Saturday, June 21, 2008

To trust or not to trust?

Av_ Jerusalem Forward blog

It is time, according to the Hebrew reaidings, to march into the Land of the Avot/Ancestors. Moses decides to assign twelve men from the ancestral tribes to scout the land = latur et-eretz Kena'an (Num. 13:17), have a real look at the country, the inhabitants, a full spying survey with much discretion and know-how. At this point, this is a typical and very proficient activity of Israel over the world. Moses did not send the men the same way we have a pending problem with Jonathan Pollard. He was not on a "tour". In Hebrew, "tur" means "to spy", still in a way that implies to walk, go around, be awake and on alert, go on foot (regel/leg - meragel = spy in Modern Hebrew). "You have espied the Land and found fault with God's Tent", says Talmud Shebuot 47b, echoing Numbers Rabba 16, 20: "You have espied the faults of the Land of Israel". A good spy, for the Talmud, is Aaron: "The great spy (Aaron) died who had espied for them the road of life" (Yoma 1:38b). The Israelite spy is a man of God who is accomplishing a sort of divine mitzvah for the benefit of the whole community of Israel. In this view, our spies should not be corrupt... totally under self-control... not utter any slander... of rumors, and we should not hear any blah-blah about them in return. The perfect shomer/guardian of the integrity and rigor is also the model of the bney chorin/ free men (and women). Numerous names come then to our minds, especially of those people who, in terrible days when Jews were persecuted and for the sake of the State of Israel, offered their lives with courage and silence. Israelis have developed amazing and witty tricks to confound the enemies. We love thrillers, but curiously the good old-fashioned Israeli spies are more of the Lamed-Vavnikim\ל"וניקים sort (the 36 unknown tzaddikim/righteous that save the world) than full-tanned oriental green-eyed guys and girls jumping from beds to couches with guns, poisoning pills, killing kisses, pocket bombs and Holy Land bullets. Everybody knows the joke of a man who answers – in the middle of a dark night in Tel Aviv – that he is Yaakov the violinist, but that Yaakov the spy lives on the fourth floor, up there…

Moses sent the twelve men and they had a wonderful tour. They brought gorgeous fruits, clusters of grapes and pomegranates after forty days of scouting. The report was disparate. Exceptional landscapes and country, but the inhabitants seemed a bit bizarre. How difficult to recognize the people after an absence of 400 years! Land of milk and honey, but the inhabitants are powerful; their cities are fortified and terribly large. This is dangerous, reported ten of the men who saw the Amakelites and the mighty Hittites. They got scared. Worse than everything: they even met with very tall men, something like 100 XXXL size guys, the Nephilim, that had disappeared since Gen. 6:4. There, they were looking at the Sons of the Covenant like grasshoppers, and the “spies” did have the courage to look back. These ten also spread some rumors that the country they saw devours the inhabitants and they successfully slandered around so that the Israelites wanted to return to good old Egypt.

Slander is called to disappear by nature, said the Sages. But the reaction of these “reporters” is exactly the same as what we hear about our Israeli society and the country at the present. We all have our dreamy Nephilim, extra sized ghosts. We look at each other so often like grasshoppers or chimpanzees in a zoo. A man in a cassock in Jerusalem or Israel today? you cannot imagine how children just come and look at "that" as a weird "hopper", ask if "do that exist? ("zeh kayem/זה קים"). Or they spit after a long throat-in inspiration. But the point is that it is just normal... simple. without control or protest. It does not affect the clergy alone. We cannot make our mind on who the others are. And this local reporting is so defective that it does imperil our socializing equilibrium.

Indeed we are fortified. Everybody is even fortified here. and always better or more threatening than in Egypt. When we find some family connection from America to Israel, we may discover we have a “rich” uncle in some Rehov Ben Yehudah, who owns a tiny falafel or pizza corner. But what a location! Well, this week, we should maybe pray for our spies… and all the honest spies because the problem is that they are very buddy-buddy and interconnected and can easily be spoiled. On the other hand, it is really difficult to account the truth and keep balanced. Caleb and Joshua exposed what they had seen and that it was possible to conquer the land. They said “Do not fear the people of the country for they are our “lachmenu\לחמנו =bread=food (prey)”. “Milchamah = war” in Hebrew does mean that we are no more in a situation of rather natural hospitality in the tribal culture. We doubt, suspect, attack or flee. “Mi’lchamah\מלחמה = it is no more possible to share the same meal/food/bread, which induces a state of war, a conflict”. This is very significant in spiritual life and also as regards the Christian bread sharing rooted in the Kiddush partaking of bread. Caleb and Joshua underscored that the Israelites should not rebel against God.

