Thursday, July 24, 2008

ZA KORDONU: on the rope of wide borders

Two years ago, I published a similar article in my Av_a Jerusalem Post blog. I think it is definitely important and meaningful to stress how Jews and Ukrainians live in harmony in the State of the Jews. Both Jews and their often Greek Orthodox or Catholic parentage - if not full apikoros/atheist blend unexpectedly in Eretz Israel. Some Ukrainians do choose at times to live within the Palestinian society (both Christian and/or Muslim), which is another part of a pattern that mainly develops with conflicts.

One of the most peculiar issues we have to face as Israelis and Mid-Easterners is the existence of a State which is legally recognized internationally, mostly de jure or at least de facto. On the other hand, we have not succeeded to sketch out where our real historic and mental borders are located, provided that San Francisco's UN partition is only in the process of implementation and will obviously remain our concern in the region for the coming decades if not centuries. I tried to define in a previous blog that this is the normal procedure for a sort of grafting that goes far beyond any mental, cultural, historical development as usually outlined by human brains.

As regards the history of Israel, this grafting process is more than the organic structural proceeding of any return. Judaism is somehow aware that we are rooted in the realization of a project that started with the religious call to worship the One God Who took us out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery. Geography is thus bound to psychology, culture and basically faith, tracking back to Abraham and the multitude of events accounted in the TaNaKh. We may technically speak of a return to Zion according to the Hoq HaShivat\חוק השיבת (Law of Return passed in 1950); the word is ambiguous: is it a "return = comeback" or "the renewed sequence of an ongoing process"? When we bless meals, we read Psalm 126:1 : " beshuv HaShem et-shivat Zion\בשוב יי את שיבת ציון - when the Lord (will) return the exiles of Zion, we (will) have been like dreamers\היינו כחולמים". It is evident that the word means "go anew, come back". But does it imply that we ever left? Thus, the thing is that as decades pass, old and newcomers discover that Israel's geography and "regions" are not merely a sheltering homeland for "wandering Jews". It is our birthplace even if we would a lot of people would never accept to settle in the country.

This widens the scope of our border marks. For example, "Land of Egypt = Eretz Mitzraim\ארץ מצרים", and "mitzraim\מצרים" means: "border from the mark traced on the ground with a rope to show a limit, a border". In the Biblical context this is highly symbolic and definitely not ethnic or political. The children of Israel are born out of the womb of a constrictive and limited space.

Okay, we are all limited: geographically, our body is spatially restricted as our capacities to use our brains, memory, envision the future and enlarge our views. Nonetheless, every human is shaped in the likeness of seeds of plenitude. Might not be so essential in our daily socializing, but it can help: "regard others as better than yourselves", says Paul of Tarsus (Philippians 2:16). Just the opposite of our tops: TV serials with handcuffs, jails, bonds, bondage, fences, walls, checkpoints and ropes.

Jewish souls are at their best when they outline spatial and mental freedom beyond any bonds.

Now, the Republic of Ukraine will celebrate on August 24th last the seventeenth anniversary of its independence. Ukrainians show a "historic borderland disorder" very close to ours. The Jewish civilization has always developed and maintained strong ties with parts or all the regions of the present Ukraine. "U-kraina" in Ukrainian comes from "kraj\край" = a) land, country; b) border, borderland, mark (as for "Denmark" - "borderline/mark of Dan), c) krajina\краiна = country, principality. This interesting point is that, in Ukrainian, "za kordonu\за кордону" = "(from) abroad" in the sense of being "beyond the rope" ("kordon" from French (cord, string). True, the country has always slid along flexible and uncertain borders. In the 20th century, the Ukraine was "independent" from 1917-1921, then from 1954 to 1990 within the Soviet Union and finally from August 24, 1991, i.e. 17 years ago.

