Thursday, November 13, 2008

Archbishop Jonah, new Metropolitan of America and Canada

This is a special breaking news online. I never met with Metropolitan Jonah. He was ordained a bishop very recently, on November 1, 2008. The reason why I insert this note is that he wrote the introduction the book of my brother and friend Fr. James Bernstein "Surprised by Christ" (Conciliar Press). His Eminence was then a priest and he described in the foreword the meaning of Fr. James' path and writing. He stressed with special words the importance of a correct understanding of the Scripture and insisted on the role of linking the First Covenant with the New Testament. This is something that makes sense and has to be developed in the Orthodox Church. New-elected Metropolitan Jonah shortly summed up the destiny of an American citizen and all the events that led to the events that happened over 50 years in the United States. He is truly a member of this society and a witness of how Eastern Orthodoxy can be a plus.

The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of America chose the Abbot, firstly as a bishop then as a Metropolitan. Archbishop Hilarion (Alfeyiev), the exarch of the Moscow Patriarchate of Vienna had been contacted by a group of American Eastern Orthodox faithful. The Providence suddenly pushed ahead Abbot Jonah (Paffhausen).

Jonah is a special prophet in the Bible: He did not want to go to Niniveh and would have gone on some relaxing cruise to Tarshish, then though it over, was cast down overboard and saved the fishermen. His was shelter in the depths of the Big Fish and came up to life. Jesus said that "You will not have any other sign [= wonder, miracle] than Jonas... and there is more right now" (Jonah 3:2-5; Matthew 16:4; Luke 11:29).

Eis polla eti, Despota! - εις πολλα ετι, Δεσποτα! - Многая лета! La multi ani!

News and Events
Bishop Jonah of Fort Worth Elected Metropolitan of All America and Canada

Posted 11/12

PITTSBURGH, PA [OCA Communications] -- On Wednesday, November 12, 2008, His Grace, Bishop Jonah of Fort Worth was elected Archbishop of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of All America and Canada at the 15th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah was born James Paffhausen in Chicago, IL, and was baptized into the Episcopal Church. While still a child, his family later settled in La Jolla, CA, near San Diego. He was received into the Orthodox Church in 1978 at Our Lady of Kazan Moscow Patriarchal Church, San Diego, while a student at the University of California, San Diego. Later, he transferred to UC Santa Cruz, where he was instrumental in establishing an Orthodox Christian Fellowship.

After completing studies at UCSC, James attended St. Vladimir's Seminary, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 1985 and a Master of Theology in Dogmatics in 1988.

He went on to pursue studies towards a Ph.D. at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, but interrupted those studies to spend a year in Russia.

In Moscow, working for Russkiy Palomnik at the Publishing Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, he was introduced to life in the Russian church, in particular monastic life. Later that year, he joined Valaam Monastery, having found a spiritual father in the monastery's Abbot, Archimandrite Pankratiy. It was Archimandrite Pankratiy's spiritual father, the Elder Kyrill at Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, who blessed James to become a priestmonk. He was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood in 1994 and in 1995 was tonsured to monastic rank at St. Tikhon's Monastery, South Canaan, PA, having received the name Jonah.

Returning to California, Fr. Jonah served a number of missions and was later given the obedience to establish a monastery under the patronage of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. The monastery, initially located in Point Reyes Station, CA, recently moved to Manton in Northern California, near Redding. During his time building up the monastic community, Fr. Jonah also worked to establish missions in Merced, Sonora, Chico, Eureka, Redding, Susanville, and other communities in California, as well as in Kona, HI.

In the spring of 2008, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America elevated Fr. Jonah to the rank of Archimandrite and he was given the obedience to leave the monastery and take on the responsibilities of auxiliary bishop and chancellor for the Diocese of the South.

Bishop Jonah's episcopal election took place on September 4, 2008, at an extraordinary meeting of the Holy Synod of Bishops. Earlier in the summer, his candidacy was endorsed by the Diocese of the South's Diocesan Council, shortly after Bishop Jonah had participated in the diocese's annual assembly.

Bishop Jonah was consecrated Bishop of Forth Worth and Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of the South, at St. Seraphim Cathedral, Dallas, TX, on Saturday, November 1, 2008. Consecrating hierarchs included His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South, Locum tenens of the Metropolitan See; His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania; His Grace, Bishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West; and His Grace, Bishop Alejo of Mexico City and the Exarchate of Mexico.

Metropolitan Jonah will be installed by the OCA's Holy Synod of Bishops at St. Nicholas Cathedral, Washington, DC, on December 28, 2008.

May the Lord bless His Beatitude, Jonah, newly-elected Metropolitan of All America and Canada with many years of fruitful service in His Holy Vineyard.

Eis polla eti, Despota!
H.E Jonah, Archbishop of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of America and Canada

Taking risks

It is a sort of habit, in the Old City of Jerusalem, but also in many very Jewish circles, to systematically answer to greetings by saying that everything is fine. Things are fine, or at least more or less fine.

Russian is wonderful for this hide and seek word play. It has some nuances that would normally be absent in Hebrew.

So things are not going that well, it seems, in the world at the moment. Others simply answer that there is "nothing new under the sun". True, I am told that every day. It is a kind of clerical interfaith parroting Esperanto. The French have a rather old and popular song about a servant explaining the "Madame la Marquise" that everything is wonderful, classy... still the castle is on fire, but everything is fine. Well, we have a new president of the United States. The man and his wife in particular are really wonderful and up-to-the-minute. Strange. We had surveyed some fifteen years ago that the move was on in the United States. I was then working and a director of studies in an international sociocultural institute. I was also heading a company which tried to define "the needs for sense". We had perceived through international studies of the trends that "melting-pot" and "inter-cultural relationships, connectivity" would burst and brign a big change in most of the societies. The American society is very forward. The financial crashing-down is ongoing. It was also something clear, but we didn't reach the bottom line at the present.

