Monday, June 8, 2009

Holy Matrimony

The significance of Pentecost

The Significance of Pentecost
a reflection proposed by Reader Michael Hann, of the Romanian Orthodox Church
(United States)

Most people only know Pentecost as a Christian holiday, one that commemorates the day when the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles and disciples of Christ as they gathered in the Upper Room after the Ascension. While the apostles and disciples remained in Jerusalem out of obedience to Christ (cf. Acts 1:4-5), Scripture tells us that Jews from many different nations were also present in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 2:5, 9-11). They were present for a different reason: The Jewish Feast of Pentecost.

Pentecost is originally a Jewish holiday. Along with Passover and Tabernacles, it is one of the three Great Feasts of the Jewish calendar. The word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word which means “fiftieth.” The feast takes this name because it occurs fifty days after the second day of the Passover.

To the Jewish people, Pentecost has historical and agricultural significance. Historically, Pentecost commemorates the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Since God accommodated his Law to an agricultural people, it enjoins upon the Jews various grain offerings. So, agriculturally, Pentecost also commemorates the time when the first fruits of the wheat harvest were harvested and brought to the temple in the form of two cakes of leavened bread (cf. Lev 23:17).

As Christians, we may ask ourselves what significance there is to the fact that Jesus decided to pour out His Holy Spirit upon the Church on this Jewish Feast. I think there are many instances in which the Christian celebration of Pentecost proves to be a sort of fulfillment of the Jewish Feast.

The Jewish Feast celebrates the beginning of the wheat harvest by offering the first of the harvested wheat to the Lord. In the Christian Feast, we celebrate the beginning of the Christian Church, when Jesus harvested 3000 souls who were cut to the heart by Peter’s teaching and were baptized. Jesus Christ Himself is the first fruit (“of those who have fallen asleep,” cf. 1 Cor 15:20), and we too are a kind of first fruits by the grace He has given us (cf. Jas 1:18). Finally, the Spirit that the Church received on that day guides us into all truth and knowledge of God’s Will in a way that far surpasses what was given in the Torah.

So, in many ways, the Jewish feast of Pentecost was the perfect day to set in motion the Church that God had in mind from the very beginning.

Scouting or spying, trust or distrust

The parshat hashavua\פרשת השבוע "Shelach lecha\שלח לך" or the coming weekly reading portion "Send (men to scout the Land of Canaan)" accounts one of the most famous episodes of the TaNaKH about the spies and includes essential Jewish Mitzvot-מצות/Commandments in the Book of Bamidbar-במדבר/Numbers 13:1-15:41.

It is time to march into the Land of the Avot-אבות/Ancestors. Moses decides to assign twelve men from the ancestral tribes to scout the land = latur et-eretz Kena'an\לתור את הארץ כנען (Num. 13:17), have a real look at the country, the inhabitants, a full spying survey with much discretion and know-how. At this point, this is a typical and very proficient activity of Israel over the world. Moses did not send the men the same way we have a pending problem with Jonathan Pollard. He was not on a "tour". In Hebrew, "tur\תור" means "to spy", still in a way that implies to walk, go around, be awake and on alert, go on foot (regel/leg - meragel\רגל-מרגל = spy in Modern Hebrew). "You have espied the Land and found fault with God's Tent", says Talmud Shebuot 47b, echoing Numbers Rabba 16, 20: "You have espied the faults of the Land of Israel".

A good spy, for the Talmud, is Aaron: "The great spy (Aaron) died who had espied for them the road of life" (Yoma 1:38b). The Israelite spy is a man of God who is accomplishing a sort of divine mitzvah for the benefit of the whole community of Israel. In this view, our spies should not be corrupt... totally under self-control... not utter any slander... of rumors, and we should not hear any blah-blah about them in return. The perfect shomer-שומר/guardian of the integrity and rigor is also the model of the bney chorin-בני חורין/ free men (and women). Numerous names come then to our minds, especially of those people who, in terrible days when Jews were persecuted and for the sake of the State of Israel, offered their lives with courage and silence. Israelis have developed amazing and witty tricks to confound the enemies. We love thrillers, but curiously the good old-fashioned Israeli spies are more of the Lamed-Vavnikim sort (the 36 unknown tzaddikim-צדיקים/righteous
that save the world) than full-tanned oriental green-eyed guys and girls jumping from beds to couches with guns, poisoning pills, killing kisses, pocket bombs and Holy Land bullets. Everybody knows the joke of a man who answers – in the middle of a dark night in Tel Aviv – that he is Yaakov the violinist, but that Yaakov the spy lives on the fourth floor, up there…