The Ukraine is one of the most significant countries for the Jewish and today Israeli "civilisation or way of living". This started long ago as in folk's tales.... As the Iron curtain recently fell, let's track back to the Iron age and the Scythians who took over the steppes where previous invaders had left the stone steles (3000 BCE). Then Greek communities settled together with Jews who also spoke Greek, mainly along the Black Sea areas and in Crimea (Simferopol). "There is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free" wrote Paul (Colossian 3:11). From Persia over the Ukrainian steppes lived a large Jewish community, firstly named "Ashkenaz" as a possible pronunciation for "a-shkuz\א-שכוז" (the Scythians). In the 7th century, the Khazars, Turkish nomads, converted to Judaism as it often happened, e.g. in North Africa and in that peculiar region of the Black Sea. The Khazars were defeated by the Viaryagy (Vikings) in the 9th century; this led to the adoption of Christianity as the prevailing faith under Volodymyr the Great in 988/9 although Jews, Jewish proselytes, first Christians were present in Scythia long before that year. To begin with, it did not formally exclude the Western Church, though Kievan Rus was baptized by the Greeks and was the first "Russian" Christian entity in this immense area.

Patriarch Bartholomaios has unlined these days that the Greek tradition has always respected the inculturation and linguistic independence of each nation in the Orthodox Church. Cyril and Methodios, the Apostles of the Slavs, created a Slavonic pan-Slavic tongue that includes Dalmatian glagolitic and Ukrainian loan words. Tomorrow, on Friday 25th of July 2008, the Church of the Rus' rooted in Kiyv/kiev will gather and look ahead to re-uniting the various Orthodox juridictions in the one baptism in the Dniepr that took place 1020 years ago.

Ukrainia has ever since gone through dramatic historic events. No real borders, except of the left Russian left bank of Carpathia intermingling Ukrainians, Russyns (specific Slavic mountain tribes), Poles, Belorussians (White Russians), Hungarians, Romanians and Turks, Muslims, Tatars, Mongolians that recurrently invaded the steppes, threatening Europe from the East. Thus, the " kordon" - rope, borderland, mark" has always been insecure and imprecise.

In 1648, hetman Bohdan Khmelnytzky, leader of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, created a Zaporozhian entity viewed as a "ruin" by the Poles. A non-judgmental but realistic viewpoint of this situation shows how deeply the development of a real Ukrainian body has been affected by the absence of stable and defined unity or cohesion. The Jewish memory has kept the horrible pogroms carried by the Zaporozhian leader that murdered more than 700,000 Jews. Nonetheless, the pitiful relationships deviating from the Poles, the Russian Empire and "shapeless Ukraine" profoundly affected the harmony between Jews and Ukrainians. In 1789, when the French architects were called by Empress Catherine the Great to build Odessa and other "fake" towns, Jews and other "foreigners" were allowed to dwell in these Ukrainian and White Russian regions, on the borders with Galicia (Halych, Transcarpathia and Bukovina and the Eastern part of the present Ukrainian republic, Kharkiv). From that time till the first pogroms in 1880, the civil war (1917), World Wars I and II and the fall of communism, Jews have been present all over the Ukraine. Poor peddlers and rich merchants, filthy inhabitants of impoverished shtetlekh\שטעטלעך (ghettos), or mixed intelligentsia in Kiev and Odessa, undoubtedly enriched the local culture. From the marks of Poland and Lithuania, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Russian Empire to the influence of the Ottoman rulers and the presence of French and German traders, the Jews brought their economic and scientific skills and, mostly participated in the growth of the local spirituality: "di Yiddishkayt\די יידישקייט", Yiddish tongue grew into authentic rabbinic Jewish creative lifestyles and ethics. It may be today a question whether true East-European Judaism has survived the dramas that broke down Jewish civilization in the Ukrainian regions as also the Gypsies, Armenians, Gagauzes and Tatars.

It is interesting that Turkish and Muslim representatives will be present at the ceremony in Kiyv over these days of festive celebrations.The "", the Ukrainian interfaith information center assembles all the religious communities in order to develop this spirit of mutual recognition and tolerance. The Ukraine is also a real laboratory for freedom and fight for structural cohesion.

The Ukrainian language was subject to terrible rulings and forbidden for decades; still, peculiar how close it is to Church Slavonic. This "borderline" aspect is present in today's existence of more than 15 Eastern Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Latin, Armenian Churches, segmented in pieces as a result of local tragedies. It should be noted the presence of the "First Calvinists" who did influence Christian Eastern and Western Churches... On the other hand, Hassidism developed in the Ukrainian and neighbouring regions (Baal Shem Tov along with Satmar, Belz, Chabad and, curiously the parallel Ukrainian Oriental spiritual movements inherited from the traditional Greek theology! (Saint Gregory Palamas). The Breslover Rebbe's tomb attracts at Uman daily crowds of faithful arriving from Israel and other parts of the world, though no one should ignore Baby-Yar's massacres.

