Sunday, July 21, 2013

Jewish and Israeli « Love Day » 2013/5773

Love? is there any Love Day? Yom HaAhavah/יום האהבה ? A reversed and Israeli or Jewish way to have some Saint Valentine day? Some try to copy, duplicate, cut and paste the Western or European trendy feast.

Love is at the heart of the Jewish tradition. Thus and subsequently it impacted on Christianity since Jesus was definitely a Jew with regards to "love" and what it means.
Think it over: two "things" are never challenged or denied, rejected by Jesus: priesthood that is the first evidence of Jewish identity and call from the womb of a mother. And "marriage, wedding". Eunuchs are mentioned as a tradition, but marriage is cited by Jesus as the first and evident call to "leave father and mother and clutch to a woman" (Gen. 2:24 & Matthew 19:5 - Mark 10:7 - Ephesians 5:31).
This day commemorates the day when the women, the widows of the spies, the men that had died because they had lied and deceived Moses after their journey to explore the Holy Land. They asked Moses to find new men and birth babies. It has nothing to do with true love. It is more a very feminine instinct to build up the future, give birth and secure that new generations will develop history.
It reminds us that life depends on women and that every life depends on this reality. Jewishness is quite aware of that in the Tradition, even if denials do exist and strongly affect a correct understanding of human relationships. On this day, women could also go through the fields and streets and try to find a man. It is some normal action of "wooing, flirting, "hunting"". It mainly explains that God is the Only One Who loves, that love is a special name and word in Hebrew = it means a unique connection with the ahavah/אהבה , i.e. the 13 Attributes or Middot/י''ג מידות of loving-kindness and fullfillment, plenitude of existence.
Judaism has progressively learnt what "love" means: Abraham buried his wife Sarah, but he was "kind" to her. Isaac was strongly attracted to Rebecca. Yaakov/Israel loved Rachel and worked 7 more years to marry her. Love comes from God and is a sign of high consciousness, awareness, conscience of what the human beings can and should be. God loves.
We are called or tend and aim to love. Love is not only sexual. The word does not mean a lot in hebrew: "sex comes from Latin "sctare: to cut, separate", while "min/מין" is linked to questions: "who, what, how, out of what, out of where, what for and where to" if compared to Aramaic and Hebrew, Bible and Oral Tradition alike.
Love is not physical, bodily or sexually oriented only. It is mental, emotional, beyond patterns and frames. Love is indeed in that sense the highest level of humane existence. It is also the highest form of freedom: nobody can impose love, buy or sell love. These are not words. Love enhances, makes individuals and societies grow.
It is not limited to space, cultures, languages, rules, activities, poverty or wealth. Love includes and "obliges" to pardon and atonement, forgiveness. In that sense, "love" is like "Hebrew/ivri = עברי '': it transcends and "goes over, beyond, overcomes and surpasses barriers. It is also one sign of the "Spirit". Love can make people blind or err, wander.
True love leads to some specific goals usually unknown and creative. Love knows how individuals can feel lonely, abandoned. It corrects self-centeredness, selfishness, pretence and compels to discover, share, give and not crunches but to be generous. This means that it is so far of Divine nature. Religious people are often considered as professional preachers for "love": switch on, click and you get it, quite often from persons or institutions that whistle like parrots try to utter some coherent words and phrases.
Love is an action that makes sense and can be ascertained by true acts that confirm and testify for the veracity of mental and spiritual convictions.Thus, it is not a paradox to mention the Israeli and Jewish Love Day, in particular with the decision of the women to come and speak with Moses. It also deeply relates to Christianity.
Theologians have reflected at length on it means that Jesus "gave a new commandment to love each other as he loved/loves us" (Joh n13:34). Generation after generation, from the Sinai till today - just this very day of today - clergy and lay people of all creeds have tried to make distinctions: new as in opposition to so-called "old = Biblical".
Love precisely relies on realities that cannot be segmented, fragmented. The women asked Moses for new men whatever tribe they belonged to, breaking and rendering vain the separation that had existed between and among the Tribes of Israel. This is exactly what Jesus achieved because he meant that there is no difference among any of you, us, any living soul. Love is at that level.
Love calls to confidence: our generation often lacks confidence, self-reliance, self-confidence. When we confide in ourselves and somehow to the others, we can walk ahead. It is the real meaning of "emunah/אמונה = faith" that has a large scope in our mental apprehension of life.
Love needs to wake up and there is no use to wake it up before it should come to "consciousness". "... do not wake, do not awake love before (He) pleases (to God)" (Song of the Songs 2:7) shows a measure that seems to utopic or impossible to reach, useless. Thus, love can cause jealousy and hatred. It is still "strong as death/חזק כמות " (Song 8:6). Indeed, each of us was born alone and naked and leaves life alone, but the length of love is of no humanly seizable dimension. A day of love, goodness, reflection too.
av aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tisha Be’Av 5773 – 2013

