Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dinkum dinkum mates in Him

This Pinchas Shabbat is over, but the week starts. The Shabbat fell this year on the 17th of Tamuz 5768. It should really mean something important for each of us, Israelis, inhabitants of Israel. A 60th anniversary celebration period that fades slowly in peaceful uncertainty. There are some points that the Israeli society cannot accept openly. Let's say that it is the consequence of the permanent traumatic harassment that implicitly wants to deny her rights, ignore her existence and ambiguously recognizes her like shadowing glimpses.

In the course of the four shabbatot that will lead to Tisha be'Av (ט" באב - 9th of Av) and the memorial of the destruction of the two Temples, the Jewish people are called to reflect upon its fate and abominations. Contemporary Jews can hardly review their lives in the State of Israel by questioning themselves as guilty and unrighteous community. Guilt and self-rejection, denial have structured for a great part a kind of neurotic behavior toward existence and the reasons why a Jew is or would be still alive and being a living extant person enjoy life to the full. Thus, it might even turn to some constant drift: how to transgress the rules and get free of invisible handcuffs or ropes.

Israeli youths are usually simple and on the verge of naivity. Therefore, they can be cruel and mentally hurt their friends or people they would not stand. Generally speaking, they are nice, soft, like tender teddy bears, easy to cry and ready to comfort, open to the world, spoiled, overprotected because one child is like 100 children in any other country. They are like the flowers: don't remove or cut a growing flower: it grows, it is a living plant and it means a victory over sand, dryness, crude brains and pits without water. Israeli youth grow and they are taught everyday that struggle for life is mainly a fight against a history of hatred that apparently climaxed in Europe during the past century with the Holocaust, the Shoah, the extermination of the Jews in a christened Europe.

At this point, every Jewish soul may think that they implicitly belong to the "company or society/community of the saints", i.e. of those that God elected and chose to be pure and just. This constitutes a tantamount mystery dealing with regards to faith. 17th of Tamuz recalls that the Hebrew people failed in the wilderness and worshiped the golden calf. The day of fast does not focus on any pagan or gentile or foreign attitude directed against God. It shows how the chosen ones failed and nonetheless could turn back to God. It shows that the Mitzvot (Commandments) assemble a set of rules that govern the universe beyond any possibility for mankind to control them or pack them together to rule over the others. The Mitzvot oblige the Jews and the non-Jews to position their ethical choices - and "Dieu dispose" (Fr. God will act accordingly).

Israeli youth is not alone at this point. And this is the new element that should be considered. Clerics of all religions are experts at putting a cherem\חרם - anathema against their fellow communities, or their seemingly enemies. These days, we should not forget that Moshe did not enter the Land of Canaan because he killed an Egyptian... and he killed a then brother for him in order to save the people he belonged to.

Sixty years after the creation of the State of Israel, this State is fully composed of various nations, but mainly show the slow but steady encounter of Jews and Arabs. The interesting point is that Israel is in a long-term process of grafting back. The Israeli society only functions, at all levels because of the positive participation of "the others", i.e. the Arabs whose language and culture in the Near and Middle-East constitute a large part of the Oriental Jewish tradition.

When Israeli Jews or assimilated leave the community because they consider they can make their lives abroad, they should be aware of the real act of permanent atonement shown by God that overshadowed and pardoned the sins of Israel. "פושעי ישראל - poshey Israel - transgressing Israel" may have kept over all generations this very strange aspect of a community "untouched by sin", a view that is very close to Saint Paul word "en avto" in the epistle to the Romans. The Eastern Orthodox Church has a very similar view. It may imperil spiritual life when a community of some individuals stubbornly reject that they commit faults. Before reciting the Vidui\וידוי - confession of sins (3 times a day), the Jew says: "we are not so impudent and obdurate as to declare before You... that we are righteous and have not sinned. Indeed we and our fathers have sinned (אבל אנחנו ואבותינו חטאנו-aval anahnu veavoteynu hata'nu).

