Sunday, November 1, 2009

Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytskyi: 65 anniversary of his repose

Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytskyi: 65 anniversary of his repose

On Saturday, November 1, 2008, I published this note. Today, one year later, it is the 65th anniversary of the repose of this great man of the Church. It should be noted, that certainly for various reasons, this “deadline” date is not that mentioned. The problem is not to know whether Metropolitan Sheptytskyi was a Greek Catholic Ukrainian head of a Church that pathetically suffered during world war II and of course before. The point is the width, length, breadth, the in-depth insights that this remarkable servant of God has shown during his life.

I refuse to fence him in his “national” Church or inside the Eastern Catholic Rites. The Ukraine is a place of hardships at the moment. This concerns the political situation but also and mainly the sort of permanent “split” and taming process that shows in this place of God-seeking experience. I had underscored that Israel is a real social and political laboratory as Ukraine is in many ways. The personal destiny of Metropolitan Andrii meets with all the various elements that connect Judaism, Israel and The Ukrainian Church between Orthodoxy and other tendencies.

Present-day rlationships between Ukraine and Israel are somehow difficult. The late Metropolitan had written and thought a lot on his part and he saved a lot, extraordinary number of Jews in outstanding situaitons and actions. This should continue to pave the way for real dialogue.

°°°°°°°°°°

Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytskyi / Слуга Б. митр. Андрей Шептицький of L’viv-L’vov/Львiв=Льов-Łwów-Lemberg\לביב-לעמבערג of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church passed away 65 years ago on November 1st [Greg. cal.]/Oct. 19 [Julian cal.] , 1944 - Heshvan 15, 5705 - ט”ו דחשון תש”ה. He was born in Prylbychi to an old Ukrainian family that then belonged to the Polish Roman Catholic noblesse. He decided to return to the Oriental rite, reinvigorated the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, revived the Basilian Studite Byzantine tradition, wrote and preached in Ukrainian. He was made a bishop in 1899 (Stanyslaviv). Assigned metropolitan of Lviv in 1900.

A Polish Ukrainian-born in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire then under Ukrainan self-ruled short period of independence, heading his Church over Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Belorussia, Romania and the related diasporas, he was in jail under the tsarist regime (1914-1917), he had to face the Ukrainian civil war during the Bolshevik and Soviet period, then the first German occupation, the Nazi invasion, the Soviet rule.

During the Russian revolution, he heartedly welcomed in his monastery of Lviv his former jailer-keeper, Archbishop Eulogyi [and Abp. Vladimir] appointed by the Moscow Orthodox Patriarch St. Tikhon (murdered in 1927). He obtained the required documents for these two envoys of Patriarch Tikhon, which allowed them taking spiritual care of the Russian Orthodox refugees in Western Europe. Before World War I, he visited the Holy Land with groups of pilgrims. He also organized the Ukrainian Church in North and South America. He surely helped the Orthodox Church to get organized at the beginning of the 20th century, when for the first time after centuries, East and West rediscovered their heritage and roots. This slowly shows up at the present in the long series of encounters and missed rendezvous. He gave the example of conveying a constant dialogue with others, which is so important at the moment. He was a man inspirited by eternity.

He had been given special rights by the Popes from the very beginning of his ministry. They were confirmed by Pope Pius XII in order to resolve on his own the unbelievable confusing situation during World War II in his territory. During WWII, being lame in a wheel-chair, he conducted a permanent Synod sending “pastoral messages and letters” that were read in his eparchy/diocese of Ukraine. In his “труди - [Works]”, he fought all the then ongoing spiritual, moral, ethical, societal conflicts of a profoundly affected region. His famous pastoral letter “не убий - [Thou shalt not kill- לא תרצח “] ” condemned anti-Semitism and the deportation of the Jews.

Metropolitan Andrei fluently spoke many languages, i.a. French, German, English, Russian, read and spoke Hebrew and Yiddish (as late Moscow Patriarch Tikhon also did and showed when he was the Metropolitan of Vilnius). He had frequent meetings with Chief Rabbi Lewyn of Lviv who was murdered by the Nazis. He saved the son of the Rabbi and thousands of Jewish people. After the Shoah, the son of the Chief Rabbi, Kurt Lewyn, described his remarkable attitude in a book “A Journey through Illusions”. He is the only head of the Church who directly protested to Himmler and then Hitler [telexes] against the deportation, mass murder and extermination of the Jews. In the meanwhile he also had to face the Nazis and the Communists, being totally isolated though assisted by his brother Fr. Klement and a wide network of assistants. He was a man of prestige and unusual spiritual insights that influenced far beyond the framework of his own Church. He was a man of knowledge, a theologian, “a man beyond all standards/norms” as stated Prof. Gutman (specialist of the Shoah) in a meeting I attended some years ago in Jerusalem. There were few people of good will, a survivor and a specialist of his exceptional biography.

His brother Klement has been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church and recognized as a “Righteous among the Nations” by the Israeli Institute of Yad VaShem. The cause for the recognition of the unique attitude of the late Metropolitan was opened in the Roman Church on December 5, 1958. It is still pending: he has been denied by all parts although the prestige of his actions and positions are widely known. His personality was much respected: he died on November 1st, 1944. Stalin did not dare touch him or do take any action till the end of the 40 days of mourning. It appears that the Soviets deported the clergy and decided to erase his memory.

For years, I have been in contact with those in charge of his recognition. Metropolitan Andrei was considered by his flock as “the national [Ukrainian] Moses - рідним Мойсеєм”; he was definitely not a narrow-minded or stubborn nationalist. In the most hideous times of confused sequences of horrible periods, he became a true and outstanding witness. This deals with our own problems. Firstly in Israel: a rare man of knowledge and insightful prophetic views about the existence of the Jewish people in his area. His views about social care and welfare, dignity and ethics, economy and politics. He undoubtedly knew and experienced the in-depth meaning of true Christianity submitted to real vital faith and an incredible fighter for the life of every human being.

It will take a lot of time to understand such a character who confronted all sorts of paradoxes and messy events that continue to affect the development of the world today. He spoke with the words of his generation. He remains tremendously astounding in the present. We often think that we are open-minded and “universal” but we get afraid; then we frame, fence and block ourselves in all possible ways in our quest for identity, revenge or ignorance. Metropolitan Sheptytskyi never forced to foreign or alien creeds. He respected the souls and protected numerous peoples, in particular the Jews during the period of a full idolatry period of apostasy.

His writings and social activities should be a plus for Israel that encompasses the whole of the diversified multi-faceted aspects of humans that came from the Ukraine as survivors of the “Holodomor - голодомор” (mass murder through hunger in the Ukraine 1932-35). The Supreme Soviet intentionally assassinated through famine all the nations in Ukraine, to begin with the locals and Jews, Czechs, Gypsies and other peoples.

This is why the peaceful construction of a Jewish State will someday - in due time, when it will be a bit accessible for our faculties to reach out to the uniqueness of such a rare personality and man of faith. At this point, we are all, striving against the shading devils that have split our unity as human beings. It is not a time of opacity or blindness. We are marching in the future in the pangs of a long-term birthing process.

65 years ago, a man passed the borderline that connects the world of beneath and the world of above by witnessing in silence to the hope of his faith. There are borders and lines that constantly seem to postpone full understanding of out-the-way souls in exceptional situations. This happens with regards to Andrei Sheptytskyi. Still, his repose leads us onto a journey that will overcome one day the many illusions that continue to harm and hurt our generation. Contradiction is often a sign of positive struggle for life.

av aleksandr [winogradsky frenkel]

November 1st/October 19th, 2009 - י”ד דחשון תש”ע

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bereishit 5770

Acharei hachagim\אחרי החגים: "when the feasts are over" is a popular saying and a refreshing song full of true nostalgia and a touch of shmaltz, sort of mixed excessive emotional mush combined with some banality. The other folk's best is then "geshem-גשם/rain", the yearly hit that "will enable us to continue to march on the way"... It is quite amusing how Israeli society that may be crafty suddenly falls into a state of pathetic needs to be cuddled and pampered with a touch of childlike desires to be overprotected. Fall can be indeed a time of transition. A bit red as some of our hair cuts of the automnal leaves: "'s fal'n di bleter\ס'פאלן די בלעטער - the leaves are falling" is also an after world war II hit firstly sung by Yves Montand in French, then in Yiddish... Yossi Banai made it in Hebrew... "Listopad-лiснопад" means "November" in Ukrainian and Polish and means "leaf fall". The approaching month of Marcheshvan\מרחשון is thus a time of "sweeping away old stuff" and regular fasting days paving the way for the clarity of Kislev and the Feast of the Lights (Chanukkah).

It is very trendy to feel down. Of course, e.g. we live in a society that is approximately contented. This was shown in a recent poll and the Israelis are definitely optimistic compared to the way they are looked at from abroad as living in a threatening and dead-end situation. But as regards privacy, we respond with constant equanimity that is on the verge of puzzling perplexity. Just try the poll. It is very forward to play with insightful polls. Just ask: "How are you doing?" to some ordinary anonymous Israel inhabitants. Whatever tongue, the respond is: “Good - beseder - tayeb/kwayes (Arabic version = to:yeb in Jerusalem) - sheyn". The Russian-speaking inmates would tend to say "normal'no\нормально (normal = seemingly good)" but if you continue the poll, Russian will turn to "bolee li menee = more or less (well), cf. "chetzi-chetzi\חצי חצי - fifty-firty". The same happens in English, Yinglish, Arabic. There is a Hebrew, Greek and Russian/all-Slavic hip-hop hit:"Baruch HaShem (yom-yom: day-to-day)! = Gr. Doksa tou Theou! = Slava Tebe, Gospodi! (glory to You, Lord - interfaith version)". It does mean that things are going well at all. This is the plain answer of plain people who squelch spontaneous emotion to maximum private neutrality. We are sorts of firewalls. The problem is that it may kill because human beings are born to talk and need to speak out what they feel, from their insides to their brain and heart.

Can we say that we live in a gentle and kind society? Basically, Israeli society is geting tempted by mor and more internal violence. Justice and righteousness are still relevant but are deeply endangered by different tendencies. It is difficult to say that Israel is not a free state. It is. The biggest part of the country is powerfully dynamic, young, full of creativity. Young and elderly can achieve their goals if they are able to speak out and want to reach specific goals. Israel is an internationally developing country, on a universal basis. In the forthcoming years, some elements might be strengthened: ties with Asia, Africa. The United States and Canada are considered a part of the "golden State - Goldene medine" but it is not sure that the real dynamics come from there although the general trend is to "think Anglo".