17 years of an independent and now a "quaking, feverish" State in search of its identity! This means that Ukrainians - even those who had been deported to Siberia, Central Asia by Stalin or immigrated to the New World over the past 150 years - often mixed with Jews. Why did hatred and suspicion prevail over more than 2500 years, from the time of the Scythians and Ashkenaz? Not always at present. A lot of common traditions and know-how: cooking, architecture, music, spirituality, cosmetics, techniques... and a lot of Ukrainian newcomers in Israel.

Tragic destinies of Jews among the Nations? Or, a true symbol of atonement in the Holy Land and Eretz Israel. Ukrainian is a major tongue in our backgrounds, even if people would doom it as "folkloric". It is real and "down-to-earth", pragmatic and now spread all over Mediterranean countries and islands.

Late Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky of L'viv (or Lemberg, Lwow, L'vov, Leopol) wrote letters to his Greek catholic clergy throughout World War II. He is the only "individual" (thus speaking in the name of the catholic and someway the Eastern Christian Churches) who, for the sake of God, dared imperil his life, alerting Himmler and Hitler about their obligation to stop the extermination of the Jews.

He warned his faithful about moral, ethics, human rights and dignity; he had, in a unique historic situation of full disorder and swaying borderline changes, to fight and face devilish treasons and structures. He never stepped down from his task. He helped the Russian Orthodox Church to arrive in Western Europe in the twenties (Metropolitan Evlogyi). When I read his "Trudy\труди" ("Works") every night before going to bed, I think this man and his country share a lot with the "borderline" situation that smashes our society at the present. Only faith and profound confidence in God could motivate such a character, maybe unique and somehow "too similar" to a authentic Jewish believers... kind of real "A-shkuz - Ashkenazic Scythian Ukrainian Eastern rite, Latin born Polish, Galician Transylvanian Austro-Hungarian, beyond Habsburg and tzarist "man of God"... True faith makes believers like everybody else, just a little more...

If so many newcomers arrived from the Ukraine and still go there because of our cultural links, we may expect a lot from parallel developments conveyed by atonement.

This is why the 1020th anniversary of the Kiev Rus' does concerns Israeli society. Before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Jews and local "Ukrainian" inhabitants lived together for the best and the worse. The Khazar tradition penetrated both the Jewish tradition and were in distant touch with the Christians.

In fact, the Kievan Rus' was born again by the time of the perestroika, less than 20 years ago and therefore has the promises of a terrific challenging future.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mat' Mariya as churching assistant today

The Eastern Orthodox Church in the West (Patriarchate of Constantinople) celebrates the Day of Mother Mariya of Paris (Skobtsova - Мать Мария Скобцова) who was deported from Paris and died in the concentration camp of Ravenbrueck near Berlin for the sake of faith. Her day falls on July 20th (new style) and August 2nd (old style). There is also a bishop who helped in the process of the canonization of Mat' Mariya.

Elizaveta Yur"evna Pilenko\Елизавета Юрьевна Пиленко was born in 1891 into an aristocratic Russian family living in Riga (Latvia). She soon tended to join the Bolshevik movement, spent her youth in literary and political circles and led a rather dissolute life. She had been shortly married to Dimitri Kuzmin-Karaev. She was elected assistant mayor of Apana in South Russia and even became the official mayor. When the White Army showed, she was interrogated and faced the soldiers and incidentally married D. Skobtsov with whom she arrived in Paris. After the death of her daughter Nastya (1926), she turned to God and became more religious. Her path is interesting and appealing in many ways with regards to the Church in modern times.