In the past months, I experienced how split communities can be in the Holy Land. Israel has a very strong tradition of respect toward each individual. It should be noted by some sociologists and reporters. But foreign journalists prefer juicy scoops, even fake ones. I saw so many of them just set up in front of me with two or three guys and girls of all tendencies ready to show up. Israel is a country where a true believer is a man, a "gever\גבר", a male and has guts. This sounds a bit raw, but the words was used by a strong woman who lives in Sderot and is really courageous.

Israel? You may arrive with any kind of "birthright-Taglit" aliyah channeling system, university contract, volunteering then dis-volunteering and switch to any other trend. Flexibility and fluidity are sacked at the moment by the cancer of corruption, distrust. I would never have thought to see in this country that is "the dream above any kind of my possible dreams that came true" that rabbis would be put into jail for homosexuality and incest would wound the Jewish family purity to that extent. Nonetheless, there is a profound significance to any passing beyond the laws. Israel is a place where since and grace are terribly close, narrow. Every Jew can be justified in the Mitzvot and still trespasses remind us that we are born to bow and rise, love and rejoice. And we can do that because God does pardon Moses for a "normal" murder of self-defense and we all have a private golden calf.

Dinkum mates: authentic, true friends. This is Australian slang... Pope Benedict XVI is swagging around Sydney Bay under his matilda (or bush night cover) and he just said that he feels as happy as a boxing kangaroo in a fog because ecumenism is fairdinkumly down. He declared that ecumenism is "at a critical level". Well, in the Aussie winter time, the pope says the relationships between the Churches and Christian denominations are up a gumtree, in the soup or on a sticky wicket. Should he drop his bundle? As folks say down there we have to wait for a purple patch, good oman.

You see, we are all friends here. In Australia, the sacred bond is that they are all "mates". An English word that came from Dutch (maatschapij = company) and was mainly used in British jails from where came the first Australian settlers. The pope is right. I spend my days in the Holy Land counting all the splits and cracks, breaches and schisms, ruptures; then rifts and fissures that slightly affect the Christian communities within Israeli society. And still, we are all the same as in The Lucky Country: we are "mates = boos, friends, buddies".

Speaking in Australia brings forth other prospects. This is a very young country. It gathers in ancient human history and futurism, from the aborigins to the former Great-Britain prisoners, gangsters and prostitutes to all sorts of newcomers that survived all the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries wars slowly mixing up with Asian blood of all ethnicities. All the Churches and denominations are present there. Newspapers are sold in Greek, Russian, Latvian, Yiddish, Spanish as well as Arabic and in Asian tongues. Jews showed very early, mainly after World War II. Russians immigrants arrived from Harbin and China, via Hong Kong in 1945 and Indo-Chinese from Viet Nam after 1975. We have the same in Jerusalem at the present, swagging between Judaism and some Christian nests.

The Eastern Orthodox Church is very present there as was a haven for the "Church Abroad" as in Canada/USA Californian Coast), which creates a geo-strategical axis. This line goes through Jerusalem where many Greek and Russian nuns were educated in Australia. The link is prolonged to Phili and the group of "resistance" to the Union sealed on Ascension Day 2007 between the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Church Abroad. I its very interesting to note that all this depends on how earthquaking are based or not on pure grace, pure gifts sent by God.

July 20, 2008 - יח דתמוז תשמס"ח

Friday, July 18, 2008

Kinah: passion or emulation?

In a recent weekly portion, we were rather busy in studying the spiritual commitment and assistance to humans provided by animals in the Scripture, in particular Balaam and his she-donkey. This showed how the animal's influence is still significant today as the Morning Prayer blessing starts with the words of Balaam. But this journey through the zoo theological assistance system did not allow us stopping at the major event that happened at the end of the reading portion (Bamidbar 25:1-9): the terrible account of the then-unheard "profaning of the Israelites at Shittim; they corrupted themselves by whoring (lezenot\לזנות) with the daughters of Moab who invited them to the sacrifice for their god" (25:1-2). Thus, the Israelite Zimri publicly scorned at Moses and rejected the God of Israel and had open sexual intercourse with a Moabite.