TISHA BE'AV in some hours now for 5773/2013. What to count and how can we measure such events? Destructions of the two Temples of Jerusalem to begin with. A date that is highly significant but has to be determined and examined with precision. Is the real concern the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem, the breach into the divine protection of a nation that has been entrusted a call and a special mission? Is it the demolishing and collapse of the "building? At the present, we consider the destruction as an act that targeted the structure of a House in Which God as Creator of All visible and invisible things had been dwelling. The walls where the Most High and His spirit have resided and somehow has been wandering throughout the Fertile Crescent, from the way-out of Egypt and the "spiritual prison" till Jerusalem, the belly-button and navel of the Earth, the world and the whole of the universe.

This may sound bizarre to modern people. Franz Kafka was kidding about the miracle of Hanukkah when a light flickered and allowed to light the candelabrum in the Temple. Rav Yeshayahu Leibowicz was certainly correct when he repeatedly hammered on the brains of Israeli soldiers that thre is no "Holy or sacred Land or City" and sanctity in the Temple because GOD ALONE IS HOLY AND SACRED. Indeed, in Hebrew and Yiddish, "Tzadik/צדיק doen't mean that a human is a"just", but that God allows this man or woman or creature who is entrusted some discernment to be involved in a process of getting justified. This is the same as for the saints.

The Temple was and remains the living and life-giving Body of Judaism -  even when it is destroyed for some time and visibly absent or seemingly not to be seen. According to the rules governing Jewishness, any bar mitzva would immediately be able to serve in the Temple if the House were to be rebuilt. The reality of the House is so pregnant to the Jewish conscience that it may be obsessive. it cannot be obsessive for the secular Jews, for many Israelis that are only in the process of "re-judaization", a sort of updating. The Christians have no feeling of what the reality of the Service in a Temple means for the present-day Jewish members of the communities worldwide and in Eretz Israel.

This is due to the terrible absence of dialogue between Jews and Christians from the Christian schism confirmed by the Jews by the blessings against the heretics. The Christians -mainly in Western Europe have been questioned about the tragedy of the Holocaust, the Shoah, the Genocide.

Today, I read all through the Israeli groups of photographers that they spoke of a "hurban/חורבן ''. They meant the period of the Holocaust, the Shoah (extermination, reduction to nil). The word is used in Linguistics to define as "shva/shwa" the process of a vowel reduced to muteness.

As most of close-by Shoah survivors, it took me a long time before I could say "I, me". Our generation and educational system did not allow us to use the first person easily. It took time. Often, in our speech in Yiddish, in all languages and also in Hebrew, the word would be replaced by "one, people", in Yiddish "men/מען '' and curiously in Hebrew "anashim/אנשים ''Incidentally, I had today an online discussion with a very nice person who told me in Hebrew she wanted to remain "anonymous". The real semitic word does not exist in Hebrew and we use the Greek root: "anonimi/אנונימ". It makes no sense in Hebrew. This is why the Jewish tradition at once reacts to murders by saying that those who perished with having been buried accordingly should be given a "place or a stele and their names kept for ever", i.e. the very name of "Yad VaShem/יד ושם ''. It has much more to convey, because it calls to overcome forgetfulness and really break through the pagan attitude of anonymity.

In our days, in Israel, people can hide as everywhere in the world and hide from who they are, for different reasons: a full right to privacy, self-protection. it may also be a sort of psychological reaction to times where any Jew could be tracked and persecuted for who he had never chosen to be from before his birth, a male or a female. This is why Yad VaSHem is so important for the Israeli community that encompasses - volens nolens - all the Jews over all generations and beyond time and space. It goes far beyond any will to be or not to be because it only depends on Divine call. This divine call can be rejected, denied. People have tried to erase it, to wipe it out. As Victor Hugo wrote: "L'oeil était dans la tombe et regardait Caïn" ("the eye was in the tomb and was looking at Cain"). It does mean that we all, as humans, are the descents or a murderer.
Yad VaSHem collected the names of all those who were assassinated for having been entrusted - someway or in many ways and in different contexts - to witness to the living One, willingly or unwillingly. While we do have a lot of relics of the saints and precisely know who they were because some have duly been buried with names and tombs, Yad VaShem has no bones, no cemetery: names, numbers, digits and photographs. At the present a collection of testomonies.

