Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nachamu: comfort

The Rav of Berdichev as all the Sages of the Jewish tradition have detailed at length how God's loving-kindness covers all troubles and destructive forces with patience. "Hope leads to redemption" and this strong belief is amazingly showing again and again throughout Jewish history.

Both Judaism and Christianity persist and breathe of some inescapable though diversified "absence" in terms of "tzimtzum\צימצום", i.e. God’s eclipse, cache, sort of concealment. This Shabbat is called "Va'etchanan\אתחנן - and I shall pray (implore, petition) You" and the parshat hashavua / weekly portion is read in Devarim/Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11.

The reading portion begins with a specific word used by Moses. He has a special demand to God. He is recollecting all the actions that led from serfdom to the gates of entering the Land of Canaan/Israel. Then Moses speaks out his mind. This is an important moment because he is known for his humbleness and never asked nor begged for any personal favor. With regard to the attitude of the Israelites as the struggle he conducted against Pharaoh, Moses proved to have acted with a rare, singular spirit of equanimity and fortitude.

He feels that his own life must come to the end because God will not allow him to enter the land. He prays, with much intensity, in order to bend or change his own destiny. And he feels scared. He had faced death all along the journey, but had brought Jacob’s descent out of the land of “death and idolatry”. He knows that humans are born to die. Nonetheless, God truly is the Lord of the living. In Hebrew, His Name clearly indicates that humankind is called to cross the barriers of dust and reduction to nil: “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh\אהיה אשר אהיה – I am to be/become the Whole (Total) One Who I will perpetually become (again and again for ever)”.

The move implies to depart and accept to be a "defunct" servant and leader, i.e. leave his service (Latin "defunctus" = officium, function, task, duty) and give up his body and soul to the Life-giving Lord. As if the certitude that there is a world-to-come and a resurrection from the dead could be compared to some place of concealment, still invisible.

“Etchanan\אתחנן” belongs to the words used for depicting the posture of the faithful in the Temple during the offerings. The body bows down to the earth while the head is placed on the right hand. “Chanan\חנן= to show loving-kindness”. Moses dedicated his life to the true emunah\אמונה/faith and worship, thus prescribing the Mitzvot to donning the tefillin/phylacteries and instructing how to build up the Mishkan/Tabernacle. “Tachanun\תחנון – supplication” later became the fervent petition pronounced every morning at Shaharit\שחרית / Morning-dawn prayer and also Minchah-arbit\מנחה-ערבית/ Dusk,Evening prayer, except on holidays and newness events (New Moon).

It is more extensive on Mondays and Thursdays after the 18 Benedictions Amidah. This habit to recite personal petitions seems to track back to the Temple Service and maybe earlier in the Tent of the Meeting. It is a “nefillat apayim\נפילה אפיים – falling on the face (nostrils) without prostration to avoid any confusion with pagan rites. It was substituted by reclining on the left and the right side (Megillah 23a; Avoda Zara 4,1).

Tachanun became a sort of confession of sins and a plea for repentance and salvation (Daniel 9:3; Ezra 9:6; Nehemiah 1:4, cf. the reconstruction of the Temple). “Chanan\חנן = to cover, caress, grace, favor” as in “You graciously endow man with knowledge (Amidah\עמידה: “chonen dat\חונן הדעת”, Shabbat 104a). It also means “to come to rest” (Berachot 30b) as in the Birkat Kohanim / priestly blessing “vayichuneka\ויחונך = and cover you with His grace” (Num. 6:22). The blessing was peacefully used by Saint Francis of Assisi who used to make the sign of the “Tau-tav\תו, last Hebrew letter on the forehead of his brethren.

God told Moses to say a much peculiar detail to the Israelites: “You shall not prolong your days in the Land, but shall utterly be destroyed (“hishamed tishamedun\השמד תשמדון”). And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations and you shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you” (Deut. 4:26-27). Interestingly, tachanun introduces in the Jewish prayer the recitation of the Shema Israel/Hear Israel (Davarim 6:4) which is one of the major element of the weekly Torah portion.