This creates the link with "Pinchas (son of Eleazar son of Aaron)", the reading portion of this week which mainly deals with passion, zealotry in Bemidbar 25:10-30:1.Of course, it might be astounding that a she-ass corrected Balaam’s words or that a cock crowed in the event of a prophesied treason. But "committing harlotry with Moabite women and worship their god Baal Peor)" seems totally natural in the present. It is almost not shocking. It is not even a real sin.

The Sages had time to explain things and, let’s be cool, there must be some misunderstandings somewhere about the event. The situation is not a real question because - yes, we never heard a police horse refrain his rider to stab demonstrators in a riot, if any. But physical prostitution with pagan women and men… good gracious! This is so ten a penny! And then to have some little worshiping party with gods that line from trees to boats, bananas and incense boxes is just as fit as a fiddle even among the most remote Jewish buddy boo networks. People can be put at the stake with this sexual games and the year has been a rather hot one until just this very hour.

The real problem with Pinchas is that the man seeing this blasphemous circus, got very hot and mad at the scene and put all his passion in getting rid of the profanation. The method is not common at the present. Baal Peor is a small bigotry god compared to the constellation that we developed in the name of all monotheistic beliefs and new paganism. "The Lord said to Moses: "Take all the heads of the people and have them impaled (hoka otam\חוקה אותם) before the Lord in front of the sun (neged hashemesh\נגד השמש = publicly)". Moses did listen to God, but one Israelite suddenly brought a Madianite woman for himself and his companions. Pinchas took a spear, followed them and stabbed her "in the belly - the maw/ el-kevatah\אל כבטה". And God was pleased by Pinchas' passion to avenge the glorious Name of the Lord. God Himself sent a plague that killed twenty-four thousand people among the Israelites to punish their idolatry and harlotry. He thus also praised Pinchas and said: " I grant him My Pact of peace - et briti shalom\את בריתי שלום (wholeness, friendship, loyalty)”. Interestingly, God speaks about Pinchas as being “shalem\שלם – loyal” (1 Kings 8:61) or like Jacob who came back “shalem – safe and sound” to Sichem (Gen. 33:18). He acknowledges Pinchas as an “allied friend”, a “sholem\שולם – co-worker” (Tehillim 7:5). The “Berit shalom\ברית שלום – Pact of peace” definitely links Pinchas to the Prophet Elijah as regards the frenzy killings of the Baal worshipers perpetrated by the Prophet on Mount Carmel. It also connects to the “Covenant of peace” described by Prophet Isaiah 54:10: “The mountains may move, and the hills be shaken, my loyalty (chasdi\חסדי) shall never move from you, nor the Pact of My friendship (brit shlomi\ברית שלומי) be shaken – said the Lord with loving-kindness”.

There is a problem indeed. “Shalom\שלום” does not mean “peace”. Pinchas stabbing attitude that slaughtered a woman and her carnal partner through the maw (a bit bestial) corresponds with the order that God gave to Moses to impale all the idolaters and the whoring Israelites. At the present, after 2,000 years of squeamish strictness along the Diasporas, Judaism and Christianity have developed similar kinds of Puritanism and this Divine decree and Pinchas’ murder would be considered as a proof of some Old Testament avenging God of wrath. Generations of Jews and Christian alike have been educated with awe, which is contrasting with the Oriental Jewish and Christian tradition, basically because of the absence of the “Original sin theology” that is more pregnant in the East. But this weekly portion has raised awe and fear among both the Jews and the Christians.

