You have a brother
You have a brother
The Church of Jerusalem follows the Julian calendar. On Monday 5th, 2011, we commemorate two apostles from the Seventy, Philemon and Onesimus. They are mentioned in the shortest letter written by Paul of Tarsus. Saint Paul was in prison. There he met with Onesimus, a robber, a theft. The man was a slave and had stolen and deceived his master, Philemon, a wealthy man known to Paul as a Christian and a "Church builder"... In jail, the two companions could speak, share. Paul convinced Onesimus that Jesus had freed and saved him. Thus, the theft revolved and believed! Paul decided that something could be as Onesimus was about to leave the prison.
This is quite a unique event. The shortest epistle/letter included in the corpus of the Holy Scripture, i.e. it is inspired by the Divine Presence. Paul thinks to return Onesimus to Philemon, not as a slave or a debtor, a man who is guilty and should return to his master to pay more than he did when he was sent to jail. Paul converted Onesimus and he was actually a Christian. There is no discussion about his identity: Onesimus was a Jew or a Gentile by descent or roots or pedigree. He was a slave and both Hebrews and other people could be slaves. He was on the wake to be released.
Paul writes himself a "mail" to Philemon whom was very dear to his heart and important for the setting up of the community. He wrote to Philemon that he, Paul, personally takes the chagre and resposibility to send him Onesimus who shared his time in prison and to welcome him "as a brother"! Guess who comes to dinner tonight!??? This is maybe one or the weirdest situations in the whole of the Bible and New Testament. There are bizarre accounts on how people met again or had to share the way. The Gospel often underscores that the disciples could not hold together and stand each other. They separated and could go away. Many died alone in some random and isolated region. The fruit of their faith and the way they could sow appeared later, sometimes at once.
Paul sent a letter to Philemon knowing that the man could understand his request. The request is unique and remains unheard up to the present. The situation is still very rare and unique. Philemon is required to welcome the man who was "his property" by law! He had to welcome him and recognize that Onesimus is no more a slave, but a free man, released from jail and from any other bond.
We can "parrot" throughout the year that we are "for freedom, we are free, have to feel free, help the others to free themselves and get to new revolutions or so", we hate freedom when we see that a human being is indeed free and released. Moreover, Onesimus does say anything. It is quite comparable to the "mute dialogue in the shape of a monologue" that Jesus had with the adultery woman when he had saved her. She got freed from being stoned and was about to leave without saying a word.
Onesimus could not say a word. He could only be speechless. He had had a master. He betrayed his "owner"; Paul did not write to Philemon "as an apostle or a disciple". He was in jail. He was condemned for his faith. Whatever position he had in the Church, he has always and constantly repeated that he is what we call in Yiddish "an oisvorf/א אויסווארף " that corresponds to 1 Corinthians 15:8: "the one born out of time" or the "last one" ("τω ετκρωάτι"). Paul's credit comes from "channelling things of God" that make sense in a specific situaiton.
This implies that Philemon was able to understand that he was himself a "released person" for the sake of the Kingdom. Paul insisted on the fact that he asked Philemon to take Onesimus beyond all the standards of society, as a brother and a co-worker for the sake of redemption.
Paul added something: if, by some remote chance, Onesimus stil had any debts or plights or "sins" against Philemon, he, Paul, signed "with his own blood" that he would refund Philemon. He would pay when he will go out of jail! This is brilliant!
This is the true message of Christian identity, and less known, deeply rooted in Jewishness. This is at the heart of "ransoming". No need to make quotes from the Mishnah and the Tosefot. This has nothing to do with intellectual knowledge. The spirit of freedom has to be experienced and be put into practice in "real life". In that sense, Paul summarized in a short letter what remains a current question.
There are debts everywhere. Debtors everywhere. The world claims to be built on the basis of Christian values and centuries of "Christian fulfillment".
Who can then share Paul of Tarsus' statement to Philemon and build a righteous society: that Paul wrote with his own blood that he would pay any debts left by Onesimus. The point was for Philemon to welcome a brother: "When two or three are gathered in my Name, I am in their midst" proclaimed by Jesus along with the Avot treaty becomes true. At the present, I was about to lecture about the Prayer of the Lord on "Redeeming the current debts" in the major European societies. I was told the bankers would not listen because they are not ready to face the matter in this particular spiritual way.
