Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Iyyar 5769

Ups and downs. Hot one day and then cooler or significantly cooler, which means that it is still damp. This Monday, the day is called "adom\אדום - red " because of the color of the desert wind swiftly drifting from Arabia and that is hot, causes coughing and discomfort in breathing.

Jerusalem changes, with new constructions showing in most parts of the city. Digging in and out, paving new networks for buses and the " rechevet\רכבת - the train". In a dozen of years, maybe sooner, maybe later - the city of Jerusalem will have totally reshaped the accessibility to the numerous new and recent quarters of the Jewish part as also the Old City and certainly East-Jerusalem. When reaching Kikar Tzahal (Square) at the cross-roads between the Western and the Old City, on the way to Damascus Gate or down to Dung Gate, the Mount of Olives, Abu Dis or toward Talpiot, Bethlehem. From Kanyon Malchah supermarket, the train hurries up toward Tel Aviv with connections to Ashdod and the Southern coast, then again from Tel Aviv up to the North, Akko. The old Jerusalem Central Station is empty... But the tramway is to be built and there are holes everywhere, with rails runing along the main streets of the city.

In the 80s, It traveled 10 hours in old wagons from the central railway station at Akko, very so slowly - top slow-slow… with long stops in Haifa, down the valley and up again to Jerusalem. Departure at 4 a.m. We could feed the pigeons tiptoeing along the rails. The people were very simple workers, pupils – the little Israel. Humble travelers conveyed in wooden wagons. The price was something like a farthing in Lirot. Delicious sandwiches were sold. The train driver would stop in the middle of a field and talk with a friend or drink a cup of coffee handed by some family on the way.

There are new bus stations coming up from the ground everywhere in the country. I love traveling like that to Beer Sheva or Ashdod. Buses are the live circuit system that connects most of the towns and villages of the country. It is considered as a “national service” in the sense that for defense, security reasons any point of the state must be at reach quickly. It also allows a real physical mobility and flexibility of the citizens of all ages. On the way to the South, the ancient British railways run through the desert, developing the industry of an area that is the cradle and the future of Eretz Israel. New routes allow togain speed. Along the Jordan River, roads allow to attain the North but the way back swings along the coast.

There are States or countries that are basically small or broken down in “areas, land, regions, laender, cantons, provinces”. Will Galilee soon be culturally connected with the Negev? D. Ben Gurion had the dream of Israel having her capital in Mamshit (Greek “Mampsit - Memphis”), the ancient Nabatean city with the famous synagogue of Ma’on and the Byzantine church. From there, rabbis were sent to Yavne. The Byzantine monks participated in the Church synods, later in the first councils. Look at a map of the cities. They are all interconnected by strong networks that trace back to the presence of all sorts of invaders, passers-by or settlers from Greece, Persia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Turkey, Arabia, Ethiopia, Syria, Lebanon, Caucasus. How interesting that the same road circuits have been developed and sophisticated and could of course be used to gather fractured regions and towns into one unique entity of diverse cultures. The railway infrastructures were created by the British to envision a general development of the Middle-East from Caucasus and Turkey down to Akaba. The power of intelligence, cleverness, capacities, “price of excellence” can ruin nations, people and States.

From the Nabatean scripts to Hebrew writing charts, Greek, Latin, Persian, all kinds of Semitic tongues have been used in Eretz Israel to convey God’s best wishes to the whole humankind. Judaism has been proclaimed in Canaanite Hebrew, then Aramaic; the early Church had Greek that is still a living tongue in the Old City of Jerusalem and some other areas. The first writings in Georgian appeared in Jerusalem as well as some Armenian, Coptic and Ethiopian Gheez. Arabic showed up from the 6th century Qur’an
linguistic masterpiece and the language was used by Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Then, Turkish penetrated for centuries. All these regions have been split by ruler convinced that they are right, righteous, best. And it broke down as a profound spiritual disease. There is the famous Jerusalem syndrome about religious craziness and deviances. This is a dramatic consequence of all sects splitting clutching to this divine earth.

There are some professions that are definitely linked to a lot of peps and phosphorescent brains. Sadly enough, we are not evidently little grey cells. Brain-storming ideas often correspond to the abuse of drugs, narcotics. It is possible to put in some sort of parallel perspective, two contradictory trends: the strong drift to assemble and unify which goes along the recurrent desire to destroy or injure a body (state, people). The Jewish tradition is very sensitive to the fact that empires are called to collapse as described in Prophet Daniel’s vision of the four beasts (Daniel 7:2-28) corresponding to the fall of the Roman Empire, detailed in its emperor (Apocalypse 13:13:1-10); Modern Judaism is fond of updating Daniel’s beasts and show that the disappearance of present-day empires and rulers as the mighty Greek, Persian institution of old. Today, the beasts were the Nazi and communist empires… Well, who will be next? Revolving rises and falls are a part of the dynamic historic process of the Chinese which, only start their expansion at the present. On the one hand, Daniel’s “cheywa – beast” in Aramaic corresponds to “behemah/behemot\בהמות – beast, (d)evil” which has to be considered in a tactical way. Look! Without this rampant and steadfast hatred that swallows all the parties in the presence of all kinds of foreign Churches, groups, associations, Jews and Arabs would do marvels. They did save the heritage of the Greek and Latin Antiquity.