Now, “kibush\כיבוש, conquest” shows more than the way we even use the word at the present. In the case of the Israelites – again in revolt against God and Moses and willing to return to Egypt – we must consider something else. They got out of the womb of some foreign “fostering” country, i.e. Egypt, symbolically a “house of slavery”. Let’s say that the wilderness, in the Sinai, is a place of dizziness, tests, wandering and giving of the Torah. It is time for the Israelites to behave as grownups and face the conquest of their own identity, the fulfillment of their being. They cry exactly as spoiled children do. And the rumors just match with what they fear: why getting ahead to the Land of Canaan? True, the same question is pending in the present as regards the apparently unexpected renewal of a Jewish State and of the Arab nation, Semitic heritage in the region. When Caleb and Joshua witness that the conquest is possible, how can we show today that the Israelites do not rebel against God? In our time, it is more questionable. The real interrogation is how to get to a target that does not harm but will allow building actions. No unjust expropriations but a progressive and comprehensive “Semitization” of the Israeli society in the Middle-East.

Indeed, the false rumors conveyed by the ten men, their lies and betrayal of Mose’s mission are constant stuff. We are reluctant to grow, to become adults. Adulthood is so frightening for some Jews because of the monstrous experience of history. This is why – even it sounds as some kind of a vitz /joke – good scouting eyes and brains allow growing spiritually. No way to compare with some servile traitors conveying sugary gossiping reports to some potentates. The point is to be found in the accomplishment of the first commandment given to all beings: “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it “vekhivshua””(Bereishit 1:28). We must be careful not to damage human souls and this is quite a challenging problem for our society. “Kibush\כיבוש” is also the means of subduing evil, pride an will of useless conquest, preventing overbearing what is proper to others” , states Pessikta Zutrathi 197a (Buber Ed.). On the other hand, reaching out to our own self-control allows enhancing oneself and sometimes a society.

Thus, it makes sense that the Jewish tradition proposes the systematical reading of the Pirkey Avot – Sayings of the Fathers, a portion of the Talmud Tractate Nezikin\נזיקין (Damages) from Pesach to Shavuot, usually till Rosh Hashanah in most congregations today. The book is included in most Shabbat prayer-books and is composed of five chapters plus one (Kinyan Torah=acquisition of the Torah) brought from a minor Tractate “Kallah”. As the Book of Job or Lamentations, the Sayings of the Fathers (Avoth according to Mishnaic Hebrew) is one of the best-sellers and most read books in the world. It is very ethical, down-to-earth and spiritual, crude and full of wisdom and thus can bring some reflection, insights and responses to all humans in search of who they are.

This also deals with our weekly reading portion. The “spies or scouts” were to examine with insightful and ethical eyes the true realm of the country. Interestingly, at the end of the parshah, tGod gives the commandment to hold the tzitzit / fringes at each corner of the garments with a blue cord (techelet\תכלת), “to look at it, observe them so that you don’t follow your heart and eyes /velo tituru (scout astray, make the wrong tour) acharei levavchem veacharei eyneichem\ אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם(in lustful urges)” (Bamidbar 15:39-40). The commandment to look and observe the tzitzit in order to achieve and accomplish all the Mitzvot held in hand and upon our eyes is basic and extant for every Jew. They introduce to a daily viewing and consideration of how to behave with decency and dignity. It is not a problem of “derech haaretz\דרך הארץ = morals” that obliges every soul to make healthy use of their brains and will. In the reading portion, it is repeatedly mentioned that “if something was done unwittingly = le/bishgagah\ל.בשגגה”, there were some provision to be observed. This traces back to the wondrous prayer of Yom Kippur: “Forgive us, cleanse us, atone us, all the House of Israel as the inhabitant who resides in her midst (leger hagar betocham) / ki kol ha’am bishgagah\כי כל העם בשגגה (because all the nation, people, community) has erred unwittingly. The word is linked to “meshugah\משוגע – insane, fool, foolish” that became Slang Yinglish “shmeggegeh\שמעגעגע” (just sounds so lovely and exact!). We could say “weird, weirdo, spaced out without any drugs except our ego’s pressure”.