"Veeyn-kol chadash tachat hashemesh\ואין כל חדש תחת השמש" does not mean there is nothing new... Instead, it presupposes that all things exist and, as a consequence, we are blind to see them new.

It is astounding how the virtual world has conquered our brains and changed, distorted, twisted our perception of the reality. Again, it determined with new parameters our reality. Young computer whizzes have made fortunes out of bytes and bugs. Empires were thus created and continue to be launched. They actively transform and reshape our frontiers, existing and virtual acting abilities. They swindle between technical progress and human enhancement, causing mental mishmash and wandering on their way.

Strange kings and queens, a bit like Solomon looking at an ant lodged in his hand and wondering how powerful he was because he held her fate in his palm. And she answered to him he was nothing because she can flee quicker than he could run but she underlined that the king's hand was a good throne for her. There is something similar in the words of Jesus of Nazareth: "Even Solomon, in all his splendor, was not clothed as one of these birds" (Matthew 6:29; Luke 12:22-31).

Let’s say that things are constantly new, constantly "revised" and corrected, opening to some unknown repair. It is like this contemporary eye operation of the cataract: "chik chak" and there the sight is more acute, God willing, than when a child is born. Colors were turning to darkening yellow and, out of sudden, they are brighter, “newer”. Shortsightedness can also repaired by a quick operation! The problem is not to get used to things growing old or common. On the other hand, changes do make personalities, minds, bodies different, if not alien to some possible integrity.

This is the main issue of forthcoming reading portion Vayetzei\ויצאי – "And (Jacob) went out of the land”, the reading portion taken in the Bereishit 29:10-32:3. The haftarah/prophetic portion is read in the Book of Prophet Hoshea 12:13-14:10 (Ashkenazi; 11:7-12:12 for the Sephardim). It accounts how Yaakov left Beer-Sheva and went to Charan, the original place of Abraham. Jacob’s problem is very real for our generation and historic development. We need to know about our roots. Memory and family backgrounds can be very short-timed: 10 years seem to some like more than a century or two. We are quick at packed-up matters or actions, too quick at thinking. Then, we miss reflection, long-term patient observation of facts and invariant situations. We need short sentences and get tired by long phrases. Interestingly, legal texts (laws) who were always and everywhere written in a very concise tongue, using very few words develop at the present into long paragraphs of confused definitions.

We have the problem everyday in this country. Either we frame ourselves in Hebrew, which allows excluding the aliens, foreigners or considered as such. We clam up and seal down. In many places, people would address each other according to what they think the others are: Ke fadlak? (How are you?), kak dela\как дела? (Soviet Russian to ask how you feel), Are you good? is the local Pidgin that closes up any true conversation from the very beginning because the people who meet do not have any common language. It leaves us as if we were without roots.

Jacob’s problem is that his journey to Charan turned to be a way into exile and not in-depth discover of his roots. The major issue that we have to face and to resolve in our own lives and moral conducts is how to stop being twisted and crooked. As a consequence of his mother's decision to back him as her beloved son, Yaakov endorsed the responsibility of having cheated, betrayed, mocked and robbed his father and his brother by a process that is called “substitution”, “chalifah\חליפה” in Talmudic Hebrew.

It led to falsehood, made his life a hell. And it is indeed fascinating: his father-in-law Laban knew that Jacob was crazy in love with Rachel; still he cheated him during the wedding night and Yaakov got the sister, Leah… without even recognizing her till new dawn! (Gen. 29:25). Nu, he protested! Is this a model of nice and brilliant mishpuche\משפחה-family atmosphere or more likely to be some sort of professional enslaving nepotism?

"Chalifah – chalifim/chalifin\חליפה-חליפים.ן " firstly means "replacement, substitution": “When a scholar dies, who will get us one to take his place (chalifato\חליפתו)?” (Berachot II,5c). This is the very question about whom may take the succession in the Chassidic communities. It started with R. Nachman of Bratzlav who had no son, but continues today in the Chabad and the Szatmar movements. “Chalifot\חליפות” mean “shoots that replace and prolong”. This sounds positive. We saw that in the pevious note: in the year after a remittance/sh'mittah year, it is incumbent upon the believers to plant and be fruitful, i.e. to show real changes.

But “chalifah/im/in\חליפה-ים-ין” is usually negative and covers some treachery, fraudulent actions. Tricky maneuvers, connected with women and sex, are usually showing process as also money. Exchange as a possible double-dealing and crooked target is wonderfully defined in Kiddushin I,6: “As soon as one of the parties to the exchange has taken possession, the other takes the risk for its exchange”. The statement that deals in fact with the acquisition of a woman as a spouse exposes the real nature of the contract: it is a risk. In the case of Jacob, the whole story is crooked: he had no right to the birthright of his brother Esau and did not acquire it personally. He fought to get his identity. He could not think there would be a risk in working to get Rachel. In the end, he received four women that he knew intimately with much obedience to Laban or his wives.

