Friday, October 10, 2008

Kvitlech: please a good note!

In these days of renewal, there is a move: we started the days of awe that reached their first climax on Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement. Then, six days after Yom HaKippurim\יום הכיפורים, we sit in our shelters covered with overshadowing branches. We meet with historical and spiritual guests - the ushpizin\אושפיזין as with friends or strangers, share about the Scripture, history, future, present, past and envision our own swinging-back to God. That’s quite something! Because on the 21st day, there is the Hoshana Rabba\הושענא רבה, the last praying act to be performed under the sukkah/booth and then the feast will soon be over with some divine judgment.

We are quick to be judgmental. A few seconds, minutes, chik-chak, period. We make up our minds very speedily about the others; we may be slower as regards ourselves. God waits... it takes Him so much time to write our names into the Book of the living. We are very good at rejecting promptly anybody. We usually don't know or try to understand anything. On the other hand, God is not only patient: He appraises the price of our nights and days. Say, God is wise… Thus, in the end, He has to give some signs.

The great blessing is to pour some rain. Wherever they reside, the Jews pray so that God pour His rain in Eretz Israel and not in any other place. This shows the long-term fidelity of the Jewish community with this Land. And from there, the blessings reach the ends of the world.

God seems very reluctant to curse. Of course, even the most pious believers should admit that he never got any written statement showing that he is blessed or cursed for the new year! The statement is included in the Scripture and the Talmud. The Hoshana Rabbah day is the 21st day of the new year and traces back to Abraham who got the blessings for all the generations. With regards to the tradition, Abraham belonged to the 21st generation after the shaping of Adam. Then, on this day, we got to the high spot to make up our minds: rejoice - go through the pangs of birth; convert and trust in God. God does trust in us and this is the unbelievable point. Just get to the news: killings, violence, fights in words, acts, rapes, lies, corruption. Some people would even suggest that we are allowed praying to cause the death of non-Jews or non-believers! We cannot accept that God's blessing upon Moshe Rabenu consisted in a special pardon: he was the humble servant, the most humble and true believer and obedient to God's "paroles and utterances". He is to die in the wilderness, facing HaAretz. He dies as accounted generation by generation, and also this Shabbat "Haazinu\האזינו". The parasha/reading portion is in Devarim-Deuteronomy 31:1-32: "Give ear!"

How can we today give ear? Moshe had killed an Egyptian for the sake of all believers and the redemption of the Hebrews. He is redeemed by the fact he became the humble leader of stubborn and stiff-necked slaves that got from serfdom to freedom. We use our ears for anything. Rebels and hooligans, sea men pierce their ear: it strengthen their brains and guts... they say! Ears are terribly sensitive and Chinese medecine would heal or curse any healthy person with some needles. "ozniyot\אוזניות = earflaps may harm our "audibility" but we feel so comfy... in particular with ourselves, in our world. These days of aw and brightness cause us to open up, God willing, humans consenting.

Still God confides in us. Oh! we would love to put God into a box, a sealed cupboard or ark.The great Scrolls of the Torah that are lodged in the “aron haqodesh\ארון הקודש / holy ark” serve to release us as each letter aims to make us free.

The 21st and last day under the sukkah is called “Hoshana Rabbah\|הושענא רבה” and is thus substantial and significant. It is also called in Yiddish “a git’n kvitl\א גוטן קוויטל - a good note” day. We are used to surf on the web. Jews write kvitlech or tzeltlech, “small posts/requests” to their rabbis. Long lists of “notes” daily arrive at the Western Wall either by fax, emails or now mobiles (there are delightful pictures of Jews putting their mobile to the stones of the Wall allowing somebody to speak out his soul from afar. In return, God sends back the “gite kvitlech”, the good judgment from heaven for a blessed year.