The word “mussar\מוסר” is usually considered as the correct word for “ethics”, or authentic tradition of good behavior. But the commandment to look at the tzitzit is not moral, not ethical. Who can know what is inside of a soul? Morals or ethics suggest attitudes or pave the way to measure how we dare or not behave toward ourselves and the others. The twelve men were called to more: to see and not to get astray from a path that they might consider dangerous. Our lives can be imperiled by many events or situations. We can then choose to respond like Caleb and Joshua, by taking over the truth and face it. In that view, the Mitzvot are not moral, ethical, judgmental, pleasing. They show our connection with God and how we accept him. Moses was very humble and thus could not enter the Land taking upon him the lack of faith of the Israelites.

On the second Sunday after Pentecost (this year on June 28, 2008) the Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates the local Saints. Interestingly, in the 4th century, seemingly in the Celtic Roman Catholic Church of the West, the Church of Rome decided to recall the Saints on November 1st and then All the Souls (Departed) that were defunct (had accomplished their officium/task) on the following day, showing a sort of hope in winter time. The Orthodox Church celebrates the Saints as those who lived in the Pentecostal breathing-in of the Spirit. Firstly, all the Saints as last week and now the local Saints. Thus, the Palestinian Saints track back to the Avot, the ancestors and all the prophets of the Bible. From the time before Abraham till the cave of Machpelah, the Land of Canaan and Eretz Israel, each territory of the ancestor tribes and Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Arabia till so far away… God-seekers scout souls and soil and teach how to share wittingly.

God sanctifies the humans

Moses repeated the Lord’s commandment: “when a stranger who resides with you (“ve-khi yagur ger\וכי יגור גר”) will offer a Passover sacrifice to the Lord, he must offer it in accordance with the rules and rites (mishpato\משפטו) of the Passover sacrifice. There shall be one law for you, whether stranger or citizen (velager ule’ezrach\ולגר ולאזרח) of the country”(Bamidbar 9:14). This extends the rather permanent issue we face in this country, much after the time spent in the wilderness and discussed as an actual problem in the previous blog. The time in the Sinai corresponds to a pedagogical tour. It is not a labyrinth because this wonderful space and mind route has but only two possible goals. The Cretan labyrinth combined secrecy and hardship to get free and/or memorize. It was also a mythological way to hold the Minotaur and thus to restrict one’s thought on limited solutions. The Egyptian pyramids were built on the same confusing pattern. Human rulers and leaders love these sorts of quizzes. Genetics and specialists of memory diseases or defects would show how such paths can be controlled with much insight.

The journey through Sinai is not of the same nature. It is not built upon myths and mythological attempts to tie up human beings. We are still in the Sinai in many ways, in particular as regards our desires or expectations, beliefs or faith that we came and will continue to come out of serfdom to freedom. In the wilderness, the Hebrew nation, was a displaced living body that advanced in some dizzy darkness. This means they missed explanations, maps, central piloting headquarters and strategy. Today, just look at the mobiles. We get the last breaking news in whatever alphabet, the weather forecast for the week, a living map showing where we are and where you may go. It also means you know where our friends, buddies are located and where the next conflict will nuke out. And, along with the view of the Tent of the Meeting, if any, your favorite pictures or flashing ads, SMS and fax services, access to your credit cards and personal documents, with the exact time. We hold the world in the palm of our hand, or around our neck, provided there is no strike somewhere. Then, you can call your friend who is at the Kotel/Western Wall and cry out all our distress lives from Honolulu to Guam! In Israel, beside a weapon on a belt, there are people who have 3, 5 cell phones at hand. It does not mean we know how to use our cells. But we are not lost…, well! The Save Our Souls sytem is on, it does not mean that it will not harm our mental balance. As for everything, humans have to learn how to function and freely use their devices.