Times may show that the connection with the former Soviet Union and its satellite republics or autonomous regions together with China, Japan and Korea may be far more meaningful. This is due the cradle of the State of Modern Israel. It has inherited something very strong from the "Eretz Knaan = Poland and the the border regions of Great Russia" as we used to say in Yiddish. We have been used for two centuries that emigration came from Eastern Europe to Europe and then America or via the Far East to Hong Kong, Manchuria, Mongolia, Harbin down to America and/or South America, in particular Argentina, Uruguay, Chile or Mexico. The move is now a "classic" of international people flow.

It is deeply present in Israel and progressively raises inside of the country some significant signs of constant seeds. It is rare that a country is steadfastly nourished and nurtured from the same basic human, linguistic, spiritual, mental area as it has been the case from the first aliyah till now. There is a permanent level of educational system between my great grand parents, parents (they would be 108 this year) and my cultural background that copes with that of late R. Yeshayahu Leibowicz born in Riga. He discovered with stupefaction that the young former Soviet youths had the same roots and education as he was given in Latvia a century ago.

This can easily be felt in Israeli society when speaking with the various actors of this part of the population that is going through a deep and quick assimilation process of Hebraization. This does not only relate to the language, but to cultural and mental positioning. It is a trend toward freedom and control over personal conscience. People interrogate themselves about the way they can be free, which is a typical Slavic and curiously Eastern Orthodox way of putting things on the table. It does not mean that people would reject the freedom they gained. They need to feel protected, much more than the in-born Israelis or those who arrived before 1967. Slavic people are also "mentally born gamblers". Those who came continue to develop the country on the verge of legacy in many cases. It can also imperil the State, but, on the other hand, such people are ready to start new lives because "games, plays, theater, gym, moves" are always on air and constant standards of reference. This is not the case of the European and American immigrants.

Soviet and Ethiopian people bring natural links to Christianity. This matter is important because of the mixed nature of the newcomers. The Halachah can hardly be proven. In fact, the same situation is applicable to the United State migrants because they often cannot show evidence of all the required certificates of ketubot/marriage of their parents and family. But the importance of the ex-USSR immigration has superseded this defect as well as the coming of the Ethiopians.

On the other hand, the constant defense of Israel and the way the State has to assume this protection question a lot of people that would prefer to leave and settle abroad. This problem is real and is taken into account by the Israeli authorities.

It is exact that a society needs joyful relaxing times; once New Year 5770 started up, it seems the countdown switched on and we may scrap the plans and continue to go around without finding the true way-out. To be honest, what can be new? Fashion? we use 5th to 18th century clothes and hats to makes a distinction between our social and religious groups. Modern chardal (modern ultra-Orthodox = mustard in Hebrew!) women covers and hats were created in Western Europe around 1920 and circulated to the America before showing up here again lately. The planet-wide jeans (even with holes and stigmas) appeared in Genoa(= /jeans/), Italy, just before Christopher Columbus left for some Indian "unzoned area".

Things are new everyday though we grow old at the same time. So is it bad or good to march in the development of a New Year? Blasé apathetic characters would say - as for the daily "alright" - that Kohelet, read at Sukkot is correct: "What has been, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun. Even the thing of which we say, "See, this is new!" has already existed (in the ages that) preceded us."(Kohelet 1:9-10).

This can refer to the immensity, the width, depth, breadth, length and thus plenitude of God in His Written and Oral Law. Everything is present in the Talmud, i.e. not only morals, but materials and instruments that progressively seem to be created in our culture: e.g. micro-wavers, computers, fashion, nuclear skills or freezers... The problem is how to get to newness and its encoding.

Tractate Yevamot 62b states that God has a huge reserve of all the souls that have to be hosted in the bodies that show in the development of the human generations. As for the Christians: there is a great similarly between the Oral Law and what the Christian world receives through the Holy Spirit. Thus, when Jews remove the Talmud studies as the Karaites (the Samaritans did the same as the Sadducees), they stop to truly believe in the into the World-to-Come. When the Christians cancel or lower the action of the Spirit, they ritualize and reduce the intensity of their faith and reject the resurrection.

Newness is inscribed in the soul of the Semitic speech. In Hebrew, two past tenses (more in Arabic) that seem to speak about what already was and indeed focus on the future. Monotheistic speech is prophetic, opens the way to any event or creation. "Asher asah la'asot\אשר עשה לעשות - that (God) has been making in order to (continue the action of) being creating” (Genesis 2:3). The Gospel shows the same: "The Father and I (Jesus) are always at work"(John 5:19).

In Hebrew "davar\דבר" is both "word, speech and object". We take a great responsibility in renewing the world with words of beauty and creativity. We are often hurt or injured and human speech can be terribly cruel. There is something we have in Hebrew: we always speak of the future, are obsessed by newness. God was also deceived when he looked at His creation and decided to wipe it out (Genesis 6:5-8). Thus, since we are survivors, we cannot even think of stopping the move toward future, betterment and being real "mentchen\מענטשען", humans with a tender and good heart.

In the Gospel it is said:"You, brood of vipers, how can you say good things when you are evil? For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. I (Jesus) tell you, on the day of judgment, people will render an account of every careless word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted and by your word you will be condemned” (Matthew 13:34-37).

We have to prove that we are not a "brood of vipers"... In the new year 5770, the State of Israel will have to show that it is indeed a State of freedom of conscience and faith according to its law regulations. I always refer to the example of Prof. Nissim Dana who was heading for a time the Minister of Interior - Christian Communities Department. A professor at the Haifa University, he is specialized in the life of the Druse communities. In his book dedicated to this population, he underscored how the Tel Aviv embryo of Parliament and government was very carefully checking that each non-Jewish community should be treated with full justice and according to their rights. This was during the Independence war.

Recent turmoil with in the Armenian Quarter, i.e. on the way to the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter, constant embattlement with other Christian Churches, the absence of real prevention of missionary actions on all sides - both Jewish and Christian - according to the Laws in force are not positive. Interestingly, there are groups in Los Angeles and other West Coast cities who would be ready to "shelter" the imperiled local Jerusalemite Christian communities (sic)! It is the duty of the Churches to recognize Israel for who and what the State of the Jews is. It is not a problem of everlasting Shoah issue that does fit with either party's commitments. It has to deal with much more than that: daily experience of living seeds of theology, Living Word in a real and living society of the Jews that has to accept to be grafted onto the tree and branches of very old Christian communities. We have to overcome and leave our pretense and though it is a Divine commandment, it is a terrible hardship to carry out.

It may sound a bit tough. But we are blessing-beggars… So if, in the end, we get a lot of flooding rain that renews the soil and the land, it means that we also can plant new good ideas, opinions, wit and insights when our mouth speaks heartfully. On air at the present: clean up our Word system and turn over a new leaf… It may lead us, God willing, to some real step forward toward Gan Gan.

av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

October 16/3, 2009 - 28 deTishrei 5770 - כ"ח דתשרי תש"ע

Monday, October 26, 2009

Who is the Other ?

This is the text of the lecture that I gave at the Swedish Center at Jaffa Gate on October 22, 2009. It is a theological and open reflection about who is "the other, the neighbor", in particular how we can or need or may, must recognize Israelis as a part of the society we live in. The lecture included other words and lively expressions. You have here the framework or the pattern...

WHO IS THE OTHER?

THE TITLE OF TONIGHT's lecture evolved from "who is my neighbor" to "who is next" and now "who is the other?" We may see that the real subject may not really be included in those titles and thus encompass some of their realities.

As a matter of fact, when we speak of "neighbor", we systematically, or most often, switch to the core verse of the Bible "Love your neighbor as yourself/ואהבת לרעך כמוך" (Leviticus 19:18). To begin with, it should be noted that the Torah does not underscore any special meaning for this verse. But all Jewish and further on, the Christian traditions have seen a specific significance and place in God's commandments as shown in the verse. Thus, R. Akiva (2nd c.) said that the commandment of "love your neighbor" is the major principle of the Torah" (Nedarim 9:4).

One century earlier, Hillel presented the commandment in an interesting and reversed/negative way: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor”. He added - in a very similar way to Jesus' statements "This is the whole Torah, all the rest is commentary” (Shabbat 31a). The commandment sounds as the Golden Rule; many commentators declared that Hillel's words are more pragmatic and genuine, realistic because "And you shall love your neighbor" looks a bit vague and dreamy even if it seems positive. Medieval Tanna D'Bei Eliyahu shows that God proposes a request to the Jewish people and subsequently to all creatures: "The Holy One said: ‘Children, I only want that you love each other and treat one another with dignity’".

Let's be frank: these words are repeated the way parrots love to do it every day by very pious people and we are of course among those, here at Jaffa Gate and in the Holy City of Jerusalem, but at the same time we would easily admit that daily experience shows us the contrary of what God told the Jewish people and moreover all subsequent traditions.

Jesus Christ was indeed very close to Hillel. "If you then, being evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more shall your Father in Heaven give good things to them that ask Him? Therefore all things whatsoever you would like that men should do to you, do even so to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:11-12).

Jesus quotes the full commandment as stated in Leviticus 19:18 “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself" in the three synoptic Gospels: St. Matthew 19:19 - 22/39 = St. Mark 12:31 = St. Luke 10:27. The quotation is moreover to be found in Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14 and James 2:8. Intriguingly, Leviticus 19:34 states "You shall love the foreigner/stranger" as mentioned in Deuteronomy 10:19.

St. Mark includes a special logon: "To love God with all the heart, all the understanding and all the soul and with all the strength and to love his neighbor as himself is more than all whole-burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12:33). Jesus’ answer is: "You are not far from the Kingdom of God = korbanקרבן, karov Matzdiki/קרוב מצדיקי = He is close to me the One who justifies me" (Isaiah).

And here we are tonight in the heart of the Old City of all sacrifices from the most ancient days and traditions, from the Temple Mount and Mount Moriah to the NAOS - the Temple par excellence or Church of the Holy Sepulcher = the Anastasis, the place of Resurrection from where all whole-burnt sacrifices were brought to redeem the entire creation...

We have to carefully note - though it has been noted throughout the ages - but still, we have to note the context in which Jesus Christ mentions the Rules of "to love your neighbor as yourself". It does not come out of a sudden, let's put that way that may keep us alerted. Jesus of Nazareth mentions the commandment in the three Synoptics as the natural connection with the "S'ma Isra'el- שמע ישראלl: Listen Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (bechol levavcha- בכל לבבך), and all your soul (or life, being - uvchol nafshecha - ובכל נפשך) and all your strength (uvchol me'od'cha – ובכל מאדך= all that constitutes you as very good - tov me'od - me'od - טוב מאד מאוד\מאד\אדם = much living, Adam, a member of economic system as strength refer to "possessions, assets"; and non of us can escape from any economic system).