As they hold the “arbaa minim\ארבעה מינים - four species” the Jews will, on that special day, cry out: “Ana HaShem Hoshiya na\אנא ה" הושיע נא = o Lord, be merciful and save us” (Psalm 118:25).To begin with, it recalls the “hakafot\הקפות – circular movements” around the town of Jericho (Joshuah 6:14-15) as well as the sprinkling of the waters in the Temple (Talmud Yoma 59a). In the Mikdash/Temple willow branches that require a lot of water, were put at the four corners of the altar. A fter the destruction of the Temple, the seven circular goings around the altar are comparable to the movement around the “bema or almenor” (lectern). It is linked to the shaving of the head (harvest) as in Talmud Nazir 29a and specific payment of debts in Sabbatical year (Sanhedrin 68b). People cry, shout and this is a “joyous moaning” combining happiness and anxious expectation of a good note well-sealed and duly sent by God. This comes out of the entrails: ”Please, save right now!” Targum Onkelos suggests that “Hoshiya-na” means “save Yourself right now!”

This is an interesting matter. While they go around in circles, the Jews read a wonderful text for the Hoshana Rabbah and chant: “Ani VaHu Hoshiya-na\אני והוא הושיע נא - I and He save right now!” The jewish tradition considers that this links two verses of the TaNaKH, i.e. Ezekiel 1:1 “Ani (I) betoch hagolah\אני בתוך הגולה - I was amongst the exiled’ and Jeremiah 40:1: “VeHu\והוא (And He) was found in chains with all the other captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being deported to Babylon”.

In both verses the text refers to God, as first and third Person showing the deep connection in times of dispair as in times of hope. We may not be aware that this leads to a victory that saves God’s reign and His human creatures. As a result,we may grow: “He is my father’s God and I shall extol Him” (in Hebrew: “Anvechu\אנוחו”; Exodus/Shmot 15:2).

All through our existences, we are called to make savings. This banking word does not imply that we would be God’s odd soul savings or properties under strict and limited control. In our cultures, savings mean that we would not spend or make money, profits. But when God saves us with a good one-year ticket, it is our task to increase the fruit He shares with us. I have been visiting the sick for now more than 30 years. It is very strange how baby children saved from death are “deathproof”, unassailable. Financial crashes reminds us that God delivers, enhances and makes miracles.

This is also our own historic experience.We are good at savings, it is far more difficult to agree that we are saved. In the Gospel it is accounted: “Aha , you (Jesus), save yourself and us as well” (Luke 23:39). In his “priestly prayer”, Jesus also says to God: “All I have is Yours and Yours is mine... May they all be one, just as, Father, You are in me and I am in You” (John 17:21).

We entered a period - tekufah\תקופה of increasing hardships. After the perestroika, a lot of people turned to be new rich, new believers, new "just married in accordance with clean and pure Tradition". We see and we are involved in the slidingdown and collapse of a system. As believers, we are also a part of it. We are not "taken from the world, but that God should keep humans from evil" (John 17:15).

av Aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]
October 11, 2008 - – 11 deTishrei 5769 - י"א דתשרי תשס"ט

Who knows (understands) the thoughts of humans?\מי יודע מחשבות אדם כי הבל הם:
The fisherman - Icelandic stone sculpture.\הדיג - אומנות באיסלנד

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

the first and the last... and vice versa

Are you my friends? and am I a good pal, buddy, boo, friend in return? Should I consider that I have to apologize and ask for forgiveness online? It is possible to say that Kippur - Yom Hakippurim - the Day of expiation and At-One-ment is a unique moment, year after year in the Jewish calendar. Strangely enough this does concern the Christian Churches and faith, but this aspect is mostly unknown or ignored. Some people would point out how important the day is and think that it is possible for non-Jews to pardon Jews and for Jews to connect the act of pardon to the Gentile world. Such a view is "mean", narrow-minded and meaningless even when people think they are allowed to act like the Jewish communities with good will. It would pre-suppose - to begin with, that we have a clear vision of the Lord's fulfillment and reign over the univers, without competiing.