Her way of living was known to the Russian immigrants in France nd caused some trouble when she started to act as a real "converted" Eastern Orthodox believer and an acting member of the Russian students movement in France (Acer). She could hardly refrain to smoke... well to be frank, I see some priest monks that like small kids go to the some restrooms to have cigarette. But she openly, as a woman behaved in a way that shocked a lot and was definitely not clerical. Metropolitan Eulogiy who had been sent by patriarch Tichon of Moscow to Western Europe in order to organize the Russia diaspora communities, welcomed her and accepted her as a nun in 1932 under the name of Mother Mariya\Мать Мария. She divorced her husband according to the Church law and became a monastic. Metropolitan Eulogiy accepted that she would not live in a monastery. She rented a house rue de Lourmel in Paris that sheltered all sorts of poor and needy, people of not fixed abode.

She got involved in the French Resistance movement and her home was a haven for wandering Jews, refugees that she welcomed heartfully and with much compassion. Thus she succeeded for a while to save a lot of Jews from deportation. Denounced with the people who lived at the home, she was deported to Ravensbrueck and died on Good Friday 1945 as the Soviet army was readily coming close to the area. She took the place of a women who should be executed by Zyklon B gas. During the time of her captivity, she was known for sharing bread and collecting needles to make the many embroideries that show her faith and hope.

The Yad VaShem Institute who acknowledges the "Righteous among the Nations\חסידי אומות עולם " recognized her as a "French" righteous who acted in the name of her faith. On January 16, 2004, the Patriarchate of Constantinople canonized her together with those who were deported with her and had witnessed for Jesus Christ. As he was asked why he was helping the Jews ("these swines", sic), Fr. Dimitri Klepinin took his Cross from under his cassock and showed it to the Nazi officer saying: "He is a Jew". He was deported with Mat' Mariya's son, Yuri and their companion, Elie Fondaminsky (a converted Jew).

Mat' Mariya wrote poems that really sound unusual in the Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole until nowadays. Metropolitan Anthony Bloom declared that she "is a saint of our day and for our day; a woman of flesh and blood possessed by the love of God, who stood face to face with the problems of this century". Interestingly, he used the Hebrew expression "bassar vadam\בשר ודם - flesh and blood" that is also a Eucharistic expression of death and resurrection.She was a woman who kept the freedom she thought she could misuse in her dissolute days in order to accomplish the mystery of hallowing God in loving all humankind and dedicate her life for saving some Jews. Her attitude in life, prayer, Church, charity, understanding of what the plerome/fulfillment of redemption are, is unique.

Who would have written in any standardized Orthodox monastery or Church (except those who were serving in the West, in particular in Paris) the following words she had in her poem "Israel":

"Two triangles, a star,
The shield of King David, our forefather.
This is election, not offense.
The great path and not an evil.
Once more in a term fulfilled,
Once more roars the trumpet of the end;
And the fate of a great people
Once more is by the prophet proclaimed.
Thou art persecuted again, O Israel,
But what can human malice mean to thee,
who have heard the thunder from Sinai?"
(July 1942)

There are several level in considering the life and sacrifice of Mat' Mariya and her caring actions toward the helpless. Yad VaShem recognizes in her the virtues of a woman whose activities are lining with the Noachide laws applicable to any human being. The same laws founded the Church and her extension to the Gentiles in the decision of the first synod of Jerusalem and the declaration of Mar Yaakov/saint James, the first bishop of the early Church (Acts of the Apostles, ch. 15). The Patriarchate of Constantinople took a courageous decision in canonizing Mat' Mariya and her companions who lived and offered their lives for the local Church in the Western part of Europe, acting under the omophoron of Metropolitan Eulogiy who, during the war was placed under both the Constantinople and Moscow omophora. The situation is embezzled as in times of dizziness.

Mat' Mariya activities are parallel to the way Paul of Tarsus developed his ministry: no frontiers could stop her, no "appearance or look" was important for the sake of God and His love. In that sense, she totally followed Jesus and unexpectedly became an image of love, in particular for Jews who would not easily have encountered such a free attitude in the Oriental Church. She was canonized together with a converted Jew, Elie Fondaminsky. There is a real problem with the Jews who converted during Word War II. In Paris, Louis Bergson, the famous philosopher and agnostic, and Simone Weil refused to go through baptism in the hardships of such a period.