God has no cemetery, no tomb where He is. He used to have a House on the Temple Mount. This Divine Presence was told to be acting in the First Temple and absent from the Second one. But God is beyond the House and thus in the place where the House had been "alive" and not a building at least in Hebrew it is the way it is said. Life is thus stronger than any wall, any fence, barrier. It cannot be framed. It goes back and forth. It moves ahead into the future and back into the past: it crosses around over present existing.

There is a full confusion right now in Israeli society: "hurban/destruction" cannot be applicable to "Holocaust and Shoah", restricted to the period of the second world war. Obviously, there is a tremendous restriction of all the suffering that the Jewish communities have gone through over the ages and Israel seems to be directly connected to mainly the period of the "after-Shoah". The State was considered as a directly consequence of daily prayers in use in Jewishness, everywhere and in all times: to call back from the exile and return to Zion to build the Dwelling of the Presence in the midst of Jerusalem. The Tzarist Russian pogroms did cause the first wave of the newcomers to Eretz Israel.

The word "hurban/חורבן - hirb'n" (Yiddish) does make sense for the extermination of the Jews during the Shoah. There is a real link between the assassination and desire to erasing the Jews and their memory from the societies of the living and the destruction of the two Houses/Miqdash. This aspect had been discussed but not totally defined with precision by Manès Sperber and Elie Wiesel. I had discussed this with them three decades ago and Manès Sperber was willing to define the Genocide as the Hurban (destruction as similar to the destruction of the two Temples). I had the same discussion with Emmanuel Levinas who was a side-observer as compared with the context of the European culture of that time.

The destruction of the Temple is related to Jewish understanding through the Talmudic heritage that should seriously be apprehended by all, both the Jews and mainly the Christians. At the moment, the Churches are to far from such an approach.

The Churches have kept some relics, i.e. bones of the saints who had died as martyrs. The absence of "bones" at Yad VaShem" pre-suppose another aspect of some consideration of the redemption. The Living Divine Presence has accompanied the jewish people throughout all turbulence and is the true Presence of the one who gave birth and to Whom the dead go. Some have chosen the silence of "un-fatih, to deny faith as being far beyond what should be humane as a part of God's call to life and creation.

This is why 9th of Av cannot be related to the Shoah as such. Tish Be'Av relates to the destruction of the Divine Presence, not to the destruction of any body, flesh and soul only and to begin with. This is the major aspect of something that may not be comprehended adequately for the moment.

The Christians are exactly in the same situation: the Tomb (Holy Sepulchre) in Jerusalem is empty. It is just empty. There is nobody there. We do not even know with exactitude where the tomb really was located and where Jesus had been "reposing". We do confess in the faith that it was on the hill where the Holy Sepulchre (called Anastasis in Greek, Resurrection) has been built subsequently the finding of the true Cross by Queen Helena. This has been is is still a reality for the Church a decision taken after the Edict of Milan in 313 AD. and issued by the Roman Emperor Constantine.

Jus tas for those recalled at Yad VaShem, there is no "evidence", no "personal bones" of Jesus of Nazareth. Memory is then the action of actualizing the very "existence" and "forever-living presence" of those who were called to be born, live, die and resurrect. This is a matter of faith that surpasses any substantial reality.
The Roman Churches have this in the Eucharist and the presence of the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth (true man and true God as chanted in the Assyrian hymnography). The Eucharist is this very Presence as recognized and confirmed by faith. In any other matter, the location of the Holy Sepulchre is a memorial that encompasses all generation from past, present into the future and the world to come. It takes time, it takes a lot of self-abandonment to ascertain that such a statement is not due to a dogma, a legal declaration: it is more than anything that can be written or uttered.

This is my daily experience as I live next to the Holy Sepulchre, above the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem, Old City. Memory tracks back not only to jesus and the dsciples. It drifts back to all the prohets and somehow to Abraham and all those who firstly came to faith in the One living God. It is a very strong feeling when I am in my cell, from the table to the bed - to be overshadowed by these ages unto ages... and still expecting goodness, pardon, life to cover sins and murders, hatred and disconnections.

But the Body and Blood of Jesus' Presence have been destroyed, just in the same way there ws a will to eradicate the Presence of God from the midst of Jerusalem.