As regards the Ten Commandments that progressively were removed from the Jewish prayer in order to make a distinction with the Christian services, the Mishney Torah/Deuteronomy introduces special elements to allow the Israelites to enhance their prayer after the sin of the golden calf. The original Hebrew version of the repetition of the Ten Divrot/Paroles shows that 17 letters have been added to the text usually cited from Exodus 20. The tradition considers that it shows how “goodly” God is, i.e. “t/ט(9)-o\ו(6)-v\ב(2) = ”. This also insinuates that, in the Mishney Torah\משני תורה or “repetition of the Torah”, God is willing to repair or give full capacities to the Israelites to repair their errors and track back to the first days of the creation, when He stated that the work of creation was “tov meod\טוב מאד – very good “ (Gen. 1:31). Newness and constant renewal is the basic motto that keeps humans alert with regard to the blessing “mechadesh maasey vereshit\מחדש מעשי בראשית – (The Lord Who) permanently renews and makes new the acts of creation”.

Still how come that Moses presents to God such a petition? His brother Aaron died before and was also told that he could not enter the Land. Well, Aaron did not show any spirit of patience and immediately forgot about God when he saw that the Israelites were in need to marinate with an old-fashioned pagan golden calf worshiping flava. He was too much “outdoors” in this wilderness.

Moses is unique in acting with authentic humbleness. His example is unique for the Jews as also for the Christians. In the name of God, Moses told the Israelites that few of them would reside in the Land and not for a long period of time. You bet! He even warns them about their future in the country, i.e. that they will be destroyed and scattered. What a great sign of hope and consolation! This should relly be taken into acount today in Israel. God's gifts are no way answering to requirements.

Let’s simply draw a parallel with Jesus of Nazareth. Paul of Tarsus wrote about him: “He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (i.e. abomination)” (Philippians 2:8). This does correspond with the weekly portion that deals with “obedience”; i.e. with the ability to hearing and acting together in full respect with God’s Mitzvot. Nonetheless, there is an real connection between the repetition of the Ten Divrot/Paroles and the sincere desire expressed by the Israelites to sanctify everything that is linked to the Land.

Resting on Shabbat is matched with the exodus: “Remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Shabbat day” (Devarim 5:15). And thus comes the mitzvah to “honor your father and mother… that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you, in the land in which the Lord your God gives you” (Deut. 5:16). It is thus evident that the following commandment deals with slaying: “lo tirtzeach\לא תרצח – you shall not kill, remove life from any human being” (Devarim 5:16).

This is the point on the Shabbat following Tisha BeAv: hundreds and hundreds of years after Moses approached God with his personal petition to enter the Land of Canaan, God, repeats = extends with tenderness the code of the Ten Divrot/Paroles He obliges the Israelites to be aware that He - the Holy One - will never forget any tiny sign or letter (Hbr. tag\תג-תגין) while humans may lose their memory and hide their misdeeds into some cache (Cf. Jesus preaching about the prohibition to erase any iota or small sign from the Torah in the Gospel of Saint Matthew).

The Beyt HaMikdash\בית המקדש/Temple was the LIVING House of God and the Romans razed it defiling the sanctity of the place and scattering the Jews. This was simply foretold to Moses as a possible consequence of the Israelites’ lack of respect of the Mitzvot. It is still pending at the present. We do have the Western Wall but the tachanun/supplication insists on the possible rise of the Living Beyt. “May it be Your Will, Lord… to have mercy on us, forgive all our sins, atone all our iniquities… that the Beyt HaMikdash be rebuilt speedily and in our days, that we may offer before You the burnt-offering… as You have prescribed in Your Torah through Moses Your servant” (Shaharit/Morning prayer tahanun). The same demand is said in the Graces after meals/birkat hamazon\ברכת המזון .