We hate risks. We need to be secured. We collect credit cards and insurance policies. We are not only afraid of some accidents, wounds, injuries. It is important. But it is not the main issue. There is real fear: fear in facing unforeseeable future or anxiety that looks like a thirst for tranquility in times of turmoil. Financial dramatic changes can be pathetic for many people because money is an essential component of our relationships with others and also to God: "with all your effort = with all your money capacity/economic power-absence of might - בכל מאדך " (Deut. 6:4)

The haftarah also recounts Ephraim’s falsehood and the deceit of the House of Israel. “You are a merchant with deceitful scales in his hand, who loves to cheat. Ephraim said: I have certainly become wealthy! I have found power for myself” (Hos. 12:8). The fraudulent aspect of a risk is that we might consider us superior to others, at a personal or societal level without measuring the limits of human capacities. Thus, it is a spiritual exploit to repair bad tendencies and take control of our economic consumption habits.

Jacob’s marital problems give the exact picture of our lives’ risks. He often positioned himself as in a situation of being substituted and cheated. Curiously, it is comparable to Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman who actually told him: “Salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22). Jesus asked her to come with her husband. She simply answered she had no husband. “You are right in saying that,replied Jesus, because you had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband” (John 4:17). It is traditionally considered that he was speaking of the various covenants concluded by God with the House of Israel.

Does a covenant cancel a previous one? Or does it replace it? Is a new covenant a risk taken like when choosing a bride? We face life-long challenges that seem unreal because, at the moment, we prefer wooing like one-day butterflies, and then throw the others away after short instants of apparent satisfaction?

Judaism has often experienced through history this paradox of a profound desire from the non-Jews to replace them, take their birthright as God’s chosen ones. Thus, Israel usurped it for a dish and got the blessing with false hair. The paradox is that it worked and Ya'akov really got God’s blessing. The price certainly implies to accept to walk on earth by taking risks. Paul of Tarsus wrote that “to the Israelites are the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship (avodah\עבודה) and the promises” (to the Romans 9:4). Jealousy and fanatic zeal can lead to think that covenant-bearers can be replaced.

This is the present challenge of the Churches to recognize the full coherence and positive call of the House of Israel. Again, it will take time. In return, the Jewish communities should approach the Churches that have been abiding the Holy Land with more interrogations and insights. This is a bet and a risk because of the past relationships.

We should not be judgmental and "rush-obsessed" about what happens at the present, e.g. in the Holy Sepulcher. The real fights are not those we can shoot in a camera. They are much deeper. They involve the capacity to take up the risk of authentic faith and spiritual life. "Cheshvan" is indeed a sweeping month and faithful are born to be together. Faith shows in the miracles of reinvigoration and resurrection of our societies.

av Aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

November 13/1, 1008 - 15 Cheshvan 5769 - ט"ו דחשון תשס"ט

money money or what is our personal exchange rate?
כסף כסף או מה השער-חליפין האישי שלכם?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Le'hitpallel: Full moon temper and praying

From Thursday till Friday, we will go through "full moon" that basically corresponds to the middle of the Jewish month, e.g. on 14 Cheshvan 5769\י"ד דחשון תשס"ט [November 13, 2008]. The fourteenth day of the month can be totally weird and super-bizarre. It can absolutely reverse and revolve, shake, quake, bounce up and down the mood of the folk. It is not a female phenomenon although it might, for some individuals, be connected with the machzor\מחזור (menstrual period) that is so important physically and spiritually in the Middle-East. We already shared about this recurrent major event of what is going on in Israel and is linked to full moon.

Now, it happens that the religious world - especially in Jerusalem - encompasses all sorts of Christian monastics but also married men as well as Jewish males - I did not look into the Muslim culture but would presume the same exists. And they are also submitted, to some extent and manner that differs from the women, to this matzav ruach\מצב רוח (mood / temper). This interesting point is also that this "rattling of the nerves" is very time-limited, especially before the 14th day of the Jewish month and decreases immediately afterwards. Some people would simply be honest and say they are or got affected by the date; others would have the nerve to pretend that nothing happened, which can also be said with true unawareness of the facts.

Interestingly, in Hebrew, the true word to say temper/mood is derech\דרך (way). In this sense, it refers to "way" as a "route, path" a set of conducts and attitudes that lead us to some place; it is rather similar to "morals" and even "ethics". But moods and social attitudes can be terribly complex. They can raise a lot of problems, in particular in this country because of a common physiology that can be submitted to calendar schedules or temperature, heat and cold weather changes. "Temper" is connected with "temperature", at least etymologically. It started with a human capacity to temperate, i.e. being equality sensitive to heat and cold and thus very moderate.

Moderation is something like a dreamy lunatic fairy tale among the Jews who are too anxious or too adventurous, too creative or ready to shelter and hide who they are. "Derech" implies to go along as on a lead, a rearing, training path; "Moral is the man who leads his sons on the right path" (Yevamot 62b). The Jewish soul constantly needs to be submitted to exhausting questions with a great variety of responses, if any. The scoop of this Cheshvan 14, 5769 is that we have to get aware of the fact that we are survivors. This obliges us to act with decency. On the one hand the world is tight and stiff. The planet is small, though often fenced in tiny shuttles. This year, we woke with a new American president, Barak Obama that concentrates all sorts of hopes, dreams, frustrations. Out of a sudden, the fundamental mitzvah put put our lives at risk becomes true. provided that we do that for the sake of the living, i.e. expecting God's assistance.

