Friday, December 19, 2008

Little oil lamp: a surplus of light

Feasts are mostly considered as regular and cherished rendezvous celebrated all through the year. Hanukkah or the "Feast of the Lights" is a special moment. The festivities might have mentally begun for some people with Halloween. The Russians introduced Santa Claus' clone festival in some Ded Moroz\дед Мороз (Granpa "Freeze") mainly consisting of sweets, cakes, letters to get some gifts by the end of the civilian year. Well pumpkins, carrots, Thanksgiving turkeys, chocolates... It is time to get the sufganyot\סופגניות or jelly dough nuts that are more and more sophisticated. The Ashkenazim prefer to add the "latkes\לאטקעס - fried potatoes pancakes". Of course a lot of balloons. We love balloons at all times in this country and a lot of mishloach\משלוח - gifts or chanikke-gelt\חנוכה-געלט, special Hanukkah money for the children. Today, December 19th is the St. Nikolaos day and it is celebrated in the West on December 6th. From that day till January 19th (Feast of the Theophany, Old style) Jews and Christians are involved in a period of rejoicing in the light.

In Israel and in the diaspora, mixed families developed a sort of "Chrismukkah", combining Hanukkah with Christmas are slowly replaced by separate and more coherent feasts. Finally, there is a kind of secular "chres'mas" feast that is more secular in some parts of the country, showing unclear X-mas trees and Santa Claus intertwined with candles...

With regards to Hanukkah, during eight days from Sunday 21 of to Monday 29th/Kislev 24 (at night) - Tevet 2 - כסלו כ"ד עד טבת ב, the Jews will light the seven candles by using the first one, the shamash\שמש = server. Huge candelabra lightning usually organized by the Lubavitch ChaBaD. Joyous days for times of uncertainty. One thing is sure: light overcame and overcome darkness and " Nes Gadol Haya Po\נס גדול היה פה - a big miracle happened here (in Israel) or Sham - there (as viewed from the diasporas)". It is more luminous to interrogate your “dreyd’\דריידלl or savivon\סביבון” (little top) about your future than any soothsayer in town. Hanukkah is the only Jewish feast that leaps over two months: it starts on Kislev 24 and ends on Tevet 2 . The shamash (server) used to light the candles is the source of flushing sun brightness (shemesh\שמש). Indeed, Hanukkah is more lunar reminding about how the Moon births each month then disappears still constantly showing again as a sign of Divine Providence and care.

Miracles are God's flickering winke-winke signs or signals. But even if God shows much confidence in us - quite unbelievable by the way! - what is more important to learn or experience this year through this feast? A victory? God's constancy? our survival and humankind's existence? Or God's shining pardon when we hardly can stand or appreciate each other?

The parshat hashavua (weekly pericope) recounts how Joseph, Jacob's preferred son had received a splendid tunic. His competences and good look inflamed his brothers’jealousy. They sold him to an Ishmaelite, He steadfastly refused to be seduced by Potifar's wife who managed to put him in jail. There he was interpreting dreams with insights and finally was called to explain Pharaoh's nightmares about some cows' forms. He thus predicted seven superproductive years followed by seven years of hunger. So get ready to spare and develop your economic system was Joseph final touch to Pharaoh who assigned him as his chief governor. Last but not least, in Genesis 38, the role game between Tamar and Judah, who cheated and abused her... or each other.

This is totally on line with Hanukkah. It is evident that we can connect Hanukkah to the historical events that happened when the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus Epiphanes decided to annihilate the Jews in 167 B.C. We always focus on the Maccabees revolt and fight. True. To begin with, it is important to underscore the terrible passivity of the Jews in times when pleasures, leisures and la-la land ways of living were more agreeable with some Greek tact than to make one's existence a sacrifice for the traditional realm of the Mitzvot/ Commandments. This is a constant test for the Jews. We easily can trap ourselves in some pleasuring places and habits.

This should be a real alerting alarm for some members of the Jewish communities: Jews do love life and know how to enjoy it to the fullest. We can really feel profound insights in accomplishing the divine statement on the seventh day of the creation: "It was very good - היה טוב מאד ". For the Gentile world it echoes like a permanent alert: take care, good care and be careful, not to fall into misdeeds or transgression. We have a simple example at the present with the Madoff banking disaster. He just behaved in accordance with the rest of the bank system corrupt managers; just a bit too much because Jews have to behave...

