Thursday, June 5, 2008
The Oriental ancient and Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate this night the Ascension of the Lord, His Analepsis/taking up to heaven and to the right of the Father. We left the proper time of Pascha yesterday, in particular in accordance with the Christian Orthodox tradition. In Jerusalem, the celebration is very peculiar: the feast is rooted in the incarnation of the Lord in Bethlehem and therefore Ascension was a great Church event in the first centuries of the Early Church in the town of the taking flesh of the Savior.
Today, Jesus' taking up is precisely the accomplishment of his body and physical existence in the world. After His resurrection, jesus could move here and there in the territory of Eretz Canaan and did not leave Jerusalem to intervene in the life of His disciples.
The event is very shortly described in the Gospel of Saint Mark 16:14-19). This is something that we should be aware of: even (11) only eleven disciples were present when Jesus came and, as in Matthew, told them to heal the sick and baptize all the Nations and then then Lord appears seating at the right hand of the Father in heaven.
The Gospel of Saint Luke (24:50-51)compacts the event into one verse; on the other hand, the Acts of the Apostles (1:9-12) explain how Jesus will then send the Comforter. Interestingly, the Eastern Orthodox Church stops reciting the "Basileu Ouranie\Heavenly King to the Holy Spirit that will be said at Pentecost.
The first element -perceptible in Jesus' answer to Maria Magdalene (John 20:17), is that Jesus does not belong to any human being, soul, individual, group of collectivity, race, nation. As some Biblical "characters", he ascends to heaven - though the scenery is not really described - as Enoch, Elijah. Taking flesh is infusing into resurrection and the second coming.
How peculiar that this year, June 4th is the chosen by the Jewish Agency to promote the "aliyah process, i.e. the ascent or climbing back home to Israel. It is the only language and country where the citizens mount up to God (aliyah), as one reads the texts of Bible (parashyiot) having gone up to the pulpit. Ol hashamayim is "the yoke of heaven or Mitzvot" that is not a burden and even light as also reported in the Gospel (Matthew 11:30). The Christian Orthodox then understands that during Great Lent, the Liturgy of the Presanctified includes the evening prayer with the "shrey haamaalot - the psalms of ascent to Jerusalem\שירי המעלות " (Tehillim 120-134, as for the day of Shabbat).
Thus, Ascension is the feast for healthy and diet faith. True, usually all living beings are trapped in some conflicting situations that trap them. We could think it is the case in Jerusalem today, this year or since 1967 and even long before. But it has been the main problem over the past 3 000 years, and what about the past two thousand years! The Temple mount as the Ascension Church are in hands of Muslems though Islam did not exist by the time of Jesus. And, beside the problem of some keys, how many Christians understand that, without the insightful argument of patriarch Sophronios of Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulcher would also not be in Christian "hands". Nobody can own, possess thus be dispossessed of the One God.
Life can be a burden and age, sickness, the crippling fading of our look leads us to earth from where we were taken. We can be successful. Our goal is to leave this world like stiff bones and without any good. Historical events are "revolving". They astound us because they take back up and seem to thrown away without anything left.
It is urgent at the present for the Christians who live in the Holy Land to pray for the the consequence of the Ascension in the Christian Creed. The second part of the Creed is that the Lord ascended to heaven and God sent the Spirit. We are in the time of the hope, expectation of the second coming of the Lord. The Lord comes and then there is no first or last, middle-classed. We are called to go upwards - not only forwards.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
So Yom Yerushalayim\יום ירושלים is getting away for this 41st Day. Tons of youths, holding flags, singing, dancing, came up to the City of David. T-shirts everywhere: green (very smiling and joyous, friendly), yellow and grey or blue (very sweet). Some other with very serious, penetrated faces looking toward the Migdal David up to the Har HaZetim and venerating the qevarim\קברים/tombs of the Prophets paving the way to Moshiach or the Messiah.
The problem that nobody really wants to understand, in our spiritual troubled situation, is that Judaism is real and not a fancy.
Well, 41 years ago, people of all origins were making their way to some sandy Western Wall/הכותל המערבי . They were waiting for hours to get to the stone that showed the sanctifying possibility to come again and freely to the place of the Presence. I knew a Polish priest - and a friend of the Arab Christians - who also sobbed at the Wall. He felt the sudden "weirdness making sense" that brought a tiny group of soldiers to take over the heart site of any Jewish soul, heart, memory; and most of all the core element of their future and spiritual insights for the coming centuries.
