Saturday, August 23, 2008

HaShem: the Name

The June 29 Vatican message, from the Congregation for Divine Worship
and the Sacraments, clarified that the name of God revealed in YHWH
was not pronounced by the first Christians, following the tradition
already in use.

It explained: "The venerable biblical tradition of sacred Scripture,
known as the Old Testament, displays a series of divine appellations,
among which is the sacred name of God revealed in a tetragrammaton
YHWH -- hwhw. As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty
of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced
during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an
alternate name: 'Adonai,' which means 'Lord.'

This is a problematic clarification. The tetragrammaton is not really pronounced in Church and "Yahweh" is often reduced to YHWH"; on the other hand, it historically generated "Jehovah" adopted by the Jehovah's witnesses who insist on this naming and uttering. The problem is that the "Shem HaMeforash\שם המפורש" is the tetragrammon. It was only pronounced "with sounds and vowels" once a year in the Holy of Holies (devir\דביר) by the high priest during the celebration of the Yom HaKippurim\יום הכפורים - Day of Expiations, the day of atonement (at-One-men = unity of all the creation and human beings being pardoned). This liturgical act is included in the prayer books for the celebration of Yom Kippur and the faithful recall this most sacred moment that focus(ed) both on God's pardon and reign over the whole of the universe.

The Vatican note does not refer to the Jews, but mentions that it was the practice "in use". It should be very important to explain the roots that are to be found in the Day of Atonement, because it really makes sense to naming or not naming God by uttering His "personal" Name. Indeed, we know that the Name has been pronounced with specific vowels in certain periods of the religious history of Israel.

On the other hand, "Adonai" (Adoni\אדוני = Sir in Hebrew) was the usual pronunciation. The article forgets that the pronunciation of the Name was strictly limited to the Day of Atonement. The Orthodox Church does not refer to the Hebrew text, but to the Septuagint, a Jewish translation of the Bible in Greek made in Alexandria. It means that the Orthodox Church does recognize the validity of the Jewish tradition as regards the translation of the Scripture. It is rarely stated and rather positive. Thus, the tetragrammaton is "Lord" in English, "Dominus" in Latin or "Gospod'\Господь" in Slavonic; Greek is "Kyrios = both king and Sir". The Zenith Vatican article article points out that the Jews do not pronounce "Yahweh" according to the Septuagint, without connecting with the early tradition of the Orthodox Church (["The Greek translation of the Old Testament, the so called Septuagint, dating back to the last centuries prior to the Christian era, had regularly rendered the Hebrew tetragrammaton with the Greek word Kyrios, which means 'Lord.' Since the text of the Septuagint
constituted the Bible of the first generation of Greek speaking
Christians, in which language all the books of the New Testament were
also written, these Christians, too, from the beginning never
pronounced the divine tetragrammaton."]).

Many bilingual Hebrew-English versions systematically use "Lord" for "YHWH" uttered "Adonai" during a Jewish praying service and "HaShem\השם = the Name" when not in the context of a praying service. "G-d, G., God" corresponds to "Elohim\אלהים". Now, in the Roman Catholic Latin mass (there are 14 different rites accepted by the Roman Church because she includes the Oriental and some Western rites), the "Kyrie eleison" is broken down in "Lord have mercy", then "Christe, eleison" and finally "Lord (Spirit), have mercy". In the Latin mass, it is not clear whether it refers to the Spirit. In Aramaic, there is still the original difference between the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity: Mar/Mor - Mariya/Mariyo and Maran ܡܪ ܡܪܝܐ ܡܪܢ\מר- מריא -מרן, which makes a clear difference between the Persons of the Holy Trinity.

Still, Christians are not Jews and vice versa. It is important to do everything to cancel this terrible estrangement, but with much respect for every tradition. Christianity cannot replace Judaism. The point is that the Zenith note does not explain the context in which Jews could not utter God's Name.

True, the canonical attitudes adopted by the Churches toward the Name of the Lord could pave the way to a better understanding of Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement which plays a major role in the liturgical and spiritual ways that govern the Ecclesia universa, plerome of the Church.

The Vatican note quotes Saint Paul: ""When in fact, St. Paul, with regard to the crucifixion, writes that 'God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name" (Phil 2:9), he does not mean any other name than 'Lord,' for he continues by saying, 'and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord' (Phil 2:11; cf. Isaiah 42:8: 'I am the Lord;
that is my name'). This would imply that Paul of Tarsus only referred to the Septuagint. He certainly did when he wrote his epistles in Greek. In Philippians 2:11, the verse does not cancel God's lordship. On the contrary, it defines with precision why and how Jesus is Lord "to the glory of God the Father". This is clear. The Son does not replace His Father. He leads to the Father who is God.