Still, there might be a sort of misunderstanding. Jews are the natives of the Church and this is a historical factor that will never pass. It is impossible to erase it. It might be easier at the present for some Messianic Jews or convinced converts to live, settle in Israel and claim to be granted all legal rights. This is more a problem of ignorance. Today, the State of the Jews as all Christian denomination are at pains to recognize that Orthodoxy (Eastern rite Church) and Judaism have a lot in common. It does show in the development of the Israeli society since the arrival of the former Soviets and East-Europeans.

Mat' Mariya met with persecuted Jews. She hardly met with the Jewish Haganah fighters or those who would build the State of Israel. She was born in Riga, the native town of R. Yehoshua Leibowicz and, by that time, their really belonged to opposite and alien worlds. There also lived for a while R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson on his way to Berlin. Thus, it is very important that all the Eastern Orthodox Churches should at the present refer to Mat' Mariya and her companions as lights of God channeling renewed encounter abilities.

There was a very special Eulogian spirit in Paris, that he developed from the time of the Revolution till his death. Metropolitan Anthony was definitely right when he underscored how much this nun faced the problems of our time, our century. She also paves the way to new dialogue and freedom. As Patriarch Bartholomaios says, especially in response to Pope Benedict XVI, we must sustain everywhere and at all times all kinds of encounters and dialogues.

Tomorrow, on July 24th will start in Kiev the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of the Kievan Rus'. We must be courageous in our way to adhere to faith. How come that Metropolitan Eulogiy could arrive in Europe as the envoy of patriarch Tichon of Moscow, accompanied by Metropolitan Vladimir? The runaway hierarchs were fleeing like NFA and where sheltered by metropolitan Andrei Sheptytskiy of L'viv-Lvov-Lemberg. He provided them with the required laissez-passer. He took care of them as the Greek-Catholic head of the Ukrainian Church. His brother, Hegumen Klement, has been recognized as a righteous among the Nations by Yad VaShem. Metropolitan Andrei is "on stand-by" both for the jews and his Church.

The courage we need today is to patiently knit up anew the threads of identity for each community, with full respect of who everyone is, was and would think they can be. God provides when we truly listen to His commandments. But we have also to courageously meet with those who even despise or ignore such or such community or individuals. This has been the sign of contradiction that every believer has the task to assume. Contradiction does not mean "provocation" or swagging around in all kinds of groups. We have no right to mirror ourselves.

We also need believers who would never judge anybody and welcome refugees, divorcees, raped women-men-children, drug-addicted, sick people, dealer of all sorts of killing businesses. We are good at playing the game that we are open-minded. Openness requires self-abandonment that showed Mat' Mariya.

Mat' Mariya is a real pearl on the way to a respectful encounter.

Av Aleksandr

Onshin: about punishment

Over and over again we seem to get bogged down into revenge calling revenge, wounds crying for deeper wounds, blood shedding the shadow of paying with blood. This is our spiritual stand at the present in the whole of the Near and Middle-East. This is the pathetic situation of the Iraqi society, the cradle of Sumer and of the Abrahamic monotheism. The same spirit has yelled throughout the 20th century from Turkey to Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaidjan, Persia, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Arabia, Yemen, Egypt and Ethiopia, Sudan.

This wide area includes all the nations and countries that participated or were somehow involved over the past 7,000 years in the development of civilization, law systems, faith and belief patterns that led from polytheism to monotheism. It took ages, centuries, a lot of think abilities, questions, revolving positionings, a lot of brain and understanding to get to Zaratushtra Mani and gnosticism, Mazdean attitude of good and evil that is at the heart of the Jewish codex and appeal to the Jews and to the nations.It took centuries for the Buddha (the Awaken) - /budh/ un Indo-European tongues both means "to exist, to wake up" and strangely influenced the Jewish and Christian Ways.

During the confession, the believer of Byzantine rite says "I sinned in word, action and all my feelings (чувства = feelings but the word reminds "страсти - passion/s). In Hebrew, the same words are included in the the confession of sins/viduy\וידוי considering that when passing away, a human being should repent upon his irrational or violent feelings, uncontrolled yetzer\יצר - as "yetzer hatov (good) - yetzer hara (evil) - יצר הטוב\יצר הרע" that should be overcome by the time of becoming adults. This vast region is shaped by wrestling passions that border irrationality and the God of lovingkindness would prevail over the God of punishment. The Jewish soul is fashioned by love, pardon and hope beyond any possible, realistic or rational hope.