How strange that this year this Yom Yerushalayim fell on the Feast day of the "issapostoloi Konstantinos kai Helena - the saints Constantine and Helena, equal to the Apostles". In 325, Helena found the True Cross at the place of the Holy Sepulcher and decided to build the Church of the Anastasis there. Her son, Constantine, became, after political twisting power games the one emperor of the then united Roman Empire. As the "megas/great" Christian emperor, he canceled the edict that prohibited Christianity and allowed the Christians to practice freely. His attitude prepared the creation of the Roman Empire and the Germanic one for the early times of Christianity before Islam had appeared. Interestingly, as unerlined by Eusebios of Caesarea in the biography,the Christian emperor was baptized by an Aryanizing bishop (strong elements of negation of Jesus' divinity and an heresy condemned by the Churches). Still, he was and is really the model of the Christian ruler and man of the modern style of exerting power for his time.
Saint Helena, his mother, might have been a simple concubine. Christian life and destiny are baffling for our more than 1500 years of State Christianity with peculiar wedlock bonds. Constantinos was baptized some days before he passed away, which was usual for people who wanted to avoid any sin after having washed their soul and body in the Resurrected. Today, people confess before being baptized... and feel so but so and so pathetically sinful that they are at pains with their feeling released and delivered from evil by their baptism. Strange swirling of spiritual attitudes and uncertainty of some believers. Very Holy Land, by the way.
The whole of the Scriptures undercores how it is possible not to rule in a despotic way, but exert power with loyalty and morals. David, of Bethlehem, was the forgotten candidate to kingship (2 Samuel 7:5; 1 Chronicles 17:1). The young shepherd was out in the fields. Helena has surely to face humiliation as a woman and the mother of the Roman emperor.
Spiritually speaking there is a common struggle for true and pure faith in God with David and Constantine and Helena. The two ruler drifted aside tempted by sin and too much forces. With regards to Jerusalem King David was not allowed to build the Temple because of his transgressions. Helena, renowned for her humbleness, found the Cross and built the Holy Sepulcher. Constantine got baptized on his death bed in controversial conditions. But, the point is that the three persons are "kedoshim - holy, saints". And none of them, in the history of Israel and the Gentiles, then Christianity, could ever have ecompassed to the full the consequence of the power they exerted beyond total awareness.
A very special day for me: 41 years ago, we rushed here, convinced that the State of Israel was about to sink in the Great Sea. Sixty years ago, Ben Gurion's anxiety at the eve of the UN vote introduced a time of creation. I spent the day between Uri Lupoliansky, the mayor of Jerusalem and the Moskovitz prize for Zionism given to Moshe Moshkovitz, the founder of Ephrata - Gush Etzion, survivor from the first settlement there, born in Slovakia. It was at the Ir David\עיר דוד - the City of David. Hundreds of youths were present in the area close to the Western Wall. And there I was sitting next to "Moshko", a man of profound humbleness and dedicated faith. The work implemented by Gen. Peker and the R. Fendel of Sderot are definitely significant for the Israeli society, whether applauded or criticized.
Moshe Moshkovitz belongs to these "aney Israel - עניי ישראל - the poor of Israel", visionary, creative, never stepping down from a goal that leads us far beyond what we are, at this point, at this very day in the development of Israel. When he showed me all of Gush Etzion some time again, this was the same miracle that transcends politics, coherence, normality. From there Abraham and David rose to Jerusalem because of appointed times that even defy righteousness. The problems is that justice is at the heart of all events and that we dare not forget it or harm anybody.
Facing the Har HaZetim - הר הזיתים Mount of Olives - and the kevarim\קברים of the saints, the prayer was intense. As it is also intense in the Holy Sepulcher with the whole world and tons of Easterners coming daily. People crying to God, screaming at or ignoring each others. On the way back I met again the mayor walking around with his wife.
The whole thing had made my day, because my task is definitely not to add any division or contradiction, but to show a real ahavat hinam - אהבת חינם (free-gratis, priceless love) - in a context that is governed by this love, disguised and hidden by interest, power, age-long ignorance.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
(Stamp for Jerusalem 5768 and those used a few days before the Independence of a state called "medinat HaYehudim - מדינת היהודים ".