Moses sent the twelve men and they had a wonderful tour. They brought gorgeous fruits, clusters of grapes and pomegranates after forty days of scouting. The report was disparate. Exceptional landscapes and country, but the inhabitants seemed a bit bizarre. How difficult to recognize the people after an absence of 400 years! Land of milk and honey, but the inhabitants are powerful; their cities are fortified and terribly large. This is dangerous, reported ten of the men who saw the Amakelites and the mighty Hittites. They got scared. Worse than everything: they even met with very tall men, something like 100 XXXL size guys, the Nephilim\נפילים, that had disappeared since Gen. 6:4. There, they were looking at the Sons of the Covenant like grasshoppers, and the “spies” did have the courage to look back. These ten also spread some rumors that the country they saw devours the inhabitants and they successfully slandered around so that the Israelites wanted to return to good old Egypt.

Slander is called to disappear by nature, said the Sages. But the reaction of these “reporters” is exactly the same as what we hear about our Israeli society and the country at the present. We all have our dreamy Nephilim\נפילים, extra sized ghosts. We look at each other so often like grasshoppers or chimpanzees in a zoo. And the land is wonderful but no oil, only honey and milk fruits and grapes, olives. Indeed we are fortified. Everybody is even fortified here. and always better or more threatening than in Egypt. When we find some family connection from America to Israel, we may discover we have a “rich” uncle in some Rehov Ben Yehudah, who owns a tiny falafel or pizza corner. But what a location! Well, this week, we should maybe pray for our spies… and all the honest spies because the problem is that they are very buddy-buddy and interconnected and can easily be spoiled. On the other hand, it is really difficult to account the truth and keep balanced. Caleb and Joshua exposed what they had seen and that it was possible to conquer the land. They said “Do not fear the people of the country for they are our “lachmenu =bread=food (prey)”. “Milchamah\מלחמה = war” in Hebrew does mean that we are no more in a situation of rather natural hospitality in the tribal culture. We doubt, suspect, attack or flee. “Mi’lchamah\מלחמה = it is no more possible to share the same meal/food/bread, which induces a state of war, a conflict”. This is very significant in spiritual life and also as regards the Christian bread sharing rooted in the Kiddush partaking of bread. Caleb and Joshua underscored that the Israelites should not rebel against God.

Now, “kibush\כבוש, conquest” shows more than the way we even use the word at the present. In the case of the Israelites – again in revolt against God and Moses and willing to return to Egypt – we must consider something else. They got out of the womb of some foreign “fostering” country, i.e. Egypt, symbolically a “house of slavery”. Let’s say that the wilderness, in the Sinai, is a place of dizziness, tests, wandering and giving of the Torah. It is time for the Israelites to behave as grownups and face the conquest of their own identity, the fulfillment of their being. They cry exactly as spoiled children do. And the rumors just match with their fears: why getting ahead to the Land of Canaan? True, the same question is pending in the present as regards the apparently unexpected renewal of a Jewish State and of the Arab nation, Semitic heritage in the region.

The present reading portion obliges us to consider how we behave in terms of righteousness or deep injustice. When Caleb and Joshua witness that the kibush, conquest is possible, how can we show today that the Israelites do not rebel against God? In our time, it is more questionable. The real interrogation is how to get to a target that does not harm but will allow building actions. No unjust expropriations but a progressive and comprehensive “Semitization” of the Israeli society in the Middle-East.

