Thursday, March 19, 2009

Purim and Kippurim

The countdown "Israel: + 61 years", after the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel, has shown some defects from the very beginning of the Jewish year 5769. There are points of confusion showing that legality and legacy are weakening. In the Holy Land, we behave as if we never went out of the wilderness.

The Sixtieth anniversary was launched with the UN partition into two States. At the moment, we speculate and contemplate, in some circles, that there should be a two-state, maybe a three-state solution; Why not a four-state way-out? I really think that, if we cannot manage Galilee, Center and discover the richness of the South, we should definitely add some strong connection with Birobidjan in the Siberian Far East. Good old Stalin had envisioned the requirement to provide some soil and identity to the Jews within the framework of international friendship and unity. And what? Yiddish is still the national language of the "Geg'nt\געגנט - Oblast'/область - autonomous region". I wrote articles and blogs for the 70th anniversary of the Birobidjan and usually the Anglo's have removed the note from their archives, lol!

Again, this year, we have a linguistic 150th birth anniversary: Two years ago, it was Eliezer Ben Yehudah's coming out into the world (still rather unnoticed by who it may concern) and now, it is Sholem Aleichem, but people would scarcely say "hello". Languages, speech are true identity "developers"and mind openers; we turn them to be tongue twisters, tools of confusion and we prefer to hide them.

Last year, it was stunning, unreal, kitsch and weird. German Känzlerin/ chancellor came to visit Israel and spoke for the first time in German at the Knesset. She originally comes from East Germany, with a cultural background that , via the former Soviet Union and the Russian civilization, roots her closer to the basements of the State of the Jews. One year later, we are embattled with her fellow citizen Pope Benedikt XVI, mistaken on Monday, repenting on Tuesday, correcting his staff on Wednesday, brushing up the errors on Thursday, worse on Friday and arriving in the Holy Land.... between Shabbat and Sunday, bearing all the sins of New Israel. This is the sad story of a sincere man of God.

If we have some brains and insights, we may understand that Joseph Ratzinger's mother tongue is bayerisch, a dialect terribly close to (basic) Yiddish. The fact that the man is shy, back-laid and a true theologian is hardly comprehensible to returning from exiled and historically injured-hurt,affected Jewish former wanderers always wanting to march in some where, somehow. It is easy to sum up: we have our point of view, his has his own views, maybe not restricted to one or two points. Good enough, the fact is that he has to swindle around false. For instance, there is this true Patagonian dispersed Briton priest that swings between neutral Switzerland, Calvinist Geneva and strongly Catholic Zion in Valais-Wallis (Traditional fraternity) and spoke out his mind on some odd Swedish waves, so what? Nothing, nothing new. An old tale and the tale shall continue for centuries.

It looks like a Purim farce; but who are the jesters? Who is disguised and who changes sides? It is the main issue today as it was exceptionally filmed by Charlie Chaplin in "The Dictator" ass-playing with a balloon globe; the bad Haman one day and the good Persian after a repair... in a delightful Esperanto atmosphere.

"Purim" are "lots" and they can change according to our versatility: "shoteh " in Hebrew and Yiddish means both "drinker, drinks\שותה and full mad, insane person\שוטה" (with a switch in consonants from tet to tav). The real problem is how Judaism can revolve, change and make a real move toward penance; how can we abandon permanent ego-centered guilt, wounds and mental requirement for revenge from the others without seeing that we may impeach the others to truly get to some point of authentic change toward Judaism. Not that change we would expect, but the one they can reach, now, today, at the present and without our being judgmental.

Judaism has a very special blessing: "Blessed are You, Lord of the Universe / shehecheyanu\שהחינו (Who sustains us in Life) vekimanu\וקימנו (and revives us) vehigiyanu lezman hazeh\והגיענו לזמן הזה (and gives us to reach to this time).We may not be able to understand the value of what seems ordinary.

The above blessing insists on a regular, cyclic, on the move development and renewal of life. This is what "zikkaron\זכירון - memorial" also means. Without being politically minded at all, it is totally unexpected, even after six decades, to hear the German Känzelin, Angela Merkel, reprimanding Pope Benedict the Sixteenth (as we say in Hebrew: Benedictus hashisha-assar\בנדיקטוס השישה-עשר). He is a fellow citizen. He used to have at night a nice fresh "Bier und Sauerkraut" at the Vatican nearby Bräuerei. They understand each other. She is the daughter of an East German pastor with the spiritual experience of the East that was very close to Polish John Paul II. Is it a mental "confusion" that East German citizens of the Democratic German Republic has never, never committed anything wrong against the Jews provided that they were the Communist friends, brothers, brethren, comrades of the outraged international people? But Angela intervened as a real angelic actual theologian and "witness for our contemporary errors". She told the Pope to collect his thoughts and get aware of true mistakes. It is so confusing that the Roman Catholic Church seems to be at pains right now, when the Eastern Orthodox Churches, especially the Russian Patriarchate of Moscow, succeeded in maintaining some real unity of the Russian Church. They reunited it and still manage to be linked with those who would prefer to leave the Body. We are often puzzled by simple facts.