It would sound possible to join know-how and skills. This could change the Near and Middle-East into a honey-milky green fertile region. Techniques, competences could work beautifully. Jerusalem-Amman axe, high-speed trains, hospitals, air space. Indeed, things change slowly, not only slowly, but it is using some Volapuk double-speech and suspicion. We are a young region and thus behave as crippled old deaf and mute creatures from the time of the Ottoman Empire.

Hebrew and Aramaic “necheh\נכה” means “paralyzed, crippled”. It consists of a progressive reduction of forces and muscles that makes people “lame”; sociologically speaking, this means “that peace is disturbed as the side rib – tzela\צלע’ (the one of Eve, her shadowy side) that is required for balance and right” (Yalkut Deut. 933). The word is absolutely not connected with “nachon\נכון - firm, ready” that comes from “kun\כון – to go into a special direction, cf. Berachot 60a). To begin with, “necheh\נכה” encompasses all these abilities of full and firm development. Out of a sudden or step by step, capacities are lessened (“Hikkah\חכה” = injured, knocked down). Interestingly, there is an indivisible connection between physical and mental injuries: “All weapons strike in their place, but calumny (lashon remiyah\לשון רמיה) strikes at a distance” (Y. Peah1, 18a). The Talmud insists on the fact that a “woman who has been attacked in words is similar to any young girl that would have lost her hymen by accidental lesion or deceitful words.” (Ketubot 7, 10).

There is a move to crippling down and “necheh\נכה – nachyata\נכיתא” also has a financial meaning: “reduction of a debt against a landed security by deducting every year a stipulated amount for usufruct (Bava Metziah 67b). Land and agricultural products are thus considered as “removable” limbs of some geographic body. This move can somehow be compared to the “tzimtzum\צימצום – hiding process of God’s Presence” or His presupposed “Eclipse” during the time of the Shoah (absence of God’s name in the Hebrew Scroll of Esther).

There might be some other explanation, linked to what is veiled and thus present but require a lot of insightful humility. “When the Israelites stood at Mount Sinai, they pressed (tzimtzam\צמצם) themselves – against one another in reverence – like a bride opening one part of her garments and holding another part together.” (Shir R. 4,10). Over 7000 years (Megiddo, Jericho), the local inhabitants have been quaking, jerking over visible remainders. The subsequent historic strata show like lame-brained piles of earth and stones while people would rather avoid conversing, or would be extremely shy. Memory backgrounds are scattered as each group retains their elevator-shafts of specific mentalities and ways of interpretation.

As the “matzav\מצב – situation (of war)” is prolonging over a seventh year, we may have the impression to cripple down. Iyar comes from Akkadian “iyyaru” that refers to some pagan feast of flower blossoming, in particular small roses, like the “shoshanim\שושנים” of the Song of Songs”. In the history of Judaism, Iyar recalls the restoration of the Walls of Jerusalem, destroyed by Nabuchadnezzar (7 Iyar 355 bce). In the meantime, the Jewish community will celebrate “Pesach sheni\פסח שני – Second Passover”, the second possibility to commemorate Passover with unleavened and leavened bread (14 Iyar / 05/8), a sign of God’s compassion for those who were “absent” mentally and physically to the roasted lamb feast… This week, different “ta’anit/tunes\תענית – fasts” call to full response-conversion/teshuvah to God (Ta’anit sheni kamma\תענית שני קמא, chamishi, sheni Bathra\חמישי-שני בתרא) there is also the meaningful 18 Iyar “LaG -33th of the Omer computing”, en route to Shavuot. This reminds that R. Akiva’s disciples perished because of their “lack of respect to each other”. The same day, there is the joyous festival of the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, that drifts crowds to his grave in Meron as “a joyful thanksgiving day for all remedies and hopes”.

On May 13th, the Eastern Orthodox Church will celebrate the Mid-feast of Pentecost. The Church recalls that she is born from the Resurrection and expects the Spirit and the coming of the Messiah. During the time that runs from Easter to Pentecost (the Giving of the Holy Spirit), the Orthodox faithful do not invoke the Holy Spirit. It is also a time of longing after full breathing. The prayer is chanted again on Pentecost. It is indeed one of the most beautiful petitions to God’s gifts. Like the “Prayer of the Lord – Our Father/Avinu-אבינו”, it is definitely local. “…Spirit of sanctity, present in all place (cf. Makom\מקום) and fulfilling everything (cf. “mechayeh\מחיה”), come and abide in us (cf. “Shechinah\שכינה”).

The way we are facing our physical diseases, disabilities, civilization mental and economical bankruptcies should not veil that we are continuously involved in a building process, as the above railway connections. The problem is then to act with much respect to each other, to “aliens” and to share God’s Presence, at least with patience.

Av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

May 4/April 21, 2009 – 25 le’Omer 5769 - י' דאייר תשסט - כ"ה לעומר - 10 deIyyar 5769

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