Can we only imagine God playing some role game and “Boo-yaa!”, Jews are damned for ever because others thought they survived and continue to outlive for the sake of some spiritual archaeology? Everything is prophetically on the move with God, gyrating and twirling ahead. We might one day– maybe not in our generation but this is not so important – really see the rebuilding of the Temple. This view has nothing to do with any Hollywood-like script and the salvation of some believers. I am not interested in politics either.

It is clear in this sidra / portion that the presence of the Jews in the Land maybe endure or cease in accordance with the Mitzvot. The Mitzvot never disappeared and constitue a huge part of all the heritage of Christdendom. Some may not be able - for spiritual reasons - to get to that point. It has nothing to do with flamboyant scenarii mixing power and might.

We may feel unconcerned by the question that is parallel to Moses’ petition: The Holy Sepulcher is the Empty Tomb, the Anastasis (place of Resurrection). Christianity proclaims that Jesus is risen from the dead, but nobody can prove it. It can only be inspirited by the Spirit and faith. Others cannot believe that to the full. It belongs to the intimate conviction of our souls. Jesus was condemned by the Jewish High Priest Kaipha and rejected by his first apostle Kaipha /Simon-Peter. (Matthew 26:74; Luke 22:61; John 18:27). He was then crucified by the pagan nations symbolized by the Romans.

Judaism continues its path without the House of Jerusalem while Christianity faces the time of the Empty Tomb. There is definitely no contradiction but a terrible historical estrangement that locks up our creeds. The Christian faith is based on the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth who declared: "Destroy this Temple, in thre days I shall rebuild it". Christians can hardly understand that the Mikdash\מקדש was and remains a LIVING- QAYAM\קים "body". It was made of living stones. It is not visible in the present, just as Jesus is not visible in this world. The Sacraments of the Eucharist should be analyzed in the Jewish "shulchan\שולחו " and "eulogical" presence of the TaNaKh. The point is that both Christian and Jews expect the "coming of the Lord". This might be related to God's Shechinah in the rebuilding of the Temple and the SEcond coming in glory of the Resurrected.

Still we can comfort/nachamu\נחמו as Prophet Isaiah wrote in his vision (40,1). It is a miracle that God continues to have confidence in any human being, incl. all believers. This is a permanent scoop: are we able to understand that He trusts in us and not that we trust in Him firstly. Are humans really like on swoll scrubs or, yes, hope is graven in our beings and we shall never wreck again, God forbid.

av Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel
August 12, 2008 - 11 deAv 5768 - יא דאב תשס"ח

Western Wall at night
The major cupola of the Katholikon in the Greek Orthodox Church of the Anastasis (Holy Sepulcher)

Monday, August 11, 2008

To wed or not to wed

This note copes with the Tu Be'Av - 15th of Av festivity (cf. related note).

What marriage means today and why should people bind their lives in wedlocks? How can we, both with regard to Jewish and Christian rites, match today in Israel with the first stated mitzvah/commandment: "p'ru ur'vu umil'u et haaretz\פרו ורבו ומלאו את הארץ - be fertile, and increase and fill the earth and master it"? (Gen. 1:28). After God fashioned the rib (or "side - tzela\צלע'") into a facing-up help and soul-mate for Adam (ezer kenegdo\עזר כנגדו), it is said: "Hence a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife (be'ishto) so that they be "bassar echad\בשר אחד = one, one flesh, one good prophetic announcement" (Bereishit. 2:24). It should be noted that Jesus refers and insists and confirms the importance of this commandment. It is also a human right and requirement. He added: "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate." (Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7, that continues about divorce).

The "Ten Paroles/Divrot\דברות" consider the matter as a prohibition: "lo tin'af\לא תנאף - You shall not commit adultery" (Shemot 20:13), though the midrash explains that "God strongly sneezes out of furious anger (Heb. "af")" (Midrash Shemot Rabba 20,3).The real purpose maybe stressed by Paul of Tarsus quoted Genesis 2:24, concluding: "This is a great mystery" (Ephesians 5:32). The apostle meant a mystery of connection between God and His Kahal\קהל (Community). His views about Jesus are thus important in this context because it shows that Christianity fully took up the Jewish tradition for which "marriage, wedding, match, betrothal" are the key and utmost vital mark of holiness between humans and, indeed, called "kiddushin\קדושין - sanctification".