Now, in the desert, when there is a grain of sand, everything gets blurred. And there they were the ancestors! They were journeying ahead with camels, donkeys and sheep, rattling around without real understanding of where the route should lead them to. In this respect, as people were also dying in this environment, it should be interesting to analyze with precision that were listening to Moses. It is quite a pity that no TV nor Arutz “something” could not record daily life, counseling with Moses and prayers at the Tent of Meeting. The Talmud is rather lively, but still… It is evident that, progressively, the marching in the desert appeared to be dangerous. They were not at Jericho. But the Israelites made two hammered silver trumpets (chatzotzrot kesef) to summon the divisions and convoke the congregation with long blasts. The task was given to Aaron and the priests. Because these trumpets were to be blown in case of a war in order to remind the people that God is able to deliver the nation from their enemies (Num. 10:9). Everything still focuses and is naturally centered on God. He is the One and only Counselor at this point. There are “intermediate contacts or laws that allow to make a “chatzitzah חציצה – partition” between clean and unclean and shake a situation” (Hagigah 78b). The trumpets and their resounding name in Hebrew have this function. It does not mean that God will save. It does not mean that the human divisions of the Israelites were strong or powerful, mighty. On the contrary, they did know that only Moses could advise them adequately because he was conversing with God in full obedience and consent, mutual trust.

At times, the Israelites could not accept such a situation. This is why it is inquiring to see how Moses tries to persuade Hovav the Madianite to guide the division across the desert and help them avoiding wrong routes (Bemidbar 10:29). Hobab was a sort of “stranger and citizen”. He answered to Moses that he preferred not to guide him and return to his home. Moses tried a second time to convince him to “give his eyes” in order to find the right direction. He got no response. The scene is fascinating because we still go through the same temptations, tests and frightening experiences, here in this country but also everywhere because the mental configuration is rather similar. Nahmanide stated that in the wilderness, Hovav would have given a human hand in a situation that basically defies God actions and certainly not Moses’ non-existing power. Thus, two radicals are used that are essential in Judaism: “tov\טוב – good – yetiv\יטיב – to be good”, which Moses said to Hovav to persuade him to guide them; in return, he would be good, generous toward Hovav. Hovav’s refusal is more than significant. It is precisely when the ger is a full resident and still claims his own freedom. This can upset or rebuke. Moses is a simple man and has the human right to be feeble. In that sense leaders are terribly weakened by nature. Hovav reminds Moses that his only guidance comes from God’s mouth and nobody else. When Moses insists “lecha itanu\לך איתנו – come with us”, he forgets for a very short while that is definitely essential, that the Israelites are to join the spiritual path accomplished by the Avot – the ancestors and three first patriarchs. As concerned leaving idolatry and the house of Terach, Abraham heard “lech lecha\לך לך – go, leave – go to yourself and who your are- go, go then to your country”. This is a divine call, a bit “weird” and that he could hardly listen and accept immediately. We have the same problem. We have more: we know this by heart! So leave it to the highbrows and we shall pull in/out, backward/forward, around/away, underneath/in the air. And there go the strikes in the reading portion: the people protest: they want to eat, weep upon all these delicious products of Egypt. They got quail and manna.

But this was in the desert and the real thing concerns Moses. It is written about him: “Moses was a very humble man more than any other man on earth (anav meod mikol adam asher al-haadamah.עניו מאוד מכל אדם אשר על האדמה)” (Num. 12:3). This traces back a parallel with the first human being. “with him, says the Lord, I speak mouth to mouth (peh al-peh\פב על פה) (v.8), without riddles and he beholds the likeness of the Lord.”. Moses could not utter words properly. He was “ani\עני – poor” as God expecting His people prayer (Tehillim 104). He could not boast God or the Israelites or Pharaoh or anyone by his experience with God. How can we expect anything of God if we think we are strong and know anything about Him? Everywhere leaders will declare that they know; they will not step down because they know. And even when the downfall, collapse is definitely clear, still they are strong and know. Leaders can just be any anonymous who blows up for some odd reason.