Indeed, the false rumors conveyed by the ten men, their lies and betrayal of Mose’s mission are constant stuff. We are reluctant to grow, to become adults. Adulthood is so frightening for some Jews because of the monstrous experience of history. This is why – even it sounds like some kind of a vitz-וויץ /joke – good scouting eyes and brains allow growing spiritually. No way to compare with some servile traitors conveying sugary gossiping reports to some potentates. The point is to be found in the accomplishment of the first commandment given to all beings: “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it “vekhivshua\וכבשה””(Bereishit 1:28). We must be careful not to damage human souls and this is quite a challenging problem for our society. “Kibush\כבוש” is also the means of subduing evil, pride an will of useless conquest, preventing overbearing what is proper to others” , states Pessikta Zutrathi 197a (Buber Ed.). On the other hand, reaching out to our own self-control allows enhancing oneself and sometimes a society.

Thus, it makes sense that the Jewish tradition proposes the systematical reading of the Pirkey Avot-פרקי אבות – Sayings of the Fathers, a portion of the Talmud Tractate Nezikin\נזיקין (Damages) from Pesach to Shavuot, usually till Rosh Hashanah in most congregations today. The book is included in most Shabbat prayer-books and is composed of five chapters plus one (Kinyan Torah\קנין תורה=acquisition of the Torah) brought from a minor Tractate “Kallah\כלה”. As the Book of Job or Lamentations, the Sayings of the Fathers (Avoth\אבות according to Mishnaic Hebrew) is one of the best-sellers and most read books in the world. It is very ethical, down-to-earth and spiritual, crude and full of wisdom and thus can bring some reflection, insights and responses to all humans in search of who they are.

This also deals with our weekly reading portion. The “spies or scouts” were to examine with insightful and ethical eyes the realm of the country. Interestingly, at the end of the reading, God gives the commandment to hold the tzitzit-ציצית / fringes at each corner of the garments with a blue cord (techelet), “to look at it, observe them so that you don’t follow your heart and eyes /velo tituru (scout astray, make the wrong tour) acharei levavchem veacharei eyneichem(in lustful urges)\אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם” (Bamidbar 15:39-40). The commandment to look and observe the tzitzit in order to achieve and accomplish all the Mitzvot held in hand and upon our eyes is basic and extant for every Jew. They introduce to a daily viewing and consideration of how to behave with decency and dignity. It is not a problem of “derech haaretz\דרך הארץ = morals” that obliges every soul to make healthy use of their brains and will. In the reading portion, it is repeatedly mentioned that “if something was done unwittingly = le/bishgagah -ל-בשגגה”, there were some provision to be observed. This traces back to the wondrous prayer of Yom Kippur: “Forgive us, cleanse us, atone us, all the House of Israel as the inhabitant who resides in her midst (leger hagar betocham\לגר הגר בתוכם) / ki kol ha’am bishgagah\כי כל העם בשגגה (because all the nation, people, community) ha s erred unwittingly. The word is linked to “meshugah\משוגע – insane, fool, foolish” that became Slang Yinglish “shmeggegeh\שמגעגע” (just sounds so lovely and exact!). We could say “weird, weirdo, spaced out without any drugs except our ego’s pressure”.

The word “mussar\מוסר” is usually considered as the correct word for “ethics”, or authentic tradition of good behavior. But the commandment to look at the tzitzit is not moral, not ethical. Who can know what is inside of a soul? Morals or ethics suggest attitudes or pave the way to measure how we dare or not behave toward ourselves and the others. The twelve men were called to more: to see and not to get astray from a path that they might consider dangerous. Our lives can be imperiled by many events or situations. We can then choose to respond like Caleb and Joshua, by taking over the truth and face it. In that view, the Mitzvot are not moral, ethical, judgmental, pleasing. They show our connection with God and how we accept him. Moses was very humble and thus could not enter the Land taking upon him the lack of faith of the Israelites.

There is more: we are scouted by God. God scans our hearts and souls, our projects and desires. When He does this, He does not act with reluctance. Indeed, both the psalm (6:4 - 90:13; Math. 17:17-Mark 9:19;Luke 9:41) and Jesus use the same expression: "Until when = ad matai\עד מתי?" Until when God has to tolerate and support us? God does not spy us because He knows and this is also the point that is an exceptional sign of His Divine Providence and Protection as Shechinah. Then, as scouted witness, we have also the task to describe the reality as it is and not to refuse, deny or change it according to our desires.