Indeed, on Yom Kippur, being a priest serving for the spiritual benefit of Israeli faithful, I think it is important to stress the link that exists between Kippur and Pesach. On Facebook, I have to pardon all my friends, those who have access to my page and notes and those who left, removed my name, erased or added me with much sympathy and openness. I never erase anybody. Internet shows a new realm for the believers: the worldwide set of social networks. People I will never meet, people whose real and virtual lives may be conflicting double-faceted mirrors. But extant people who type and connect. Souls and bodies, flesh and blood for whom I have to pray and that correspond to the universality of redemption. "Those who are near and those who are far away": on such days, faith drifts us to honestly and truly offer our lives for the invisible part of human beings.

I always succeed in forgiving, even actions, words or misconducts that I have to face daily. I someway experience what Paul of Tarsus meant or could feel when he wrote: "I was a Jew with the Jews and without law [Gentile] with those who are without law in order to gain just some of them" (1 Corinthians 9:20).

We live in an era which requires us to know with much exactitude who we are and why we belong or not, connect or not with each other, groups, communities, tribes, nations, linguistic speakers. Jewishness unconsciously relies upon a group that may resemble the Lamed-Vavivnikim\ל"וניקים (36, invisible righteous) who secretly save the world according to the tradition. Unity procedes from a good knowledge of who we truthfully are. Modern life may allow us swinging and surfing online, offline and get trapped in many unforeseeable webs.

Last Sunday, the Eastern Orthodox Church of Jerusalem (Old Calendar) commemorated Jonah who was thrown over board to the see and sheltered for three day in the "womb" in the big fish. His book is read on the day of atonement in the Jewish communities. Jews and Christians alike "are an evil generation seeking a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet" (Luke 11:29).

Wandering times: our lives are a common human, animal and vegetal pilgrimage; a development with constant changes. Jews, as humans, have drifted throughout history to reach their home and their fate has often caused the communities to implode or to be removed from the neighboring regions till the ends of the earth. The “sukkah\סוכה” or “booth” is a special place overshadowed with branches and twigs that "enlighten - sakhakh\סכך" all the believers. Light is shining during the day in order to spread enough shadow in daytime; normally, as the building of the booths is related to time commandments, it mainly concerns men. Say that women are not tied to comply with the commandment, though it is evident that everybody does meet in these simple shelters. Places where people firstly read the Scripture, the Talmud words, discuss spiritual issues, eat, drink, sleep in a sort of good-natured and jovial atmosphere.

It is said that seven ushpizin\אושפיזין - special guests may show during this wandering period that recalls the first crops of Nissan which end and are simultaneously renewed by the time of the harvest autumnal crops in the Land of Israel. Sukkot is the perfect feast for a full ingathering at different levels: Jews come together to rejoice. God sheltered His children under the sukkot and thus protected them. He gave them His assistance and food, nurturing them and making them thirsty for more understanding of His projects in the new year.

The special ushpizin (guests) are usually considered to be Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David. According to various traditions, other guests might be present as Prophet Elijah and some other famous rabbis. It is indeed significant that the visible and invisible world encounter in a temporary shelter overshadowed by God's Shechinah\שכינה, Divine Presence for a time of joy, to learn and have some keyf-fun in flimsy housings. During these very special days, we are joyfully invited to share all our human capacities: knowledge, food, friendliness, hospitality, good mood, pardon, patience, politeness and humor. We are asked to welcome anybody, in particular the needy. This aspect is very striking as a lot of people are impoverished and funds are collected to nourish individuals and families in need.

This is why the mitzvah/commandment to take the “arbaa minim\ארבעה מינים – Four Species” is so meaningful in the way we are able to enhance our relationships, our socializing abilities. Groups often fragment or split into small cells that can be very connected but may appear to be reluctant to agree upon this kind of ingathering for the sake of a project viewed as a year that mainly depends upon God’s will. The Four Species are vegetal and thus belong to the basic realm of plants and seeds, crops and harvesting.
The lulav\לולב/palm is rigid and flexible, hadassim\הדסים/myrtle can be appealing as seductive eyes and the etrog\אתרוג/citrus is as big as a good heart full of love and knowledge while the aravot/willow branches require a lot of water to survive. Fragrances are very significant: the etrog/citrus is tasty, smells good and had a nice appearance. Each man holds in his hands the entire Community of Israel.

