Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tisha Be'Av and reconstruction

On the 9th/10th Av 3829, the Beyt HaMikdash בית המקדש /Temple of Holiness, was destroyed, plundered by the Roman soldiers led by Emperor Titus. The kelim\כלים (instruments) were brought in triumph to Rome. One year later, Trucus Rufus ended up the work of capture by plowing the Temple Mount, apparently erasing all marks of sacredness from the site and the city of Jerusalem.

1939 years have passed and Tisha BeAv became the central memorial day for the destructions of the two "Batim\בתים". The Beyt HaRishon- בית הראשון/First Temple had been exterminated in 5173/72 as Nebuchadnezzar firstly ruined the Temple, inhabited by the Shechinah/Divine Presence. It was built by King Solomon as to definitively fix God's housing in the city that linked the “Shalayim\שליים”: the “Peace of Above and the Peace on earth/nether world”. For the pagan world, it consisted in eradicating the Jewish nation and the House where they were worshiping a God Who both attracted and galvanized the jealousy of other empires. In terms of history, the construction of the First Temple showed the Jews settling in the Land of Canaan/Israel. Again, they passed from a nomadic culture inherited from the wanderings through the wilderness and termined for the ages to come the place where the Avodah/Divine Service should be performed perpetually. Thus, the Mishkan/Tabernacle would no more be on a journey, but reside for ever in a meaningful site.

This notion of installation of the Shechinah in a stable location is a real question: how and why the Only-One God, life-giving and Redeemer of the world, should abide in a non-movable place that would moreover in gather all worshiping forces and priestly call of the Jewish communities. A very interesting transfer occurred from the time the Israelites built the Mishkan/Tabernacle in the wilderness and could carry it everywhere they journeyed and the moment when David was told by God that he would not built the House, but his son Solomon. Both committed sins that usually mixed sex and leadership with idolatry, thus reducing the existence of the Living House. The Beyt HaSheni\בית השני has also been restored, but not to the full and as a consequence of the decree promulgated by the pagan Messiah Cyrus allowing the Jews to go up to Jerusalem and rebuild there God’s House. It should be noted that it is the last word of the Jewish canonical TaNaKh that ends with this prospect: “Whoever is among you of His people, may the Lord His God be with him! Let him go up/vaya’al\ויעל”\ (2 Chronicles 36:23).

Tisha BeAv\ט" באב is considered as the “saddest day” of the Jewish history (Taanit 6b) because God’s Batei Mikdash\בתי מקדש - Temples were far more than stones. They were “kayam\קיים-ים – existent”. In both cases, the Temple only lasted for two periods of ca. 400 years, which is terribly limited in consideration of history. But these years have shown to be times of intensiveness and sins. Or, let’s say that “abomination – to’avah\תעובה“ merely happened to be stronger than faithfulness and desire to comply with the Mitzvot.

Thirty years ago, I was working with of one of the most intriguing and brilliant re-builders of the post-Shoah Jewish communities. We usually met for long travail sessions abroad and then in Jerusalem. The city had only been under Israeli control for ten years. By that time, the local inhabitants and the Churches (not to speak of the Muslims) were in shock and convinced that the Jews would “be kicked out or leave speedily”. The local Churches had never had any special reflection about any spiritual development and deployment of God’s prospects and looked astoundingly dazed at the new situation. True, the problems of belongings and properties constitute a constant matter of challenge for the faithful. All the local Churches have sold and bought properties (churches, monasteries) that they had entrusted to other Christians while their people were facing wars, hungers or epidemic diseases in their homelands. In return, it allowed some Churches to seize some places. Some Churches refused to give them back to their original owners which raised conflicts, still pending at some courts today. But nobody could even think that there is no “certificate of property” as regards God. The Jews had experienced this throughout history and they also had enough faith and insights to disconnect temporary properties from long-term promises given by God.

Thus, as I worked with this rabbi, we did agree that very soon the Jewish communities of Israel will show a real will to get closer to the Temple Mount. It could not be sufficient to go to the Kotel/Western Wall that we had discovered as a sandy and dusty place in Iyyar 5727/June 1967. There should be a move that would lead to require more, i.e. to ask for the re-observance of the daily sacrifices and the rebuilding of the Temple. Don’t say this is weird or ridiculous or that we are "World Wildlife fans" at the present, i.e. against animal sacrifices. This is inscribed in the irrational part of human nature and identity.

Indeed, the very first steps were taken at that time by collecting the money in order to shape again the Kelim כלים /instruments, the great Menorah… Interestingly, the rabbi, as many rabbis of other parts of the world were absolutely aware that these problems could be considered as “light-hearted’ and somehow unrealistic conversations at that time. We were just convinced that, in some unexpected manner, this huge issue would powerfully develop among Israeli society over the coming years.