The same as for Exodus from Egypt: once free in the desert, the ancestors regretted “Egyptian onions”! – not some latkes or sufganyot for which one can get nuts and lose full dough. In that particular case, they were ready to lose their souls and brains but return to what was their usual food + slavery = wonderland. Now, as concerns the Greek culture that had spread throughout ancient world, the prestige of the language, culture, refined lifestyles, ancient Greek salads or so as we do love them, the music that spaces us out, all these habits developed into slowdowns toward the observance of the Jewish traditions and Temples services. At least, Greek culture focuses on beauty, absence of scars, hedonistic and philosophical positions. The Jews got re-operated – rejecting Judaism and the sign of circumcision – in order to participate, for example, in the Olympic games.

Is it so remote from our way of living? We live in a Jewish State. It is a blessing if we can really and freely accept the yoke of the Mitzvot\מצות. It may happen that we behave as part-time new pagan people that arrived in Israel from any part of the world. We would not wear one kippah or woman head cover at home (abroad) and suddenly would get three on the top. At some bus stations very pious young boys and girls are disguised as Halloween pumpkins till they get into the bus, put on the yarmulke, change their look into more modesty.

A real Jew must accept constraints that are not easy to observe. It requires in-depth education and training. Thus, the Maccabees acted as true fighters, but in a way that is rather similar to the despotism imposed by the then-hated Greeks. The problem was that the Syrian-Greek emperor decided to destroy the Jewish way of living by imposing a ban on three major "Mitzvot" / Commandments of the Torah: a) To cancel the sanctifying of the New Month (Rosh chodesh\ראש חודש-ר"ח); b) To abolish the Brit-Milah\ברית מילה (circumcision) the sign of the Covenant with Abraham; and c) To suppress the celebration of the Shabbat, the day on which the Jewish Community recognizes that God is the Creator of the Universe and that He gave His Law (Torah\תורה) in order to comply with His Will. This is meaningful in comparison to "incarnation". Jews are born from Jewish feminine wombs that mirror the Temple/Holy of Holies\דביר . By suppressing circumcision in the flesh and the measures of special times and delays (new moon, Shabbat), Jews were not obliged to "assimilate. They lost there salt and taste of Divine Presence.

High Priest Matityahu ben Yohanan, from the town of Modi'in decided to fight Antiochus in order to preserve the values. Was it a “national - nationalistic” movement? It mainly preserved God, His morals and Words. They evicted the oppressors after three years of harsh struggle but the victory was mainly a spiritual miracle. They took over the Temple of Jerusalem and needed to purify and to re-dedicate it. They found a single cruse of olive oil and could light the lamps of the menorah (candelabra, a "lamp" in Hebrew), which burnt for eight days in a row.

The miracle of the light showed at that time the importance of spiritual struggle and resistance, which are still very much an up-to-date challenge. We might often give up our religious forces and abandon the commandments of God.

There are two ways in destroying a community of faithful and this concerns not only the Jewish Community but also the Christians: a) Physical annihilation as the Jews were exterminated during World War II at the time of the Shoah/ Churban\שואה-חורבן (reduction to nothing) (catastrophe) and previously mentioned in the Bible in the small scroll of Esther. This is the Feast of Purim. b) Cultural annihilation, which is often very subtle and not very clear to determine and the purifying of the Temple by the Hasmoneans shows this particular kind of spiritual behavior giving to God the right and first place. In the Christian world this is very similar to the spiritual resistance of the saints and martyrs throughout history, especially over the 20th century.

The first step of the struggle conducted by the Maccabees ended on 25 Kislev and this is one of the explanations given for the name of the Feast: Hanukkah, i.e. "HaNUKH\הנוך" = "they rested [on the KH\כ"ה = 25]" to be compared with "Hankiyah\הנכיה-deduction, diminution " as stated: "Sota V, 20: "a Pharisee "from deduction" who pretends "I take from what is mine" (I stint myself) in order to do a good deed").