Look, it seemed so amazing, one year ago, that Nobel Price and Holocaust survivor Elie(zer) Wiesel refused, at the last minute and right out of the blue, to hold a torch for the Sixtieth anniversary of the State? He had gone through "Di nakht, די נאכט - the Night". At that time, a lot of people condemned him for personal money profits, utilizing the Holocaust as a self promotion... Nu so what? Jews, as Christians, are none without compassion and loving-kindness. In the "Night", E. Wiesel looks, with the inmates of the camp, at the gallows and the hanging body. A man says: "Where is God?" Wiesel whispers: "There, he is hanging at the gallows". Is his answer today the Madoff scandal caused by a man who could even pay to get out of jail?

Elie Wiesel has never become the man he should have been as a member of the Yiddishkayt. His Jewishness and normal route sank during the Holocaust, before it was called "Shoah\שואה". It has not reached the "churban/Yid. chirb'n-חורבן". Today, he often would say this and that, partly dreaming, partly surviving. The intriguing part is that only Israelis are entitled to yell at him or be judgmental. Any soul - that solely passes by this Land of Canaan today is placed beyond any capacity to measure the value of life. It is far beyond mean survival concerns and still it is interwoven with horrible fears.

Somehow, it is very sound though it should be condemned that Israeli media can mock the Shoah poor survivors left without their money at the same time as they carelessly make fun of major Christian faith fundamentals. It is a terrible mistake, It is outrageous and definitely abnormal. But it is sound because who can ever measure the way the grandparents were reduced to human wrecks? Before yelling, we always need to repair our memories.

From growing flowers, trees, roads, pets, computers to human bones, all of them ache or ached or will go through terrible pains. We are simply at the dawn of some new humanity.

* * * * * * * *

The main concern of Purim is not disguising carnival. Carnival? There is nothing dealing with the blessing of flesh (Lat. carne) in the usual way of meeting the feast nowadays. To begin with, it is a State feast and tus it may not be perceived as an act of authentic and pure Jewish faith. A joyous and rejoicing sharing of Hamantashen/ozney Haman\המן טאשען\אוזני המן and Haman ears. As a child I used to attend each year the event this in theaters. Queen Esther was a true rescued person. And there was a rampant question: who had shown to take the place of Malkah Esther, aka Hadas (aka Ishtar) with Mordechai (aka Marduk)? This was an anxious question for a generation full of apparent despair, some incredible forces to build up their lives again and also gamble their minds into shaping new Israel.

Purim is not a carnival. It consists in getting so confused that good and evil are just so close they can match or even get interwoven disappear into an isolated sort of unclear "golem".

What kind of crazy things will we imagine on this Purim? When logics prefer to turn to nonsense, right to left and left to north and reality to dazzling reality? We maybe living in New Zealand, Alaska, Europe, Jews rock between Sumer and the Mesopotamian civilization and Egypt. On the one hand, the birthplace of Abraham and then, along the Nile, the fight for surviving and getting freed. And, here, in Eretz Israel, we are in between: shifting from there to here and swinging like on seesaw. Getting in and out and back again.

The point is that Purim can only match with "Kippurim -כיפורים". It implies that the feast of the Lots are not only based on "lots"; in the Gospel, Jesus is mocked by the Roman soldiers. They were "Roman" but came from the various parts of the great Roman empire, from Dacia, Turkey, other areas and some hardly could speak "Roman = Latin", just the same way we see millions of expatriates and refugees who are flowing throughout the world trying to make their living in many tongues. He was mocked, i.e. it was the ancient and usually way to play with a false king, to dress him "up" and mock him with fake respect. We often do mock each other that way because it is much easier than to cope with the existence of a soul.

But there is more: this kind of mockery reduces the human being to what we only accept to recognize of who he is. When Jesus is mocked, he is on the way to be killed. It does not matter by whom. The point is that there is an intention to murder a human being. And precisely when he is naked, he is still considered as being ridiculous and dangerous in terms of a strong identity. The man is jailed, trapped. Still, he is potentially a king; worse of all, he might be the king. Jews have the same, and it is even worse: they bear the promises to be prophets and messiah-bearers.

The real fight is very clear: Purim\פורים (Lots) and Kippurimכפורים (Ransoming, day of atonement, forgiveness) are very close because God's will has the first and the last Word. It clears up guilt because on such days the combat can overcome idolatry. The problem is that we may, at the present, be confused about "idolatry".

The Jews can be fascinated by "idols"; these are very simple tests and temptations. The word is a bit too pious to be real in our societies. It is simple to look at the opposite face of the Tablets with the commandments. This deals with "morals": to honor time and delays, to respect life and do not slay, to respect properties, marriage and don't be a matter or a source of adultery, to refrain from any action of possession that would alien or harm your fellow people and the foreigners, from objects to beasts or belong to any creature. These were the basic Noahide commandments.

Until now, the Jewish siddurim\סידורים and machzorim\מחזורים are very strict with regard to the respect of these principles and ethic rules. They are not so simple. There are simple ways to rob the others, to create the conditions that would even blur the acts of theft or robbery. Adultery is advertising everywhere and though it is evident that pure hearts and eyes can match in all circumstances, power and capture show when we are unable to control ourselves.