It is incumbent on us, following a shmittah-שמיטה/remittance of debts and rest of the earth-soil year, to plant again, to sow seeds wherever possible. Israel respects and love planting, trees, flowers, vegetables. In the past 9,000 years there are a lot of mushrooms that are terribly trendy at the moment. Jericho's mushrooms weer famous from the most ancient times. Indeed, we love pitriot\פטריות (Yid. shvebelech\שבעבעלעך ). And the inhabitants of the Holy Land love picking up mushrooms in the forests and the caves. There might be some bad tendency to narcotics and drugs (hallucinogenic mushrooms, say). Other people dream of atomic mushrooms. We have to respond to God's rainy blessing by popping up all sorts of plants and cultures.

It means that we are going through a time of obligation: "be fruitful, multiply and give plenitude to the earth\פרו ורבו ומלאו את הארץ" (Gen. 1:28). I is sometimes difficult to see this as a mitzvah that comes after a command to leave the soil have a break. This is a difficult commandment in our context. But wherever possible indeed, we have a refresh and a time of new sowing. A time when we plant. It also means that we actively participate in the development of our environment, pay respect to the earth and God's creation. "To give fulfillment-achievement to the earth" is a special way for translating "mil'u\מלוא " ("replenish the earth and subdue it" is the usual translation). "Subdue\כבשה " is also peculiar. We cannot only think of taking the lead and forcibly conquer and subdue hostile nature. Indeed, the true challenge of Israel is that plants grow everywhere. Popping-up is usual stuff. It should remain a must. It also means to subdue evil among a society, deviances, systematic rejection. Faith and learning bring us to make every effort in order to be fruitful.

In Hebrew, derech aretz\דרך ארץ refers to the “way of the land”, good manners and simple morals, secular occupation (trade) and sexual connection. In arts, it means "profession, work". Indeed the Torah incidentally teaches the proper conduct in life, e.g. to build a house and then create a family ...” (Tosefta Sota 7:20). On the other hand, derech haaretz is used to speak of some travelling on a long journey compared to marital life (Gittin 70a). Talmud Kiddushin 1,1 depicts the three ways to marry for a woman and accept a husband (isolation with the man; sexual intercourse; money). It specifies that “those who deviated from the way of the society (tzibbur) became heretics as they refused to comply with the ways of peace (the Law; cf. Proverbs 3:17). This is why Derech Aretz constitutes a twofold “Good manners” large (rabba) and small (zuta) treatise of the Talmud. Avodah Zarah 48b considers that losing temper is some signal that we fall into dracha achrona (another road).

Israel has a long experience of worshiping God by means of words, silent words (not uttered but thought) or total silence (Hannah’s prayer is ambiguous because her lips were moving but no sound was to be heard). This became the model for Jewish prayer. Thus, it does not totally means that she formulated any structured prayer but addressed to the Lord. Anyway, this should prove that human sacrifices had been abandoned for quite a long time when the first avot (patriarchs) left idolatry. In the weekly Vayeira reading portion, it is said: “Vayitpallel Avraham leHaElohim\ויתפלל אברהם לאלהים – Abraham prayed to God” (Gen. 20:17).

The Semitic root Pallal\פלל should firstly be compared with Arabic falla (notch, edge of a sword) to get to the real spiritual meaning of the word. It is evident that, to begin with, “praying” was considered as a form of sacrifice, replacing self-mutilation in moments of ecstasy. Shamanism as initiating rituals would speak of spacing out the brains to reach some godly presence. Just as blood-gushing out (1 Kings 18:28) was normal in the account of Prophet Elijah and the priests of Baal. On the other hand, “cutting oneself, emasculate” is strictly forbidden (Deut. 14:1; 23:2). We are prompt at considering all this stuff as very barbarous.

Pallal also means to "judge or arbitrate" and hitpallel\התפלל developed into another deeper meaning showing a human can cut oneself in worship and still be very connected with those who pray. The act of interceding implies that a praying person is making the sacrifice of his/her time in order to obtain specific favors and blessings from God that will change the lives of others, known or unknown people. In this view, mitpallel\מתפלל really constitutes a act of prophecy that introduces into the realm of unforeseeable though expected divine loving-kindness. As it is said: “You did plead, did pray and your prayer rose and blossomed for the benefit” (Shabbat 55b). Tractate Berachot 5,1 confirms that “It is important to delay and be tardy, slow in putting the words together in meditation before uttering the prayer”.

Hebrew does not use many words. We can say things very quickly, promptly, short. Sometimes, it makes the demands too short. Look into the first prayers (Shma’ Israel-שמע ישראל/Hear Israel and the basic benedictions of the Amidah\עמידה). The blessings are clear-cut. Curiously, the Festive prayer-books are far most extensive, including endless sequences of superlatives and long phrases. The tendency is rather the same in all religions, even if the Quakers would pray in silence and say “Amen”. There is a sort of pil-pul\פילפול (cf. palpal and pallal) argumentative, disputing brainstorming attitude in praying. It is always on the move. Intercession means that a soul reaches out to accurate and real healing or repair of a situation. Thus, it cannot be reduced to some stylized repeatedly read or pronounced demands. The richness and uniqueness of the Hebrew prayers consist in that they are always new and renew the demands. The same happens in any tongue as said in Sota 1,7. The Rebbe of Breslov who composed the set of psalms into a Tikun klali (total/general repair) was aware that it is important to pray in one’s mother tongue and he used to ask the believers to say them in Yiddish, without excluding other languages.