It should be noted with much attention that the commandment to "love the neighbor as yourself" is directly and solely connected in both the ancient Judaic and Christian traditions to the fundamental logon in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 : "Hear Israel". Jesus combines the greatest commandment that concludes Moses' life and became the proclamation of the Jewish faith with the "love of the neighbor as yourself" in St. Matthew 22:37 : "He said to a Pharisee: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind this is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:36-40).

Another question that shows in such a context: When Jesus is put to the stake, it is traditionally accepted that his quoting of Psalm 21/22 "Eli, Eli lema sabachtani - Elohi, Elohi, lama azaftani – אלהי אלהי למה עזתני" - "Oh God, my God why have You forsaken me" which implies the full recitation and quoting of the whole psalm. It is also possible to ask ourselves how far the mention by Jesus of the great commandment in its first verse only, should not also imply and spiritually include the whole of the “Sh'ma Israel” as it is in Deuteronomy 6 (ss. 6-9): "And the words that I command to you today take them to heart, impress them upon your children, recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind then as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a frontlet (crowns) between your eyes; inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

This leads to consider different aspects: the commandment is not vague, or only directed towards God and the "personal self". It is trans-generational, it obliges to give instructions and to teach God's Reign from generation to generation. The commandments have to observed at home (a fixed place) and on the way (when going on a journey, a trip, a pilgrimage and we know that "regalim - רגלים" used to bring the Jewish people and the followers to Jerusalem, mainly to this City and not to some mere dreamy place located out there through the world. Of course we all know of New Jerusalem (Moscow) or numerous Bethlehem throughout the planet. Still, the places existed and remain consistent here, at least to begin with. The great commandment also requires to attach God' s Presence to our physical bodies and existence.

This is in such a spiritual stage of consciousness, awareness, conscience that indeed, it is possible to admit that reaching God's Image and Likeness allows us, as a consequence to be able to show some positive feelings toward our neighbor! It does not mean we can love, or even like our neighbor. It means that we can understand by God's great commandment confirmed by Jesus Christ how much we come near to ourselves, our inner individuality and identity and therefore look positively to the "neighbor".

At least, it is always dangerous to cite the two commandments outside of their full contexts because we may not understand that God spoke in a special place, to a special people and for a certain context that develops and includes more and more generations with exclusion.

Please note that in the Book of Leviticus the commandment to "love the neighbor" is directly preceded by strict prohibitions against taking revenge or bearing a grudge. It is more than important because, all things being equal - more or less let's say - we spend our time hurting the others, the neighbors, the parentage, the foreigners with the fervent hope that they will never take revenge against us. Interestingly, this also concerns the animal world. Rabbi Abraham Twerski said: "Carrying resentments is like letting someone whom you don't like live inside your head rent-free, without paying any rent". We all can behave like elephants at this point.

This is why the first path is to feel comfortable with who we are, on a personal and societal level. This is a very hard task. Still, if we cannot change people in order to make them as we are, we could accept the phrase: "I can't make people like me, but if I wasn't me, I would like me"...

We come here to the "virtual" part of the society we live in. At the present, we can be moved to tears by the terrible events that affect fictional characters in movies; we may not be able to react with any similar intensity when the same sort of horrible events hit the people we know or when we are a part of such dramas. We cry and we sob when the hero or heroine fall in love, not when our neighbors do.

The commandment to be good or to love the neighbor is expressed in most cultures and civilizations, in particular in the Greek culture, which is next door and always has been present in the area. The same is applicable with regards to the Hindu(ist) and Mazdean traditions. But let's focus on the Biblical background.

Now, the real problem is to understand the commandment correctly. VEAHAVTA LE'REACHA KAMOCHA – ואהבת לרעך כמוך, does it indeed mean: "an you shall love your neighbor as yourself"? I comment the verse in English right now. In Russian, for example, "vozliubish blizhnago kak i samogo sebia", can either refer to "neighbor as being very close to you or a person who is known as being closely (bliskii chelovek) "acquainted, provided, inter alia, that "close relationships are long to be fixed and defined in the Slavic and Russian society, this from ancient days.

"REA - רע" is a parodox in Hebrew as in most Semitic roots: they usually include both a positive and a negative aspect. Horayot 10b shows it: "Even the good which wicked men do is an evil with the righteous (= they can't enjoy it)"; The same in Berachot 1c: "Don't be like the fools who sin and offer a sacrifice, not knowing whether they offer it for the good they have done or for the evil".

The precise meaning of "re,acha - רעך" is thus "your fellow", which, like "your neighbor" suggests someone with whom we routinely have contact. This is the way it is understood in most cases. "Fellow" implies a person that accompanies, but the word is Old Norse = Félag = Verlag = laying money to join!!! Reah\רעה" is connected to Hebrew and Aramaic that means to join, welcome, gladden, rejoice. This is why the paradox is present: dark turns to light, what is bad or evil turns to good or goodness "joined efforts" - companionship = sharing bread along the way; sputnik = sharing the same direction. But it does include the mental attitude to turn from bas to good, to tame what is alien. Otherwise, it is evident that we could have "sheykhen - שכן" as it is the case in Aramaic.

But "neighbor" is not the person who is "close or near to us". Let's say that Scandinavian "När = close = Germ. Nah and Nächst = the thing or person that is most to the closest!! It does not mean the person or proximity: the thing is near! This is remarkably to be found in Yiddish: "no'ent \ נאענט= nah but it is not a NEAR OR CLOSE AT HAND THING OR PERSON. IT REQUIRES A MOVE TOWARD A PLACE OR INDIVIDUALS OR A PERSON. And interestingly "kroyv קרוב - = cousin = people who can be connected by some family or blood links, but not living closely to each other. The same is valid in Swedish: "att naa = to come near", which means a movement. To love a neighbor can never mean to remain/stay put. It obliges to a series of psychological and physical moves.

At this point, it is quite possible to consider that Hebrew: "veahavta lere'acha kamocha – ואהבת לרעך כמוך " implies the view to love the people who are next to us, but also those who can cause evil or bad things to us, and also our enemies. Even if Today's Judaism would reluctantly admit such a position as being self-evident, it would interrogate the tradition the same way "ger toshav – גר תושב" is either a resident and a part of the community or a idolater who is a full foreigner. To begin with, it was Abraham's status to be protected in all Middle-Eastern traditions.

Psalm 90/91 shows how demons can be overcome and how people in the desert or in situation of profound solitude could be afraid from other human beings. This fear is constant and taming is a great par of some form of healing or getting to be humans.

One constant rule is that, in principle, people would say they love humanity. And the more they would love humanity, the more they would serve humanity, but if we have to stand the same people in reality that has to meet in daily life, the more we share with them, the less we maybe able to simply stand them as appears in the monk's confession in Dostoyevsky's "the Brothers Karamazov".

In fact, "To love our neighbor as yourself" include a profound human balance of feelings and dignity.

The problem is not of "neighborhood" or vicinity. The problem is to get together as Saint Paul defined it, especially in the epistle to the Ephesians: "Now therefore, you are no more strangers or foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God (and you are built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone) in whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto a holy Temple of God; in whom you are also built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit”. This is the real meaning of RE-ACHA = רעךjoined/built together. (Ephesians 2:19-22).

As a consequence, we must come to the fact that building together proceeds from a spiritual and full of faith because it is founded in the major verses of Ephesians: "That that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promises, having no hope and without God in this world: But now in Christ Jesus you who were sometimes far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

“For He is our peace, who has made both (Israel and the pagans) one and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us having abolished in his flesh the enmity (even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of two one new man, so making peace)" (Eph. 2:12-14).

Indeed, we slowly can come or reach to some meaningful understanding, something that may make sense if we consider that we are faithful and pious people, and we all are. You cannot avoid Divine matters in Jerusalem, but it depends how it works in our relationships.

In any way, and this can seem to be a bit "crazy" or "torn up side down", but "to love the neighbor as yourself" is just as impossible as to show any sort of evidence that God is real, alive, living, life-giving and the Sign of Resurrection. In that sense, LOVE = GOD'S LOVE THAT CALLS HUMAN BEINGS IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCE OF LIFE. Love does not mean "cuddles, hugs and kisses". Why not? But when the bride calls "Yishakeni – ישקני - Kiss me" to the bridegroom in the Song of Songs (1:1), it should be noted that they never meet!!

Saint John's chapter 21 after the resurrection has it: Jesus speak of perfect love (Agapein) and Peter answer he likes Him (philein). In the same verse, Aramaic has "richam = like, love with our viscera, intestines, insides", but then it is a love of lovingkindness and not directly the love of all the Divine Attributes.

In the commandment, as following the “Shma Israel”, we are merely called to know or get aware of what those we like, dislike, have to stand, frequent, encounter, love or maybe hate NEED. WHAT THEIR NEED ARE. In that sense, love commences to get a bit consistent. Not when worstate that things were much better in the good old days. Psychology and attitudes, from pride to lack of self-esteem, shyness. We are then commanded to accept who is facing us and reciprocally.
IF WE CANNOT ACCEPT HELP, WE CANNOT GIVE ANYTHING EITHER.

This is also very useful in marital life: spouses need to be given what they need and not mere gifts. But in general the commandment goes far beyond anything that we can conceive or understand.

This is shown during the Byzantine Divine Liturgies of Saint John Chrysostomos and Basil the Great. The celebrant, having blessed the faithful with peace, opens the Royal Gates and says: Let's love each other in order to confess in one spirit/soul - neehuv ish et rehu uvlev echad n’hoodeh/ vozliubim drug druga da edinomysliem ispovedim
נאהוב איש את רעהו ובלב אחד נודה -
Возлюбим лруг друга да единомыслiем исповемы
and the celebrant goes out and bowing in front of Christ icon, saying: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

We do not need to shake hands, or to kiss those we know and turn our backs to those we hardly can look at. This sort of "love" is "at-one-ment", makes and creates us ONE beyond what we can even understand and imagine when we share this peace. It is funny and strange how we always want to share and receive something and participate. Here, participation consists in receiving the One we cannot see and Who keeps us alive. Thus, it has nothing to do with shaking hands!

Now, we have to be frank, okay!!? I lecture tonight not because there are so wonderful and nice and cute ideas we could share a bout our spiritual backgrounds, future and cannot agree upon in our daily life here, in this city and country. We meet everyday, every week, every month, sometimes once a year. We would hardly frequent each other.