In fact the word is mentioned in the Second Book of the Maccabees since Hanukkah\חנוכה is "dedication, inauguration" (Talmud Tractate Shabbat 21b). This tiny lamp of oil was found unexpectedly. Would it be possible to compared this to the song we sing during Pessach: “Dayeinu\דינו” :”If God had only done such and such a miracle… that would have sufficed”? Indeed, we are not strong in our faith. At times, we might understand that what is imperiled, in ourselves as in our society, is precisely God’s Presence and steadfastness. It did suffice for God’s witnesses that one single oil lamp was ready to burn. They rededicated the Temple.

In this respect, Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount are interesting: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses it taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is not longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:13-17).

Chag Urim sameach! חג אורים שמח

Av Aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

December 19/6, 2008 - 22 Kislev 5769 - כ"ב דכסלו תשס"ט

בחיכל שלמה - בית-כנסת הגדול בירושלים
Heichal Shlomo - Jerusalem

Akathist to Saint Nicholas

St Nicholas is the patron of travelers, and we pray to him for deliverance from
floods, poverty, or any misfortunes. He has promised to help those who
remember his parents, Theophanes and Nonna.

Akathist to Saint Nicholas

Kontakion 1
O champion wonderworker and superb servant of Christ, thou who pourest out for all
the world the most precious myrrh of mercy and an inexhaustible sea of miracles, I
praise thee with love, O Saint Nicholas; and as thou art one having boldness towards the
Lord, from all dangers do thou deliver us, that we may cry to thee:
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Ekos 1
An angel in manner though earthly by nature did the Creator reveal thee to be; for,
foreseeing the fruitful beauty of thy soul, blessed Nicholas, He taught all to cry to thee:

Rejoice, thou who wast purified from thy motherʹs womb!
Rejoice, thou who wast sanctified even unto the end!
Rejoice, thou who didst amaze thy parents by thy birth!
Rejoice, thou who didst manifest power of soul straightway after birth!
Rejoice, plant of the land of promise!
Rejoice, flower of divine planting! Rejoice, virtuous vine of Christʹs vineyard!
Rejoice, wonderworking tree of the Paradise of Jesus!
Rejoice, lily of paradisiacal growth!
Rejoice, myrrh of the fragrance of Christ!
Rejoice, for through thee lamentation is banished!
Rejoice, for through thee rejoicing is brought to pass!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 2
Seeing the effusion of thy myrrh, O divinely‐wise one, our souls and bodies are
enlightened, understanding thee to be a wonderful, living source of unction, O
Nicholas; for with miracles poured out like water through the Grace of God thou fillest
them that faithfully cry unto God:

Ekos 2
Teaching incomprehensible knowledge about the Holy Trinity thou wast a champion of
the confession of the Orthodox Faith with the holy fathers in Nicaea; for thou didst
confess the Son equal to the Father, co‐everlasting and co‐enthroned, and thou didst
denounce the foolish Arius. Therefore the faithful have learned to sing to thee:

Rejoice, great pillar of piety!
Rejoice, city of refuge for the faithful!
Rejoice, firm stronghold of Orthodoxy!
Rejoice, venerable vessel and praise of the Holy Trinity!
Rejoice, thou who didst preach the Son of equal honor with the Father!
Rejoice, thou who didst expel the demonized Arius from the council of the saints!
Rejoice, father, glorious beauty of the fathers!
Rejoice, wise goodness of all the divinely wise!
Rejoice, thou who utterest fiery words!
Rejoice, thou who guidest thy flock so well!
Rejoice, for through thee faith is strengthened!
Rejoice, for through thee heresy is overthrown!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 3
Through power given thee from on high thou didst wipe away every tear from the face
of those in cruel suffering, O God‐bearing Father Nicholas; for thou wast shown to be a
feeder of the hungry, a superb pilot of those on the high seas, a healer of the ailing, and
thou hast proved to be a helper to all who cry unto God:

Ekos 3
Truly, Father Nicholas, a song should be sung to thee from Heaven, and not from earth;
for how can a mere man proclaim the greatness of thy holiness? But we, conquered by
thy love, cry unto thee:

Rejoice, model of lambs and shepherds!
Rejoice, holy purification of mortals!
Rejoice, container of great virtues!
Rejoice, pure and honorable abode of holiness!
Rejoice, all‐luminous lamp, beloved by all!
Rejoice, light golden‐rayed and blameless!
Rejoice, worthy converser with angels!
Rejoice, good guide of men!
Rejoice, pious rule of faith!
Rejoice, model of spiritual meekness!
Rejoice, for through thee we are delivered from bodily passions!
Rejoice, for through thee we are filled with spiritual delights!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 4
A storm of bewilderment confuseth our minds: How can we worthily hymn thy
wonders, O blessed Nicholas? For no one could count them, even though he had many
tongues and willed to tell them; but we make bold to sing to God Who is wonderfully
glorified in thee:

Ekos 4
People near and far heard of the greatness of thy miracles, O divinely‐wise Nicholas, for
in the air with the delicate wings of Grace thou art accustomed to forewarn all those in
misfortune, quickly delivering all who cry to thee:

Rejoice, deliverance from sorrow!
Rejoice, gift of Grace!
Rejoice, dispeller of unexpected evils!
Rejoice, planter of good desires!
Rejoice, quick comforter of those in misfortune!
Rejoice, dread punisher of wrongdoers!
Rejoice, abyss of miracles poured out by God!
Rejoice, tablets of the law of Christ written by God!
Rejoice, strong uplifting of the fallen!
Rejoice, support of them that stand a right!
Rejoice, for through thee all deception is exposed!
Rejoice, for through thee all truth is realized!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 5
Thou didst appear as a divinely‐moving star, guiding those who sailed upon the cruel
sea who were once threatened with imminent death if thou hadst not come to the help
of those who called upon thee, O wonderworker Saint Nicholas; for, having forbidden
the flying demons who shamelessly wanted to sink the ship, thou didst drive them
away, and didst teach the faithful whom God saveth through thee to cry:

Ekos 5
The maidens, prepared for a dishonorable marriage because of their poverty, saw thy
great compassion to the poor, O most‐blessed Father Nicholas, when by night thou
secretly gavest their aged father three bundles of gold, thereby saving him and his
daughters from falling into sin. Wherefore, thou hearest from all:

Rejoice, treasury of great mercy!
Rejoice, friend who provided provisions for people!
Rejoice, food and consolation of those who flee unto thee!
Rejoice, inexhaustible bread of the hungry!
Rejoice, God‐given wealth of those living in poverty on earth!
Rejoice, speedy uplifting of paupers!
Rejoice, quick hearing of the needy!
Rejoice, acceptable care of the sorrowful!
Rejoice, blameless provider for the three maidens!
Rejoice, fervent guardian of purity!
Rejoice, hope of the hopeless!
Rejoice, delight of all the world!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 6
The whole world proclaimeth thee, O most blessed Nicholas, as a quick intercessor in
adversities; for oftentimes preceding those that travel by land and sail upon the sea thou
helpest them in a single hour, at the same time keeping from evils all who cry unto God:

Ekos 6
Thou didst shine as a living light, bringing deliverance to the generals who received
sentence to an unjust death, when they called upon thee, O good shepherd Nicholas.
Thou didst quickly appear in a dream to the Emperor, terrifying him and ordering him
to release them unharmed. Therefore, together with them we also gratefully cry unto

Rejoice, thou who helpest them that fervently call upon thee!
Rejoice, thou who deliverest from unjust death!
Rejoice, thou who preservest from false accusation!
Rejoice, thou who destroyest the counsels of the unrighteous! Rejoice, thou who
tearest lies to shreds like cobwebs!
Rejoice, thou who gloriously exaltest truth!
Rejoice, deliverance of the innocent from their fetters!
Rejoice, revival of the dead!
Rejoice, revealer of righteousness!
Rejoice, exposer of unrighteousness!
Rejoice, for through thee the innocent were saved from the sword!
Rejoice, for through thee they enjoyed the light!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 7
Desiring to dispel the blasphemous stench of heresy, thou didst appear as a truly
fragrant, mystical myrrh, O Nicholas; by shepherding the people of Myra, thou hast
filled the whole world with thy gracious myrrh. Dispel also from us the stench of
abominable sin that we may acceptably cry unto God:

Ekos 7
We understand thee to be a new Noah, a guide of the Ark of salvation, O holy Father
Nicholas, who drivest away the storm of all evils by thy direction, and bringest divine
calm to those who cry to thee:

Rejoice, calm harbor of the storm‐tossed!
Rejoice, sure protection of those who are drowning!
Rejoice, good pilot of those who sail upon the deeps!
Rejoice, thou who rulest the raging of the sea!
Rejoice, guidance of those in whirlwinds!
Rejoice, warmth of those in frosts!
Rejoice, radiance that dispellest the gloom of sorrow!
Rejoice, light that illuminest all the ends of the earth!
Rejoice, thou who deliverest people from the abyss of sin!
Rejoice, thou who castest Satan into the abyss of hades!
Rejoice, for through thee we boldly invoke the abyss of Godʹs compassion!
Rejoice, for as ones rescued through thee from the flood of wrath, we find peace
with God!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 8
A strange wonder is thy sacred church shown to be to those who flock to thee, O blessed
Nicholas; for by offering in it even a small supplication, we receive healing from great
illnesses, if only, after God, we place our hope in thee, faithfully crying aloud:

Ekos 8
Thou art truly a helper to all, O God‐bearing Nicholas, and thou hast gathered together
all that flee unto thee, for thou art a deliverer, a nourisher, and a quick healer to all on
earth, moving all to cry out in praise to thee:

Rejoice, source of all kinds of healing!
Rejoice, helper of those that suffer cruelly!
Rejoice, dawn shining for those wandering in the night of sin!
Rejoice, heaven‐sent dew for those in the heat of labors!
Rejoice, thou who givest prosperity to those in need!
Rejoice, thou who preparest an abundance for those that ask!
Rejoice, thou who often foresees requests!
Rejoice, thou who restorest strength to the aged and gray‐headed!
Rejoice, convicter of many who have strayed from
the true way! Rejoice, faithful steward of the mysteries of God! Rejoice, for
through thee we conquer envy! Rejoice, for through thee we lead a moral life!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 9
Assuage all our pains, O our great intercessor Nicholas, dispensing gracious healings,
delighting our souls, and gladdening the hearts of all that fervently hasten to thee for
help and cry unto God:

Ekos 9
The falsely‐theorizing orators of the ungodly, we see, were put to shame by thee, O
divinely‐wise Father Nicholas; for thou didst confute Arius the blasphemer who
divided the Godhead, and Sabellius who mingled the persons of the Holy Trinity, and
thou hast strengthened us in Orthodoxy. Therefore we cry unto thee:

Rejoice, shield that defendest piety!
Rejoice, sword that cuttest down impiety!
Rejoice, teacher of the divine commandments!
Rejoice, destroyer of impious doctrines!
Rejoice, ladder set up by God by which we ascend to Heaven!
Rejoice, God‐given protection, by which many are sheltered!
Rejoice, thou who makest wise the unwise by thy sayings!
Rejoice, thou who movest the slothful by thy example!
Rejoice, inextinguishable brightness of Godʹs commandments!
Rejoice, most luminous ray of the Lordʹs statutes! Rejoice, for through thy
teaching the heads of heretics are broken!
Rejoice, for through thee the faithful are counted worthy of glory!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 10
Desiring to save thy soul, thou didst truly subject thy body to the spirit, O our Father
Nicholas; for first by silence and wrestling with thoughts, thou didst join contemplation
to activity; and by contemplation thou didst acquire perfect knowledge with which thou
didst boldly converse with God and angels, always crying:

Ekos 10
Thou art a rampart, O most blessed one, to those who praise thy miracles, and to all that
have recourse to thine intercession; wherefore, free also us, who are poor in virtue, from
poverty, temptations, illness, and needs of various kinds, as we cry unto thee:

Rejoice, thou who rescuest from eternal misery!
Rejoice, thou who bestowest incorruptible riches!
Rejoice, imperishable food for those that hunger after righteousness!
Rejoice, inexhaustible drink for those that thirst for life!
Rejoice, thou who preservest from revolution and war!
Rejoice, thou who freest us from chains and imprisonment!
Rejoice, glorious intercessor in misfortunes!
Rejoice, great defender in temptations!
Rejoice, thou who hast rescued many from destruction!
Rejoice, thou who hast kept countless numbers unharmed!
Rejoice, for through thee sinners escape a frightful death!
Rejoice, for through thee those who repent obtain eternal life!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 11
A song to the Most Holy Trinity didst thou bring, surpassing others in thought, word,
and deed, O most blessed Nicholas; for with much searching thou didst explain the
precepts of the true Faith, guiding us to sing with faith, hope, and love to the one God in

Ekos 11
We see thee as a brilliant and inextinguishable ray for those in the darkness of this life,
O God‐chosen Father Nicholas; for thou conversest with the immaterial angelic lights
concerning the uncreated light of the Trinity, and thou enlightenest the souls of the
faithful who cry unto thee:

Rejoice, radiance of the Three‐sunned Light!
Rejoice, daystar of the never‐setting Sun!
Rejoice, lamp kindled by the Divine Flame!
Rejoice, for thou hast quenched the demonic flame of impiety!
Rejoice, bright preaching of the Orthodox Faith!
Rejoice, luminous radiance of the light of the Gospel!
Rejoice, lightning that consumest heresy!
Rejoice, thunder that terrifies sinners!
Rejoice, teacher of true knowledge!
Rejoice, revealer of the secret mind!
Rejoice, for through thee the worship of the creatures hath been abolished!
Rejoice, for through thee we have learned to worship the Creator in the Trinity!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 12
Knowing the Grace that hath been given thee by God, we long and joyfully celebrate thy
memory, O most glorious Father Nicholas, and with all our soul we flee to thy
wonderful intercession; unable to count thy glorious deeds which are like the sands of
the seashore and the multitude of the stars, being at a loss to understand, we cry unto

Ekos 12
While we sing of thy wonders, we praise thee, O all‐praised Nicholas; for in thee God
Who is glorified in the Trinity is wonderfully glorified. But even if we were to offer thee
a multitude of psalms and hymns composed from the soul, O holy wonderworker, we
should do nothing to equal the gift of thy miracles, and amazed by them we cry unto

Rejoice, servant of the King of kings and Lord of lords!
Rejoice, co‐dweller with His heavenly servants!
Rejoice, support of faithful kings!
Rejoice, exaltation of the race of Christians!
Rejoice, namesake of victory! Rejoice, eminent victor!
Rejoice, mirror of all the virtues!
Rejoice, strong buttress of all who flee unto thee!
Rejoice, after God and the Theotokos, all our hope!
Rejoice, health of our bodies and salvation of our souls!
Rejoice, for through thee we are delivered from eternal death!
Rejoice, for through thee we are deemed worthy of eternal life!
Rejoice, O Nicholas, Great Wonderworker!

Kontakion 13
O most holy and most wonderful Father Nicholas, con‐solation of all in sorrow, accept
our present offering, and entreat the Lord that we be delivered from Gehenna through
thy God‐pleasing intercession, that with thee we may sing:

Alleluia! Thrice.

And again Ekos 1 and Kontakion 1.