Prayer as an act of pallal\פלל (cf. tefillah-תפילה / prayer, supplication, demands) is often very trying and requires a pouring of the soul and with a physical flexibility. In theory, all the Christian faithful can or could pray with any Jewish prayer-book and the matter has been studied theologically because it is an interesting feature. This presupposes the total absence of any spirit of replacement theology directed against the Jews. On the other hand, Christian prayers refer to other modus operandi and access to God. On the one hand, Jesus entrusted his first disciples with a totally Jewish prayer that, also in theory, could be pronounced by any Jew, i.e. “Our Father – Avinu shebashayim\אבינו שבשמים – Avun divshmaya\ܐܒܘܢ ܕܒܫܡܝܐ” (Matthew 6:9-13). The perception of intercession with regards to time and space in Christianity creates a real point of separation.

Christians and Jews separate in the way they pray. This is not a judgmental statement. This is why nobody can replace or supersede anybody. This is also why we have to get to the fulfillment that God entrusts us in this world and be fruitful. We cannot avoid and go leaping over the barriers born of the way God entrusts us to bear witness to Him. It obliges us to understand why times are perceived in different ways. And first of all, there are patience, listening and praying.

Mar Sabbas monastery in the desert
Praying inthe Heichal Shlomo, the great synagogue of Jerusalem

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Es brennt - ס'ברענט - Fire!

There is a famous vitz-וויץ/joke about the insights of spiritual leaders in South Ukraine. That was in the good old days when the Jewish shtetlech-שטעטלעך / villages were still existent in this multi-cultural area. People were eagerly looking for some clarification about the future, even the near future, i.e. at times simply get some explanation about daily mishaps. We have the same today with the numerous soothsayers... One day, a tzaddik inflamed the assembled people with his very heartfelt sermon and cried out: "Es brent, es brent (Yiddish, not German) in Berdichev!!" I see flames and fire in Berdichev right now!" People got scared. They were in trouble. Some pogrom could be led against the community of the renown city. But the man who reported the event burst into laughters, sighed and said: "Actually, there was no fire and no house was burning in Berdichev on that day, but this darshan/preacher, 'vus a guk - וואס א גוק! = really full of insights!".

The world is on fire and flames lick and destroy everywhere - not always where we figure out that houses and/or minds are set on fire and burn down. We are going these days through a special period of anniversaries. The period extending from 8 to 17 Cheshvan - the Jewish month after New Year 5769 corresponds this week to various memorial and commemoration days or yohrtzayten\יארצייטן (Yid.: celebrations for the departed or historic events) from November 4th till November 11th, 2009.

According to the Jewish Tradition, the date of 11 Cheshvan 5769/November 9, 2009 marks the 3561th anniversary of the death of Rachel Imenu, patriarch Jacob's [Ya'akov-Israel's] wife whose tomb is constantly visited on the way to Bethlehem - at the present a special place located at a checkpoint. She is mentioned in a rather similar way the Hebrew TaNaKh (Bible) and in the New Testament. "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not /קול ברמה נשמע נהי בכי תרווים רחל מככה על בניה מניה כי איננו "(Jeremiah 31:15) compared to "In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning because they are not" (Matthew 2:18).

Rachel is often mentioned as in a sort of paradox that should be overcome. The paradox allows to maintain the distance between Judaism and Christianity and not to get to the heart of any human process of pardon and unity. On the one hand, "she refuses to be comforted". In the Gospel, "refusal" has been removed from the Greek text that refers to the account of the assassination of the children in Bethlehem ordered by Herod. In the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, and in most Christian congregations, the commemoration day of that murder is essential after Christmas.

The Christian traditions often compare the deportation of the Jews to Babylon (and the destruction of the First Temple/Bayt Mikdash harishon/) with the murder ordered by king Herod, infuriated and jealous because of the "eventual" birth of the Messiah in David's city of Bethlehem. The Christian scholars underscored how strong Rachel's refusal to be comforted "shows evidence" for the Jewish permanent rejection of Jesus of Nazareth as being the true Messiah.

On the other hand, the tragedy witnessed by prophet Jeremiah is more than important. He saw the destruction of the Temple. He was deported with the Tribes of Israel to Babylon, the land of Abraham's ancestors, a place of idolatry and total pagan cult. In fact, Jeremiah is much more positive: "Thus said the Lord, refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears: because your work shall be rewarded... and they shall come again from the land of the enemy (Jeremiah 31:16).

In the Gospel, new-born Jesus is taken to the land of Egypt, a way back and forth and later again to "Eretz Israel/ארץ ישראל" (Matthew 2:21) under king Archelaus, a historic manner to state the times and the delays. The killing of the [innocent] Children [of Bethlehem] has also been matched, by some theologians, with the destiny of the Jewish people. The Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem: "in view to build there the Temple, ordered Cyrus [the Gentile Messiah in the Jewish tradition], vey'al/ ויעל - to go up to Judea" - which is the last verb of the present canon of the Hebrew Bible (2 Chronicle 36:23).

Rachel died on her way to Efrat and she knew she was giving birth to a male boy, Benjamin, the first and only child born in Eretz Canaan-Israel\ארץ כמנען וישראל. Thus it significant for the understanding of the Megillat Esther/מגילת אסתר - the only book that anticipated the full extermination of the Jews in Persia. Both Mordechai and Esther were the direct offspring of Rachel through Benjamin. Mordechai and Esther's time of silence (as for the Jewish tradition and text) is definitely similar to the "Shoah extermination" or "Endlösung - final solution" during World War II.

It is also important to consider the development of hatredת deportation, assassination and genocide over long periods of history, in particular against the Jews (Armenians and Gypsies). With regards to the jews, it covers pre-Christian and pagan projects. It took a dramatic turn in our generation with the Nazi theories, the Endlösung /final solution (via full extermination of the Jews) drawn up by Hitler, carried out by Himmler, Goebbels and their clique in a full christened and highly baptized Europe. Indeed, Jews and Christians should carefully take into account the ups and downs that happened from the time of the destruction to the First and Second Temple. This is a long and common period of time and destiny. The query is to know why hatred prevail over the commandment of love.