"The attribution of this title [Lord] to the risen Christ corresponds exactly
to the proclamation of his divinity," it continued. "The title in fact
becomes interchangeable between the God of Israel and the Messiah of
the Christian faith, even though it is not in fact one of the titles
used for the Messiah of Israel."

The Christian faith confesses that Jesus is Christos = Messiah as the Son of Man. He is the Son of God; still everything depends on the will of His God and Father. Is there any kind of interchangeability? "Lord" does underline, for the Christians, that Jesus of Nazareth is both divine and human. The Oriental prayer of Jesus - Yeshua\ישוע - יהושוע traces back to "healing and redemption, salvation" in Hebrew. In Greek, Slavonic, Arabic and the tongues used in the Orthodox Churches, the Name of Jesus is very specific and can hardly be confused with the Kingly Name of His Father and our living God.

I am often surprised that many Christians think that the Prayer of the Lord (Our Father) is directed to Jesus!! A lot of faithful don't make any difference with God the Father. But there cannot be any "neutralization". The Father and the Son are One (John, ch. 17). Each naming allows to get deeper into the mystery of redemption to the full.

av Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel

Photograph: avun divshmayo - Our Father (Aramaic)
אבון דבשמיא ܐܒܘܢ ܖܒܫܡܝܐ

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Spiritual cleansing

The Jewish communities have just commemorated the destructions of the Temples that were "living and dwelling" on the mount in Jerusalem. The Christian Churches joined the launching by Pope Benedict XVI of the 2000th anniversary of Paul of Tarsus. Meanwhile, the Russian and the Ukrainian Slavic Byzantine Orthodox Churches celebrate the 1020th anniversary of the baptism of the Kievan Rus'.

Swirling waves of political and ethnic conflicts develop in certain regions. Nothing is really new. The events are lining upon very ancient and regularly upgraded troubleshooting elements. History is moving ahead by nature.

Let's consider the seemingly "political" aspect of the tragedy that comes out in Georgia and Ossetia(s). Some 15 years ago, I wrote an article about the development of the Churches along an "line/axis from Caucasus to Ethiopia" ("L'axe Caucase-Ethiopie", Christus, July 1992). I tried to describe the existence of a frontal vertical rift linking the Caucasian very ancient Churches of Armenia and Georgia with the Biblical Ararat (Noah) and the writing in Georgia of some Mishnaic tractates. Then, how the line of the Semitic Churches, born out of the early community of Jerusalem, expanded in Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia and Persia. It appears that this line was, at that time, growing weak and the future of the Churches was problematic. Christianity is definitely in danger in all the concerned regions.

Now, let's consider what is going on this year: the terrible development of the conflict in Iraq, the continuum of wars conducted in Afghanistan, Pakistan - the threatening positions adopted by Iran (Persia). The line slides along Tibet. Indeed, there is a line that evolves from the West to the East, from The Ukraine through the route that enters Tibet en route to China, Mongolia and Japan. All along the former Soviet border, the Turkish tongues-speaking nations (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan; Uyghur territories and Kyrgyzia), there is a horizontal axis that goes through times of great turbulences. On the other hand, Tadjikistan connects the former Soviet area with the Shi'ite Persian/Iranian Islamic republic.

This means that the whole of the early Church development regions linking the Roman Empire to the Persian Semitic Churches (Syrian-Orthodox, Assyrian/Nestorian) swindles again up to the ancient metropolies of Lhasa and all of the Tibet (a very ancient Assyrian Orthodox territory!) till Mandchuria, Mongolia, China and the Southern Japan. The Assyrian Church was defeated by Gengis Khan while the Syrian Orthodox survived in split communities in India (Kerala).

This horizontal line is inflamed at the present in various ways.

The Ukraine commemorates with grandeur the 1020th anniversary of the baptism of the Kievan Rus'. Politically speaking, it allows the republic to strengthen its independence toward the Patriarchate of Moscow and to require unity within the Ukrainian Church. The government looks for more freedom and consistency for the Ukrainian Church. Meanwhile, it also opposes the Kremlin power that does not accept the independence of the country. Russia also cut gas coming from the Caucasian pipelines.