We call peace all the day upon Jerusalem, upon the world. In Hebrew, it firstly means that we believe in “justice” as in this Pact concluded by God with Pinchas (Num. 25:12). Is it so inhuman to explain the situation in such a way? Or are we cheating and fooling each other and God’s Divine Presence as we gossip like in a parrot fashion about peace and have been paying billions of billions of new old currencies over centuries to reach some dubious cease-fire treaties? Moses officials impaled the wrongdoers and Pinchas got a covenant of friendship with God after his infuriated slaughter. Justice induces passion. This has nothing to do with our justice. Right and righteousness, legacy is an obsession in the Semitic and Greek-Latin world of the Scripture. It certainly brought some insights about the way love slowly showed up throughout the ages. True, John the Baptist and Jesus have terrible words about God’s wrath, family hatred and wars (Matthew 3:10; 24:6).It is quite another prospect to say that one accepts God’s decisions: “Atah tzaddik al kol haba alay\ אתה צדיק על כל הבא אלי – You are just in all that happens to me” (Ps. 51:7). And we must handle these words very carefully because we do miss a lot a real understanding in terms of “verticality”, of God as acting in our lives like the woman towards Adam: “ezer kenegdo\עזר כנגדו = a helper against our will”.

Peace does not imply the absence of conflicts or a crooked method to avoid quarreling if not more. “Shalom” comes from “shalem” which may be broken down into a) “Hishlim\השלים – to complete” as “he freed his slave who completed the quorum of ten persons” (Berachot 47b); b) To end, cease: “They must fast the whole day till it ends”. (Yoma 82a); c) To make friends/ surrender: “He will pay does not mean money but that he will surrender the evil spirit and you will be friends” (Sukkot 52a). Thus “shalem” refers to payments as “wiping out a pending debt of any sort” or “to give a reward, a recompense”: “beshalom\בשלום – for the sake of total trust, faith, confidence”. We do not often think of the fact that “peace” includes and involves combats, payments, as “to redeem (padah\פדה) = to reimburse a debt or a loan over a long-term period.” “Peace” is fulfillment and achieving or reaching out to specific goals. “Menuchah\מנוחה – quietness” is closer to what we usually would consider as “hesychia – time of rests, silence” and peaceful balance.

The Israeli society can give the impression of a quiet and patient atmosphere. By the time of Pinchas and the episode with Baal-Peor, our ancestors might have been more “grilling on fires and boiling”. There is a lot of aggressiveness under control that bursts out of a sudden.

But the real problem in the reading portion of this week is that Pinchas is a man of passion, a zealot; say, he is right but the way he corrects the situation is full of anger, passion, zeal and frankly beyond reason and irrationality. To begin with, “kinah/Aramaic kina = jealousy, passion”: “My zeal for Your house has been my undoing (ate me up) / ki kinat beytcha achalteni\כי קינת ביתך אכלתני” (Tehillim 69:10; cf. John 2:17). Or, “I am consumed with rage-zeal / Tzimtachni kinati\צימתכני קינתי” (Ps. 119:139). Prophet Elijah has the same when killing the worshipers of the Baal. It starts with a zeal than cannot be stopped in order to implement something considered as vital and true, essential. Passion is not only “pathos” or feelings that are close to cruel sufferings affecting thoughts, desires, impulses, reflections. This leads or can develop into some pathology indeed. “Jealousy, lust and ambition carry man out of the world (= he quits himself and reality)” (Avot 4:21). On the other hand, “emulation among the scholars increases wisdom” (Bava Bathra 21a/22a). “Kanna’in/m\קנאי.ים.ין” were the zealots during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans (Numbers Rabba 20). The root means in the Semitic language an in-depth thirst that cannot be reasoned or quenched. It concerns the desire to possess and control truth. Then, people want to act in the name of this veracity or presupposed truth beyond any self-control or capacity of taking some distance. Judaism is curiously balanced with peaks of irrationality and acts of violence and a profound, unique sense of loving-kindness, compassion and analysis. In comparison, Russian “strasti\страсти = (feelings of) passions” that may totally overcome and possess a soul with dangerous abilities to twirling passions and dreams. This may explain, for example, why Slavic souls extensively refer to dreams interpretation or underscore their importance in their subconscious, virtual and real day and night reality. The Semites are quite the same. Indeed, faith is the way to combat the raw basic instinct of fancies, fantasizing thoughts and attain a serene and untroubled state of spiritual and physical balance.