The community of Israel is going through a long-term and lasting period of turbulence. It does not mean that israeli society is deeply imperiled, even by the neighboring dybbukim-devils or haunting ghosts. We have to be watchers, but never lose common sense and wisdom. I already wrote many times that a real Israeli born in the country or in Eretz via the authenticity of the Mitzvot knows in-depths that Israel is not really endangered. The real danger comes from us, from Israeli society and the repeated mistakes, carried over ages. The psalms teach never to trust the mighty, but only to have confidence in the Lord. This has been pathetic throughout Jewish history. It led to constant crawling attitudes of temporary and not permanent advisers or managers. Ben Gurion declared that we could not trust the Nations. This has to be correctly understood and taken into account. It does not mean we have to suspect, just be on alert. Golda Meir had confidence in the Soviet comrade just before the Independence day: instead she got the corpses of those who could tremendously be useful in this period of surviving battle.

On the other hand, it does mean we should not learn to appreciate those who live in our generation; we live with them and they live with us. Abraham was a wandering/fugitive Aramean (Parshat Tavo) which is mentioned at Rosh HaShanah and should be present to the conscience of every Jew (and by ricochet to every Christian); Abraham could not allow himself the spit and mock the people he was hosting as a foreign settler under his tent at the heat of the day, welcoming them and being in a contact of hospitality with them. This extends to the reality of a true Shabbat and thus concerns the whole of the Klal Israel. Hillel's word echo the obligation to respect those who dwell with us and not systematically contest their existence.

Finally, Judaism is based on prophecy, on the unveiling of actions and times. The burden of history has often affected such a vision of history built on the power of the living Word. In that sense, we are to be able to positively scout our lives and our gift to be alive.

We just celebrate the Feast of the Pentecost and the Spreading, Giving of the Holy Spirit. On the second Sunday after Pentecost, the Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates the local Saints. Interestingly, in the 4th century, seemingly in the Celtic Roman Catholic Church of the West, the Church of Rome decided to recall the Saints on November 1st and then All the Souls (Departed) that were defunct (had accomplished their officium/task) on the following day, showing a sort of hope in winter time. The Orthodox Church celebrates the Saints as those who lived in the Pentecostal breathing-in of the Spirit. Firstly, all the Saints as last week and now the local Saints. Thus, the Palestinian Saints track back to the Avot, the ancestors and all the prophets of the Bible. From the time before Abraham till the cave of Machpelah\מכפלה, the Land of Canaan and Eretz Israel, each territory of the ancestral tribes and Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Arabia till so far away… God-seekers scout souls and soil and teach how to share wittingly.

God is the true scout, touring inside of our souls during our days and nights and weighing our lives by the yardstick of trust and distrust and victory over life steeple-chase.

Humbleness and the Spirit

Time passes and the next memorial feasts or days will show in July with the commemoration of the destructions of the Temples, the city of Jerusalem that will climax on the 9th of Av (07/29-30). We just left Shavuot and the Giving of the Written and Oral Laws to Moses. The journey through the wilderness continues with Shabbat Beha'alotekha\בהעלתך (Moses, when you will elevate the lamps) and the weekly reading portion in the Book of Bamidbar/Numbers 8:1-12:16. There starts the second year of the Israelites' sojourn in the desert. The Levites are called to mount = ha'alah\העלה the lamps in the Tent of the Meeting. They are told to serve from the age of twenty-five till they reach fifty. Then, they would stay on the side of the acting Levi'im, without performing anything. There qre two reading portions this year: "beha'alotkha\בעהעלתך" in Israel and "Nasso\נשא" abroad, in the rest of the world.

Moses proposes to celebrate the feast of Passover, thus for the second time in the wilderness. It happens that some men come with specific requests. Can they join the feast as they had been in contact with corpses and are unclean. At each step, Moses answers that he knows nothing and needs to get God's advice and response. This is the repeated motto of this weekly reading. Moses goes ahead but constantly needs God's personal answer. In the case of the feast of Passover, the reply is that these men should wait one full month and then celebrate Pesach on Iyar 14, i.e. what became "Pesach sheni\פסח שני = Second Passover" for those who were absent at the feast and could not participate for some valid reason. This provision is mentioned as a sort of leitmotiv that accompanies the Israelites during their journey in the Sinai. It is said that they should take good care of everybody, every soul and to never reject anyone. Today, this sounds as a typical reminder from the wilderness times. The Sinai is per se a kind of no-man’s land, a wild area full of dangers, with plenty of visible, invisible, day or night enemies or fictions that may exert their power even through fictitious visions.