Moses’ humility has become a model that remains unsurpassed in the TaNaKH. He is the model of the Jewish “anawim\ענוים – poor that totally rely on God”. He was obedient to God. “Obedience” does not mean a lot at the present. True, it sounds “too Christian” and servile. The Latin word “ob-audire” means “to hear, listen in a converging way, together”. This is the most difficult point to reach. It does not consist in “hearing” (sh’ma\שמע) and then do what pleases us. It does not mean a sort of constantly frustrating reduction of personal freewill or freedom. On the contrary, as “the poor in spirit – oi ptokhoi to pneumati” (Matthew 5:3), lauded by Jesus, the way is widely open to who believes that Go can work unexpected things. Jewishness has deep feeling toward those they would assume to be “anawim\ענוים” or “tzadikim\צדיקים – righteous”, beyond any titles.

The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates, on this Sunday after Pentecost, the Saints who lived as human beings in the total abandonment to God’s Providence and Commandments. There is something very close to the Jewish “Devekut\דבקות – attachment” in the Chassidic tradition. The Saints were not supermen/women, just ordinary people whose lives irradiated God’s Acting Presence and Providence. The Orthodox and the Catholic Churches have recognized (canonized), in the past thirty years, a immense number of Saints. This can be a real questioning between the Jews and the Christians. The 20th century has been a monstrous time of apostasy and crimes. Some men and women, children did trust in God and joined those who witnessed for God along the centuries. Curiously, Judaism also started to recognize, under specific circumstances, the merits of the “Righteous among the Nations”. Saints and Righteous are not E.T.’s. They sanctify God’s reign everywhere.They can do that because God sanctifies them in their lives and thoughts beyond our understanding.

Monday, June 16, 2008

To drink Cafe Rimon

It is a bit hot, true. Still, in winter or summer, we are more and more "coffee-shop, cafeteria visitors" to have a drink or two or many of all sorts ordered in simple or sophisticated cafes. There are the tea and water with mint (nana) addicted, choko and limonada or any other mitz/fruit juice drinkers. Cafe is special. It can be the Turkish aka Arabic aka Greek cafe in a very small cup with some 'el*על - cardamom. Or, people suddenly rush out of their office, women have a standing up with some friends in the street and smoke a cigarette while men would buy small carton hand-packs with one or two covered cafe cups, eventually accompanied by some delicatessen, cookies, ugiyot...

It is important to drink. Waters are best. In the past few years, it became a game in Israel and Palestine to count the sudden sprinkling of new mineral water sources. Bottles of all shapes: twisting plastic to baby-like nursing bottles. Still, coffee is Oriental. Some Georgian "hvino" that switched to Turkish "kahveh", i.e. wine to dark cafe? Or a South Yemenite grain from the Ethiopian Kaffa that, like reggae raps over the map and rules with taste over our throats. Cafe is Italian: raw and refined, drops of heat, mostly, with some cold exceptions. Hot, sensual, refreshing and ever-thirsting with smells and scents. "Li shtot kafe - לשתות קפה - Have a cup of coffee" consists in inviting a boy or a girl friend for some heart-to-heart emotional talks and more, if any. Jews are "hacking dem chaynik", let tea kettle or samovar boil overheat. Cafe keeps you strong, in a full-hormonally harmony stand of alertness, wit and happiness.

Thus we are very very "shosho", contacting in principle ("shosholizing / socializing" in South African multicultural speech). In the decade, cafes, cafeterias, coffee-shops have burgeoned everywhere, in particular in Jerusalem, victoriously overcoming the terror-attacks in the famous pedestrian mall streets (Ben-Yehuda, Cafe Hillel, Le Moment). Cafe Rimon is special in this present shosho-experience.

I have always been a cafe fly, from Scandinavia to the Ukraine, France, Paris and Geneva and, of course Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The true roots are to be found in the Wiener Stimmung - the Viennese atmosphere - that slowly flies away from Teddy Kollek's and the Central European imprint on Jerusalem. At the present, Jerusalem runs Japanese sushi, Hindu Deli and opens coffee-shops in Mamilla new style. And this creates a ricochet series in the Old City, at Jaffa Gate, with new estraminets like the Grand Cafe ("sensuellement votre") or "Versace" (on Pontius Pilatus milestone) under the Imperial Hotel. Yes, Rimon was a must a Mamilla.