We were not members of any specific group. We were simply describing what history had always proven: the return in mass of the Jews to Eretz Israel in conformity with some blessing from the Nations (as Cyrus represented Persia) includes the necessity to positively reckon on the Temple’s primacy in both the Jewish and the non-Jewish life, as by the time of the destruction of the Mikdash in 70 ce.

Today, the question grew to a serious concern and became a harsh political issue. This had and still has nothing to do with our method of thinking three decades ago. Faith and religion in Israel are systematically patterned in narrow boxes or niches. Judaism is much diversified; still “tevot\תבות – boxes” are apparently very convenient. From Noah’s Ark to the boxes protecting the tefillin and, in some way, the Temple housing God’s Shechinah\שכינה (only in the First Mikdash according to the tradition), there is a permanent trend to “lock without locking up” the Divine Presence or Her related instruments in manually controlled places or objects.

There might be a sort of constant misunderstanding or confusion today. We see some slowdown in the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the entrance of the Israel Army into the Old City and their taking over of the Temple Mount. It did allow free access to anybody to the Western Wall and the State of the Jews exercises, for the first time since 70, a legal control of the Churches, which was totally unheard or unthinkable . 5727/1967 marked a turn in the Jewish conscience that will require years and decades of patient dialogue with the other faith bodies and vice versa. Just as we cannot leap over centuries of hatred and estrangement, we definitely cannot compel – not even ourselves as Jews and Israelis – to get aware, accept, comply and agree with what has happened forty years ago. Again, any political point of view about this issue is biased and vain. But the Old City of Jerusalem tracks back to the very roots of what deals with the Jewish faith before the time of King Solomon’s First Temple.

On the Feast of Rosh HaShanah, the Jews are told to remind that they were strangers and that “my father (Abraham) was a wandering Aramean” (Deut. 26:5). This allows the existnce of two tendencies: first, stability in a definite location; secondly, journeying through the world bearing in mind the Land of Canaan. Without any reference to any other religion, Judaism has been and is still confronted to hatred and will of extermination, as if their own being could impulsively drift the Nations to a mental, spiritual, physical extermination and erasing process of Israel. Sadly enough, this alien desire of annihilation goes along with some crude and recurrent self-hatred shown by the Jewish communities who would tend to trespass or capture God’s gifts and miracles… and destroy them. Thus, the First Temple was ruined, according to the Sages, because of a “conscious hatred – sichliyut.שכליות)”. “Sechel\שכל = wit, intelligence, awareness”; from radical “achel\אכל = to consume) is means “destruction: “I created the angel of death to work destruction (mesakel\משכל)” (Numbers Rabba 16:24). Are humans so spaced out that they can hate each other with awareness? Thus, the Shechinah left because of humane pretence to replace Her. As regards the Second Temple, it was destroyed by a “sinat chinam\שנאת חינם – baseless hatred or rather an irrational hatred”. There are definitely times when humans lose any sense of spiritual orientation.

They would desperately be in need of some coaching, guidance. The Temple was frequented by the Jews as also a lot of international Gentiles and proselytes, later by the first Christians (Acts of the Apostles 2:46). “Churban\חורבן” is the usual word used for “Temple destruction”. It is a “desolation that devastated the vineyard” (Kilayim 4, 29c).

Indeed, we maybe in a situation of confused destruction process. On the one hand, “Churban\חורבן” applies to the murder and physical eradication of the Beyt/Temple as the living and acting Mishkan\משכן or Dwelling of God. Forty years after the entrance of the army of the Jewish State, Moshe Dayan’s attitude to given back the Mount to the baffled Muslims was not only a wise and tactical move. The Jewish authorities would not have been able to bless the Jews to go up the place. Today, after 40 years, the tendency is to allow going up there without any overall consent. We are searching our way… as if going out of the wilderness after 40, 400, 4,000 years… But the Churban is a very specifically Jewish concern that will require time. Again we are without clocks or delays. The destructions of the Temple constitute the first and major element of the Jewish memory that also extended throughout history to the will to wipe out the Jews.

On this particular day, I presume it would be better to disconnect Tisha BeAv from the Shoah (Holocaust, Katastropha in Greek/Russian). At this point, the Shoah directly refers to the attitude of the Christian faith and Churches towards Judaism. On the 9th of Av, Jesus’ words: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up… He was speaking of the temple of his body”.(John 2:19) might pre-suppose for the Christians that the time of the Temple is over and that the Churches are not concerned by the destruction. The misunderstanding continues as the Christians would consider that the Holy Sepulcher – Empty Tomb or place of Resurrection (Anastasis) has unconditionally replaced the Living House where Jesus himself used to come daily (Matthew 26:55).