In 2001, just a few months before Intifida 2 started, a very good and credible Israeli daily published a rather long article about the "unforgivable aspect of Israeli society". It described the parallel situation of a society that cannot forgive. In the seven years, this attitude turned into an unflinchingly self-conviction. But the country as the citizens slowly adopt various ways of behavior and living that sways from fear/panic, identity crisis, total ignorance of moral and Jewish traditional values to some sort of national baby kindergarten and infantilization. KZ WWII veterans financially save the State for a part, and live like in an underworld. On the other hand, spoiled adult teens waste money, time and corrupt the "virginal look" of the State of the Jews at its first beginnings.

We are going through the weeks/shabbatot of abomination\תועבה (cf. my previous note) that recall our need for penance and conversion. This does not concern the "others". This concerns the Jews and the community of Israel. The terrible, truly frightening spiritual condition of the faithful - thus also the Children of Israel - is that most congregations would deter sins in the others and victimize them rather than humbling themselves in order to feel God's atonement. This has always been the privilege of Israel's "poor in spirit - anavim\ענויים also called (invisible) tzadikim\צדיקים . Indeed, we live in the same confusion governed by panic masked by the pretence to be strong and keeping everything under control.

Do we remember as 5768 fades away as a year of remittance and repose for the earth and the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel that there is precisely no measure to patince and pardon or remittance of debts, release of sins? If we are the State of the Jews, this means we are the State of the Mitzvot and all related explanations, if any. Rabbi Nahman of Breslov made a very peculiar statement: any Jew that would visit his grave and recite the 10 Tikkun haklali\תיקון הכללי (General repair/remedy) psalms will be redeemed from the Gehenna/Gehinnom or Inferno.

The Tanya that is read everyday in the Chabad community and should also be studied in connection with the tradition of Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Churches focuses on the tradition of teaching how to practice the Mitzvot with righteousness\בצדק . During the time of the Abomination days, donning the tefillin (firstly given by the time of Pessah and Exodus) aims at waking up the conscience and moral forces of the Jews in fighting and overcoming evil.

How come that in such historical circumstances, we are so shy at facing reality. Nonetheless, Israel is laboratory State for probing the Mitzvot... What to do\מה לעשות?

We might be tempted by some renewed tendencies practiced by the Sadducees. They held the control of the Temple and developed the famous "baseless hatred\שנאת חינם - sinat chinam". They perfectly knew the rules, the rituals, the sacrifices, the laws. They did not accept the Oral Law or Talmud and rejected the creed in the resurrection of the dead. This means that they did not believe in afterlife, eschaton, world-to-come and eternity.

This corresponds to our contemporary geenral feeling that afterlife may exist, but basically we are limited to be born, grow and die. Thereafter, we disappear or are reduced to nil. The Pharisaic and Christian creeds, on the contrary, insist on life before incarnation (Yevamot 52b: God will embody all the souls into gufim (bodies) until He will reach the full number), during human conscious life time and death in view to be resurrected (Birkat Mechayeh metim\ברכת מחיה מתים - Amidah blessing "revives the dead"). This makes every single life sacred, holy, sanctified and sanctifying.

In this respect, the Mitzvah "You shall not slay, kill, murder\לא תרצח - lo tirtzeah" corresponds in the Tablets to worshiping the Only One God, Source of Life.The realm of the Mitzvot can only be understood and correctly accepted by the Jews who mainly rely upon the Oral Tradition that severely condemns any attempt to murder anybody.

In the past months, the savage terror attack against the yeshivah Rav Kook seemd to induce some rabbis in "blessing" Jewish bar-Mitzvah men who would agenge the students by killing certain Arabs in retaliation. It should be underlined that some politically-oriented if not obsessed members of the Christian Arab clergy have similarly called to bless and support the actions of the Hamas against the Jews and the State of Israel. Such preaches are not rlated to any serious or trustworthy Jewish or Christian tradition. "Thou shalt not kill (any member of thy tribe)" has constantly been a sort of allowance to murder the "others". But such advices do not respect the sacredness of the Mitzvot.