Cafe Rimon opened in 1953 in the very en vogue Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall that goes from Luntz St. to Rehov Yafo. It is large, there is room, two floors, a "bassari/fleischik, meat/ section and a 'halavi/dairy". After the terror attack that killed 11 people in 2002, there are separation barrier and plants between the cafe-restaurant and the street all along through the corner where a body guard is present since 1997. Cafe Rimon is trendy in many specific ways. A cocktail of young and nice waitresses, hugging each others and others others all the time; black dressed, curly look, often funny tennis shoes covered with socks... The managing girls or blossoming women are rather fashion, fitness, fitness controlling the staff's fitness. They wear rings, robes and move around foxy though kosher look. Trendy: permanent updates of the service, heart-talks, development of table and chairs strategic transfers. As in most Israeli places, no office: discussions are conducted openly and aloud in the presence of the clients, at some table or standing in the area. At the bar, the personnel receives some food or beverage all the time and their cell phones ring constantly in a joyous atmosphere. This is forward: the client is at home and the personnel is more than at home. This is a general basic rule. Everywhere. Still, Rimon usually requires quality of service. When I show at the end of the end, a glass is always breaking somehow, nu... "Scherben bringen Glueck - glass breaking brings luck/maz'l". The whole atmosphere is "easy-doing is easy and pleasing for the staff and the clients".

Cafe Rimon is also important because it has always kept Arab Israeli workers. When an excellent worker suddenly projected to poison the clients with a recipe described online by the Hamas Internet server in 2001, the question was real: to maintain or to fire all the Arab workers. Ronen Rimon decided to keep the mixer. Today, this should be called - with some insights into the future - a "sense of Israelity". This is an immense and courageous challenge for the future that requires some intelligence. In Jerusalem restaurants, some Arab workers do write their names in the stones of the walls to attest that they are at home.

Some Jews - whatever orientation could be far more dangerous and irresponsible against the Jewish people and State. Sixty years means that we are young as a State; the workers of all ethnicity are much younger! With regards to the Arabs, it is a fact that they are present everywhere. As everywhere in the world, they are excellent at cooking, present in various professions and are of the same age as their Jewish Israeli co-workers. The "shosho-experience" provokes everywhere some sort of "side encounter between Jews and non-Jews, Arab and Jewish Israelis. Cafe Rimon shows that perfectly with a touch of Ethiopian security guard.

This shows as the possible consequence of a positive lesson given by the projected poisoning and the terror attack itself. One Arab manager and many workers are much appreciated in a context of apparent loose security system. There is a cultural difference of attitude: as in most Arab places, the staff is always willing to know what happens and what the clients do. Jews usually don't care. This is a constant point of soft tension between the management and the cleaners who are mostly Arab.

The important point at Cafe Rimon is that the Arab and Jewish staff work in places that mirror the international aspect of the Israeli society. An Ethiopian woman cook at Rimon-Mamilla will be hugged as her children the same way as the Russian security people are accepted. Then Arabs and Jews work in a restaurant that is much appreciated for the quality of its kosher food and cooking. It is a real pending cooking sheilah/question, but still, in Israel, it is a must, at the present, for people that non-Jews may prepare kosher meals. There is a real knowhow in feeding the Jewish religious people. It would be sad that Arab or some local seemingly non-Jewish clients may feel apart.

Cafe Rimon's feature is to be found inthe spiritual aspect of special places in Jerusalem and Israel. Cafes or restaurants have for long been places of encounter for opposed actors in Israeli society. Cafes have something of a neshama/soul and ruchanut/reflections. Some develop into theaters or jazz and pop music on certain days. The very nature of Rimon is to be like the fruit: it refers to a weapon, a delicious local juice and to the Oriental rimonim that clings over the Torah Scrolls.

