submitted to exercise a moral and conscious mental attitude toward God. "Skin" as "o'r" is a parallel facet, showing the same amplitude as or mental ability to be sanctifying God's name. "O'r (with initial "ayin") = "skin" but the word is not only in opposition with or (with initial alef) = light because it would covers a nudity that proves that Adam and Eve had infringes God's commandment to eat of the fruit of the tree (a fig-tree/te'enah in the rabbinic tradition). "whether awake or asleep, man and woman are stirred up to live" (Bava Kamma 2:5; Niddah 12a, Shabbat 55b referring to the Song of the Songs that is so pregnant every week and on Pesach). "I am asleep and negligent in observing the Mitzvot, but my heart is awake for charities and good deeds and love" (Shir Rabbah 5:2). "My heart is awake as I the Lord is anxious (awake) to redeem me" (Pessikta Rabbah 15). "When she woke up, she read and found it was her get/bill of divorce" (Gittin 8:2 (78) about a miracle).

Now, as the Temple is not existent at the present but women continue to observe the "cleansing mitzvot" of Talmud tractates Nidda and Negaim about "skin purity".

As concerns males, they all have to be circumcised. Interestingly, the commandment is definitely repeated this week in the Book of VaYikra (Leviticus), i.e. how to reach sanctity. Indeed, we have to comply with Abraham's sign of Covenant as "brit milah" = covenant of destruction ("cutting" idolatry away from our flesh). Again, the commandment is repeated after the Exodus and Moses circumcised his son because his non-Jewish wife reminded him of his obligation. The "cutting" of the foreskin is a basic act that a male can advance on the way of sanctity by having the life-giving member as in constant "erection or life transmission". This is a major mitzvah and only a mitzvah that, through Avraham Avinu (our father Abraham) integrates us to the seed of life, the rising of the dry bones. This is not a hygienic surgical act. It is not physically clean or eventually safer against diseases (as AIDS). Say, it might, in some case. True, the Christian Anglo world does practice the circumcision, because Jesus was circumcised. A Jewish male receives this cut/mark because he must be educated in order to also sanctify his physical intercourse, usually with a woman. "The cutting of the prepuce (orlah; like a fruit) where there is no doubt about the health of the child, supersedes the Shabbat" (Shabbat 134b). Daily news show too much criminal sexual aggressions that were basically less present in the Jewish communities: incest, rapes, same-sex early relationships and brutalities, disappearance of true respect due to women and the outrageous attitude towards the agunot/women who are not given their get (divorce) and thus can't marry.

On this Fourth Sunday of Great Lent, The Easter Orthodox Church shall reflect upon Saint John Klimakos and the Ladder. The Ladder that correspond to slowly understanding of ups and downs, sowing seeds of sanctity. We need the Shabbat as the Church readings pathetically in the present. Only spiritual love in physical and mental relationships can remove the thorns and suggest that lilies or little roses can, as in the Song, sustain and protect love to the fullest.

Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel

April 3rd, 2008 - 27 deAdar II 5768