There is no civil marriage in the State of Israel. We face a paradox: the whole Jewish tradition emphasizes the importance of getting married; it is essentiel to establish a family, have children and see the children of their children… in a legal way that also relies upon a strict and very developed understanding of the status and role of women. Marriage is a must, a blessing. Divorce (get\גט= divorce bill) would deeply affect every partner. The Talmud states that it causes God to weep upon His heavenly altar (Gittin 62b) because the only thing He is doing since He created the world is to marry people.

The problem is that there is no majority to accept to be married by the Orthodox Rabbinate. Nu-nu... Or they may not be able to go through the procedures. An Israeli citizen or a pious Jewish person may totally belong to the children of Israel and still not be recognized as a Jew by the Rabbinate. Then, the Orthodox Rabbinate is the only body to be legally entitled to perform weddings and deliver the required ketubah\כתובה (certificate of marriage). Generations of North American people would not be able to show their ancestors' ketubot as the people from the former Soviet Union. In the former USSR, "being a Jew" was a "nationality" that often showed to be in full contradiction with the real origin of the person. Anyone could simply be declared a Jew because of their paternal or maternal lineage.

The Law of Return accepts civil marriage certificates. But very few were married under the chupah\חפה - canopy and as "Jews, officially recognized by the Rabbinate". Local sabras, born in the country, or people who were raised here, often prefer to travel abroad or contact some authorized foreign delegations (embassies). In some cases, this raises very serious cultural problems with psychological identity interrogations: whatever statistics, it is evident that a lot of non-Jews, people of any faith arrived and settled in Israel in the past 60 years. During the war in some parts of Central Europe and Balkans, a lot of newcomers arrived showing documents of some parents or relatives who had lived some time in Israel in the 50ies, then left back to their home countries. In case, they had both Jewish and Christian documents.

Biographies can be absolutely amazing and it often appears that people are all together Jewish, Christian and Muslim, i.e. legally, according to the right of the concerned denominations. This chidush/new unique aspect of the Israeli society shows how terrific, wild and off-the-wall we are in a civilization that develops its energetic socializing capacities. There is another hint: people can get married abroad in any legal country - and then renew many times the same manifold marriage-divorce process in the officially recognized Christian Churches or at some Islamic Courts. Yes, many people are legally compelled not to marry or to cope with problematic lawless give-and-takes.

This is the legal identity dash. There is also the individual clue. In the "new-old"State of Israel, wandering Jews often turned to risky and gambling sort of adultery journeys or settlements. They grow because of the general hedonistic or self-centered tendency to selfishness and loneliness. Stability requires a lot of efforts in matching with the special one. This is a long-term experience. Now, the real touch is love. This does not concern some odd desires, but to make these efforts for the sake of love. And not necessarily because two got damned crazy about each other, share common views or interests as also their families.

The Jewish marriage is short: a) Kiddushin\קידושין (Sanctifications) are immediately followed by the Nissu'in\נשואין (marriage under canopy). Talmud Kiddushin 1:1 states that the woman can be married (acquired/qanah\קנה) by receiving some value - or a contract (the Ketubah is a part of the marriage today) or by having sexual intercourse with the man. Thus, during the Kiddushin, the woman does not say anything, doing more in accepting her husband. The Kiddush and cup of wine reminds: "Your wife shall be a fruitful vine within your house, your sons like olive saplings around your table" (Psalm 128:3).

The bridegroom puts a ring on his bride's index and says: "at mekudeshet\מקודשת/ you are consecrated to me by this ring according to the Law of Moses and Aaron". "Mekudeshet\מקודשת/being consecrated" points out, in return, that the woman blesses and brings "some sanctifying abilities" to her husband. Curiously enough, the Eastern Orthodox marriage service has about the same words. In Bessarabia-Romania, some Christian Orthodox rituals, in the 19th century, included the Hebrew word said to the bride, showing a strong ritual proximity (when the bridegroom gives the ring to his bride).