Av Aleksandr

Irena Gapkovska wrote
at 1:16am
in Macedonia we used to have similar teashops in old city with special aspect for having a coffee as ritual with specific social manner ( the place where artist is only a part of urban myths..unfortunately cause of the ethical tensions raised after the civil war in 2001..
Av Aleksandr wrote
at 1:22am
I know. i mainly refer to the special location and different spcificities of this place in Jerusalem. it underlines that ethnies do work and live together, whatever. then, personally, i always have been willing to open a "spiritual cafe". I am convinced it makes sense in Israel. we have, in the Old City a famous hummus small shop. every shabbat, jews and arab youths have been meeting since the war started again to continue to share and eat together. it is great.
my concern is more to set up something.
dobra noch
Irena Gapkovska wrote
at 1:26am
I agree with you mine concern is same..We have Albanians who live in that place of the city, and that coffee shop used to gather all people in one is question how we can overcome the differences especially after the war...
Av Aleksandr wrote
at 1:33am
i am also very prudent with "clericalization" and systematic "church fencing". here lived the first christians and they used to pray in caves in the desert or open pray in streets. we are afraid and this is no good. i often celebrate in the desert in summer but then some miss the "building", they forget that appeared later.
now, this is maybe the biggest spiritual point in my own life, believers are born to pardon = atone = at-one(-ment) = become one, even in unbelievable situation, and this is the service of the Church to help to sustain that or get to that.
Irena Gapkovska wrote
at 1:57am
church fencing that's is exactly the paradox we are facing in todays.. we are afraid and that is sign of lack of faith...Christianity has a lot with forgiveness embracing all humans with love and compassion... one of the command our lord say is to "love your enemies"....but that is whole mystery...and more than deep philosophy...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

ציון - Zion, Mother of all Churches

Av_a Jerusalem blog

Within a few hours and during three days, Jerusalem will turn to the ancient and Oriental, then Eastern Orthodox, Byzantine celebrations of the Feast of the Giving of the Holy Spirit on the day of the Jewish feast of Shavuot/Pentekoste.

It should firstly be noted that this wonderful solemn celebration remains at the heart of Christianity, as a constant renewal of the Divine Presence/Spirit flying like an eagle over the waters: "ורוח אלהים מרחפת על-פני המים (Bereishit 1:1). The vision is grandiose as the word "nesher - נשר - eagle" shows God's sweeping along the space of Israel and the whole universe, renewing our days when we grow old (Psalm 103:5).

We do know how to endless teach about Jesus "new commandments". The real challenge is to feel the newness and to live of that and not of stiff comfortable convictions. This obliges us to study the tradition and make it our breathing-in and, at the same time, to feel how individuals are called to be new, i.e. younger and younger in the face of time. A true Christian is indeed an acrobat who would even, as Chesterton described saint Francis of Assisi, walk on a rope from below! The Church of Zion, Mother of all the Churches of God is to be in such a situation. On Pentekoste day, the Greek Orthodox clergy will make the procession to mount Zion where they have a school, a church and a famous cemetery. Greeks, Arabs, but also Romanians, Russians, Georgians or Asian Orthodox are buried there; a narrow path runs along the Armenian church court yard, on the other side, it goes down to the Protestant and Catholic walled pieces of land. The belfry of the (German) Benedictine Church of the Dormitio (Dormition/dormi-zion, insleeping of the Mary, Theotokos seemingly shows the face of the late Kaiser Wilhelm II who thus rules over time and regimes.

The Upper Room and the place where the disciples were gathered on that day is traditionally located on the first floor of a yeshivah. A bit further, there is supposedly David's tomb and right before the liturgical time of Mincha\מנחה he clergy will enter the synagogue sininging "Kyrie eleison" and some litanies in Greek for a short while of encounter beyond the first Greek-speaking community and the Hebrew (Jewish, not Hebrew/Aramaic-speaking faithful as at the apostolic times. But it is a very moving time to reckon Spirit and early times and present days in view to the Second Coming of the Messiah.

Paul of Tarsus states: “So you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones (cf. the inhabitants of Jerusalem) and the members of the household of God (cf. Bney Israel\בני ישראל)” (Ephesians 2:17-19). Talmud Sukka 28a says “that in Vayikra\ויקרא/Leviticus 23:42 “ezrach\אזרח” means every native, male or female”. The verse of Leviticus is: “(you shall all live in booths), all citizens in Israel (“kol ha’ezrach beIsrael\כל האזרח בישראל”)). “Ezrachut\אזרחות” means to be a full member of the citizenship of heaven, also in that context, as we had seen in a previous article. It is the mark, imprint and document, eventually a Identity Card/Passport or any paper proving the validity of whom a person claims to be.