One of the best opening-up movie is certainly "Gaestebud" "Babette's banquet", a remarkable Danish film. A French woman is sheltered by the time of the Restauration in Jutland in Denmark, in a small village where nobody can talk and share. They meet just to face each other. The woman becomes a servant. One day, she wins a huge fortune at the French Lottery. She decides - she was a famous fine cook in Paris - to prepare a gaestebud, inviting everybody for a splendid banquet and she spent all her fortune. Joys and laughs, hospitality and conversations come out of this exceptional banquet which has been interpreted as a real theological reflection about Eucharist and the Presence of the Holy Spirit.

I came to lecture because I said - in between - that it was more than intriguing if not strange and bizarre that on a day dedicated to "Pilgrimages in Jerusalem" not a single word has been said - I repeat no a single word and I did pay attention with much care about the Jewish pilgrimages! Looking through the window, they were precisely coming up to Jerusalem and to the Kotel - כותל (Western Wall, among other places)!!! I thought it was a bit, just a bit too much! Hajj in the Muslim and Christian and Bulgarian and Orthodox traditions, please, no problem. But not a word about the very nature of the God-seeking attitude that abides the Jewish soul from Ur-Kasdim to Egypt, Beersheva and Mount Moriah over the past 3500 years if not more, because a positive and definitely not a judgmental question.

Israel does exist. Just you to know and you do know! All of you know about that. It may itch or be pleasant. This is not the problem. We cannot oblige anybody to accept the one or those who are in front or next or close to us. On the other hand, we can pray, reflect upon how we behave towards ourselves and our fellowmen/women. It does not mean the yare wrong and we are right. It means we can slightly open up our eyes and conscience.

Emotions exist, both positively and negatively. Rejecting of keeping silent about people, nations, humans is never neutral. It is a way to come closer to what is unbearable - sometimes to each other and most of the time for irrational reasons. The rest is a matter of needs as I mentioned: time overshadows an covers our needs and requirements and slowly joins those who can hardly cope together. This move is of great importance. It shows that the eschaton is moving ahead of us.

With regards to the faith of Israel, there was an interesting statement made in 1968 by some Rabbis: "It is precisely that that Christianity brought to the world that hid Israel to the Nations”. It continues to be the case. But when we come back to our own room, just inside, let's think of what we can positively share and do share without being able, for the moment, to speak too much of that.

Archpriest Alexander Winogradsky
October 22/9, 2009 – ג' דחשון תש"ע

Bereishit 5770

Acharei hachagim\אחרי החגים: "when the feasts are over" is a popular saying and a refreshing song full of true nostalgia and a touch of shmaltz, sort of mixed excessive emotional mush combined with some banality. The other folk's best is then "geshem-גשם/rain", the yearly hit that "will enable us to continue to march on the way"... It is quite amusing how Israeli society that may be crafty suddenly falls into a state of pathetic needs to be cuddled and pampered with a touch of childlike desires to be overprotected. Fall can be indeed a time of transition. A bit red as some of our hair cuts of the automnal leaves: "'s fal'n di bleter\ס'פאלן די בלעטער - the leaves are falling" is also an after world war II hit firstly sung by Yves Montand in French, then in Yiddish... Yossi Banai made it in Hebrew... "Listopad-лiснопад" means "November" in Ukrainian and Polish and means "leaf fall". The approaching month of Marcheshvan\מרחשון is thus a time of "sweeping away old stuff" and regular fasting days paving the way for the clarity of Kislev and the Feast of the Lights (Chanukkah).

It is very trendy to feel down. Of course, e.g. we live in a society that is approximately contented. This was shown in a recent poll and the Israelis are definitely optimistic compared to the way they are looked at from abroad as living in a threatening and dead-end situation. But as regards privacy, we respond with constant equanimity that is on the verge of puzzling perplexity. Just try the poll. It is very forward to play with insightful polls. Just ask: "How are you doing?" to some ordinary anonymous Israel inhabitants. Whatever tongue, the respond is: “Good - beseder - tayeb/kwayes (Arabic version = to:yeb in Jerusalem) - sheyn". The Russian-speaking inmates would tend to say "normal'no\нормально (normal = seemingly good)" but if you continue the poll, Russian will turn to "bolee li menee = more or less (well), cf. "chetzi-chetzi\חצי חצי - fifty-firty". The same happens in English, Yinglish, Arabic. There is a Hebrew, Greek and Russian/all-Slavic hip-hop hit:"Baruch HaShem (yom-yom: day-to-day)! = Gr. Doksa tou Theou! = Slava Tebe, Gospodi! (glory to You, Lord - interfaith version)". It does mean that things are going well at all. This is the plain answer of plain people who squelch spontaneous emotion to maximum private neutrality. We are sorts of firewalls. The problem is that it may kill because human beings are born to talk and need to speak out what they feel, from their insides to their brain and heart.

Can we say that we live in a gentle and kind society? Basically, Israeli society is geting tempted by mor and more internal violence. Justice and righteousness are still relevant but are deeply endangered by different tendencies. It is difficult to say that Israel is not a free state. It is. The biggest part of the country is powerfully dynamic, young, full of creativity. Young and elderly can achieve their goals if they are able to speak out and want to reach specific goals. Israel is an internationally developing country, on a universal basis. In the forthcoming years, some elements might be strengthened: ties with Asia, Africa. The United States and Canada are considered a part of the "golden State - Goldene medine" but it is not sure that the real dynamics come from there although the general trend is to "think Anglo".

Times may show that the connection with the former Soviet Union and its satellite republics or autonomous regions together with China, Japan and Korea may be far more meaningful. This is due the cradle of the State of Modern Israel. It has inherited something very strong from the "Eretz Knaan = Poland and the the border regions of Great Russia" as we used to say in Yiddish. We have been used for two centuries that emigration came from Eastern Europe to Europe and then America or via the Far East to Hong Kong, Manchuria, Mongolia, Harbin down to America and/or South America, in particular Argentina, Uruguay, Chile or Mexico. The move is now a "classic" of international people flow.

It is deeply present in Israel and progressively raises inside of the country some significant signs of constant seeds. It is rare that a country is steadfastly nourished and nurtured from the same basic human, linguistic, spiritual, mental area as it has been the case from the first aliyah till now. There is a permanent level of educational system between my great grand parents, parents (they would be 108 this year) and my cultural background that copes with that of late R. Yeshayahu Leibowicz born in Riga. He discovered with stupefaction that the young former Soviet youths had the same roots and education as he was given in Latvia a century ago.

This can easily be felt in Israeli society when speaking with the various actors of this part of the population that is going through a deep and quick assimilation process of Hebraization. This does not only relate to the language, but to cultural and mental positioning. It is a trend toward freedom and control over personal conscience. People interrogate themselves about the way they can be free, which is a typical Slavic and curiously Eastern Orthodox way of putting things on the table. It does not mean that people would reject the freedom they gained. They need to feel protected, much more than the in-born Israelis or those who arrived before 1967. Slavic people are also "mentally born gamblers". Those who came continue to develop the country on the verge of legacy in many cases. It can also imperil the State, but, on the other hand, such people are ready to start new lives because "games, plays, theater, gym, moves" are always on air and constant standards of reference. This is not the case of the European and American immigrants.

Soviet and Ethiopian people bring natural links to Christianity. This matter is important because of the mixed nature of the newcomers. The Halachah can hardly be proven. In fact, the same situation is applicable to the United State migrants because they often cannot show evidence of all the required certificates of ketubot/marriage of their parents and family. But the importance of the ex-USSR immigration has superseded this defect as well as the coming of the Ethiopians.

On the other hand, the constant defense of Israel and the way the State has to assume this protection question a lot of people that would prefer to leave and settle abroad. This problem is real and is taken into account by the Israeli authorities.

It is exact that a society needs joyful relaxing times; once New Year 5770 started up, it seems the countdown switched on and we may scrap the plans and continue to go around without finding the true way-out. To be honest, what can be new? Fashion? we use 5th to 18th century clothes and hats to makes a distinction between our social and religious groups. Modern chardal (modern ultra-Orthodox = mustard in Hebrew!) women covers and hats were created in Western Europe around 1920 and circulated to the America before showing up here again lately. The planet-wide jeans (even with holes and stigmas) appeared in Genoa(= /jeans/), Italy, just before Christopher Columbus left for some Indian "unzoned area".

Things are new everyday though we grow old at the same time. So is it bad or good to march in the development of a New Year? Blasé apathetic characters would say - as for the daily "alright" - that Kohelet, read at Sukkot is correct: "What has been, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun. Even the thing of which we say, "See, this is new!" has already existed (in the ages that) preceded us."(Kohelet 1:9-10).

This can refer to the immensity, the width, depth, breadth, length and thus plenitude of God in His Written and Oral Law. Everything is present in the Talmud, i.e. not only morals, but materials and instruments that progressively seem to be created in our culture: e.g. micro-wavers, computers, fashion, nuclear skills or freezers... The problem is how to get to newness and its encoding.

Tractate Yevamot 62b states that God has a huge reserve of all the souls that have to be hosted in the bodies that show in the development of the human generations. As for the Christians: there is a great similarly between the Oral Law and what the Christian world receives through the Holy Spirit. Thus, when Jews remove the Talmud studies as the Karaites (the Samaritans did the same as the Sadducees), they stop to truly believe in the into the World-to-Come. When the Christians cancel or lower the action of the Spirit, they ritualize and reduce the intensity of their faith and reject the resurrection.

Newness is inscribed in the soul of the Semitic speech. In Hebrew, two past tenses (more in Arabic) that seem to speak about what already was and indeed focus on the future. Monotheistic speech is prophetic, opens the way to any event or creation. "Asher asah la'asot\אשר עשה לעשות - that (God) has been making in order to (continue the action of) being creating” (Genesis 2:3). The Gospel shows the same: "The Father and I (Jesus) are always at work"(John 5:19).

In Hebrew "davar\דבר" is both "word, speech and object". We take a great responsibility in renewing the world with words of beauty and creativity. We are often hurt or injured and human speech can be terribly cruel. There is something we have in Hebrew: we always speak of the future, are obsessed by newness. God was also deceived when he looked at His creation and decided to wipe it out (Genesis 6:5-8). Thus, since we are survivors, we cannot even think of stopping the move toward future, betterment and being real "mentchen\מענטשען", humans with a tender and good heart.

In the Gospel it is said:"You, brood of vipers, how can you say good things when you are evil? For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. I (Jesus) tell you, on the day of judgment, people will render an account of every careless word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted and by your word you will be condemned” (Matthew 13:34-37).