Prayer to Saint Nicholas

O all‐praised and all‐honored hierarch, great wonderworker, saint of Christ, Father
Nicholas, man of God and faithful servant, man of love, chosen vessel, strong pillar of
the Church, most brilliant lamp, star that illuminest and enlightenest the whole world:
thou art a righteous man that didst flourish like a palm tree planted in the courts of his
Lord; dwelling in Myra thou hast diffused the fragrance of myrrh, and thou pourest out
the ever‐flowing myrrh of the Grace of God. By thy presence, most Holy Father, the sea
was sanctified when thy most wonderful relics were carried from east to west to the city
of Bari, to praise the name of the Lord. O most superb and marvelous wonderworker,
speedy helper, fervent intercessor, good shepherd that saveth the rational flock from all
dangers, we glorify and magnify thee as the hope of all Christians, a fountain of
miracles, a defender of the faithful, a most wise teacher, a feeder of the hungry, the
gladness of those that mourn, clothing of the naked, healer of the sick, pilot of those that
sail the sea, liberator of prisoners, nourisher and protector of widows and orphans,
guardian of chastity, gentle tutor of children, support of the aged, guide of fasters, rest
of those that labor, abundant riches of the poor and needy. Hearken unto us that pray
unto thee and flee to thy protection, show thy mediation on our behalf with the Most
High, and obtain through thy God‐pleasing intercessions all that is useful for the
salvation of our souls and bodies; keep this holy habitation (or this church), every city
and town, and every Christian country, and the people that dwell therein, from all
oppression through thy help; for we know, we know that the prayer of a righteous man
availeth much for good; and after the Most‐blessed Virgin Mary, we have thee as a
righteous mediator with the All‐merciful God, and to thy fervent intercession and
protection we humbly hasten. Do thou keep us, as a watchful and good shepherd, from
all enemies, pestilence, earthquake, hail, famine, flood, fire, the sword, the invasion of
enemies, and in all our misfortunes and afflictions do thou give us a helping hand and
open the doors of Godʹs compassion; for we are unworthy to look upon the height of
Heaven because of the multitude of ourʹ iniquities; we are bound by the bonds of sin
and have not done the will of our Creator nor kept His commandments. Wherefore, we
bow the knees of our broken and humble heart to our Maker, and we ask thy fatherly
intercession with Him: Help us, O Servant of God, lest we perish with our sins, deliver
us from all evil, and from every adverse thing, direct our minds and strengthen our
hearts in the Orthodox Faith, which, through thy mediation and intercession, neither
wounds, nor threats, nor plague, nor the wrath of our Creator shall lessen; but grant that
we may live a peaceful life here and see the good things in the land of the living,
glorifying the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God glorified and worshipped in
Trinity, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Out of the pit

We are soon coming to the chag Hanukah\חג חנוכה - the feast of dedication, service of God and education (chinuch\חינוך), lights, endurance, material miracle with the oil on December 222nd at night = 25 Kislev 5769\כ"ה בכסלו תשס"טl.

This Shabbat Vayeshev\וישב - (Jacob) lived (in the land of his father's sojourns, Eretz Canaan\ארץ כנען), the weekly Torah reading is from Bereishit\בראשית 37:1-40:23. It is said: "Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons because he was his son born in the old age and he made him a striped tunic (k’tonet pasim\כתונת פסים). Joseph was talented and passed on the evil gossip his brothers had to their father.

The weekly reading portion is dedicated to Joseph special biography: a seventeen years old shepherd pasturing the sheep; a dreamer: vayyachalam chalom\ויחלם חלום - Joseph had a (leading ahead) dream. Joseph develops dreams that would come to maturity along an long-term extended period of time and somehow still unaccomplished at the present. He was sold by his brothers who were so jealous that they could not get to killing him. Division may at times save the lives of some people endangered by enemies that would not agree on such a simple issue as a murder and thus choose a distorted solution. This is why ransoming the prisoners has been a major mitzvah in all Jewish communities until now. In Israel, this obliges making every possible efforts to redeem and obtain the liberation of Israeli soldiers captured by other armies.

It is the kind of basic mitzvah and remains an indisputable sign of "love towards our fellow people". Indeed, Jews observing the Mitzvot and developing a loving and caring spirit of love toward God and any human being cannot betray any single Jew the way Joseph was sold by his embezzled brothers. Ransoming is a must as it has always been in force throughout the history of Christianity. It steadfastly supports and immensely helped the Jews in the process of ascending to Israel.

The prophetic reading is from the Book of the Prophet Amos (2:6-3:8). The main problem consists of considering how we accept or reject the realm of the Mitzvot as a true way to freedom. "For four (transgressions of Israel), I will not pardon them (lo ashivenu\לא אשיבנו: we shall not give any positive response or change of penance) for their selling of a righteous man for money (michram bekesef tzadik\מכרם בכסף צדיק) and a destitute/poor man for shoes (veevyon baavur na'alayim\ואביון בעבור נעליים) ... And a man and his father go to a betrothed young girl (naarah\נערה) to profane My Holy Name (cf. Tamar) (Amos 2:7).