Like the Prophets of Israel and the Rabbis after the destruction of the Second Temple), the first Christians were terribly shocked by "idolatry" that was hideous to them, more than disgusting and they were indeed always ready to give up their lives and violently protest against "idolatry". They had another attitude than the Jews. The Hebrews left Egypt and the Land of serfdom and were rather quickly seduced by idolatry (the golden calf, luxury, gluttony and orgies). Is it possible to explain this by the long absence of Moses? In fact, the death and the rise of Jesus show to involve the same problems of faithfulness. The combat against idolatry is essential at this point. It is at the heart of behavioral attitudes and ethics of our generation. The problem is not to know what new conditions appeared in the course of the years and mirror new forms of idolatry.

The early Christians hated idolatry. We can trace this back by the way we suspiciously consider some ancient sects, like the Essenes or the many first Christian groups. The Eastern Orthodox world can still be very "rough, rude and judgmental" with regard to the purity of the true faith. It is definitely useless to be judgmental. This also appears in the Saint Ephrem's prayer.

The attitude of the first Christians - which has also been the attitude of the true Jews throughout history - deals with "idols" as being "items or objects" and they would systematically avoid or refuse to get involved in any sort of God-negating rites, actions or objects ("pagan, heathen" would fit in fact, but are not so clear at present). They had the same as we can see today: "harmless" things that can even seem ridiculous and so. Why are they considered as "idolatry"?

I had a professor of Talmud. He was a prisoner of war in Germany, a famous rabbi. He worked there in a farm. The family was in fact very nice with him and wanted him to get food and share the same conditions of life as they had. The boss used to give him huge sandwiches with pork sausages and ham. He used to take them, but once alone, he would always throw them away, considering that he was not entitled to trespass the commandment for different reasons: pork is forbidden (still in abnormal conditions is it possible or not to go beyond the commandment?). He also considered that his conditions of life were hideously abnormal. He could not morally accept the conditions of non-protest against evil shown by his "hosting" family. Today, his rejection of all sorts of compromise would be considered as an exploit. It is a usual matter for any Jew as also for true Christians.

We all have friends and acquaintances who would consider that there is no harm - and definitely no trespass, sin" in praying through "nature", stones, bracelets, metallic stuff. Crosses are not explained - it is easier to wear them as earrings or bangles. Saint Paul stated that such rituals given to objects, material items were comparable to hallowing Evil or Satan (1 Corinthians 10: 19-22).

Worshiping Astarte, Ishtar (cf. the difference with Esther) corresponds to "give reverence to false gods", e.g. to some forms that we create and that, in return, seize our existences and souls with much reality. In fact, these elements are "covered, veiled, dressed up or disguised" in the shape of some versatile and temporary rule of our preferences. This makes idolatry terribly real; It has nothing to do with some odd or empty cult.

This is why Jews and Christians of the Antiquity could not consider idolatry as a "simple sin". It is possible to say that we live at the present in a time of "post-heralding"; this means that from before the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem till the attempt to eradicate the Jewish - mostly European - Jewish communities during the period of the Shoah, monotheism (without including Islam) has been proclaimed by the Jews and then by both the Jews and the Christian all throughout the world till the end of the second world war.

We can consider that this long period was marked by the announcement of the Reign of God, the attempt to spread God's commandments everywhere. It is basically possible to state that the Word of God has reached all the earth and all the nations of the planet, even if there are levels of impact and acculturation. The term "proselytism" is too special and refers to some specific attitudes of the Christian "Churches or groups". Originally, it was part of the Jewish attitude and it may show up again with the creation of a free Jewish body. Still "heralding" refers to something else: the coming of prophet Elijah to proclaim the presence of the coming messiah in glory who should arrive at the top of the Mount of Olives at the end of times. In this view, "heralding" is only starting. Until now, between two major destructions or exterminations that profoundly affected the Jewish community, the Gospel has reached a climax, but "evangelization and or proclamation of the King through the Jewish tradition" has only come to a first step. We are at the dawn of a true discovery of faith. Indeed we are anew and constantly facing the challenge of "combating idolatry" as described above.

Idolatry is the major issue. We seem to come back to the old times of Antiquity. The dramatic change that happened is that "monotheists" who would never accept any sort of compromise with idolatry or would be totally aware of what idolatry truly are confused at the present and cannot make a clear distinction between good and evil, temptation and spiritual righteousness. It is indeed a special blessing to keep the right way. Indeed, Jewish and Christian faiths are at stake while facing the realm of Satan. It does not mean that each individual should be cursed or hurt or affected. Loving-kindness is at the core of redemption. It means that societies are aching and cannot support their members to smoothly continue marching in.

The response is thus to try to understand that Purim is, in the time of the first Land of Israel harvest of spring, the first response to "answer to God in a positive way". It make Kippurim (Ransoming, atonement) as, similar, identical to (ke- ) a good lot granted by God. This covers all kinds of understanding and widens our scope.

av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

March 15/2, 2009 - 19 deAdar 5769 - כ' דאדר תשס"ט

היכל הספר-מגילה

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