It is a gift to be given a “brit shalom = Pact of friendship” sealed by God. Now, all the systems of beliefs and religion and thus Judaism, Christianity and Islam have shown horrible times when zealots acted as true “terrorists of God”. Purity of faith and acts often climaxed in the Kiddush HaShem\קידוש השם (sacrifice), as during the siege of Jerusalem or at Masada. But who can pretend to be an envoy of the Lord (the same exists among the Christian and Muslim without the problem of any “missionary activity”)? Who can have the nerve to work in the very Name of the Only One and claim to be zealous at the present, without confusion?

The root for “Kinah\קינה-קינא = passion” is “to acquire”. This means that such envoys calling for peace were “acquired” by God and they did not capture Him. Talmud Tractate Gittin positively recounts the life and martyrdom of John the Baptist. His words of penance were zealous and apparently revengeful. On the other hand, it is certain that he was beheaded as the consequence of an autocrat’s passionate oath to accept any desire expressed by a power-thirsty daughter obeying to her corrupt mother (Matthew 14:10). In this full passion-consumed environment, John appears to be a man of peace and considered as a link with Prophet Elijah. True zealots either disappear in the merkavah/chariot or are humbled till they are beheaded but their souls can’t be killed. They emulate and sustain faith.

The heart of the Jewish soul is to pardon and find new ways to emulations.In that sense, Christianity should learn a lot from chassidism.Curiously, on Tamuz 17, both Judaism and Christianity (as an unexpected child) come to the point when it is has reflect upon pardon and life, God's patience over ages. There can be no frontier to authentic and honest faith. We need that right now.

Av Aleksander Winogradsky Frenkel
(Jerusalem Forward blog)

July 18, 2008 - טז דתמוז תשמס"ח

Monday, July 14, 2008

Months of abomination or appetites

During the four weeks that commemorate the destructions of Jerusalem and of the Temples, from Tammuz 17 to Av 9, men use to wear the "tefillin shel rosh\תפילין של ראש - the phylacteries of the head" in order to think with more penetration and insights about the repeatedly historical events that led to the destruction of the City of Peaces - Yerushalaim and the Holy Temples - Batey HaMikdash\ בתי המקדש. We saw how the tefillin were the first mitzvah to be given to the Jewish people by the time of the Exodus from the land of slavery, the country that first accepted the children of Jacob for their blessings and reduced them to some sort of acceptable and even satisfactory bondage when the days of Joseph escaped from their memory.

The tefillin thus reminded that God is close to our heart and call us to implement good deeds; these are the tefillin shel yad\תפילין של יד (of the hand/arm), usually the left arm that is close to the heart. The tefillin shel rosh\תפילין של ראש, put like a diadem on the forehead show that we tend to move according to God's will and project. This is not so obvious in daily life. Then, it may be interesting to consider the tefillin as brain-thinking instruments or devices. When the ancestors came out of Egypt, the Lord did know that they would be tempted to return to their country of slavery. The Israelites did regret their daily bread there - hard work, not very humane, but still providing security of a binding and imposed employment. It is far better than wandering in the Sinai, eating quails or tamarisk rare species of dew that was the manna.