In the Jewish tradition, the whole service recalls that the "chatan\חתן - bridegroom" is welcomed by his wife, as entering the Temple (Mikdash\מקדש): "Ve'ani berov chasdekha\ואני ברב חסדך (and I with Your abundant love) avo veytecha (enter Your house)" (Psalm 5:8). Then, she is given the Ketubah/bill of marriage ("writ") that is strictly legal and aims to protect her financially in case of a divorce. A second cup of wine is given with seven blessings about, God's glory, man's fashion, the barren (ekeret\עקרת) fertility, children and the return to Jerusalem (Jeremiah 33:10-11) climaxing in the full jubilance (10 different words) of the new "one flesh" (Isaiah 62:5) as each marriage restores this unity of joy between Adam and Eve (Tractate Bava Bathra 75a). Thus, "chatan\חתן = to covenant, tie, be connected, protect" means "bridegroom" who "by his fructifying rain" (Berachot 59b), gladdens his "kallah\כלה = fulfillment help-mate", contrary to "ba'al\בעל" (husband) who exercises apparent power (Taanit 6b). The cup of wine is then broken, which is usually considered as a memorial of the Temple destruction.

Judaism insists, on Shabbat eve that the husband praise his "eshet chayil\אשת חיל - woman of virtue" by reading verses from Proverbs/Mishaley 31:10-31. Indeed, he acknowledges: "Batach bah lev ba'alah\בטח בה לב בעלה /in her confides the heart of her husband - veshalal lo yechsar\ושלל לא יחסר / and he lacks no good thing - g'malat'hu tov ve lo ra kol yemei chayeiah\כל ימי חייה / she is good not bad to him all the days of HER life" (Proverbs 31:2-3).

The Eastern Orthodox marriage celebration consists in two parts: the betrothal is followed by the wedding. The interesting point is that all the readings come back again and again to the fact that the bridegroom leaves his father and mother in order to cling to his wife. And these portions show the importance of the spiritual clutch that is set up, in one flesh - progressively into a new family entity. In contrast with the Roman Catholics who often celebrate a mass, the Byzantine tradition cancelled the Liturgy a long time ago (11th c.), considering that the new spouses dedicate themselves, individually and to each other. There is also a cup of wine and the kiss. Strangely enough, people show very shy. It is the first "life" kiss. The last one is given during the burial of a dead person.

There is a tremendous paradox: Jews - and thus the Christians - have described how womanhood saves humanity and manhood. Women pay a huge price for the sake of their identity and dignity. Male power and stubborn machism often disregarded marriage, somehow deconsecrating themselves. "No man can live without a woman, nor a woman without a man because both of them cannot live without the Presence of God (Shechinah)." (Talmud Berachot 9:1).

טו באב is, on the 15th of Av, the Day of love... Wooing, flirting, dating, speed dating or matchmaking can evolve into wedlocks, i.e. unity, oneness as God with us. Marriage is not horizontal. It is a typical move toward high verticality toward the Most High.

Jewish Yemenite wedding
Jewish Dutch wedding (Rembrandt)
Greek Eastern Orthodox wedding (crowning)

Tu Be'Av: Love me, tender...

It is a hit, because it only can be a hit and we are so mild and cute, nice and lovely: "Mi ohev otach yoter mimeni\מי אוהב אותך יותר ממני = who loves you more than I love you" is the sort of syrupy, ever broadcast song sung by many local singers.

We are so much in need of care, cuddling, hugging. Our hearts wnt to share with a soul mate, a sweetheart, beloved, girl/boyfriend. We plan our dates - now speed-dating because we run, run, have no time... Just to get a boo, someone we can love more than anybody else... Is it the price of solitude? Or are humans really born to love? The rape of the Sabine women is a Roman Empire saga. It supposedly consisted in the abduction of women. Indeed, the abduction conducted to raping. Moses firmly condemned the raping of Rape of foreign women in the name of God because it is an act of idolatry.