How many are we? How numerous or small-numbered shall we be in the coming decade, then let's imagine and scientifically suggest some figures in terms of human inhabitants of Jerusalem and the State of Israel in some fifty years, a century? Is it really wise to reduce human beings into statistics. It is definitely interesting and a society must be able with modern hi-tech and research methods to make some forecasts, anticipations. This means that this part of the work is sound for groups of people who live in the same state. It is more than urgent and consequential interrogation for the Israeli society because of the apparent absence of stable and internationally recognized borders. In our case, we have even more and - once again – we are a bit "too much too more". To begin with, there are the Jews, whose number is so much beyond any mastermind egghead quiz. Whatever institution concerned, Sochnut (Jewish Agency), Rabbinate, Supreme Court, Civil Law, International Law, Halachah / anti-Halachah movements, religious, reform, conservative figures can either rise or fall, but basically anyone would or should be able to show some link with the State of the Jews. Then, the society also includes the Arabs, i.e. the Israeli Arabs who live in the present border of the State of Israel, or those who reside in the Territories under control of the Palestinian Authority - mainly Muslim with a significant number of Arab Christians. This means that the Arab world - this is almost ignored or not taken into account abroad - has a substantial heritage that combines Christians and Muslims - as also Jews - in the sphere of the Arab civilization. The map may also include the
These days we are shravi/desert wind humid hot in
“Yerusalayim shlemah o me’uchedet –
A Yiddish poet wrote: “Mayn nit di velt is a hefker – don’t think the world is a jungle/ bashaf’n makhen a veg mit foyst’n un neyg’l – created so that one has to open the way with fists and nails”. These words had been a sort of natural lullaby in my life, first told as a normal fairy tale account by my nanny, a simple Warsaw Ghetto survivor, the mother of a famous philosopher who had abandoned her. She was convinced that the world was something else than any “hefker”. The Yiddish word is Hebrew and Aramaic: “situation of lawlessness = jungle” in the sense that “a slave prefers the dissolute life with a slave” (Gittin 13a) rather than to correct his path and build up a family or something with decency. Mishmash requires mishmash. In the Talmud, the word means more: “declaring free, renunciation of ownership”: “Renunciation of ownership is valid in favor of the poor” (Eduyot 4,3). The phrase and the word “hefker”, with its different meanings, can explain the path of some Jews of my generation. Born to a 48 years-old tsarist pogroms and Shoah survivor, on the first anniversary of the State of Israel, I was educated by a generation of fighters and tradition-keepers that were rescued several times by all kinds of miracles. This is normal stuff for Jews in seemingly abnormal circumstances. And here I am, in
As many of my friends, the Six Day War sealed my life. We rushed to the Israeli Embassy to volunteer. It was not very realistic for most of us. But this spontaneous reaction just clicked and shaped the rest of our life. Not because of the danger and this was also the point when I look backwards. God does not play games or gamble our lives. We were taught that and were convinced that
While sitting at the top of the
Progressively, along the past 30 years, the Temple Mount gained more and more sacrificial importance because what was offered there is at the core of the Jewish identity, memory and call as a nation dedicated to sanctity and priesthood as we read this right now in the weekly portions. From that day, I knew I had reached our home. Because what happened goes far beyond any pull-out/pull-in. Righteousness towards the local Arabs and other nationalities also constitutes a major faith concern. I daily live among people who constantly have suffered from expulsions, destruction of their properties. In this sense the word “hefker” should not become a sign of “lawlessness” though the tragic aspect of the region is that obsession for rights and legacy can churn to sour and stinky disorder, confusion and capture. This why we belong to a generation that, undoubtedly, saw a sort of unbelievable miracle (for Judaism as a whole); it obliges acting with justice. The Arabs and also the
But 40 years for
A terrible shock happened on Iyyar 28, 5727 (06/07/67 – May 25, Julian Eastern calendar). Entering the Old City of Jerusalem and reaching the Western Wall,
Still today, as the Shekel gets high…, the Arab shopkeepers do think “Jordanian Dinar”. But the Israeli soldiers also arrived to the Holy Sepulcher, i.e. the most sacred and holy place of the Christian world: the Anastasis (Gr.: Place of Resurrection). This means that Jesus of Nazareth has his tomb and “central
This is why we are only at the dawn of times we cannot clearly envision. There was much more than six days and the oneness of the City of
“UleTziyon yeamar – indeed, it shall be said of
Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel
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June 1, 2008 – 42 le’Omer 5768 (28 Iyyar, 5768)