On this day of Cheshvan 9th, the historic [or supposed] date of passing away of Rachel Imenu (Rachel our mother) allows a certain overtime envisioning of history. Special events are to be taken into account these days of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, usually covering November and sometimes tracking back to the end of October in the Gregorian calendar. These events are tied up. They are put connected like chains or ropes. They are part of a common humane and inhumane or a sort thread of memory. It would be a mistake to disconnect them.

This year, we commemorate, remember or participate in the following events: the 90th year of the end of World War II on November 11, 1918 [7 Kislev 5679], the 70th year of the "Kristallnacht" launched on November 8-9-10, 1938 [14-15 Cheshvan 5699], the passing over and then progressive breach into the Berlin wall on November 9, 1989 [11 Cheshvan 5750] that launched the reunification of Berlin and Germany. This is for the past and recent events.

With regards to Israel/Palestine, it is eventually noticeable that the Balfour Declaration allowing the establishment of the Jews in Palestine by the British Crown is dated November 2, 1917 [17 Cheshvan 5678] - a Muslim-Christian Association vehemently protested on November 11, 1918 at the end of the War against the Zionist establishment. Intriguingly, late prime minister Itzchak Rabin was murdered on 12 Cheshvan 5756 [November 5, 1995]. The new mayor of Jerusalem is to be elected on November 11, 2009 [13 Cheshvan 5769].

This Cheshvan list shows a development of actions, facts that are intertwined and cannot be separated. In terms of faith, they oblige to pay attention to the worse and constant desire of mankind to drown or be drowned, erase or be erased. There is a constant move that privileges mass murders (the Ukrainian holodomor in the Ukraine in 1932-35). It was very special in Christian and Jewish Europe.

How come that 70 years after the launching of the Kristallnacht, harsh and savage attack against the Jews in Germany, the Roman Catholic Church celebrated the feast of the consecration of the Latran basilica in Rome (4th century AD.)?

Curiously, the rampant fight among the Christian denominations inside of the Holy Sepulcher turned on this date, to a brawl between the Greek and Armenian clergy on the Armenian feast of the invention (discovery) of the Holy Cross? We go through times of drastic changes that showed up decades ago and should be considered with much attention and prudence. Such fights were even more eager in the past and we have pictures of unbelievable brawls between the Greek, Franciscan and other clergy people. These attacks happened throughout the ages. They are sharp at the present. There is a terrible time of fright. Huge anxiety of the Churches in facing the future.

I incidentally heard the comments of a specialist in religious affairs. He promoted his last book online anddeclared that the closer the harsher. The more religious people are close, the bigger the clash can erupt among the believers. I had made the same statement live on radio and wrote that years ago. This is definitely not the point at the present.It is evident that fire and hatred quickly spark and flash between spiritual groups that cannot accept the ideology of other parties.

In the context of Jerusalem today, the issues are a bit different. There is a strong national and phyletist [ethnic] narrow-minded and scary ghettoizing process among most of the congregations of all creeds and beliefs. This shows up clearly when they feel estranged to each other. It is worse when they feel foreign and alien to the natives of the present Holy Land, Israeli and Muslim, Christian Arab and Jewish identities.

Who could ever think that the Holy sites of Christianity would be under control of the Israeli State of the Jews? 70 years ago, riots clashed when the British allowed the legal settlement of the Jews, paving the way for the Israeli State. The problem is not political. It not even cultural. Who could anticipate that a Jewish State would exercise the legal control of the very ancient Christian denominations that have been present in Eretz Israel over two thousand years. They feel and are at home as any believer (Psalm 87:6). It is a tremendous challenge for both the Jews and the non-Jews to update fixed theological points of view. Simpleminded ignorance and despise, systematic rejection and replacement theology toward the Jews have led to constant historic denial of Israel. Jews are entitled to suspect any attitude toward their existence and tradition. It is important to open up trustworthy conditions of a real dialogue between equal partners. It will take centuries. This is not a joke. This is just real.

The problem is definitely not whether the fight burst out on November 9th, 2009 in the Holy Sepulcher. Once again.... No. It boomerangs back and forth with all the events that we commemorate these days. They are tied up into the long thread mentioned above. Should we consider that this happens by hazard or meaningless providence on that date?

The end of World War I caused the collapse of the Austrian-Hungarian and the Ottoman empires. Nonetheless, the same Habsburg atmosphere was and remains pregnant in many new states that became independent after the fall of communism. We think that communism fell and disappeared. This is undoubtedly a great mistake with regards to the real social situation in many countries at the present. The situation and the events concerned are to be considered with much prudence and subtlety.

As I wrote in a previous article, we have to track back with much insights in order to understand all the events that dramatically showed and affected the 20th century. Let's say that the ongoing discussion about a possible and often rejected beatification of late Pope Pius XII in the Roman Catholic Church is then to be connected with the issues raised by the canonization of late tsar Nicolas II and Russian imperial family murdered at Ekaterinburg/Sverdlovsk 90 years ago. I always celebrated a "pannychida/memorial" service in Jerusalem, in Slavonic and even in Ukrainian(!) long before the full recognition of the last Russian tsar. He had been canonized by the Church Abroad years before reunification with the Moscow Patriarchate. The departed were living souls. It is also a must to explain that humans are humans and how we have to act with decency in the Holy Land.