As a spiritual caretaker, I have always been very careful to require proofs and evidences, documents. People can be very reluctant to show them and would say that this question only concerns their own person (never conscience!) and God in Persona. In Israel, one must ask such documents only with much respect and without suspicion because of the tragic lifepaths of most newcomers. Many had to change or hide some or part or the whole of their identity and this must be handled with compassion and esteem.The problem is that we live in very difficult upside down times. How many Jews can definitely produce the required documents stating that they are duly belonging to the Jewish people according to the Halachah? This can be a tremendous problem for a whole community, especially those whose archives have been destroyed in Europe, totally in Eastern Europe, but also some Middle-Eastern countries.

Shavuotשבועות (Yid.: Shvi’es, Feast of the Weeks, Pentecost) is a major Feast of Judaism. It celebrates the Giving of the Written and Oral Torah at Mount Sinai that, thereafter, was transmitted, without discontinuity, until our generation. It is a feast that underscores the fulfillment of all God’s living Paroles, Commandments and Mitzvot. It is the day of closure and plenitude of Pesach/Passover. It could be called a “ra’ava dera’avin\רעבא דרעבין”(as the “seudah shlishit\סעודה שלישית”, third Shabbat meal instituted by Jacob), a time of highly abounding divine gifts.

Some maybe baked in the shape of triangular burekas-like cheese cakes because cheese is a solid aliment, also made of the primary milk. The Christian tradition considers that the Holy Spirit was spread over the people present in Jerusalem on the day of Shavuot: “Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were amazed, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretan and Arabs, speaking in their own tongues the mighty acts of God” (Acts of Apostles 2:1-11).

It should be noted who are these citizens of God in the Gospel. Anyway, triangular cheese cakes can refer to the achievement of the TaNaKh as the Books of the Law, the Prophets and the Ketuvim/Historical Accounts. Or, it may recall that it is a kingdom of priests (Kohanim\כהנים) (Ex. 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9), of Leviim\לויים and Children of Israel. We may live in Israel in a confusing situation of permanent suspicion and misunderstanding: God’s Gifts are definitely not properties with sealed ownership certificates.

The Israeli society is in fact very flexible. Any person who would, to some extent, try to show a link with Judaism would be allowed to become a full citizen of the country. The secularization of the Jewish communities do not allow to ban or judge anybody. Newness also invites us to discover how Jesus Christ was not judgmental. We do proclaim this all through the Great Lent with the prayer of Saint Ephrem: "Give me not to judge my brother". The Jewish reading of the week underlines this terrible temptation that can turn to a murder: say bad things, evil, gossip and this can kill, The tongues of flames that came and overshadowed the disciples in Jerusalem strengthened them in their way to spread love and resurrection in the name of the Lord.

It is important today to discover the richness of cross-ways and trust in the mighty deeds of God. There is a famous Chassid Ummot HaOlam / Righteous among the Nations, whom I knew as a child. Mr. “l’Abbe Glasberg” was a Ukrainian Jew who converted to Christianity before arriving to Europe. Firstly, he was accepted as a seminary student without any proof of who he was! In his case, there was more: being a Jew, a Ukrainian, how would be possibly be a Christian and then belonging to which Church. When World War II was over he welcomed and helped the rescued from the concentration camps and then brought to Israel the better part of the Iraqi Jews. Still, he is considered as a non-Jew by the Israeli authorities in accordance with the Halachah governing the Jews who become Christians. His journey through the Christian world would show he was on a borderline for the sake of being totally humane and witness for God’s citizenship.

Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytzkyi of Lviv of the Greek-Catholics in Ukraine was definitely considered as a member of the Polish nobility, thus first of Ukrainian descent. He became alien to the Poles when he adopted the Byzantine Ukrainian rite and returned to the Ukraine. He then questioned the Soviets while seemingly accepting the presence of the Nazis that he fought and was considered as a general enemy of all when he systematically saved the Jews during the Shoah. Documents do show that he was the only hierarch who dared directly protest to Hitler and Himmler against the deportation and extermination of the Jews, which remains a unique action. His universality is often reduced to his own nationality, which, in a way, allows rejecting the bigger part of his actions.

This is the challenge of Shavuot: we can be citizens of heaven, at least real mentchen\מענטשען humane and human beings, and eventually share cheese cake, milk and barley times.