The same shows with much violence in Georgia. The Russian army and the heads of the Russian Federation claim to come in order to help the Russian citizens in Abkhazia and Ossetia. The West immediately connects the situation with the invasion of Czechoslovakia: forty years ago, on August 22nd, 1968, the Soviet Army violated the territory of that country and imposed to return to the standards of the then Soviet/Russian communist regime. Forty years later, Czechoslovakia has split into two "One European Community" Czech and Slovak entities.

Patriarch Elia of Georgia heads one of the most ancient Churches. The Gospel was preached there by the Apostles: Andrew the first called, Bartholomew and Shimon the Zealot, called the Canaanite in the country. Saint Nino of Cappadocia confirmed the Christian faith in the beginning of the 4th century. On the pediment of the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher/Anastasis in Jerusalem - the cradle of faith in the Resurrected - "grapevine cross" signs are engraved in the stone. Queen Nino had no cross to explain the Christian faith. She took a vine stock to show that the resurrection continues in the shape of the vineyard of the Lord (John ch. 15). She did not mention the cross as an instrument of torture. She spoke of the Church as being the expanding vineyard described in all of the Scripture. The Georgian chart was used for the first time in Jerusalem. The very ancient language, with unique features, was ecclesiastically present in Jerusalem for centuries. The Georgian clergy served in Saint Thekla's church of the Great Monastery. It was recognized as a patriarchate in 1010 as catholicossat of Kartli.Today, there are no monastics or clergy people left as representatives of the Church of Saint Nino.

The Georgian Orthodox Church has always had close contacts with the Greek Church. Monastics were at mount Athos (Iveron Monastery) and in the Sinai. Inter/intra-relationships were functioning adequately: the Georgian Church was made a patriarchate by a decision of the patriarchate of Antioch that ruled in the area. When it went through the attacks of Gengis Khan and Timur (Tamerlane), it also found assistance from the Greek patriarchate of Constantinople as most of the Middle-Eastern patriarchates.

It is true that the whole of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century are marked by international migrations and "planetarian nation flows". Today, there are more changes or turbulences linked to some sort of spiritual backgrounds.

The West often reacts with a spirit of power that excludes common sense and historical insights. It took centuries before France could determine coherent borders. How should we consider the progressive "capture or taking over" of Brittany, the Flemish regions (Lille was a Flemish town - Rijsel - for ages!)? The Alsace (and the Lorraine) was swinging between France and Germany. Saarland had a referendum after WWII and decided to remain a German Land.The Savoie and the Comte of Nice/Nizza moved back and forth from Italy to France. There are constant troubles in the Baskland that propels a specific culture over the French and Spanish mountains. What may happen if, by some remote chance, the "One European Community" kingdom of Belgium splits? Would Wallony ask to join the French "liberty, equality and fraternity" republic of human rights?

Crossing the Channel, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is composed of different nations, mostly Celtic, that require their independence on a regular basis: Scotland, Wales. Scandinavia shifted by turns under the power of each local kings. The same happened in Italy and Spain.

Ethnic cleansing for East-European nations and it is easier to speak of "ethnic crisis or conflicts" in the West.

Thus, all the protests and moves against the often cruel changes that occur in East Europe are not so honest. They mainly concern the Balkans (former Yugoslavia), the ties that always existed between Russia and Serbia and the split Albanian regions. Romania-Moldova (Bessarabia) and Bulgaria were twirling as the Donau river from the Habsburg to the tsarist powers and their heirs.

The United States of America seem to be a coherent country. In fact, each state has its own laws and regulations. Each state has its own laws and regulations that may be different from those applied in the other states. This puts the US in very weak position. Thus, there is a kind of blindness. The Russian and American "empires" and the "germinating" European Community (which is in the pangs of rebirth upon foundations the Christian Roman empire) follow the pattern of the conflicts that appeared in full accordance with the Church splits. These breakings marked the development of the Church throughout the world over the past two thousand years. Spiritual and human rights are not necessarily depending on the markets of oil, gas, drugs and narcotics and irrational consumption.

The big split happened when Cyril and Methodos, blessed by the two major patriarchs of the West (Rome) and Constantinople (East) were violently rejected by the Frankish Latin believers. They did not allow to preach and pray in the Slavonic tongue and stopped them in Velehrad (Bohemia). The split endures...