We have to prove that we are not a "brood of vipers"... In the new year 5770, the State of Israel will have to show that it is indeed a State of freedom of conscience and faith according to its law regulations. I always refer to the example of Prof. Nissim Dana who was heading for a time the Minister of Interior - Christian Communities Department. A professor at the Haifa University, he is specialized in the life of the Druse communities. In his book dedicated to this population, he underscored how the Tel Aviv embryo of Parliament and government was very carefully checking that each non-Jewish community should be treated with full justice and according to their rights. This was during the Independence war.

Recent turmoil with in the Armenian Quarter, i.e. on the way to the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter, constant embattlement with other Christian Churches, the absence of real prevention of missionary actions on all sides - both Jewish and Christian - according to the Laws in force are not positive. Interestingly, there are groups in Los Angeles and other West Coast cities who would be ready to "shelter" the imperiled local Jerusalemite Christian communities (sic)! It is the duty of the Churches to recognize Israel for who and what the State of the Jews is. It is not a problem of everlasting Shoah issue that does fit with either party's commitments. It has to deal with much more than that: daily experience of living seeds of theology, Living Word in a real and living society of the Jews that has to accept to be grafted onto the tree and branches of very old Christian communities. We have to overcome and leave our pretence and though it is a Divine commandment, it is a terrible hardship to carry out.

It may sound a bit tough. But we are blessing-beggars… So if, in the end, we get a lot of flooding rain that renews the soil and the land, it means that we also can plant new good ideas, opinions, wit and insights when our mouth speaks heartfully. On air at the present: clean up our Word system and turn over a new leaf… It may lead us, God willing, to some real step forward toward Gan Gan.

av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

October 16/3, 2009 - 28 deTishrei 5770 - כ"ח דתשרי תש"ע

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

HUMAN COMMUNITY, BODY OF CHRIST, UNITY OF THE HOLY TRINITY

INTRODUCTION

This is the English text of the lecture that I gave in Moscow on September 29th last within the framework of the annual theological and social Conference organized by the Sretenye Brotherhoods. For many years, I used to send the text of my lecture by email and the Russian version was read by one of the Brothers. I have been in contact with most of the spiritual religious movements of the Orthodox Church over the past 30 years, to begin with in Scandinavia, then in Western Europe, especially focusing on the connections that exist between Judaism and Oriental Christianity.

In 1988, I had organized (to my knowledge this remains the only meeting on the subject) "988-1988 : Thousand years of Jewish Presence in the Slavic world" in order to celebrate the Millenium of the Baptism of the Rus' of Kiev and its subsequent impact on the Russian Orthodox Church, the Oriental Byzantine Churches. This took place at the multi-ritual monastery of Chevetogne in Belgium, near Namur/Namen, a place that had been i.a. initiated by late Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky.

My whole service as a deacon and ordination as an Eastern Orthodox priest within the Russian tradition continued this call to serve for the betterment of a possible launching of encounter between Judaism and Christianity, in particular in view to assist the Israeli newcomers and other citizens that belonged to the Church and/or and together to some way to Jewish communities. Since 1998 - a bit earlier in fact - I was appointed to the Rum Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem in order to carry out this very special task. All over the years, from Scandinavia down to Jerusalem, I met with the numerous hierarchs, clergy and lay people who finally got to some point of liberation that burst in 1989 and sometimes later in the different former communist countries, mainly in the former Soviet Union. This freedom for the Church that rose from the Catacombs launched a profound movement of renewal; it is deeply rooted in the old Russian and Slavic Traditions which has prevailed throughout history and need to be considered with much respect.

My task is not only to pray in Hebrew. I do not believe that this constitute a linguistic reality. There is much more: Hebrew challenges the Church as a living and constantly reviving tongue. Hebrew does not mean that we adopt some political attitude or concede to some ethnic national group. Hebrew is the language that God the Father chose to speak to all human beings through the TaNaCh and that always includes the Oral Law or Talmud put down after the destruction of the Temple in Hebrew and Aramaic.

Modern Hebrew is a complex "dialect" that is also very marked by the Jewish Ashkenazi world of the Yiddishkayt that frequented the Eastern Oriental Christian traditions, indeed with much hardships and mutual rejection. In 1842, before the birth of Eliezer Ben Yehudah, the reviver of Modern Hebrew, Hebrew was the Liturgical language used for the Divine Services at the Ecclesiastical Mission of the then-Moscow Synod. They had blessed the rich translation made by Fr. Levinson. I use this version till now because it is the only version that got the official blessing and recognition of the Orthodox Church.

Praying in Hebrew in the State of Israel is much more important that just making use of a specific language that directly connects with the Jews and the Modern Israeli speakers. It implies to get aware of cultural, social, behavioral, psychological attitudes and customs. Thus, the Christian soul that accepts to pray in Hebrew has to resolve more question about the identity given by God, the Divine Providence, Mystery of Redemption.

I never stepped down in serving in Hebrew, as also in other languages. Consequently, many groups from various countries contacted me and the different faithful that attend the Services. They wanted to share about the develop of liturgical koinonia/Communion in the Messiah and not only linguistic skills or acculturation. In terms of Hebrew in the Church everything has to be created because it cannot simply copy or duplicate any existing Eastern Orthodox tradition. It must include all of them because the faithful do come from many backgrounds. It must also be acceptable to the Church as the Body of the Resurrected Lord and somehow be also audible to Jewish scholars and simple Israeli citizens, not in terms of proselytism but linguistic and cultural consistency.

I am thus in contact with world-wide groups, praying in all sorts of languages. Finns, Macedonians, Georgians, Romanians and Moldovians/Bessarabians, Ukrainians and Byelorussians as well as Icelandic Scandinavian and English Eastern Orthodox and others come on a regular basis. The Arabs are also very interested in different places of Israel.

To begin with, I serve for Russian speakers. I started in Slavonic, then Ukrainian and Modern Russian. Hebrew has always been the main language I used. It is evident that the groups that consider it is normal to pray in Modern Russian came and discussed the matter with us. This is how I got in contact with Fr. Georgiy Kotchetkov whose work has to be be implemented slowly and much wisdom. Other "liberal groups" were evident to me for more than two decades (spiritual children of late Fr. Alexander Men). I do maintain that we can search ways to renew and innovate without getting astray from the Church as late Patriarch Aleksei II said "You have to sing in the choir". Eastern Orthodox choirs mirror the symphony of redemption in all languages. But the task is immense and requires a lot of patience. The main problem that exist in Russia with regards to Modern Russian is that the Modern tongue is not "contemporary Russian" but "Sovietskii iazyk/Советский язык - the Soviet language". Similarly, Modern Hebrew is the national language of Israel and the vernacular medium for Judaism that needs to be considered with more insights when referring to "Talmudic Semitic Hebrew" and mainly way of thinking.

I used to send my lectures to be read in Russian through emails! My lecturing was known to my spiritual Father. This year, I was told it was a bit ridiculous not to accept the invitation to join the conference in Moscow. I was reluctant for another reason: obedience. This aspect has curiously played a major role in all my pastoral life. Patriarch Theophilos III had not visited Russia since he was elected Patriarch of Jerusalem. For a long time, I considered I could not go there before he paid a visit. In the past months, Patriarch Kyrill, whom I had met several times in Jerusalem became the new patriarch of Moscow and of all Russia.

I asked for the oral blessing by Patriarch Theophilos and he accepted that I could participate in the conference. There is one more detail: I live in a very poor way. Some visitors do understand that, others are not aware or don't understand. I see all the time "spiritual guides and theologians of all sorts" that travel here and there and back and forth and use, misuse, abuse the financial hospitality they are proposed. I do not accept such a behavior. Things could be settled this year.

It also gave me the rare opportunity to consider the work accomplished the past thirty years in very difficult circumstances and restricted means of all natures and to meet wit those "pillars of the present Church" and those very precious friends who accompanied me and mines on this special way of the Cross and the faith in Resurrection. And, for the first time, Hebrew was used for ecphoneses at the Sunday Divine Liturgy in a monastery of the Kremlin.

The Russian version is a bit different - with a lot of improvised phrases and comments. But this text gives a picture of the topic I developed. It needs to be correctly interpreted and the members of the Conference did explain some aspects that could be obscure for those who do not know or understand our situation.

THE LECTURE

Dear Friends,

It is my pleasure to be with you this year after so many years of emailing and friendly if not “comradely” reading of my lectures by D. G.. I am also glad to share with your community, which means that we encounter and can participate together in a socializing act of understanding of being "a spiritual joint-venture". We try in this Conference to avoid being strangers or estranged within the Church.

I come from Israel; I am a priest within the Israeli society and among the Jewish communities. I put it in a plural form because though considering that Klal Israel/the Community of Israel is ONE, it is multi-faceted. I serve within the framework of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Greeks have inherited or they prolong in their ways the Early Church Hellenistic community, also known as "Ecclesia ex Gentibus -Church from the Gentiles" that succeeded - at times we can say superseded - the "Ecclesia ex Circumcisione - Church of the Circumcision" that totally disappeared with the 7th Ecumenical Council of Nicea II on September, 24, 787, exactly 1222 years ago.

Canon VIII (8) stressed that "camouflaged Jews should not be received into the ecclesial community unless they have made a total renunciation of their Jewish ways, especially of the Shabbat". We can explain this decision by the fact that the Fathers firstly wanted to condemn the conduct of the "Syrian" i.e. "Semitic emperors who had used iconoclastic propaganda". Then most Jews and Judeo-Christians abandoned the Byzantine Empire and got sheltered in the Arab empire, passing "over" to the new religion of Islam as "malawi". They belonged to the cast of the "Kuttab - scribes". Thus, they strongly influenced the Quran and the related texts by introducing elements of specific Judaeo-Christian character.

This specific date and Church Canonic decision is still in force in the Eastern Orthodox Church and put an end to the theological Schools of Antioch and Alexandria that had played an immense role in the development of the Church for fully seven centuries. As a consequence, Empress Theodora obliged the Fathers of the Council of Constantinople of 834 to institute the Feast of the "Triumph of Orthodoxy" with a procession of icons and celebrating the Church's victory over all heresies. Subsequently, the Ecclesia ex Circumcisione was wiped out from the Unity of the One Church and seemingly erased from the living memory of the One Church.

I serve within the Rum Orthodox Church of Jerusalem and you also belong to the same Rum-Orthodox Church. In Russia, it is an later extension of what firstly started with the five original patriarchates and subsequently developed inside of the Roman Eastern and Western Empire and also till the Rus' of Kiev just a few years ((in fact it took a long time and it is not certain that it succeeded to overcome paganism) before the Great Schism of 1054. The center of the Church later moved to the Rus' of Moscow.