In both cases, "living memory/zikkaron-זיכרון'' allows to substantiating the Presence. Living Sacraments cope with  the absolute memory of the Jewish tradition.

It is often not that known that in the very pious and religous circles of Judaism, those who speak Yiddish, on the day of Tisha Be'av, people greet each other with these apparently strange words "kh'vintsch dir a giter hirb'n/כ'ווונטש דיר א גוטער חורבן = I wish you a "jolly good holocaust (hurban)". This relies upon the conviction that destruction is never an end, but a start. when Yohanan Ben Zakkai saw the little foxes getting out of the holes of the destroyed Temple, he laughed. he laughed most loudly. His disciples thought he had lost his mind. The foxes are those to be caught in the Song of the Songs (Shir/Song 2:15). He responded: "No, I just see now that one day we shall see the Redemption". Just as Sarah had laughed at the words of the angel telling her she would bear a child.

Tisha Be'Av calls to revolving, turning around into God's direction and give Him the right answer of our lives.
av aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Femmes et foi

Femmes et foi (Terra Santa, Juillet-Août 2013)

Archiprêtre Alexandre Winogradsky | Juillet Août 2013

(In French published by the TerraSanta Review of the Franciscan Custodia of the Holy Land, Chief Redactor Marie-Armelle Beaulieu, Terra Santa, July-August 2013),

Jérusalem et la modernité. Une terre où l’ancien et le nouveau se croisent, s’interpellent, s’expriment sans toujours s’écouter. Eh, il faut bien en convenir, il y a des hommes et des femmes depuis le temps le plus reculé de la destinée humaine. La Genèse décrit la chose de manière colorée : Adam, le premier homme, reçoit la tâche divine de nommer la création et les créatures (Gn 2,28). Il ne trouve personne avec qui converser, qui lui soit semblable. La Bible perçoit d’emblée un appel à transmettre la vie, en paroles et en échanges. Dieu prend pitié de lui, le fait dormir, le réveille et “mène à lui” “une aide prête à le contre-dire”, ce qui est dynamique. Le réveil d’Adam le rend conscient : “voilà les os de mes os, la chair de ma chair”, mots qui indiquent une vocation à un parcours transgénérationnel.

Lisons attentivement l’Évangile. En célébrant la Pâque, l’Église orthodoxe affirme la résurrection du Seigneur. Marie-Madeleine et les trois femmes portant les baumes pour sa sépulture s’approchent. Né d’une femme vierge, Jésus est porté en terre selon la tradition de ses pères par des femmes qui l’enfantent à la traversée de la mort. Au troisième jour, Marie-Madeleine se promène dans le jardin (on ne reconnaît plus cet aspect au Saint-Sépulcre actuel). Elle aperçoit un jardinier et lui demande où l’on a mis Jésus de Nazareth. Jésus prononce le nom même de Marie. Elle répond en araméen “rabbouni - mon maître”. Elle porte un nom comme lorsqu’Adam avait nommé la création sans trouver sa pareille. Marie-Madeleine rencontre le “nouvel Adam” et l’accompagne dans la vie comme dans ce temps de la résurrection. Jésus ne se laisse pas saisir. Il lui confie la tâche de prévenir les disciples et de lancer la “création de l’Église”.

Chaque samedi, l’Église orthodoxe rappelle le rôle fondateur de Marie-Madeleine, considérée comme “première parmi les Apôtres”. La vie terrestre du Christ s’achève par sa mise au tombeau et les femmes viennent le pleurer et l’enfanter à sa vie nouvelle. Le troisième dimanche de Pâque leur est consacré dans l’Orthodoxie byzantine : un rôle essentiel au service du Corps comme de la Présence eucharistique du Seigneur alors qu’il semble s’apprêter à traverser les siècles comme tous les mortels.

La bonne nouvelle de la résurrection passe ainsi par la femme. Marie-Madeleine voudrait bien retenir le maître, réflexe très féminin, mais elle a le courage d’annoncer aux disciples un peu désespérés par la disparition de Jésus, qu’il est vraiment ressuscité. La Samaritaine avait eu ce même sens d’annonce de la bonne nouvelle du Salut auprès des villageois qui ne connaissaient que trop son parcours.

Transmettre la vie

En ce sens, la vocation d’engendrement des femmes est proche de celle du Christ : il y a un sens unique de la transmission de la vie, de la survie, du miracle perçu comme naturel. Il échappe aux règles de la nature humaine. La tradition juive et orientale - au fond profondément chrétienne - insiste sur ce rôle salvifique. On lira avec profit le remarquable ouvrage du Père Alexandre Eltchaninoff, théologien russe orthodoxe “La Femme et le Salut du Monde” (Le Cerf).