In my recent note about Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytskyi, I explained how a "beyond the norms" man of faith, accomplished an immense task... Still, he is not recognized by his own Church. The Yad VaShem Israeli/Jewish Shoah Memorial Institution does not accept him as "righteous among the Nations".

90 years cover a veery short period of time. It is like a minute, micro-time period in the destiny of humankind. Indeed, it affects the whole of the world at an international level; some soldiers came from Australia, New Zealand, America! It remains a European and Mediterranean pending problem about how to reshape Europe. By that time, Europe could think that the Europe nations have been totally faithful to the roots of Christendom. The Jews had been living in Germany since very ancient times. They also had settled in the Ukraine, Greece, the South of France and many other provinces of the Roman empire.

It would certainly be a mistake to dissociate the Kristallnacht persecution and laws launched on November 9th, 1938 from the beginning of the fall of the Berlin wall on November 9th, 1989. True, it appears to be an "impossible task" to match acts of rejection, hatred, apostasy and war with the prime of recovery for the German nation and the "newly reshaped" Austrian republic.

It is worthy to apprehend these terrible days in Germany with a spirit of authentic pardon and understanding. Pardon and reconciliation are not simple words. We parrot them too often in all existing clerical groups, It is a sort of professional click. It shows up quickly. It is too much imposed as a presupposed requirement of faith by the Christian creeds. Easy to utter, far more difficult to implement with a spirit of loyalty.

In this month of Cheshvan 5769 and November 2008, following a year of shemittah/remittance of debts and rest of the soil, all the above mentioned dates make sense for the believers. It only does if they accept true reconciliation. This also implies that we are ready to face the most hideous acts as events that go far beyond our understanding. For the moment, we need to collect the documents. We need to accept them as legible memories of our generation. Still, God exercise his loving-kindness toward all of us and constantly pardons. Humans are permanently jumping from a Flood to rising up again. We are submitted to the same challenging journey as Abraham in the "Lech lecha" parashah/reading portion of last Shabbat.

Interestingly, the Eastern Orthodox celebrate on November 11/October 29 the feast of Saint Anastasia the Roman virgin who was martyred in the3rd century. Her name means "Resurrection". This is the correct name given in Greek to the Holy Sepucher, though the local Greek Orthodox call the site "ho naos - ο ναος/the Temple", in opposition to the Mikdash/מקדש that was extant on the Temple Mount. We need to switch from opposition to complementarity.

I will take the liberty to make a personal statement. I rarely speak of my backgrounds. In a blog, I wrote a whole "Qiyum/קיום - [Yid.: existence in Yiddish] portion". I must explain to my children the family backgrounds.

I am the survivor of many family tragic events: the first pogroms in the 1880s in the Ukraine. My family started to back the Zionist movement and buy some land and properties for the account of the then Jewish Zionist Congress after the horrible pogroms of 1905 (my late mother and father were 5 years old). On both sides, the grandparents were of Jewish Orthodox rabbinic descent. The family went through all the pogroms, the Ukrainian civil war, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviet rule, deportation and extermination both in concentration camps (Majdanek). They faced the Gestapo and their local assistants in the Ukraine and in Western Europe. They faced blackmail in Germany, Switzerland and France.

Hundreds of my family members (both mother and father sides) were deported and murdered someway, to begin with my mother who was rescued at the World War II. She birthed me at the age of 48, which definitely was a miracle by that time for various reasons.

To begin with, in 1949, women could not easily bear a child. Today it is "trendy" for other reasons. She was also partly lame and deaf. I write this for one specific reason. My parents were 18 years old on November 11, 1918. Their prime of life. The situation was messy in the Ukraine by that time. They were born in the same town - Nikolaiev - Nikolayiv - as the late Tsemach - Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Lyubavich. When my grandfather passed away in August 1914, at the start of World War I, he was 42 yrs old; the whole of the city of Nikolaiev and other villages and cities (Cherson, Odesa) accompanied him to his burial place, Jews and Ukrainians, Germans and other people. He had set up a charity system to help the natives of whatever origin.

After World War II, the shock had been terrible for the Ashkenazi communities. A lot of Jews refused to give birth to children, considering that the time of the extermination could not allow them to suspect that life is still possible. I know a lot of Jews who hesitated to prolong their lives by birthing children. The question was raised in the same way by prophet Jeremiah by the time of the deportation to Babylon and the destruction of the Temple.

My parents were seemingly born to be murdered by hatred shown in many ways against the Jews - pious people - foreigners. They were forced to clean the pavements with toothbrushes in Berlin, which tracks back to the Kristallnacht period. 1938 was a deadline to flee from Germany.

Still, my mother took a very special decision. She thought she had to accomplish a special Mitzvah/commandment-positive deed. She decided that, being her son, I had to learn and speak German fluently, without accent. We had Yiddish, Russian, Ukrainian and other tongues like French and English. Still, she took a decision that met with a lot of opposition from the then very reduced Jewish community of survivors.

She took that decision explaining that being a survivor, it was her duty to give me the opportunity to reconnecting with the Germans. She had the courage to say: "my son does not belong to the past generation, but to a new generation whose duty is to reconcile with all the people who harmed us".

This was true toward the Ukrainians and the Russians. But it sounded very special to let me live among former Nazis for the sake of true pardon. She always refused to return to Germany. On the other hand, my parents always greeted the German in their language that they spoke wonderfully along with other tongues.