We still live in a conception of RUM ROMAN EMPIRE CHURCH though the Church is "one, holy, catholic (kafolicheskaia/кафолическая) and apostolic", gathering in "people of all races, nations, tongues" and expands to the ends of the Earth. The Church as the RISEN BODY OF JESUS CHRIST AND IMAGE OF THE HOLY TRINITY has no human or spiritual borders or limits. It is definitely universal. Nobody is a stranger in the Church just as it is said in the Psalm "ולציון יאמר איש ואיש יולד בה... - Indeed it shall be said of Zion, "every man was born there" (Psalm 87:5). True, the Church expanded beyond the limits of the Roman empire: in Semitic Churches, then other Churches in the East, Persia till India and China.

Still, serving in the Church of Jerusalem as a Rum-Orthodox priest I have to seriously take into account the essential decision of the 8th Canon of the Nicea II Council. It has not been abrogated, neither by the Eastern Orthodox Church (I prefer to mention this in the singular form) nor by the Roman Catholic Church that encompasses more than 10 different rites beside the Latin rite.

Please note that the Roman Catholic "Nostra AEtate" document voted in 1964, deals with Judaism and Islam as other religions. It is positive toward a further recognition of Judaism, but it did not correct or remove the final decision of the 7th Council of Nicea II at all! We do not pay much attention to that. “Nostra AEtate” was accepted by the participants of the Second Council of the Vatican, but the Oriental Patriarchs did not proceed to confirm the decision in their own oriental-rite patriarchates. Then, only a full Ecumenical pan-Orthodox Council AND TOGETHER with the entire Roman Catholic Church would eventually be entitled to change or remove this historic decision. I prefer not to mention the "Protestant Churches" that do not take these decisions into account the same way we do. In the event of any desire to change this 8th Canon tracking back to 787, thus in very exceptional circumstances that we cannot anticipate at the present, it is more than certain that such a decision should also be submitted to the opinion of the Jewish Communities, which simply shows the depth, width, breadth and length of such an unforeseeable decision at the moment.

The decision taken during this Ecumenical Council is of major importance: it is the last Ecumenical Council that is common before the "split" that affected the One Church of the Roman empire whose we are the heirs and faithful. The decision, that was then taken, broke the community shared with the Jewish roots and spiritual Tree of Life.

It also envisioned the community of Israel with much suspicion, rejection, later a desire or understanding that Jews should be converted to the faith. We continue, in particular in our Eastern Orthodox Churches, to measure, "judge" each other. At times we "suspect" the exactitude of the Creed and the faith confessed by our fellow believers. We love to check, verify and interrogate who the believers are, how close, far, foreign, and even enemies they can be, provided that "my" community is the right one, and the other ones are or can be heretics.

You try to determine how we can build up authentic "communities, societies, brotherhoods" united by the reality of the Holy Trinity that reigns over the universe and overshadows all of us. You face problems as local Church members.

In the Church of Jerusalem, we are called not to judge each other but to see that there every believer is born, continues to be born into the ONE MOTHER OF ALL THE CHURCHES OF GOD. Do not worry! I don't dream! This is a huge, terrible, exceptional challenge, a real and truth-testing, faith-experiencing challenge. Beyond any human will, Jerusalem and Israel encompasses all creeds and faiths from the Western Wall to the Holy Sepulcher/Anastasis (Place of the Resurrection).

I would never dare exclude any soul or nation, God forbid! – Still, I minister inside Israel and not the Arab world though it is evident that I do not make any difference and this is perfectly felt by the local clergy and faithful. I mean that we have a local and universal call. But we cannot mix all people, nations etc. into indefinite entities. I serve in a special Church as you also do. The important point is to recognize that we serve God in determined conditions relating to space, time, age.

But it is important to point out that the above mentioned decisions are "crucial" and will require centuries to be corrected. It will take centuries to correct total and ongoing process of estrangement as defined by Hans Urs von Balthasar who wrote a very interesting book "Einsame Zwiesprache mit Buber - Lonely (“monologue”) dialog with Buber". We cannot improvise some correction right out of the blue. We have to be aware of history and this is something that is sometimes very confused. We have not right to supersede the identity of believers – at the same time, it is indeed very hard to upgrade the life of ancient traditions.

And YOU, YOU ARE MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS AND WE SHARE IN COMMON EVERYTHING or should as mentioned in the Edenic verse of the Acts of the Apostles.: “And the multitude of the them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own: but they had all things in common “ (Acts of the Apostles 4:32).
If we theologically approach the mystery of the Ecclesia or Kahal or the Church in her totality, we can indeed speak of the daily problems we have to face. They are not new with regards to history of faith and religions.

But what I would like to point out is the intimate conviction that the BODY OF THE RESURRECTED LORD still cannot be torn, broken or ignored. It is the Sacramental Presence of God in our age of history. It ran throughout long ages and should endure till the ends of time, the eschaton; and eschaton does not belong to us but depends on God’s will.

This reality can cure those faithful or those who consider themselves as believers because they have to accept the fact that the Church requires faith but cannot oblige anyone to believe; moreover the Church runs in unexpected ways and moves toward directions that are mainly unknown to us. The Church compels to take into account the value of time, also in terms of “communities”. This can also help the members of the Church whenever and wherever they are located and in whatever conditions they must witness that the Kingdom of God is close to every soul and human being.

Now, there is in Biarritz (French border with Spain) a famous Russian "sobor/собор -cathedral". In this church, there is an interesting icon: on a full gold background, different Saints of different ages, periods and locations are shown. It shows the diachronic and synchronic reality of the Church. I often notice in Jerusalem that we do meet - if we pay attention to people - individuals of different "ages" and "cultural historic attitudes". Indeed the Church relies upon history.

In Jerusalem, it is possible to encounter people whose cultural, psychological, linguistic and spiritual behaviors show us this sort of "unifying and fulfilling icon of redemption", i.e. some can be of the 4th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 17th, 19th and present century. This is the fascinating aspect of the mental and religious life-witnesses who share the same period of history. People meeting without encountering, "speaking without talking". They/we get united beyond their unlikeness and disagreements. This is the point: The Divine Presence and the Holy Trinity overshadow them.

The “Pirqey Avot/פרקי אבות – Saying of the Fathers”(Avot 3:4) state: “If three have eaten at a table and uttered words of Torah there, it is as if they had eaten at the Table of God, for it is said : « זה השולחן אשר לפני ה' – this is the table which is before [the countenance of] God» (Psalm 23:5; Introduction to the Zimmun leBirkat HaMazon\זימון לברכת המזון – first prayer and portion said before sharing a meal, part of the Graces after Meal).

The same saying is uttered by Jesus Christ: “[Again, I say unto to you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them by my Father Who is in heaven]; For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). This is the positive aspect of the “community, assembly gathered in by the Holy Trinity”. The other aspect is also very human as described by Jesus: “For wheresoever the carcase (corpse) is, the vultures (eagles) will be gathered together”. (Matthew 24:28).

I come from a country, Israel, where the sense of resurrection is deeply felt by the citizens of Jewish origin. I say that because I have always been aware of being essentially and unwillingly a member of the community of Israel. Other Jews are fully entitled to have other views than mine or to position in different ways. Is it possible for a Jew to pretend to be Christian and to belong to both the Community of Israel and the Church? The problem is that of the CHURCH AS A TOTALITY. In this time of history, we can only pave the way to come close and to open a dialog, without any pretence that cannot be confirmed by any religious community as a “legal” reality.

There is a Jewish daily blessing: “Blessed are You Lord of the Universe/ Who gathers in the exiled of (His) people Israel (מקבץ נדחי עמו ישראל = meqabetz nidchey ammo Israel ). The word is of the same root as “Kibbutz”. To begin with, people had to share everything. As in the Gospel, it lasted the time of a short verse. But we cannot pretend that the spirit or desire to sharing everything did not or doesn’t exist. In daily life, I only see people who mostly look for themselves, can be terribly self-centered, in particular in the Church and there is definitely not sense of the Church being the “Body of Christ”, i.e. we are all together to build together. It is the consequence of faith being perceived as a strictly personal experience.

We have a tremendous problem of identity because – even the local Arab Christians of any denomination – would think they can be asked to prove that they belong to a Church as a living Body of the Risen Lord. The usual experience will be that “we do and go to whom and where we want : the less it costs, the more simple a procedure is and often the shorter, the better it is”. Just as in some American Evangelical groups, “Christians” does not mean “I belong to the Church”; it means: am I a true believer? The question goes on by constantly testing the faith of the others. True faith implies and leads to trust. “In God we trust” as written on the US Dollars, still firstly God trusts in us and it requires a lot of insights to get to that point.

Our question today is in fact a sort of reflection upon “Who is my neighbor? And You shalt love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:19). Jesus summarizes the Torah in two commandments of “Loving God with all our soul, heart and strength = resources” and “Loving your neighbor as yourself”. These words are present in the Synoptic Gospel (Deuteronomy 6:5-11:13 – 30:6 and Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27 along with Lev. 19.18).

You belong to the Russian Federation that was created out of the Union of the Soviet Republic. Till now, your country encompasses numerous nations, people, of numerous cultural, religious, linguistic traditions. For political of ideological, religious or ethnic reasons – whether rational or not – many nations and individuals would require at the present some sort of “self-ruled autonomy and/or independence”. One of the new trends is the requirement of micro-entities to get “self-ruled or autonomous” as given by the example of the Abkhaz Orthodox Church that recently declare that she wanted to be “independent”.

We have the right in the Church to be who we are. This is why I mentioned, to begin with, the most-affecting, in-depth-harming decisions of Canon 8 at the Second Council of Nicea. We cannot dream out how we would like to implement the concepts of independence or unity in our communities. I am a member of the Israeli society and a priest, I serve in that community and State, being an Eastern Orthodox member of the clergy and thus called to bear the witness for the Holy Trinity in Jerusalem, in that and not another local Church.

Thus, I have the obligation which concerns each of us in the Church, in Jerusalem or here in Russia, “to sing in the choir “ (a reminder of late Patriarch Aleksei II), together with people, clergy, cultures, traditions that should not be split because of human misunderstanding of desire for power. I have chosen – whatever price it may cost – to remain faithful to the local Church that is recognized as such by the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Kingdom of Jordan.

Frankly, when I was appointed there 14 years ago, some European and local hierarchs and clergy together with lay people said with some irony: “he (= I…) got what he was looking for”. The work is known to be an “impossible mission”. They did not prevent me about the situation and the dangers, though I was aware of them. I said: if we are the people of the Church and do trust that we belong to a specific local Church because of what or who we are, we have to keep the good work. In our case in Jerusalem, it is like “playing chess on a six dimensional basis” as an Israeli expert declared.