The Commandments overshadow the community of the faithful. By no means, the community can seize and dispose of the Mitzvot and use them to justify political choices. The Mitzvot are factors and agents of Unity while politics sustains parties and divisions. There is more: Israel - because she has to be the State of the Mitzvot relies on a very strong multi-faceted legal system that intends to protects communities and individuals' rights to exist and develop. Thus, we are not in the United States or in the Former Soviet Union. The American law - totally split all through the US States is one of the systems to which some Israelis are submitted by double citizenship or for cultural motivations.

Russian, Belarussian and Ukrainian, Uzbek and other former USSR people who are residing or got the Israeli citizenship cannot claim any reference to the former Soviet legal system, just as the Ethiopians or Argentinians or other inhabitants of Israel. With regards to death penalty, this creates an wide scope of possible decisions with as much colors as in a kaleidoscope. This has nothing to do with God's righteousness shown through the Mitzvot that concerns every single soul or living being (animals as well).

Interestingly, the State of Israel has no death penalty, except in the case of those who evidently participated in the process of the extermination of the Jews. This deals with the holocaust criminals and the only executed one was Adolf Eichmann in 1962. It should be noted that this death penalty rule was only applied for one individual out of thousands.

It is stated "that the Lord did not punish undiscovered transgressions (committed in Israel's camps) (Sanhedrin 54a-43b). But the major aspect is to refer to Moses passing away because he had killed a human being. This is at the core of the Shabbat Nachamu\נחמו (comfort, after Tisha BeAv) and the "Etchanan\ אתחנן emand for the grace of entering Eretz Canaan (Devarim 3:26). God refuses this privilege to Moses.

This has a very special insightful and profond meaning: murders were committed by the Hebrews throughout their exodus, especially by the dath of the Egyptians. But the supreme decision was in the hands of God, not depending on human will and emotions. During the Seder of Pesach, Jews sing sotto voce that the Egyptians firstborns were killed. There is no place for any sort of murder for a Jewish soul and, subsequently, an authentic State of the Jews. This can sound a bit bizarre and quixotically dreamy. The faith of Israel underscores how precious and essential purity is for their tradition that consists to live, give life and sustain life in the likeness of God's action.

We should not reduce, even if it shows as a great temptation, the realm of the Mitzvot to the way the pagans, nations of the world are seduced to exert their power upon each other. Then killings generate bloodsheds, revenge calls to avenging on others, enemies, foreigners, aliens.

Strangely enough we miss at the moment two opposite samples of characters: Rabbi Yehoshua Leibowicz z"l who would scream and yell all the way at the sight of the present society. He was right when he said that the Yiddishkayt\Jewishness died out in the ashes of the Nazi and Soviet extermination systems. Nonetheless, observing Jews should remember that spiritual credit does not rely on the number of sold best-sellers or ability to run Judaica as a juicy business. This is also true for any Christian or clergy individual or community. R. Leibowicz was screaming because he knew what the world of the Mitzvot is and shall always be: definitely not an American hamburger for Schnell Imbiss (quick-eating). It will take time, a long time before the former Soviets will understand that Israel is not only a shelter for the Jews, with possible baskets and open doors to the planet. Joseph Trumpeldor died at Tel Hai and he made his life a sacrifice. He was secular. But this is the real price of the earth.

Then we also miss something of the Szatmarer tradition. We need people who, whatever extreme in their positions, oblige the Jews and all other communities to understand today what it really means to become who we are still in our mothers' wombs. It cannot be an easy task. Israel only starts to discover the heritage of schools who fully lived via the observance of the Mitzvot.

R. Shmueley Boteach wrote a very nice and perspicacious article for the 14th yohrtzayt/anniversary of the passing away of Rebbe Menachem Mendel z"l. I am not sure that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was so American or Goldene Medine\גאלדענע מדינה - like. He had a real universal vision of Judaism and of how the Mitzvot should be taught and taught again in order to reach out to all the Jews and the Gentiles as well. I am quite sure that he was aware that Moses was banned to enter the Eretz. This was his question: can a Jew leave Eretz once he came back? The Rebbe lived in the dispersion.

אתהלך לפני ה. בארצות החיים \ I shall walk in the presence of the Lord on the earths of the living (Tehillim).

Av Aleksandr