Whatever friendly relationships between Judaism and the Churches that seemingly develop in many places – but hardly in Israel because of this permanent political hindrance – Tisha BeAv is a major rift between the community of Israel and Christendom. In fact, it opens up to true hope that God may build up agnew, rebuild, reconstruct, shape and shape for ever. And there is no split between creeds in God at such a level, because it only depends on Him.

One can regret that theological stiffness and recent decisions taken by some Churches as regards their own traditions continue to sustain either fear or distrust from the part of Judaism. The rift of splitting is a long-distance, long-term one. How in the world can any Church tradition positively consider the reconstruction of the Temple? The Amidah\עמידה/18 benediction prayer “Boneh Yerushalayim\בונה ירושלים – building (the two) Jerusalem” refers to “Build the House” (Berachot 2:3) that certainly dates back to the pre-Maccabean times. The prayer is found in the Birkat HaMazon\ברכת המזון (3rd blessing, graces after meals).

On the 9th of Av, we may become aware that, in anyway, any time, anyhow, i.e. in unexpected ways God might “soon and speedily\בעגלא ובזמן קריב . " One day is comparable to thousands years” is a psalm verse that reverses history, comfort/nachem or have mercy/rachem upon the community of Israel. It also removes the veil of pretence that blindly freezes any believer. Faith implies to enjoy the dynamics of being together. And to go up, “vaya’al\ויעל”!

av Aleksander Winogradsky Frenkel
July 29, 2008 - כז דתמוז תשס"ח
rooster at Bar Ilan University (Galit).
the rooster crows at daytime/1st Jewish morning blessing. it crowed 3 times when Shimon-Peter-Caiphas betrayed Jesus.

Musikah: The pen of the soul

All Jewish diasporas always loved and continue to love sounds. Eretz Israel might firstly be a place of interiority. Certainly not the same way in the Negev or Galilee, whose sea is the Kinneret\כינרת and has the shape of a kinor\כינור - lyre, we could even say a sort of a guitar (alas we did not find yet our Yochi Kinor, some freak happy-go-lucky to be our pop Johnny Guitar).

We live with sounds, tunes, voices, cries; we love talking, chatting, yakking then swinging on a rap. Still, there is an Israeli way to consider music, chanting or instrumental, orchestral concerts. How peculiar though that, as in Persian, we do not have any local word for "musikah."

In Persian, "muzik" is the "sound of music" and "musiqi" the "science that deals with musical arts"; but it really does not sound very "native" and comes rather recently from Greek "museke" via Latin "musica". It is a challenge to define what "musicness" means: "ars musica" was connected with poetry in the Western Antiquity, but the same art exists in Israel and in all the tongues and cultures of the world.

The root comes from "mousa," the woman muse who inspires the artists or artistically hooks deep down into our souls. And muses are related to pure arts and styles, forms, words, poetry and songs.

Music jigs us into a move that jets our feelings beyond words. It magnifies our feelings and inmost emotions. It may flow, rush, silently drizzle like our rainy tif-tuf \ טיפטוף or jingle up and dance, swing and twist our ears and brains. Music shakes and quakes our members with special effects. Pleasures to be felt on the borderline between humanity and deity.

We say in Yiddish that "music is the pen of the soul". Therefore it definitely fits with the Jewish spleen after in depth feelings that boom out beyond thoughts, reflections, words. It proceeds of sounds put together with harmony or dissonant series of tones and waves. Melody is thus cultural and appeals to a certain understanding of harmony.

In the Jewish tradition, Tanya\תניא (Teaching), the hassidic chef-d'oeuvre written by R. Shneur Zalman of Lyadi, the first Rebbe of the Chabad, describes the marvel of speech abilities as a result of sound combinations. He added that no human being would be able to explain how and why members like the mouth, the tongue, the throat, the uvula or glottis can create the untouchable consonants and vowels that are produced.

Music requires human skills that unite other immaterial tones like rhythmics, which are always new because no artist can play a tune, sing or chant twice likewise. This is amazing as concerns music instruments. Yes, instrumental music is as prodigious and peculiar as the letters created by human tongues.

In Hebrew, the Greek-Latin muse is a bat-hashir\בת השיר and the word is not pagan; it tracks back to shir - shirah\שיר-שירה = to sing, to sing a song, chant, recite audibly. Different words and roots are used in Hebrew and the Semitic languages to define what Westerners call "music". Loudness of sounds: tziltzul\צילצול = ringing, from tziltzel\צילצל = to vibrate, have a clear ring (Talmud Sukkot V, 55b) as for the cymbals of the Temple.