As time passes, it is so amazing and weird to read the news about the development of different attitudes in Israeli society. Rape, incest, men raping their wives, women raping men at times, children or teens submitted to sexual assaults. The head of the State crashed down for forced carnal temptations which were not that evidenced.

The Semites are inspirited by violence and baseless instinct of possession. This is what is softly meant by "yoter mimeni\יותר ממני = who loves you more that I do?". Good enough: a very honey-honey song with sugar and slow-slow rhythm but the guy does possess the girl and that's it. And girls can possess guys and guys think they own their friends. Dat's love, nu-nu?

Tu Be'Av\טו באב is the 15th of the month of Av (08/15.16, 2008). It is usually called "Chag HaAhavah\חג האהבה = Feast of love". We are very fond of such feasts that allow giving flowers or presents to our special ones. It may happen that the special one may grow to two, well… say no more, but there can be no special one at all. The worldwide celebrated Saint Valentine’s Day, in February, would seem rather parallel. This is not really the case. Tu Be’Av\וט באב (like Tu bishvat\טו בשבט = New Year of the Trees) falls on the 15th day of the Jewish month. Jewish Love Day falls in the middle of the month of Av, i.e. one of the most tragic months in the Jewish history with the Ninth (tisha) of Av that for ever memorizes the “saddest days” of the two destructions of the Temple and of the city of Jerusalem.

The 15th day always marks in the Jewish calendar the short time of the lunar cycle monthly recurring “full moon” (“Hayireah bimlu’o\הירח במלואו”). This is why the indefectible faithfulness of God was disclosed so many times throughout history as mentioned by Talmud Taanit 26a, 30-31b. Disasters, destructions, death, exterminations never abate Jewishness. On Tu Be’Av, in the heat of the summer, should be the most joyous day of the year when the moon is full as ready to birthing new times and seasons.

We are a society that permanently faces despair with “va’irbu smachot be’Israel\וירבו שמחות בישראל = let joys multiply in Israel”. Joys and hope overcome any drifting to despair. Sarah’s laughter, lack of faith and lie (“I did not laugh” she said to the angels), Yochanan Ben Zakkai’s bursting into laughter at the sight of the foxes creeping out of the Devir\דביר/Holy of Holies inaugurated times of hope and redemption. Do we have the same spirit in the present? Balloons, hagigot\חגיגות/festive encounters overwhelmingly constitute a positive point of our society. There is more: Tisha Be’Av is the destruction that aims to reducing God’s Presence to nil. Iremind the project to annihilate Her, defile and abate the spiritual nuisance shown by Jewish existence and faith. This itches and rebukes the pagans.

Let’s talk a bit about tradition: it is said that Yom Kippur and Tu Be’Av are the two happiest days of the Jewish year. This relies upon the related birthing process that overleaps death and opens up new months and times (Taanit 4,3). On that very day of the 15th of Av, in the fortieth year in the wilderness, the Israelites stopped dying in the desert.

It is a clear sign of joy shown by the reply of the women to the punishment imposed by God to those who did believe the spies who slandered against Moses. Indeed, men were and remain too important for women. Here is the interesting point of “the feast of love”: the daughters of Zelophehad came to speak with Moses and the priest Eleazar and they were upset (Num.27:1-11). Their father had died in the desert, there were no men and they wanted men and inheritance! This is the very Hebrew counter-point to “the rape of the Sabine women”! This also became a day of loving and wooing freedom in a very tribally structured society.

This developed after the destructions of the Temple. TYu Be'Av is also a way to reconnecting with God as the Living One/Loving One. young girls and women could dress humbly and go dancing through the streets and on the squares and look for some nice lad and possible bridegroom. It was a “duty-free” day in the sense that women could marry any member of any tribe as also, the sons of the tribe of Benjamin.

As the Zohar states, the Jewish people can be compared with the moon: going up and falling down, wander here and there and, right out of a sudden, they will be reaching goals before getting lost again. But every step allows enhancing the quality of a new rise toward God and the Mitzvot.