I may not see the development of an “Israeli acculturated and Hebrew-praying Church”, but it is our duty to pave the way to the future generations. 160 years ago, Hebrew was used in Orthodox celebrations in Jerusalem, long before Eliezer Ben Yehudah, the reviver of Modern Hebrew had started his project. At the present, there is no doubt that the move shall grow, slowly and in various and unexpected ways, it is a reality for tomorrow and even the present. Points of rejection are not relevant because faith consists in measuring what future generations will build up and how. And, as a matter of fact, Israeli Christian communities exist, but not in the way we would define them according to traditional Roman Empire Church patterns.

We do not choose each other in the Church. Never. We are chosen and called to gather in together with others and join the ONE BODY OF CHRIST. Why? Because “friendship, brotherhood” are the fruit of God’s forgiveness and definitely not some human capacities to cope with some or other people. Let’s read again and with true insights the meaning of the Gospel: “I call you not servants; for the servant does not know what his lord does; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you that you should go and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain: that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:14-16).

Indeed, we cannot choose each other in the Church. When Jesus Christ says that He “chose and ordained his disciples and made them “friends””, He is not acting with some “druzhba\дружба spirit”. This is at times very difficult to declare, especially in Russia and in the Russian culture, because of the immense credit of the “druzhbaдружба-/friendship feelings”.

But “חבר =chaver” in Modern Hebrew means “friend, often a boy (girl)friend”. In the rabbinical tradition “a chaver” is a “ordained member of the community” in order to serve in a Jewish “congregation”. At the Talmudic period, the “chaverim” were ordained and given a letter of ordination. This is why the “chavurah – חבורא\חבורה” is a “religious association”. In a rather ironic way, the “chevra qaddisha” is today the example of love and assistance to our fellow people: they are in charge of burying the Jews with much humanity and decency. There is a Yiddish saying stating that a cemetery is a wonderful model of the world-to-come because it gathers people who are quiet, peaceful and repose in the hands of the Most High.

We all face the constant and very questioning problem of how God can or does redeem us. How does He allow us to be “one and diversified” without fencing ourselves. Viktor Frankl , the famous Jewish Austrian psychiatrist who witnessed to his experience in the Nazi period and concentration camps stated that the following pattern of two human attitudes seems to abide and govern human nature in the best and worse situations. He wrote (Man’s search for meaning, p. 123): “If a prisoner felt that he could no longer endure the realities of camp life, he found a way out in his mental life – an invaluable opportunity to dwell in the spiritual domain, the one that the SS were unable to destroy. Spiritual life strengthened the prisoner, helped him adapt, and thereby improved his chances of survival”.

I have been visiting the sick for more than 30 years, in particular the children. Children are “infants” which means that they are not able to “speak, explain” with words what they feel. If a child faces death directly and is saved “in extremis” it becomes unbeatable. Nothing can seriously affect his “Drang an Leben – force to go ahead of life”. In fact, it does not consist in being “survivors”. It means we can feel we have been saved and called to participate in the process of redemption.

There is no reason for me to be present today with you and participate in your fraternal Conference. It appears that for historic reasons I had no perspective to be born. I nearly died at birth and again 15 years ago. A Russian woman, a professor at the Hebrew University – born in Israel – told me many years ago that I can minister in Israel because I feel at home to the full. True. But also because God gave me to face death in such a close way that life is definitely full of His grace and joys. It leads to patience and consider with a certain sense of time what we can build and what others will eventually build. Fraternity does not consist in mirroring ourselves and ours. It calls to see how we are the heirs of previous people and how we can transmit our experience for the benefit of the Church in her totality.
We experienced the reality described by Viktor Frankl in the Gulags, the labor camps, the extermination camps.

Why moral values in the Church can seeming be affected by the behavior of the faithful? Beyond all sorts of visible separations, misunderstanding, competition and real hatred disguised in the rags of fake love, the Church is still the BODY AND THE VINEYARD that calls to go beyond who and what we think we are.
“Jerusalem built up, a city knit together/ Yerushalayim habnuyah k’ir shechuvrah lah yachdav -
ירושלם הבנויה כעיר שחוברה לה יחדיו (Psalm 122,2, Hebrew version).
“Christ is in our midst! He is and will be unto the ages of the ages”.

Archpriest Alexander Winogradsky (Jerusalem)
September 22/09, 2009 – 4 deTishrei 5770

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sagesse et patience

07.09.09



La société israélienne passe régulièrement par des sortes de “douleurs de l’enfantement”. Il est vrai qu’à force de faire des bébés tout le temps, la société peut finir par ressentir des contractions sociales sensibles. Cette situation est normale, ce qui reste une énigme à l’étranger. Chez nous, il ne faut jamais s’inquiéter comme me répète ma “coach en société israélienne” de 26 ans qui revient de son voyage de noces en Italie où la petite famille a trouvé les paysages splendides, mais les gens franchement nerveux. “Av, al-tidag\אב, אל-תדאג = surtout ne t’inquiète de rien”, affirme avec aplomb cette jeunesse qui servit comme analyste psychologue dans l’armée.

Ce n’est pas toujours évident in situ: on est allé chercher des Ethiopiens, les voilà citoyens et, en ce moment, ça swingue très fort : à Petah Tiqwah, Les écoles religieuses plutôt ashkénazes refusent les écoliers car ces Ethiopiens ne sont pas “totalement juifs” selon la Halakhah/Loi juive. Restons calmes, ça va passer, et c’est vrai. Soudain, un haut responsable druze est directement attaqué avec une forme de racisme qui inquiète les médias et les spécialistes locaux. Ce n’est pas comme chez vous du tout. Le regard porté sur le Proche-Orient et Israël conduit souvent à un jugement pessimiste et négatif par définition. Le mot “racisme” a une pigmentation aggressive par définition. Ici, c’est différent : l’identité de chacun est déterminée par des critères existentiels qui peuvent facilement déraper, par leurs références apparemment “génétiques”, vers des exclusions racistes. Le temps de comprendre que Dieu est bien au-delà de tout génome.

C’est pourquoi il faut souligner que la Terre de Canaan fut toujours une région d’extrême tolérance. En 7000 ans, elle a accueilli des gens de “toutes races, langues, peuples et nations”. Il faut sans doute y voir une vocation à l’universel humain, la plénitude de la reconnaissance de l’autre. Mais, dans des moments-charnières il y a des contractions. La société israélienne tente d’expliquer aux citoyens qu’il y va de la décence civique. Elle repose sur des principes de foi et de droit. C’est peu compris. Cela ne ne s’apprend, pas dans les livres, ça se vit.

Au seuil de cette année 5770, les propos d’Albert Einstein peuvent être médités en profondeur. En 1938, il émit de grandes réserves sur la création d’un Etat juif. Il évoqua les formes étroites de nationalismes qui ont historiquement miné les propres rangs du judaïsme en l’absence de tout Etat. En revanche, il affirma que si des circonstances particulières contraignaient les Juifs à accepter ce fardeau, encore faudrait-il le faire “avec patience (tact) et sagesse”. Khokhma vesavlanut (Sagesse et patience) est sans conteste la devise et le slogan national d’Israël.

Le mois de Ellul est un temps de retournement spirituel. Les prières de Selihot\סליחות expriment cette dimension. Comme d’ailleurs, dans le même temps, les prières du Ramadan.

Le judaïsme se prépare à célébrer l’anniversaire de la création du monde. Avant la création, Dieu avait beaucoup réfléchi et pris l’avis de Son Conseil où siégeait en particulier la Teshuva\תשובה = la Pénitence ou Réponse à Dieu (Nedarim 39b/Pessahim 54a). Il faut dissiper un malentendu. La pénitence ne consiste pas à se tordre les os et l’esprit pour s’accuser avec moulte culpabilité réelle ou feinte de trangressions, de fautes dramatiques ; ni à se composer un look de propreté bon marché. A cet égard, tout clergé a tendance à exiger une humilité que lui-même peine à incarner.

Il y a une blague juive : deux ennemis se rencontrent dans leur synagogue au jour de Yom Kippour/Grand Pardon. Le premier s’avance vers son ennemi de toujours et lui dit: “Je te souhaite tout le bien que toi-même me souhaiteras”. L’autre lui répond: “Ne recommence pas maintenant, veux-tu!” - La Réponse à Dieu consiste à pivoter parce que “shuv\שוב = à nouveau” indique un pivotement sur nous-mêmes. Le grec metanoïa indique un retournement de la conscience.

Il est normalement prévu pour tous les travailleurs de faire un bilan de santé annuel. Ellul, les prière de pardon/Selihot, le Nouvel An et les 10 jours de Teshuva avant Kippour permettent une rencontre franche et ouverte avec autrui et donc avec Dieu. Il ne s’agit d’impressionner personne, ni Dieu d’ailleurs, mais mettre en perspective notre raison d’exister. Il faut du temps pour conjurer l’orgueil et les haines tenaces.

Le judaïsme orthodoxe américain a suggéré d’instaurer un National Apology Day, une jour de demande de pardon qui viserait aussi une démarche des non-Juifs. L’Orthodoxie chrétienne conserve le magnifique office de demande de pardon : chacun se met à genoux et demande pardon au début du Grand Carême qui mène à la Pâque.

Il y a un aspect très dynamisant à pareille attitude. Il ne s’agit pas seulement de demander pardon, mais aussi de prendre conscience des bonnes actions ou mitzvot (ou commandements positifs de l’Eglise en comparaison). Tout n’est pas noir. Il est utile de repérer les points positifs d’une année.

A propos des chroniques venues de Jérusalem

02 septembre 2009
A propos des chroniques venues de Jérusalem

Je dois dire que cela se produit très rarement. Depuis le début de mon action en tant que prêtre orthodoxe dans la société israélienne - il suffit de lire ce blog - ce sont les dificultés qui sont pointées et les encouragements rares, à la limite de la suspicion. “Une mission impossible” comme me le disent de nombreux amis, ennemis et visituers, parfois des personnes bien intentionnées. Il est vrai que l’histoire montre qu’il s’agit d’une tâche limite. Il y a les nostalgiques de la permanente incompréhension; il y a ceux qui prennent des partis politiques ou autres qui ne m’intéressent en rien. J’ai lancé ces chroniques dans Le Monde car elles permettent, en peu de mots ou à lettres comptées de formuler des points de repères que je recueille dans ma fréquentation directe avec un peu tous les milieux israéliens.

Léon-Marc Lévy est aussi un chroniqueur abonné au Monde. Il se consacre désormais à l’oenologie. Comme d’autres, il m’a demblée témoigné son intérêt pour les chronique que j’essaye d’écrire régulièrement une fois par semaine; en raison du 1er septembre 1939, j’ai commis une deuxième publiée aujourd’hui. Mais il faut savoir se limiter.