She managed in such a way that I spent some time as a child in a family that lived in Bischofshofen near Salzburg (Austria). I frankly don't know how she made it. But the Austrian family accepted me though they knew I was a Jew. I prefer to put that way to begin with. Basically my mother transgressed the Mitzvot by sending me to a non-Jewish family who did not say a word about their fully support, during the war, of the Nazi regime. Then I spent a lot of time in Dusseldorf. I was hosted by a famous local family who had fought the Nazis and also in Limburg. True, the Germans usually don't know from where I am. I love the tongue because it is very connected with Yiddish that I surveyed and even taught as I specialized in comparative and psycho-linguistics at the university of Copenhagen. I saw the first groups of German youths arriving in Israel.Some settle in the country.

Her decision was indeed very on line with the Jewish tradition of pardon. Jews are born to pardon. Not only to pardon, which can be beyond any thinkable act for most of the Ashkenazi survivors. My parents had survived of all the catastrophes that happened in the East European countries, in Christian environment. Nobody is entitled to parrot such words as "pardon". Of course "pardon and forgiveness" do not mean at all "to forget". On the contrary, it means "to remember" as mentioned during every Shaharit/Morning prayer about the obligation for the Jews to remember the awful deeds of Amalek, the devilish enemy, symbol of heathen idolatry.

This is also why I decided to dedicate my life to forgiveness. But there is a sacramental dimension or mystical reality in the realm of forgiveness. Of course, the Jews underscore this aspect of the intercession to God as a constant renewed cry and appeal. It is Abraham's interceding for Sodom. The inhabitants of Sodom were not sexually obsessed sinners and same-sex partners only, let's put it that way. They were framed, refused to welcome the foreigners, the others, the "aliens". They were those who would never open the door with a spirit of hospitality. They stubbornly denied the others any rights with blindness and moral racial opacity. I often wonder why no denomination has ever tried to build there, in the wilderness of salt, some monastery or a simple shtub/small yeshivah.

On the 12 Cheshvan 5756 [November 5, 1995], Itzchak Rabin was assassinated in Tel Aviv. This year, the date corresponds to the anniversary of the end of World War I. Look back to Rachel Imenu's death and the fact that she gave birth to the only son of Jacob/Israel who was born in the Land of Canaan: from him were born the two intercessors (Mordechai and Esther) who worked in deeds. They risked their lives in order to save the Jews from total extermination (Book of Esther, Hebrew version). They did it in silence. Feud and adversity, hatred, murderous impulsions are to be denounced and fought openly. Silence or patience and overtime reflection allow considering things differently. There is a special sort of sience: the silence that leads to reconciliation, a true one because people are then aware of their own being rescued. Pardon has nothing to do with weakness. On the contrary, it requires acting and thinking with veracity in all sorts od situations.

The Jewish tradition does not allow a generation to give a final answer to any event that affected the people over a certain period of time. 90 years are even less than a day, yesterday's day - as stated: "For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past as a watch in the night - כי אלף שנים בעיניך כיום אתמול" ( Psalm 90:4). We do not measure time at the present. We hurry up and think we are in a speedy race. Tremendous changes showed in the past 90 , 70, 60, 40 or twenty years. We face the same countdown as Abraham interceding for Sodom. He argued with full submission and righteousness. In the end, God decides. In interceding for Sodom, Abraham showed he did not reject them. He discussed the matter with the Heavenly Father.

In 1918, my parents were in the prime of their lives. The world sank and passed away many times during their lifetime. They reached their 80 and 90 and left a world in mutation. When he died at the age of 93 years old, my father saw the reunification of Germany live on television. It madde him happy. He was glad to see something like that. We are definitely not born to curse. We are born to bless and do our best to make sense of the days we are given. Dreams come true. Whatever they are, they must be coherent, even if we don't clearly understand their meaning and development . Job's words are correct: "I have heard of You (Lord) by the hearing of the ear - but now my eye see You; thus I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5).

Night and spiritual darkness, absence of sight have seemingly affected the souls over the 20th century in some awful death culture. "Night of faith" for the Little Flower nun, Thérèse of Lisieux that endured till now with Mother Theresa of Calcutta. It is the normal cry of a Holocaust survivor like Elie(zer) Wiesel whose first book was "Di nakht\די נאכט - the night".

The Breslover Rebbe has another point of view: anyone that would come and say the Generl Remedy psalms (Tikkun haklali - תיקון הכללי) at his grave in Uman and repent from his misdeeds of whatever nature, will be forgiven and rescued from the Gehenna. Such a statement is unique. It makes sense in accordance with the realm of the Mitzvot. It is much comparable to St. Silouan the Athonite's words: "Keep your soul in hell (she'ol\שאול in Hebrew, Gr. Hades, cf. the Gehenna) and do not despair!". This means that human experience is deeply rooted in life, rooted in hope beyond hope.

This is magnificently uttered in the festive Jewish prayer: "Blessed are You, Lord of the universe / Who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this (appointed) time (term)\ב' א' ה' א' מ' ה' ששהחינו וקימנו והגענו לזמו הזה. The Orthodox Churches also bear witness that God releases and pardons, reinvigorates.

Goethe wrote: "Schade, daß die Natur nur einen Menschen aus dir schuf, der zum würdigen Mann war und zum Schelmen der Stoff (it is a pity that Nature shaped only one man of out you that has the makings of a worthy man and a mischief") (Faust).

Forgiveness cannot be measured. It is the challenge we face by being still alive in the present. Pardon is the invisible Providence drizzling from the Throne of Glory in the High.

av Aleksandr [Winogradsky Fenkel]

November 11, October 29, 2008 - 12 Cheshvan 5769 - י"ב דחשון תשס"ט