Talmud tractate Sanhedrin insists in the Talmud on the oneness of Jewish people and that each individual is responsible for the soul (life) of all the others. Then, the weaving of the Four Species to the east, south, west, north, up and down (one tradition) shows how everybody praises the Only-One God Who is present everywhere. Over the past decades, some new habits showed up in Israel: Christian groups – mainly of Western and Protestant backgrounds – go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Sukkot that does not exist in the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic or standard Christian traditions. Sukkot is indeed the Feast – Hechag\החג, par excellence also in the Gospel: “On the last day, the great day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried out: “… as Scripture says, “From His heart shall flow streams of living water.” (John 7:38). The Feast of the booths is also clearly mentioned as Jesus’ transfiguration at Mount Tabor. He shone with a very white and unusual light and the disciple Shimon-Peter, seeing him discussing with Moses and Elijah in their tents, suggested to build him also a shelter (sukkah\סוכה) (Matthew 17:2).

There is an interesting point that passes from a certain comparison between the Jewish sukkah hospitality and the Christian Eastern orthodox conception of “icon”. An icon is a flat painting without depth showing the saints in different situations. Some of them can “host” many saints who lived in different centuries. This is somehow connected with the full ingathering celebrated during the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Sukkot is a time-related feast: Talmud Sukka 52a-b describes how, during the Feast, the Massiah ben David should appear in glory after the unveiling of the Mashiach ben Yosef\משיח בן יוסף, the suffering Messiah. We may feel that our days are counted and though "expand" at the same time. Our hours, weeks, months and years expand and distend, dilate toward personal, civil, national and international developments. We are often too stressed. We also try to compact time as if the future and good things were out of hand. Ingathering for a time to share intimacy with God plus our fellow humans is a real challenge. Pardon does not erase anything. Atonement assembles all the colors and sounds of life. Pardon allows us jumping forward with revised and renewed joys. Many people need to feel that.

These days of awe are awesome because they allow us to grow, to get enhanced and enhance the others. "וירבו שמחות - may joys multiply in our lives - amen - Jesus, with a full spirit of joy called to oneness". Every soul is more than any seemingly empty grave or destroyed temple. We are like the Jerusalem sparrows and doves: born to fly and not to flee, born to be sustain by God's finger.

av Aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

Photographs: Praise Him with the sound of the ram's horn\הללו בתקע שופר
[Psalm 150:3]
כנסייה של אב אלכסנדר מן
храм усопш.рб. Б. о. Александра Меня/ Novaya Derevnia: church of late Fr. Aleksandr Men

Add a comment

Mechadesh: Renewal

Talmud Berachot 55a states: "Three things should be prayed for: a good king, a good year and a good dream". The king is God Who "renews the initial things (mechadesh ma'asey vereshit\מחדש מעשי בראשית); "year" is the "shanah\שנה" that starts in Fall (second time after Spring/Pessah-פסח) and good dreams.... Indeed we areprofessional dreamers with unbelievable desires and expectations that do come true! Just click, even nowhere, God's miracles for Jewishness make food out of tamarisk tree leaves, bring pogrom survivors from Hamburg to New York with bread, onions and minced meat that turn to be worldwide "hamburgers". Le Most High feeds the rich and the poor. We were about to conquer Uganda, and realized all of a sudden that we had been away from home for 2000 years = twice one day = yesterday (Psalm 90:4) and that, again, "dreams come true" in Eretz Israel.