Le mot d’Isaïe 7,14 “Voici, la femme enfantera un fils/ hinne haalma yalda ben” montre ce mouvement novateur, générateur, géniteur, qui traverse le temps et l’espace. “alma” (jeune femme), venue du “monde” (olam), dévoilant ce qui est “caché” (ne’ilam) et portant en soi plénitude et abondance. En araméen, “almatho” ne chicane pas sur la véracité virginale : la foi sémitique sait que rien n’est impossible à Dieu, donc à celles que Dieu a placées pour accompagner l’homme sur le chemin terrestre.
Le juif pieux en est conscient qui, chaque shabbat, lit à son épouse l’éloge de la “femme vertueuse” (Pr 31, 10-fin) : “En elle se confie le cœur de son mari, il ne manque pas d’en tirer profit, tous les jours de sa vie (celle de sa femme, non la sienne !)”.
Il est peut-être significatif que la femme soit apparemment si fragilisée, souvent humiliée ou, au contraire, tentée par la solitude et un pouvoir qui ne serait pas de sa nature. Il en va dans l’Église comme dans la rédemption, de la foi la plus complète en Dieu et en l’homme.

Faces and Being

Faces and Being

In a very famous low voice sung sort of poem, the French Greek but mostly Jewish music writer Georges Moustaki wails: "With my face of foreigner ("mug of a dago" is more exact) / of wandering Jew / and of Greek shepherd...". The words are scarcely audible with a touch of artistic charm and sex-appealing pathos while his fingers hardly reach the cords of a big guitar. This year, Georges Moustaki quit us – his guitar and his voice are thus quite accessible!
Yes, we have three decades of hits continuously reprogrammed in Israel because we love feeling history down to the pits of all roots, even sound records. And a real talent to appear as a miserable shlimazl/שלימזל - the rejected all-alien that can attract any mermaid slowly dancing on the beach.
Georges Moustaki had written the famous best "Je ne regrette rien - No, I don't regret" and "Mylord" sung by genius Edith Piaf whose crisping vocal cords. She would damn crowds of fans. They can't be compared with Yossi Banai who put some songs into Hebrew with much sensitivity and skillful insights of universal experiences.

The Beatles' "Help" echoes the Swedish Abba group's "Money, money" hit that still advertize how they want to get "in a rich man’s world" in a spicy way that is not that kosher, Catholic or Orthodox manners, all things being equal.

At that time, the Soviets were languishingly praising "The evenings of Moscow" - peace was secured by the Choir of the Soviet Army - while the Chinese were tuning about "proletarians who ought to love proletarians and enhance culture among the rice cultivators". Wham got into Georges Michael’s “wake me up before you go”. At the present, the Red army is alive and on recurrent fundraising tours.

We belong to a generation of broadcasted sounds, especially rhythmic ones in English; it doesn’t matter if it is not in Hebrew: as the Queen rock opera Freddy Mercury sang “We are the champions”. He was the Zoroastrian pop singer followed by Nirvana’s “Smell like teen spirit” to develop the good odor. Rap, R ‘n B paved the way to the boys/girls bands like the “Spice girls”. Oh! and our Sarit Haddad recites the "Shma Israelשמע ישראל\" in a song in which she does confess with a good tempo "Ani achshav levad – אני עכשיו לבד/ I am now alone". I don't buy that and would rather email or "sms" to her a "YouTube" shortcut of "the song of the Partisans" in Yiddish: "Du zolst nit zogn az du geyst dem letzten veg-דו זאלסט ניט זאגן אז דו גייסט דעם לעצטן וועג / don't say you are going on the last way", hammered by our courageous people, maybe Chava Alberstein's version because she is so us. Now, we are “Push the button” in three tonguesmuch more trendy at the moment with Lady Gaga and Alicia Keys. This is music and sound point.
The problem is to manage all i-pods, i-pads MP3 players, i-phones. Full equipment presupposes computers, laptops ("nayad/נייד" sounds so sweet, first meant for laptops and right now for mobiles), notebooks, cell phones and cellular’s, with recording memories, images, pictures, videos, films, tape-recorders; yes! and then 500 or more satellite television channels plus some competitors, all the singers of the universe...

I get my personal breaking news directly from all my computerized tool bars.Is it still a bit mebubal-מבולבל /confused"? Thus, it would be good to feel so connected that it would even allow me to reach out to find some boo, a buddy (post-“Friends” generation) in Palau. No Jews there.