This year, we pass through the summer months of Tammuz and Av, appealing times of peace for Eretz Israel as the neighboring countries, in the special conditions governed by the rule of the shmittah or "release of debts and repose of the soil. In response, we are messing around in quiet doubts and some attacks. Jews are aware that this summer period has, repeatedly throughout history, been months of despair, destruction, hunger and deportation, killings. Indeed, why destruction and fights, murders and ruins quiver permanently like drums and hammers attacking life, pulsing humans to annihilation? From Tammuz 17 to the Ninth of Av, the Jews should be more conscious of their own historical destruction as a consequence of their/our lack of faithfulness or righteousness in God's choice and proposed actions. The time of "te.o'uvah - abomination\תועבה" is so strange, bizarre: we are called to "peru, revu, mil'u et ha'aretz\פרו ורבו מלאו את האארץ - to be fertile, multiply, conquer/achieve the earth (the world, the universe in reality)” as a developing living body (Bereishit 1:28). All the Prophets, in particular Jeremiah who saw the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation to Babylon, insist on this self-destroying "abomination" that recurrently leads the Jewish people as all the Nations to idolatry and inconstancy.

The Jewish community and, subsequently, the Israelis have gone through so many tortures and persecutions and are scarcely recognized by the Nations of the world. Thus, they would not utterly, openly accept to take the yoke of this “abomination” that is still at the heart of our relationships to God and how the Lord responds to us. I speak in terms of the Jewish traditions, because it is evident that any explanation provided from outside of this coherence makes no sense for the Jews.

Curiously, it is quite usual to say that Moses gave the laws governing the oaths and vows (nedarim\נדרים). This is not exactly the case. Moses speaks to the heads of the tribe – rashey hamatot, which means something specific. The commandment to “leave father and mother” (Gen. 2:24a) basically consists in being not alone. It mainly implies to have a family, a tribe in view to fight idolatry. Midrash Yelamdeinu includes a “mate’ \ מטה- rod” who is found throughout the whole history of Israel. It is connected to “mitah – bed, family, descent” rooted in “nata/nata’ \נטה-נטע= to lay hands, plant”. As Moses could provide water with his tick, the mate’ can be “kol mate’-lechem shavar\כל מטה לחם שבר = God destroyed every staff of bread” (Tehillim 105:16). Thus, as stated in the midrash, this rod symbolizes “the bread of life”, the combat between idolatry and the eventuality to die and not surrender to idol worshiping. As we arrive at the end of the reading of the Book of Numbers/Midbar, we can mention how Jacob crossed the Jordan river with this rod, Moses worked miracles in front of Pharaoh (Ex. 4:3; 7:10). David slew Goliath with this mate’/rod (1 Samuel 17:40) and the rabbinic tradition said it became his scepter kept in the Temple as the sign of his kingship. Different words can be used in Hebrew to refer to the “tribes: mishpachot.משפחות/families; shivtei Israel\שבתי ישראל /tribes of Israel”. In this key-reading of the week, the TaNaKH sums up the whole of the Hebrew destiny: born to fight idols, kin connections that shall develop in God’s Kingship over the universe and the Divine Presence in the Temples. This lines with our commemorating the four weeks that led to the destruction of this miraculous structure because of acts of abominations (te’uvah\תאווה) committed by the Israelites. How strange it is that "abomination sounds so claose to "(good) appetite = hunger belly eating desires - te'avon\תאבון".

It should be noted that the reading portion does not determine the meaning of vows and oaths. They are of extreme importance in the spiritual life of each Jew and the Jewish communities. Some rabbis link these nedarim/vows included in the parashah “Matot” read in summer, during the four weeks of reflection about destructions, to the “Kol Nidrey\ כל נדרי – all the vows and oaths” pronounced (in Aramaic) in the 8th century in the Babylonian academy of Sura and in Europe since the 12th century at the beginning of the Day of Atonement for the annulment of forced vows. There is an emotional impact connected with this text, but the rabbis have always been rather reluctant to such a prayer considering that Jews are free from any forced commitments imposed by non-Jews.