Jews often experienced how long periods of time, years, hours, months require a lot of patience - not necessarily dedicated to "sufferings". There are "times and delays". In Israel, whatever turmoil and mishmash, seasons can slow-slow be greeted with joy. And we love feasts! We love new events, chances.
Rosh Hashanah is a time of happiness, sweetness. With much family and community encounters, sharing fruit, honey, apples, figs, pomegranates. Dipping fresh apples into delicious honey and wishing "shanah tovah\שנה טובה, chasime toyve\חתימה טובה = a nice sealing of your names in heaven". Laughing and hugging is good, "shanah and chatimah\שנה וחתימה" is more: to seize the right time for a right life in the right place. "shanah\שנה" comes from "Ya-SHaN-ישן = ancient to be bright"; it is related to "shanah\שנה" : a) to repeat, i.e. to learn again and again = things really go from old to new, not the contrary. b) to teach, study "he who studies reviews (renews him/herself) every day" (Nidda 73a) ; c) to vary, make a distinction; not exactly the same but parallel to Greek "panta rhei" (all things are in flux, cf. Sanskrit : “sam-sara” that sound a bit desperately fateful).

Pessah/Passover is indeed the first New Year time in Spring; Rosh HaShanah is rooted in the drama of divine judgement and final harvest at the end of time, as in Sumerian society. Our good old "mazal/maz'l-מזל" makes chances new and fortune obtainable. While dipping fruit into pure natural honey, we gamble our lives and days because the Blessed One "(she)qi'manu lez'man hazeh\שקימנו לזמן הזה" (maintained us alive until this period)... So why should He stop? True, there are the sick, the injured, broken destinies, severe diseases, wars and the "situation", the rise and the fall of the ever-New Shekel. Yes, there are all kinds of fears, uncertainty: how can we think of tomorrow if we hardly can cope with yesteryear's lucky or sad events? “Shanah” also means "to come a second time". Not "cursed times", but times that we can meet joyfully. Rosh HaShanah is Yom HaZikaron\יום הזיכרון, the “memorial anniversary day of the creation”, a brand new creative day. Oh, I love to wish at night a "shenah tovah\שנה טובה" (have a good sleep), because "shenah\שנה = sleep" is this daily refreshing time of trust that we shall awake and get honey-tasteful affairs.

"Shanah\שנה" implies changes, reversing situations, unexpected affairs and events, new portion of time: from old to new, to refreshing (like on the computer), to scroll up-down and across our path and reach our peak of accomplishment ("shen\שן" = "peak, stone, cf. tooth" and refers to Jacob's stone on which he slept and envisioned the ladder and Israel's destiny in Genesis 10:10-29).

The English word "year" comes from "ár/árið" in Old Icelandic (Germ. "Jahr", Lat. "hornus" (of this year) and corresponds to "Spring renewal" as in dialectal Russian/Ukrainian "zhara\жара" = "time when warmth appears"). Now, there is something special among the Gentiles: Greek: "hora/ορα" = "time and year = time of the day, of the year, right time". Russian "God/год" = "year" but Ukrainian "(g)Hodyna/година" = "hour". It shows how difficult it is to measure time as it seems unsteady, flexible, elastic from hours to ages.

The Rosh HaShanah point is a real "chidush\חידוש" = "unique new event". It implies getting aware of the priceless reward for our being kept living. This also obliges us to consider the point of a non-revenging way of living: the spirit of these days consists in proceeding real introspective reflection and actions . This is the "soul" of Rosh HaShanah. True, It is important to underscore that the Hebrew traditions perceive the Tana'ch and the Oral Law as overshadowing time, past, present and future. This is the principle of "There is no before and after in Scripture". Since the time of the Haskalah/Enlightenment, scientific studies compellingly scan the Scripture as compared to some linear historical line or development. It is important to understand the roots and logics of times and delays. Nonetheless, this cannot be the only way Jews AND Christians must consider time and years, days, minutes, seconds.

On the other hand, epochs, periods of time (tekufot\תקופוה) sweep back and forth, backwards to invisible past, fleeing present onwards to unsubstantiated future. This is why Abraham did respect the whole of the Mitzvot fiven in the Sinai and Jesus' Transfiguration waves up and down the ages from Moses to Elijah. This allows us to get to some kind of redemption, even in these very harsh financial days of money and stock exchange floating and slow drowning process.