It is en vogue to speak of "ethnic cleansing", in particular with regard to former Yugoslavia and Soviet Union. Killings and mass murders have horribly affected the Slavic nations. This process seems to be developing in the Caucasus and Central/Far Eastern former Soviet republics and autonomous regions. Nonetheless, "ethnic cleansing" has most often been connected with the spreading of Christianity throughout the ages. American Indians, Inuits, Africans deported to the New World were slaughtered or reduced into bondage in the same repellent "ethnic cleansing" way.

Today, this battle can be compared to "spiritual cleansing". It is much too early to allow the Christian Orthodox Churches determining their territory limits. In the present, Orthodoxy is planetarian and not restricted to the East. The fall of communism provoked a situation of competition among the various juridictions as also with the Roman Church.

This confrontation continues to develop in facing Islam that is also planetarian. The Ottoman empire collapsed and we should take into account the general process of humiliation that followed in its provinces in the Balkans and the Near/Middle-East.

It should be noted that this situation, viewed from Israel, shows more disorder and lack of credibility. The Christian way is simple: there is one talent, the salary being equal for all the workers without segregation. This "salary" allows the believers to become like Jesus Christ that "sealed" (Gr. sphragis-mark) us to unity and authentic love.

Are we going through the pangs of birth as Saint Paul stated? Or do we clothe on our slaughtering impulses under rags of fraudulent beliefs? The response will be given, as always, by the saints of our generation.

Photographs: (left) Katholikon of the Greek Orthodox Church inside of the Holy Sepulcher/Anastasis (Jerusalem).
(right) Saint Nino's grapevine stock cross.

Eykev - Subsequently...

According to the Julian calendar, some traditional Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 18-19 which corresponds to 08/06 in the Gregorian calendar. This is an interesting point. We see how the geo-strategic map of the world and the borders of many countries are revised or reconsidered. Specialists speak of "ethnic cleansing". In other regions, from former Yugoslavia to Caucasus and the Middle East, we could speak of a "spiritual cleansing". The main issue is that this is definitely not new but belongs to the heritage of religious schisms and estrangements. Still, it implies that there are some invariants. Some factors never change and this is most intriguing.

This lines with the parshat hashavua/reading portion of this week: “Ekev\עקב - Subsequently, if you hearken these judgments…” in Devarim/Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25. God insists on a specific commandment, given to the Israelites and constantly repeated, again and again, for the sake of their faith in God as humans living among humankind. Devarim 6;4: “Hear Israel/\שמע ישראל - Shma’ Israel” that links obedience to the Only One, to the acceptance of hearing His Paroles.

The reading portion of this week profoundly insists on the fact that humans must love God with their full intellectual and emotional capacities joined to their financial and economical assets. Again, after the destruction of the Temples and the Feast of love on Tu Be’Av, how can we figure out what love implies?

Let’s get further and again scrutinize whether “love/ahavah\אהבה” is humanly evident. The mitzvah is focusing on God alone. We often think as if it would suffice to ascertain our love to the Most High. This mitzvah does not imply any expectation of promise or reward from God. True, Jacob woke up at Bethel, he vowed in a down-to-earth way: “If God will be with me and keep me in this way I go and give me bread to eat and raiment to put on so that I come back home in peace, then God shall be my God” (Bereishit 28:20).

I like this vow pretty much. It is not ecstatic… Jacob is the son of his mom who coached him to cheat his father Isaac. The boy is a normal nudnik and so many of us behave as if El Shaddai would be some Bituach leumi/national medical care and social assistance + first aid + recurrent money basket provider. But this is so humane. So real.

There is more as regards any Jew: Abraham and his descent have nothing to do with any kind of ethnic or tribal or sub-tribal distinctive features. “In you, all the Nations (and generations) will experience how blessed they are” (Gen. 12:3). This relies on true love. Love is more than justice and righteousness included in “ahavah\אהבה”. Love obliges human beings to do and give always more, much and even too much. Still, it is not enough. Look, Abraham was a sort of Moshe Rabbenu. He argued to save some inhabitants of Sodom: he disputed with God about the number of righteous, if any. But the Zohar (Book of Splendor) considers that he did not accomplish his real duty. It is useless to count the just. There was more to do, said R. Eliezer ben Azariyah, and he did not push God into that: Abraham did not require God’s pardon and loving-kindness (Zohar 106a).On the other hand, Moses had intervened for the sake of the Israelites after the golden calf. This makes the difference.