Paul wrote with his blood. He accepted to pay the price of of his own and societal responsibility in the face of God. The absence of payment or wrongdoing in a more general way could be repaid by the request: "Take him as your brother". This is how Paul considered all debts or misdeeds committed by Onesimus - though the man was then a slave working at Philemon's house - At this point, Paul was in jail. He said he would prefer to be anathema and rejected by his own people. He still took up the sins and debts, the spiritual indebtedness and liability of a "criminal". he was also a "criminal" and was though able to share the possibility of full release.
We see how some countries fall down into full indebtedness: to begin with the United States, the European Community. I did not find in any journals or news that some people would assume their responsibility the way Saint Paul did when he wrote a letter to Philemon, the rich man, to welcome the robber Onesimus, signed with his own blood and ready to pay for the one wh owas to return home. He was to return not in order to get more "financial baskets". He returned to be a brother, not a virtual one, but a real one. Normally, Onesimus could be whipped, stabbed or condmened to chains. He returns to the master that he had robbed with a paper bearing Saint Paul's bleeding signature.
There is no evidence that any State would recognize and accept their debts. Iceland decided not to reimburse the huge debts the country got liable to Great-Britain and the Netherlands, for instance. It is very intriguing. Iceland is going through the pangs of sexual assaults that deeply affect the Lutheran Church of Iceland and its credit. Rapes, abuses of woman may lead the local Icelandic Church to elect a female bishop to head the Lutheran Church in the coming months.
The same financial situation showed in Ireland. Kicking out the Poles and trying to erase the debts and the marks of bankrupcy is one thing. The Catholic clergy who has been so pregnant in the history of the Irish and Celtic peoples also got indebted in terms of sexual abuse. The same happened in Germany, Belgium, France.
I met retired Cardinal Daneels of Brussels-Mechelen many times. He could not face the issue. Abuse committed by the clergy and monastics, in partucular in schools was too much for a man used to the "standard silence"' of the Church . From holiness to private transgression of moral commandments... At 80, he could not react accordingly in a country that is definitely split and broken down into so many small segments! Overall sexual assaults that profoundly marked the Belgian society in its diversity. But also the many denominations that are to be found at the cross-roads of Europe.
There is also a very low conscience of who is who in the Face of God and the society in which we are to live in Israeli society. All sorts of converts, real, fake, false, half false Jews real Jews who are kicked out form the country and non-Jews inegrated in the State. We are far from the laws defined for the return of the exiled. A messy immigration that intertwins all kinds of nations, tongues, races.
In all cases, there is a low conscience of how much God ransoms and redeems us. The word has also a bank financial meaning as far as a debt can be refunded over a long-term period, which is a "redeeming" action when there are debts that should be reimbursed.
I have tons of such examples in my daily ministry.
Passing in France on my way back to Jerusalem, there is a trial. A "brother" or so-called friar". For years he had been a member of the Community of the "Béatitudes", firstly sheltered in the South of France, Cordes, then Normandy - Mortain. To begin with, the community was initiated by a former pastor from the Ardèche in France, Gérard Croissant. He connected himself to some sort of Jewish background and included the rites into acombination/combinazione of all mixed-up rites and chants. A lot of "lost souls, welathy people, God-seekers" came and lived together. Monks and nuns, brothers and sisters and the families. The children were often taken to their parents. They had to donate their assets and properties to the "sheperd/Berger" and the community. Newly intronised deacon Ephraim and his wife Jo guided the community with much authority. I could see that for years live in the whole of the Holy Land and abroad.
In the end, after the courageous efforts developed by some short-term "bros and sis" the paedophile who has abused 57 youths was convinced to be brought to the Court. The records show that Ephraim who has been "deposed" and is no more a member of the community and his family (one deaon and physician and his wife) had to leace but still Ephraim is much appraised in Russia, inter alia and makes use of the money he stole from the faithful and community.
When the friar was recently tried and condemned to 5 years of prison, he repeatedly declared that he regretted his acts. Not a single word from the part of the community or from the Church. This kind of silence has nothing to do with the attitude of Saint Paul sending back Onesimus to Philemon. It shows a real lack of responsibility. It is terrible because the men of the Church have the Divine power to "retain and release" the faults and transgressions committed by the members of the Church.
The trial took place in France one the wake of the Téléthon, an annual national and international movement on the French TV for raising funds in order to fight the genetic diseases and "rare/orphan syndroms-dieases". The loca lChristian radio had the "great" (!!!!) idea in the previous year to condemn the demonstration and collection of funds for the genetic research. This year was the 25th anniversary of the event. Till last year, the Church had attacked the event claiming that it was not online with the genetic and ethic principles of faith.