Je tiens à le remercier très vivement pour ses mots positifs et chaleureux. Il a aussi compris ce que je tente de faire ici; de le faire dans la joie en dépit de tout, d’un isolement sinon un confinement que j’arrive à dépasser mais que je ne souhaite à personne, des moyens non seulement limités mais qui ont parfois été volontairement supprimés pour des raisons irraisonnées. Et pourtant, non seulement cela continue, mais qui plus est, cela se développe dans des directions tout à fait étonnantes.

Un grand merci à Léon-Marc Lévy que vous pouvez retrouver dans les Chroniques du Monde.fr.


A propos des chroniques venues de Jérusalem

par Léon-Marc Levy

01.09.09
LE MONDE CHRONIQUES



L‘équipe du « Monde.fr » a la bonne idée de nous gratifier, à intervalles réguliers, de chroniques venues de Jérusalem, signées Av Aleksandr, prêtre orthodoxe. J’ai déjà eu l’occasion de dire ici, par quelques réactions, le plaisir toujours renouvelé que procure la lecture de ces petites perles : morceaux de vie, frais, colorés, complexes, pétillants, fondamentalement optimistes et drôles, venant d’une région du monde où il est pourtant si difficile de croire au bonheur et à la fraternité entre les peuples. Eclats de lumière déchirant l’obscurité, un peu comme en écho aux beaux films venus d’Israël, ou aux textes superbes des grands poètes palestiniens. Mais au-delà du seul plaisir narratif, je suis frappé par le fait qu’à travers ces chroniques, ce « murmure culturel », se dessinent, peu à peu, comme des évidences cachées qui sortiraient de l’ombre, des territoires qui pourraient s’avérer très vite les espaces clés de l’avenir.



- Le territoire du marchand : Av Aleksandr pointe ce village palestinien (Deir Abou Meshal, à l’ouest de Ramallah) dont les femmes cousent depuis longtemps les « kippoth » de leurs voisins Juifs. Le commerce, c’est l’espace de l’échange par excellence, qui depuis des millénaires est partout à l’origine de l’avancée des Lumières. Juifs, chrétiens, musulmans ont construit leur génie, leur culture, leur richesse dans une parfaite synergie commerciale autour de la Méditerranée, quelles que fussent les périodes sanglantes d’intérêts divergents. Les voyageurs des uns travaillaient pour les marchands des autres, les comptables pour les artisans, les banquiers pour les explorateurs de terres nouvelles, en un tissu serré de vie et d’intelligence dont l’Espagne de l’Age d’Or fut un parfait exemple. Aujourd’hui, demain encore, ce territoire sera porteur, inéluctablement, de rapprochement, de compréhension et d’élan commun.

- Le territoire de la langue : Babel s’éloigne. Les jeunes Palestiniens d’Israël parlent tous l’hébreu. Les jeunes Juifs d’Israël ne parlent encore que peu l’arabe. Mais les temps changent nous disent Av Aleksandr et bien d’autres témoins, et le mouvement s’inverse. La rencontre symbolique de deux langues partagées sera forcément une route ouverte vers la rencontre tout court.

- Le territoire de la création artistique et culturelle : Tout le monde reconnaît aujourd’hui le formidable dynamisme de la production moyen-orientale et en particulier palestino-israélienne : cinéma, musique, arts graphiques, BD, littérature. Or ce qui frappe dans cette vague, c’est le mélange inextricable de gens issus de toutes les cultures, de toutes les religions. Regardez la distribution d’un film israélien : acteurs, actrices, techniciens sont indifféremment juifs, arabes ou chrétiens. L’univers culturel, et intellectuel, dans les grandes villes en particulier, est de plus en plus « mixte », véritable creuset d’une culture naissante israélo-palestinienne.

- Le territoire du sexe : De la « chair » dit Av. Même si cela reste encore un sujet sulfureux en Israël, les couples « mixtes » se multiplient et les barrières tombent une à une. Av nous annonce l’arrivée prochaine d’un « baby-boom d’enfants sémitiques », ni Juif, ni arabe, Juif et arabe. Bonne nouvelle pour les « colombes » et… les cigognes ! Mauvaise nouvelle pour les faucons, de tous les camps.

Dans l’interligne des chroniques d’Av Aleksandr, on sent que, décidément, la question de la paix passe par les territoires. Mais les territoires décisifs ne seront pas faits seulement de géographie, de frontières compliquées et de rapports de force. Il en est d’autres, plus essentiels, qui façonnent lentement, tous les jours, avec une force encore insoupçonnable, l’espace d’une rencontre inévitable, la naissance d’une Nation improbable il y a peu et impensable pour beaucoup aujourd’hui encore.

La route sera longue et le fracas des haines encore largement dominant. Mais que j’aime la petite chanson que fredonne Av Aleksandr !

Je suis aussi très touché et étonné par cette réaction mise en ligne sur Le Monde.fr:

Vos réactions

Barukh F. :

Très belle chronique! Témoigner de la réalité des Hommes dans un contexte difficile et offrir une possibilité de dialogue par-delà les différences toujours dépassionée, voilà le cadeau qu’Av nous fait dans ses textes.
Il faut avoir du cran pour pouvoir vivre pleinement, humainement, spirituellement et sans perdre le Nord (le Temple) le quotidien d’Av Aleksandr. Mais même la personne la plus tenace a besoin du réconfort de la reconnaissance! Merci pour cette main posée sur son épaule!

Se souvenir pour en dire le moins possible - 70 ans?

01.09.09
LE MONDE CHRONIQUES

Cette chronique est écrite à Jérusalem en ce 1er septembre/19 août (cal. julien) - 12 Ellul 5769 alors que la lune atteint sa plénitude mensuelle. Nous avançons donc, à travers ce mois juif de Ellul consacré à la réflexion, à l’amélioration de la qualité d’une vie personnelle vers l’année 5770, (18 septembre prochain). C’est le Ramadan qui incite aussi par le jeûne et la prière à comprendre le sense de sa vie et de la destinée humaine au regard du Dieu Miséricordieux. Enfin, dans la tradition des Eglises byzantines orientales, le 1er septembre marque le renouveau de l’année liturgique orthodoxe selon les occidentaux, donc ce sera le 14/09 à venir pour l’Eglise de Jérusalem.

J’écris dans divers blogs et dans Le Monde. Cela suffit largement. D’autant que le propos n’est sûrement pas de faire le perroquet, mais d’apporter et de partager des idées sur la foi dans la société. Le 31/08 au soir, je rappelle incidemment en anglais et en hébreu que, voici 70 ans, l’Allemagne nazie attaquait la Pologne avec l’aide de slovaques. Les médias israéliens commencent une longue nuit et journée de mémoire: l’attaque de la Pologne a véritablement signifié le lancement du processus de la Shoah, même si les camps existaient déjà. Le 17 septembre, l’Armée Rouge envahissait la Pologne provoquant la mise en pièce de la réalité polonaise dont les frontières furent toujours contestées et révisées au gré des péripéties séculaires.

Israël se souvient de manière très incarnée de cette date : elle a marqué la ruine d’une civilisation. Il est très actuel, en Israël, de revenir au yiddish. Les médias locaux ont diffusé des dizaines de commentaires sur ce jour et ceux qui suivirent. Les rescapés ont décrit l’extrême fragilisation de la communauté juive lors de l’invasion. La Pologne incluait alors une partie de la Lithuanie, de la Biélorussie devenue Belarus et l’Ukraine. La Prusse orientale semble rayée des mémoires aujourd’hui. C’est sans doute une erreur pour l’avenir geo-stratégique. Curieusement la terre et les hommes sont liés par une mémoire que l’on ne peut nier sans pudeur.

Le président Shimon Peres est lui-même, comme la plupart des membres fondateurs de l’appareil politique de l’Etat d’Israël, un homme de langue, de culture est-européennes et polonaise, frontalière de la Russie et de l’Ukraine transcarpathique. Les médias israéliens ont rappelé aujourd’hui l’abandon historique de la Pologne par la France et de la Grande-Bretagne au moyen d’accords de pacotille. En 1938, la France avait renvoyé en Pologne les mineurs du Nord, les poussant à un charbon dont peu survécurent. La Grande-Bretagne comme l’Union Soviétique ont alors défini des positions de grandes puissances que les Alliés continuent aujourd’hui d’incarner par une sorte de scission constante géographique et humaine de l’Europe telle qu’elle marqua son empreinte au 11ème siècle. L’Europe ne parvient pas à sortir de cette fracture de Velehrad où les Francs latins persécutèrent Cyrille et Méthode, apôtres de Slaves.

Le monde yiddish est célébré cette année en raison du 150è anniversaire de Schalom Aleichem (souvenez-vous: “Un violon sur le toît”). La langue, la civilisation d’un judaïsme yiddish ayant fréquenté le monde polonais et l’Orient chrétien jusqu’à partager des intuitions fortes (hassidisme et hésychasme) furent alors anéanties. Or, elle a survécu par notre hébreu contemporain issu de ces régions dévastées. Il en a hérité la manière d’exprimer les idées. L’hébreu moderne est une sorte de “langage” néo-hébraïque profondément imprégné de yiddishismes et de comportements talmudiques en milieux slaves. De 1880 à ce jour, les vagues d’immigrants n’ont cessé de nourrir, de manière ininterrompue et très particulière, l’embryon de la société israélienne.

En Israël, le 1/09 est largement traité ici comme élément historique crucial dans la destinée juive d’Europe. En revanche, il semble que, par exemple en France, les rafles d’août 1942 ou la rentrée difficile des scolaires en Israël prennent le dessus, dans certains milieux concernés, sur le fait que la catastrophe fut lancée voici précisément 70 ans, en Europe christianisée, ce que les commentateurs ont rappelé en Terre Sainte.

70 ans ont passés. On construit une Europe pluri-nationale, un Euro unique… Ici, nous avons le Shekel, la plus ancienne monnaie en circulation. Ici, nous avons la visite de Madonna qui est en Kabbale. Ici, nous avons les haredim qui attaquent notre police et ses chevaux en les traitant de “Nazis”. Ici, le Grand Mufti, comme en 1939, continue de faire des émules. Mais le Ramadan est paisible.

L’Europe a mal à son âme. Ses neurones flanchent et se disperseraient volontiers parmi des mémoires difficiles à rassembler. Il y a 70 ans commençait des conflits que des apprentis sorciers ont peine à maîtriser.

On ne peut exiger de personne le pardon ou la conscience d’atrocités historiques. Il faut une grande patience pour que le temps et un peu de foi réunissent les vivants.