This is why it is important to “Understand that the Lord Your God does not give you this land to possess it for your righteousness; for you are a stiff-necked people (am-koshey-oref\עם קשי ערף). Remember and never forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day you went out of the Land of Egypt till you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord (mamrim haytem im HaShem\ממרים הייתם עם ה)” (Deut. 9:6-7). “Mamre” has different meanings, from the place of hospitality to rebellion. Strangely enough, the Israelites are called to serve as a priestly nation among "the tribes of the world".

Hillel said: “Love the humans” (Avot 1,2). Similarly, “When you hurt your fellowman (reacha\רעך) even very slightly, do reckon this as something important, but if you show him much loving-kindness, consider this is a tiny thing” says the Abot deRabbi Nathan (B, 27a). Indeed, there is no difference between human beings but this too often turns to be a parrot-fashion speech – God “does execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loves the stranger in giving him food and clothes. Thus, love the stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Devarim 10:18-19).

We are going through the hardships of hideous hurricanes of hatred and estrangements. This shows, for example, in some of the major former Soviet cities as a "wickedness tendency - злобность". It is included in Hebrew in "lashon haraah\לשון הרעה" (+/-: slander, gossip, bad, calumny, wickedness".

When faith is distorted to some administrative or political issues/challenges, modern inter-tribal relationships are spoiled and defile God’s Oneness. The rules in force in the State of the Jews seemingly have a certain know-how and experience of how to save the fundamentals of the inspired Mitzvot and divine warning given in the wilderness.

Within a few days, we shall enter new month Ellul\אלול. This month paves the way for the time of Rosh HaShanah without any feast until New Year. It is a month of silent meditation.

On August 6th 2008, there was the 63rd anniversary of the first nuclear/atomic bombing over Hiroshima at 8.15 am., local time. A so-called gadget “Little Boy” was nuked up as “a song of death” (Baghavad Gita (11,32) read by J.R. Oppenheimer on July 16, 1945 citing his personal translation of the text: “I am Death, the destroyer of the worlds”. The exact version should have been: “I became Time and my task, at the present, is to destroy” in a place called “Trinity” where the scientists blew up the first nuclear bomb.

The cream of the crops of the modern scientists launched the process of some future possible Sodom without being gods. They were Jews and Christians and referred to some alien famous poetry. They were fascinated by a hopeless spirit of destruction. How bizarre that these scientists chose August 6th, the day on which the Western Churches celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus: as he was speaking with Moses and Elijah, he appeared whiter and brighter for a short while of eternity, eternal life with God (Matthew 17:2).

At the moment, we are all potentially nuking each other potentially. Last year, it was from Iran/Modern Persia to Iraq. Don't forget Pakistan and Afghanistan and add Caucasus and the Ukraine. There was Chechnya. There is more this year: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Georgia. Still, “the Lord of Hosts established the world by His wisdom, and by His understanding stretched out the heavens… and He makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth” (Jeremiah 51:15-16).

“Chag\חג” means “feast” as also “chagigah\חגיגה” which is very “festive”. We love feasts. Israeli society loves to joyously celebrate events with balloons and bubbles, cakes and simple gifts. We may not be very conscious that our feasts are like elliptic dances stretching out to more and more wisdom. Thus, they participate in the expansion of space inside of creation, intruding like whirling circles. “Chagog\חגוג = to dance, whirl, go circling, wheel”. The TaNaKh says: “I was there when He drew a circle on the face of the (void) deep / Ani bechuko chug al pney tehum\אני בחקו חוג על פני תהום” (Proverb 8:27). Thus, God “sits above the circle of the earth / chug haaretz\חוג הארץ and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers”. Many things draw back to “circle” without framing in Hebrew: “Kadur\כדור = circle, round, ball, pill” as in “kadur haaretz\כדור הארץ = earth, globe” or “kadur regel\כדור רגל = football” that may often be used to say that there is a messy situation or conflicts.

“Kadar\כדר = to be arched, rounded” as in: “The sign of eggs of clean birds (sign of life) arched on the top and rounded, i.e. rolling” (Hullin 64a). The Gospel, in particular the Book of Apocalypse / Revelation, scrolls up and down the same gyrating movement in the vision of the 24 elders sitting around the Throne of glory. They elliptically unfold the scroll of eternity that “love is strong and even stronger than death. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame” (Song 8:6).

We need people who, in a glimpse or through their lives, show the brightness of transfiguration. It is a tiny but eternal sign of mutation toward fulfillment.

av Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel

August 18, 2008 - יז באב תשס"ח

The photograph: Life path can be risky; faith is also a narrow shaky bridge ... like here is Ekaterinenburg/Svedlovsk (Russia).