Moreover, Qol\קול = voice linked to qahal/qehilah\קהל-קהילה = to call a community to be gathered together: "The enjoyment of sound, sight or smell does not come under the category of misuse of sacred property" states Talmud tractates Kritot 6a/Pessahim 26a.Voices are to be listened and heard, they aim at uniting out of the sphere of speech as regards instrumental music, but also, to some extent, chanting and singing.

Shir - shirah\שיר-שירה that is comparable to a voice proclamation is a "chain, a string" of sounds and voice tones that also include verses of the Psalms, poetry or any music. Talmud Rosh HaShanah 28a explains that blowing the shofar\שופר (festive trumpet) is a musical action. The whole book of the Levites (Hebrew Vayiqra\ויקרא) describes the audible play of the instruments accompanied by the chanting of the Levites and thus includes all of the holy services. Apparently it deals with furniture, morals, thus barely connected with sacred music!

Israel has always sung or played various instruments to praise God. The nigun\ניגון is a sort of mental/uttered rhythmic breathing of the soul as a prayer, a supplication or tune that leads to strengthen the emotional and spiritual upheaval: music is universal. As long as the Temple was alive (qayam\קיים) = standing, it was normal to play the instruments. There was the famous magrefah\מגרפה, the musical instrument in the Temple (Talmud Arakhin 10b). After the destruction of the Temple, instruments were banned. Some modern congregations do play the organ, for example, but this is not the Orthodox view that considers we are still going through a time of mourning in the absence of the Temple. As a comment told me after the publication of the note, Orthodox Jews do not play music during the three weeks of mourning preparing to Tisha be'av\ט, באב the memorial day of the destruction of the two Temples and other persecutions submitted by the Jews.

This is why various traditional tunes developed in the diasporas; and it is possible to follow how deeply all the religious chanting traditions are interconnected. This started in the Temple. "Chanting voices" are commonly found in all ancient Churches, Gregorian and Greek, Syrian-Orthodox choirs. The Russian Church developed 8 "tones - glasy/voices\קולות" that are also rooted in the most ancient musical and poetic local celebrations.

Jews have always been present as artists, in particular as violinists and pianists. Both in the Jewish and the Gentile communities. And this happened not only in Europe where musical artists progressively began to play specific instruments. They were also present all over the Ottoman Empire, Iraq, Persia and the Ladino-speaking areas. This shows how Judaism got profoundly intermingled with all existing sorts of creeds and denominations, to begin with Christianity and Islam. It also generated interesting cultural musical categories as the Klezmer movement in Eastern Europe and the hassidic groups were strongly influenced by all the melodies of their local environments and vice versa.

In Israel, all tendencies co-exist. They arrived from more than 150 countries. The pioneers had the task to enculturate Modern Hebrew, mending East-Europe with Yemenite and Arabic-speaking singers who wrote more patriotic community songs. Yemenites have played an essential role as Shoshana Damari, Esther Gamlieli, Ofra Haza, Noa (who "swings" as well in English). This led to an immense creative work in folk music ("Songs of Eretz Israel") and some radio programs continue to propose, at night, to refresh our memory.

Israel is known for having exceptional orchestras and concerts are organized everywhere, at times also in the desert where acoustics enhances the quality of playing the instruments. Music plays an important role in the peace process as Jewish and Palestinian artists play together locally and throughout the world.

Modern music includes the world of rock and rap, metal rock and psychedelic trance in Hebrew and/or Arabic, mixing sounds in some advanced capacity to sustain cultural encounters between Jews and the Arab world, as also the native African Ethiopian styles. Music blows electrically, laser-empowered. It is just fantastic to note that some haredi (ultra-orthodox) or very religious singers succeed to cope with classical artists.

Concerts are often given in Churches and monasteries. Israelis read a lot and traditionally love books. Today this drifts to CDs, DVDs but most people love classical music. It is important for the Churches because they continue to make use of chanting, instrumental music and they developed special techniques. It would be great to study the numerous basic connections between all local communities (Greek, Armenian, Aramaic, Arab, Latin, European, African, Asian).

It should be noted that the Eastern Orthodox Churches ( e.g. Greek, Arabic, Russian, Romanian) never use any instrument during the services. Only chanting and singing are allowed - maybe somehow linked to the Jewish attitude that voice is the best medium "to let everything that breathes (kol haneshamah) praise the Lord\ כל הנשמה תהלל יה" (Psalm 150:6).

Music is sort of international Esperanto, eventually without words. It transfigurates human speech and it defects or failures.Singing incarnates the miracle of human sound production and uttering. At this point Hebrew got really prophetic for our generation and the comings ones.