Moses repeated the Lord’s commandment: “when a stranger who resides with you (“ve-khi yagur ger\וכי יגור גר”) will offer a Passover sacrifice to the Lord, he must offer it in accordance with the rules and rites (mishpato) of the Passover sacrifice. There shall be one law for you, whether stranger or citizen (velager ule’ezrach\ולגר ולאזרח) of the country”(Bamidbar 9:14). This extends the rather permanent issue we face in this country, much after the time spent in the wilderness and discussed as an actual problem in the previous blog. The time in the Sinai corresponds to a pedagogical tour. It is not a labyrinth because this wonderful space and mind route has but only two possible goals. The Cretan labyrinth combined secrecy and hardship to get free and/or memorize. It was also a mythological way to hold the Minotaur and thus to restrict one’s thought on limited solutions. The Egyptian pyramids were built on the same confusing pattern. Human rulers and leaders love these sorts of quizzes. Genetics and specialists of memory diseases or defects would show how such paths can be controlled with much insight.

The journey through Sinai is not of the same nature. It is not built upon myths and mythological attempts to tie up human beings. We are still in the Sinai in many ways, in particular as regards our desires or expectations, beliefs or faith that we came and will continue to come out of serfdom to freedom. In the wilderness, the Hebrew nation, was a displaced living body that advanced in some dizzy darkness. This means they missed explanations, maps, central piloting headquarters and strategy. Today, just look at the mobiles. We get the last breaking news in whatever alphabet, the weather forecast for the week, a living map showing where we are and where you may go. It also means you know where our friends, buddies are located and where the next conflict will nuke out. And, along with the view of the Tent of the Meeting, if any, your favorite pictures or flashing ads, SMS and fax services, access to your credit cards and personal documents, with the exact time. We hold the world in the palm of our hand, or around our neck, provided there is no strike somewhere. Then, you can call your friend who is at the Kotel/Western Wall and cry out all our distress lives from Anchorage! In Israel, beside a weapon on a belt, there are people who have 3, 5 cell phones at hand. It does not mean we know how to use our cells. But we are not lost…, well!

Now, in the desert, when there is a grain of sand, everything gets blurred. And there they were the ancestors! They were journeying ahead with camels, donkeys and sheep, rattling around without real understanding of where the route should lead them to. In this respect, as people were also dying in this environment, it should be interesting to analyze with precision that were listening to Moses. It is quite a pity that no TV nor Arutz “something” could not record daily life, counseling with Moses and prayers at the Tent of Meeting. The Talmud is rather lively, but still… It is evident that, progressively, the marching in the desert appeared to be dangerous. They were not at Jericho. But the Israelites made two hammered silver trumpets (chatzotzrot kesef\חצוצרות כסף) to summon the divisions and convoke the congregation with long blasts. The task was given to Aaron and the priests. Because these trumpets were to be blown in case of a war in order to remind the people that God is able to deliver the nation from their enemies (Num. 10:9). Everything still focuses and is naturally centered on God. He is the One and only Counselor at this point. There are “intermediate contacts or laws that allow to make a “chatzitzah\חציצה – partition” between clean and unclean and shake a situation” (Hagigah 78b). The trumpets and their resounding name in Hebrew have this function. It does not mean that God will save. It does not mean that the human divisions of the Israelites were strong or powerful, mighty. On the contrary, they did know that only Moses could advise them adequately because he was conversing with God in full obedience and consent, mutual trust.