The Romans had the same consumption patterns; daily distribution of money (aces, bread and tickets to get to the circus games). In the Antiquity as today, people could be stinking rich or get down the drain. This is an ongoing process that would not stop. Still, the real problem is how human communities can face such value ups and downs WITH FAITH, i.e. not being affected by any turmoil.

Judaism call "seres\סרס " the way that consists in interpretating God's Word "by [reversing, revolving] transposition", which means that God alone controls what the humans and even the faithful cannot understand in the Scriptiure. The King of the Universe, the Creator of the Worlds - as well as of times and delays - surpasses all the weird acts of craziness conveyed by human nature. The "song of the Red Sea" (Exodus 15) is imperfect = unachieved although the Hebrew did cross the Yam Sof-Red Sea. But the tense suggests that past will be present and mainly describes a future action.

We desperately try to fix our lives and take the lead in the process of time-control. This is not possible. Films, photographs, videos, audios, DVDs grow old and time continues. It makes life new. This is the unbelievable conviction and hope of the Jews that history is overshadowed by God. Events, the most horrible or wonderful events happen as elements that constantly make every soul, body, creature, new. This is why - with God's help - and without even being personally involved in the process, we are getting new and "clean". We had hurricanes, tycoons, tsunamis. We are in troubling financial boiling kettles. Cool, "don't be afraid"; the tempest will pass for the just and the unjust. It is somethimes terribly hard to accept such a challenge. Prayers are stronger than any bonds, also stock exchange bonds. Like debts, long or short-term debts, human souls are called to be redeemed (a financial word)!

At this point, the Breslover Rebbe has his grave in a land that needs a lot of pardon for all the irrational chaotic quakes of the Ukrainian history. It only mirror the destiny of human beings. R. Nachman declared that anyone who would come to his tomb with the intimate will to pronounce the tikkun haklali (the total remedy/repair prayer of the 10 Psalms), will be saved from the Gehenna/ Gey Hinnom\גיי הינום. Humans can be saved from damnation. Saint Silouan the Athonite stated that we ought to "keep our soul in hell and do not despair". The two spiritual moves are parallel; Gates will lift up and get opened. Just knock.

It should be noted that the autumnal Feasts that start with Rosh HaShanah and end on Sukkot (the Feast of the Booths) are parallel to the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christian Feast of the "eschaton" (World-to-come – end of - time): The "Feast of the Cross" and the "Liturgical Church New Year" on September 14th (Julian calendar = 09/1st in the West). The Jews often focus on the fact that the Cross has widely been utilized as an instrument of torture against Jewishness (and other people by the way). We might not know that it symbolizes the TAV, the last letter of the Hebrew/Aramaic alphabets and has the shape of a cross, a plus. And the Christians do not only sanctify some instrument of torture. On the Feast of the Cross (09/ 27 = Oriental; 09/14 = Western Churches), in the bottom chapel of the Holy Sepulchre, the Eastern-Orthodox Jerusalem patriarch will bow down and rise up 40 times, chanting "Kyrie eleison" that does correspond to "rachem aleinu\רחם עלינו" (have mercy upon us) read during "Shacharit\שחרית" Morning prayer = God is "HaRishon veHaAcharon\הראשון והאחרון" (the First and the Last, the Alef\אלף and the Tav\תו. – “o-mega/ω-μεγα” is the last letter in Greek). The Christian believers should bear witness that God is alive, opens the gates of loving-kindness as in the Gan Eden with its tree of life.

One of the most beautiful Jewish prayers is said on Rosh-HaShanah: "Our God and God of our fathers, reign over the entire world in Your glory, be exalted over all the earth in Your splendor and reveal Yourself in the majesty of Your glorious might over all the inhabitants of Your terrestrial world. May everything that has been created understand that You have created it; and everyone who has a living breath in the nostrils declare: the Lord, God of Israel is King and His kingship reigns over all." (cf. John chapter 17, Jesus’ priestly prayer).

Av Aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

Photograph: a man or 20 New Shekels - what's the profit?
בן-אדם או 20 שקלים? מה היתרון?