These are the issues that we have to face this week with regards to history. They envision Joseph's fate and destiny, Judah's affair with Tamar, Potifar's wife harassing Joseph show the development of what is wrong and can be corrected and lead to freedom after false possession or desires and treason.

The Talmud has it about the roots machar\מכר – to sell, mecher\מכר – sale, makkar – be acquainted, friends, mecherut\מכרות – sales/neighboring friends. Thus, “the seller is presumed to sell liberally, i.e. all except what is excluded (and ought to be defined)” (Bava Bathra 64b). Or, “a man can be sold for his theft, not a woman” (Sota 1c). But Joseph had not usurped, captured or, worse, bought his father’s love. Jealousy remains a spiritual disease or discomfort that was ravaging Joseph’s brothers. Then, Joseph and his brothers could not anticipate the far-reaching spiritual significance of their mutual attitudes and decisions. When the Prophet Amos recounts the events, he envisions something of what history has brought from the limping of Israel and its survival that still stuns or even stupefies the Nations and the Jews alike.

The real question we face on this day is that God made something, a dealing – ‘alila\עלילה (“He is terrible in his dealings with man, Tehillim 66:5”). Whatever faith, philosophical, doubtful attitude, humans seem to miss the chance of really getting to know if God accepts goodwill or exerts a strict determination. Suddenly, Nov.29th/19th events show; they are beyond any human control. We forget this or think we are strong when we are simply looking for some way-out. Freedom is not a way-out. It is life to the full.

History and psychology show that human beings thirst for power, might, desires, revenge, selfishness. We assist to some beyond the fancy scenario of ethical and economic collapse. Is it a sinking series of multi-layered depraved segments of modern society? A simple comparison is possible: the "panem et circences - bread and circus" way of living developed in Rome caused its fall and destruction. Giving daily amount of money for free food and gambling or attending the circus slaughtering parties encouraged a whole society to drift down to laziness and low commitment to true social and industrial developments.

Joseph was not only talented: his father loved him. We rarely do understand what love means in truth. Is it dedication? sacrifice for the others? It certainly does not mean that people dare sell their souls by selling humans to other humans as economic slaves or physical playmates. True, we act like that. Worse of all, spiritual leaders are deposed in all denominations for such misconducts: money, sex also deeply affect the lives of our communities. Should we be judgmental? Or, on the other hand, there are ways of pardon. Thrown into the pit, Joseph survived and was sold. A pit is not meant to trade human souls. Either they dry out and are visited by snakes and scorpios or they collect resourceful waters from above.

Joseph survived in the pit and he resisted to Potiphar's wife and her desires. This combat openly led to the calling to manage Egypt with insightful prophetic visions.We need the same at this point. We need flickering lights that shine and break through the walls of despair. There might be upheavals in many countries as a consequence of the present moral and economic crash. It had been envisioned by some bank leaders some 30 years ago. I worked with them and we could think that societal clashes would have shown up earlier. Actually, the catastrophe is at hand, not in terms of a picturesque Hollywood script. Life and humans can turn to wolves, lions, eager opacity full of insensitive feelings.

Where is Joseph today? Just a parallel question uttered by the Jews who survived the Shoah: "Where was our modern Esther?". Joseph had told Pharaoh about the seven rich and seven poor years. God requires realistic envisioning of the future. The same happened with Jesus of Nazareth: it does not mean anybody possess him. It requires more insights into the value of the Commandments and of our days.

When John the Baptist spoke of Jesus of Nazareth, he said: "He who comes after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose"(John 1:27). Similarly, Jesus declared: "When I sent you without purse and scrip and sandals (shoes), did you lack anything? And they answered: Nothing!" (Luke 22:35).

Av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

December 18/5, 2008 - 21 Kislev 5769 - כ"א דכסלו תשס"ט

The Magen David Adom intervenes to save all the inhabitants of Israel. They need support and prayers. They need volunteers. They need respect and recognition. They need gratitude. They are often in Joseph's and John's situation...