At times, the Israelites could not accept such a situation. This is why it is inquiring to see how Moses tries to persuade Hovav the Madianite to guide the division across the desert and help them avoiding wrong routes (Bemidbar 10:29). Hobab was a sort of “stranger and citizen”. He answered to Moses that he preferred not to guide him and return to his home. Moses tried a second time to convince him to “give his eyes” in order to find the right direction. He got no response. The scene is fascinating because we still go through the same temptations, tests and frightening experiences, here in this country but also everywhere because the mental configuration is rather similar. Nahmanide had stated that: in the wilderness, Hovav would have given a human hand in a situation that basically defies God actions and certainly not Moses’ non-existing power. Thus, two radicals are used that are essential in Judaism: “tov\טוב – good – yetiv\יטיב – to be good”, which Moses said to Hovav to persuade him to guide them; in return, he would be good, generous toward Hovav. Hovav’s refusal is more than significant. It is precisely when the ger is a full resident and still claims his own freedom. This can upset or rebuke. Moses is a simple man and has the human right to be feeble. In that sense leaders are terribly weakened by nature. Hovav reminds Moses that his only guidance comes from God’s mouth and nobody else. When Moses insists “lecha itanu\לכה איתנו – come with us”, he forgets for a very short while that is definitely essential, that the Israelites are to join the spiritual path accomplished by the Avot – the ancestors and three first patriarchs. As concerned leaving idolatry and the house of Terach, Abraham heard “lech lecha – go, leave – go to yourself and who your are- go, go then to your country”. This is a divine call, a bit “weird” and that he could hardly listen and accept immediately. We have the same problem. We have more: we know this by heart! So leave it to the highbrows and we shall pull in/out, backward/forwards, around/away, underneath/in the air. And there go the strikes in the reading portion: the people protest: they want to eat, weep upon all these delicious products of Egypt. They got quail and manna.

But this was in the desert and the real thing concerns Moses. It is written about him: “Moses was a very humble man more than any other man on earth (anav meod mikol adam asher al-haadamah\ענב מאוד מכל אדם אשר על האדמה)” (Num. 12:3). This traces back a parallel with the first human being. “with him, says the Lord, I speak mouth to mouth (peh al-peh) (v.8), without riddles and he beholds the likeness of the Lord.”. Moses could not utter words properly. He was “ani\עני – poor” as God expecting His people prayer (Tehillim 104). He could not boast God or the Israelites or Pharaoh or anyone by his experience with God. How can we expect anything of God if we think we are strong and know anything about Him? Everywhere leaders will declare that they know; they will not step down because they know. And even when the downfall, collapse is definitely clear, still they are strong and know. Leaders can just be any anonymous who blows up for some odd reason.

Moses’ humility has become a model that remains unsurpassed in the TaNaKH. He is the model of the Jewish “anawim\ענויים – poor that totally rely on God”. He was obedient to God. “Obedience” does not mean a lot at the present. True, it sounds “too Christian” and servile. The Latin word “ob-audire” means “to hear, listen in a converging way, together”. This is the most difficult point to reach. It does not consist in “hearing” (sh’ma\שמע) and then do what pleases us. It does not mean a sort of constantly frustrating reduction of personal freewill or freedom. On the contrary, as “the poor in spirit – oi ptokhoi to pneumati” (Matthew 5:3), lauded by Jesus, the way is widely open to who believes that Go can work unexpected things. Jewishness has deep feeling toward those they would assume to be “anawim” or “tzadikim\צדיקים – righteous”, beyond any titles.

The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates this week the Gift and giving of the Holy Spirit. It should be noted that we hardly can imagine the world we live in without the presence of the Spirit. The 'Ruah\רוח " was waving over the space when the universe was created. It means that, whatever faith or religious attitude, the Spirit or blowing wind has always been refreshing the Earth and the galaxies. This explains why it is sometimes difficult for people either to conceive what seems evident to them or at least very complicated to describe; it can also presuppose that things have been totally renewed with the resurrection and session of Jesus to the Throne of Glory (the right hand of the Father).