This year, no word or regret or forgiveness toward the victims of the sexual assaults. A high-ranking cleric admitted that "the Téléthon event constitutes a sign of generosity... that should be understood accordingly (!)". "Accordingly" means for the Christian head of Church that genetics are governed by "manipulations" and therefore the Church can only highly suspect any fundraising for this kind of Research. The public, ordinary people in a secularized environment understand that the Church love getting money and would even misuse it. As most humans clerics are deadly frightened by sickness and disabilities. I have been experiencing this over more than 30 years when visiting all sorts of sick people and the injured.
In the whole process, no word was uttered that - even from afar - would be compared to Saint Paul's own writing to Philemon: with his own blood, he asked the man to welcome a "traitor, a robber, a sinner".
Our former President Katzav, the man who arrived in Israel from Iran/Persia when he was only 5 years is condemned to be in jail. From appeal to new appeals, he postponed his "settling to jail". He was granted some legal delays not to go to prison. He is accused of bribes, but mainly of sexual harassment and assaults. A full shame in a country where men and women can be rather "hot" and have a "flexible understanding" of the ethics governing sexual behaviors.
Rabbis are also in jail for paedophily, which is a total mess for a tradition that has a high moral attitude to fatherhood and respect of integrity, both of souls and bodies. There is a pride, a terrible and hideous arrogance: when people commit a sin, even repeatedly, the collectivity should be com-passionate. it means that the society is able to share and approach the one who failed somehow with understanding.
it is just unbelievable that Katzav, married to a wonderful and trustworthy wife Gili Katzav who keeps silent, dared recently request to spend his time in jail "at his home"!!! The accusation made by different women who had worked for and with him may raise some questions. It is not possible for a man to require to spend his jail time "at home". Total absence of decency and/or arrogance.
There is no use to try to get some privilege or favor; in a country where "birthright" is a rule, there is no birthright for those who trespass and transgress hte rules governing emotions and financial issues alike. The Prayer of the Lord has an ancient Aramaic version still in use in the Semitic Churches. It adds a very important feauture to "forgiveness": "Forgive = in fact "remit" our trespasses (chatayn) and our debts (chaybayn)" as we also already have remitted those who had debts and trespasses against us".
This is the same attitude as Saint Paul showed toward Onesimus and Philemon, knowing that he himself was in jail and released by the grace of God.
This year there are a lot of sexual affairs. They are a part of any political activity and reality. Men and women are constantly in a mood of communication, contact, intercourse and commerce. Sexual assaults have been constant from the early days of humankind and so far the humans can be aware of "sexual morals". In the realm of the Jewish tradition, it took time to get to some conscience of "transgression" in this field. The two genealogic accounts of Jesus in the Gospels of Evangelists Matthew (linear) and Luke (reversed) show the presence of real "sex sinners". The Giving of the Commandments allwed to get to real awareness of what is right or wrong. At least the Commandments define the possible points of what makes us free or tied up.
The French Dominique Strauss Kahn Summer saga started on May 14th in New York. It still develops in a series of unbeaten breaking news in which the politician and professor of Law and Economics, former chairman of the IMF falls from high to the depths of nil. The man is shown as a rotten guy, sexually obsessed, nearly a "pimp". A man who lost his BlackBerry that stored all his personal data. He was always on trips and had no time to meet with deciders, many claimed. Was it because he had a network of parties?
Say, DSK had his lifestyle and privacy. To begin with, he was a possible candidate for the French presidential election in 2012. I never believed a Jew can apply to such a position..., but why not to apply? It makes no sense, even at the present. The problem is not that the man could be the victim of a plot. Quite possible and he had "anticipated" such a problem. On the other hand, his behavior - until right now - is similar to Katzav's nonsense.
DSK's nonsense is not in his behavior or the way he conducted his private life. No way for him to say: I did wrong things, I regret and will repair. From papers to lawyers to counter-attacks through the press and his lawyers, no way to admit the facts and "repent"; The word is too pious. It sound clerical. But "to repent" does exist and he would gain some credit. This is a matter of psychological and moral downfall.
This is why the shortest letter of the Gospel, Saint Paul's epistle to Philemon is so meaningful.
He makes his writing and sharing a real and significant sacrifice for life and redemption.
av aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)
November 22/December 9, 2011 - Kislev 9, 5772