“Veahavta lereacha kamocha\ואהבת לרעך כמוך – and you shall love your fellowman as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18). We are submitted to “love” because human beings and feelings were shaped in the image and likeness of God.

We just remembered the destruction of the Temples on Tisha Be'Av. The first Temple was ruined because of rational and conscious hatred that infected the priestly nation. The second Temple was razed out of a baseless / irrational hatred. Now what happens if we compare these two reasons that prevailed for the destructions with the joyful “full moon” matchmaking festival of the “feast of love”. Sex is very important in Judaism because flesh, carnal desires are normal in the Jewish tradiiton. But intimacy constitutes a very small part of what love implies and encompasses. Nonetheless, at the present, in Israeli society, it shows to prevail as it always did throughout the TaNaKh: with much confusion of feelings, irrational pulses or slanders. True love relies on stability, patience, pardon, abandonment. Quite a challenge in a "one shot society"!

When the daughters of Zelophehad came to petition Moses, they did not ask for love: they asked for men and inheritance, which means they wanted to birth babies and be secured as women. Women do need to be financially and socially secured even if they often initiate or support business developed by men.

These daughters had a basic request: we need men to prolong the tribe – indeed all the tribes – that died in the wilderness and we need money, land, properties. At this point, it is evident that Tu Be’Av is a feast for women as they choose their partners, friends, special ones or husbands. Men often don’t get to that. It is at times horrible to observe or even to audit how women are treated with much disregard and total lack of respect in Israeli society and Jewishness. It is incredible that the number of battered women, as also men and children continues to increase. Each sex is more and more victimized by rapes, incest and this is in full contradiction with the realm of the Mitzvot a proper and traditional, usual family and lifestyle.

Love does not only consist in lovemaking... with condoms, pills, abortion. True, intimacy is often reduced to a speechless relationship without sincere and open talk. It may show a self-centered egoistic pleasing relationship. There is often nothing to share except bones playing with bones under skin. The Jewish tradition has developed a highly positive view of sexuality. At the present, the situation is a bit confused. Personalized desires of groups, individuals, egoistic and rather childlike behaviors tend to unbalance the relationships in new couples.

I recently heard two female newcomers explaining that, according to the tradition, they were only obliged to have sex with their husbands on a regular basis, wash up the dishes, keep the house clean and get the more possible money. Plain and simple. This is another aspect in a country where it is rather difficult to marry and, till today, to find love outside of one’s own tribe (Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Mizrachim… and why not any other tribe living in Eretz Esrael).

Love is a gift, a real gift sent by God. Love is a true miracle that prolongs everyday and "מחדש מעשי בראשית \ renews the work of the first commencement". Love shows at any age. A woman physician was visiting Jerusalem with her daughter who was leaving for the Army. They were not Jewish according to the Halachah. The mother suddenly asked: “Is it so important to be Jewish?” Her husband had abandoned her. She was surprised when I replied: “Don’t you think that love is more important than anything else?”. A rabbi contacted me once. He did not know what to do: his wife got fascinated by the Gospel right out of the blue moon. We had exceptional discussions. Yes, he was entitled to divorce her, but, she was still Jewish and, by the way, did he love her? He decided not to quit her.

Jesus started his preaching by assisting at a marriage in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11) and he never rejected the two Jewish miztvot/commandments of marriage nd priesthood. “Love” is a major motto for any Christian believer, just as “joy” (Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Seraphim of Sarov). “Love” became a "human and divine reality" in Christendom that changed the heathen world into milder, more caring, compassionate collectivities. We don’t have any idea of the hideous violence that existed in the Barbarian society. It should compared with the recent emergence of new paganism.

This year, on Tu Be’av it would be so sweet to be so tender, like God: “HaShem, El rachum vechanun, Lord, Lord of mercy and loving-kindness\יי יי אל רחום וחנון”.

av Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel
August 11, 2008 – י דאב תשס"ח
sunbird (Israel)