The real problem is not that Christianity breaks down the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. As many Easterners, I often say after the mention of the three names "Elohim echad\אלהים אחד = One Divinity" the phrase is usual among the Arabs. The issue is Who the Spirit is; why and from where the Spirit is given anew by the Father with regard to Jesus, "true Man and True God" as states the very ancient Assyrian litany in Aramaic. In fact, it is the Divine Spirit that has inspirited Elisabeth and Mary before the birth of John and Jesus. The actions acquired in the giving of the Holy Spirit consist in a constant renewal and reviving, refreshing of what humankind can eventually understand of the Divine Fatherhood and the goals of our existences. "Shechinah\שכינה " insists on an "overshadowing dwelling" while "ruah - revah = רוח\רו(ו)ח " expresses the notion of freedom and release, total absence of moral or physical bonds (Sephardic and Oriental Kaddish).

Lives are complicated, complex, sometimes simply sophisticated, just because we love to err. There are moments when we hardly can be, just be, exist. There are diseases that hinder souls, moves, getting forward. The miracle that can be found in a lot of places of sufferings (hospitals, nursery and elderly homes, prisons, i.a.) testifies that diseases, injures, mental or physical hindrances can be overcome at a huge and often inhumane price. It shows that we cannot draw or sketch out the profile or the map of the actions sustained by the Spirit.

I had a very dear "parishioner" who died last summer. A true dissident for the sake of the faith and he spent a long time in the GULag in Soviet Union. He was really in love of Jerusalem and knew the city by heart, stones, maps, roads, caves, hills, monuments. As most of the Soviet people in Israel, he could do whatever job or work. He was a wonderful and rare computer whiz. Once, he spoke with me about how to correctly repair a broken computer. He used to say that it is not convenient at all to download all sorts of programs. It was not "nice toward the computer because it could not stand it and it makes it sick". And he could add: "You see, the computer cries, a computer is a living body but we are like tools, with spirit, brains, selfish. A computer feels that the programs are wrong and it aches, it aches a lot but we do not feel that because we are often worse than tool or machines".

This is why he took great care in repairing the computers adequately. This is what the Spirit endeavors to do with us. The problem is that we prefer to ignore or walk further without trying to change our opinions, views, lifestyles. But the Spirit cares which answers to the English phrase: "Who cares". He does. It only becomes visible when we radiate the sprinkling joy that covers our longings.

av Aleksander [Winogradsky Frenkel]

June 3/May 21, 2009 – 11 deSivan 5769 - י"א דסיון תשס"ט
Hamsa on Prayer of the Lord in Aramaic

Ephraim Katzir z"l - אפרים קציר ז"ל

Prof. Efraim Katzir, Israel’s Fourth President, Dead at 93
by Gil Ronen Prof. Efraim Katzir Dies at 93 [Arutz 7]

Prof. Efraim Katzir, who served as Israel’s fourth President from 1973 to 1978, died in his home in Rehovot Saturday evening. He was 93.

Katzir had been hospitalized for several weeks due to an illness but was released to his home after some improvement in his condition.

Katzir was born in Kiev, Ukraine, as Efraim Katchalsky and made Aliyah to Israel with his parents when he was still a boy. He was raised in Jerusalem and received his doctor’s degree in biology from Hebrew University. He worked on the research and development of explosives in the Haganah underground and was appointed to head the IDF’s Science Corps during the War of Independence. He later became Chief Scientist for the IDF.

Katzir with Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, 1977 (GPO).

Katzir was among a group of scientists who founded the Weizmann Institute, where he established the Biophysics Laboratory. He received the Japan Prize in 1985 for pioneering research that served as the basis for development of medicines. He was among the founders of the Biotechnology Department on Tel Aviv University and was the first Israeli elected to the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S.

As President he encouraged the establishment of Judaic Studies departments in colleges and universities abroad, in order to stem the tide of assimilation. He was President during several of Israel's most dramatic moments, including the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the rise of the Likud in 1977, and the visit to Israel later that year by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.

His brother, renowned chemist Prof. Aharon Katzir, was killed in a terror attack on Lod Airport in 1972. His wife Nina died in 1986.

Efraim and Nina Katzir had three children: a son, Meir, who is a professor of mathematics at the Haifa Technion, and two daughters. The daughters both died tragically: Nurit, a successful actress, died in December 1966 when gas from a heating stove leaked when she slept and poisoned her. Her younger sister Irit committed suicide, after sinking into depression following Nurit's death.