On the other hand, the reading portion underscores that men (fathers and husbands) can release their wives’ and daughters’ vows and declare them non valid. Well, Women’s Lib definitely protested…but maybe things are not so simple. In the previous reading portion “Pinchas”, we saw how sexual intercourse collectively accomplished as an act of idolatry with pagan women, led the priest Pinchas to outrageously make use of his zeal against idolatry.
God killed the Israelites by a violent plague. In this weekly portion, men seem to regulate the spiritual vows of women. Is it not rather that they have firstly to respect their own vows and not fall into idol worshiping commitments? The slaughter of the Madianites, led by Moses and the priest Eleazar with the participation of 1,000 males of each tribe (matot) was accompanied by some special promises. Reuben and Gad should receive the land along the Jordan… negotiations, gentle-tribe agreements… The slaughter of the Madianites, in which Balaam perished, exterminated all their males while their women and children survived. “Moses said: “You have spared every female… that are the very ones who induced the Israelites to trespass against the Lord…slay also every male among the children and every woman who has known a man carnally” (Numbers 31:15-17 - Parshat Pinchas).

This slaughter includes all the parameters of human hatred and human difference. It requires a lot of insightful reflections and in-depth studies to consider this text as showing faith in God. Thus, as they were en route to cross the Jordan and enter Eretz Canaan, it would be normal to question how such murders can anyhow participate in the sanctifying action of praising the Name of the Lord. Are life and death so parallel that it does not matter whether humans birth or kill? Destroy or build up? “Even when they say, “As the Lord lives / chai HaShem”, they lie and their swearing is false” (Jeremiah 5:2). In the prophetic reading (haftarah), the same Prophet echoes Moses’ requirement: “Do not defile the land which you will inhabit?” (Bemidbar 35:34) by these words: “You entered and defiled My land and made My heritage my abomination” (Jeremiah 2:7). Indeed, the real problem is not to be in the Holy Land or to make it holy by our forces. We cannot, any of us – make it holy. Eretz Israel is sanctified by the development and the living respectful compliance with God’s birthing Mitzvot that make this land a special place where the Holy One dwells and reveals His Presence to all the Nations (Tehillim 87:5).

Say, it is the same as when we plant trees and have beautiful gardens, with source waters and fertile soils. Purity of heart can go beyond the tragedies of any destruction. It takes time, a lot of time, but time has no measure for who loves without destroying. The four weeks of “abomination” should, at the present, be turned into a thoughtful and wise reflection about construction. Israel is born to construct and not to obstruct, in particular herself, which has often shown to be a huge temptation. Judaism has to accept elements that were or are still very hostile, just as the others are entitled to consider Judaism as possibly being negative towards them.

This week, the Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates the Apostles, Jesus chose disciples who were in despair after his death (Luke 24:13-35, the unfaithful disciples on the road at Emmaus) and reminds Peter and Paul of Tarsus. Then, there will be the various feasts of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Again, it deals with a generating process of construction. How come that we are hypnotized by exclusion? The Jews have the “birkat haminim/malshinim – blessing against the heretics”.The Christians can be self-convinced that they replace Judaism.

Interestingly, we hardly can pass over the 11th century when two envoys came to Constantinople and excommunicated the Oriental Patriarch. Times of violence and carnality, with prostitutes put by force on the thrones of the patriarchs of Constantinople and later Jerusalem. Metropolitan Cyril of Smolensk, Moscow Patriarchate, made a wise statement one year ago: “At least, we know what they (the Catholics) think of themselves and who they think they are. Nothing is new, but at least it is said and it makes things clear”. Today the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of the Kievan Rus' challenges the Slavic Churches with other transitional tests. It is sometimes good to face tests and overcome them.

In Israel, we experience a unique situation of permanent renewal. The four weeks of Tammuz-Av, repeated creeds and definitions that show the limits of how and where God is acting should enable us to less shyness and more courage to meet any human being. We faced and lived through such devastating destructions that it is just the right minute to share, even for only a few seconds, the joy of being together on this soil sanctified by God and humans.

av Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel

July 14, 2008 – יב דתמוז תשמס"ח