Just unbelievable. Impossible. Look! Ten years ago, I was watching the news, "beshidur chai o yashir/שידור חי וישיר– live and (recently) direct" from a small Japanese storm-beaten island. Two Japanese soldiers were explaining that they would never surrender to the U.S. Forces and would rather commit hara kiri (ritual suicide); they were expecting the response of the Emperor of Japan whose divinity had been abolished by a decision taken by Gen. Mac Arthur.

Then, what a chance! I was full instrumented to know that World War II (supposedly) was over and there, in the hell of remote stormy islands, two valiant soldiers were still fighting ghostly foes. And I thought of Abraham Avinu, of course. From Ur-Kasdim to Haran down to Egypt, up to the terebinths of Mamre and Machpelah, you see, Grandpa, we shall overcome some day, but at the right time, the right place, not like these two rescued chaps that emerged from some odd abashment between past and future.

This bewildering point is the synchronic (same-time) occurrence of events that connect us with diachronic (time-crossing) situations that happened in different locations. We have it in the Israeli society. It requires a lot of watchful and judicious attention and understanding. Some inhabitants not only behave as if they were living some centuries ago. Their ways of thinking can show us the contemporary outlasting of men and women from the various ages. And simultaneously, we can check or survey the disruptions that affected the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Middle-Eastern collectivity, in particular with regards to their relationships to faith. Thus we can meet people that “express” the time of the Temple (the Mandianites of our weekly reading “Matot/מטות” that heard of John the Baptist, but not Jesus’ baptism, cf. the Sabba’im), but also Yemenites who developed the Zohar and still use Aramaic.

Ethiopians deliver us very ancient practices connecting Judaism with Early Christianity. Some former Soviets would link the Scythian Crimea of the Antiquity and the Khazars that converted to Judaism and disappeared in the 7th century. In the 9th century, Grand Duke Volodymyr (Vladimir) of Kiev dramatically chose the Byzantine Oriental Christian faith then expressed in one Orthodox and Catholic Church after having consulted the Jews and the Muslims. Their presence in Israel is often positioned with some aggressiveness towards a long-century experience of confrontation with Islam and the Mongolians.

We can also meet with contemporaries of Rav Luria’s disciples and the yeshivot of Safed that go to the same supermarkets as some monks from the Hagion Horos/ΑγιονΟρος (Holy Mount Athos). They observe the rules of Eastern Orthodox Christian regulations. They do explain more accurately than any breaking news how Rome and Constantinople split in 1054 and cannot repair the situation at the moment.

Let’s come back to the caring hospitality shown at Mamre’s Oaks by Abraham Avinu and his right jolly laughing wife at the announce of her birthing a son. The scene has been drawn, designed, painted. We have tons of icons with and without the patriarch and Sarah. No film, no picture, no video and, of course, no canned laughter. They were two wilderness NFA Arameans dwelling under some big tent, without I.D. cards and photos. They were not dotting the I’s of their pods, phones, MP3 players, world TV networks. They got one (several indeed) Divine breaking news whose developments are prolonging at the present. “I bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the sea-shore; all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants because you have obeyed My command (Bereishit 22:17-18).

Now, by the time of Abraham and Sarah, there were no computers, mobiles, sms messages, instant messengers, ICQ (born on the Israeli coast), Trillian and others connecters. They are remote with all possible Face Time and new gadgets.

 Identity was a “word is a word”. Two simple ways:  you say the truth or you are fined and can eventually be killed in an oral cultural environment. Abraham, for instance, got afraid and presented Sarah to King Abimelech of Gerar as being his sister (Gen.20:1-18). A world of visions, nightmares, dreams and talks, well online chats with the Lord. This is the silent world counter-point of our multi-media stuff. We swirl in a super high tech mall or mart of sounds, cries, music drone dizziness  and may lose our identity.

In Hebrew, “panim/ פנים= face” comes from the root “panahפנה\ = to turn (one’s face). In Gen. Rabba 91: “pney haaretz\פני הארץ = the wealthy”; “she can cover her nakedness/appearance” (Berachot 24a, Niddah 14b). “The Torah has a law for each of which there are 49 “clean” and 49 “unclean” ways of interpretation” (Cant. Rabba 2,4).

“This question must be brought inside and even to the innermost” (Bava Metzia 16a). In the context of Abraham at the terebinths of Mamre, the ancestor had no proof of identity as we can check today. Hebrew “Panim” is a plural because of the numerous aspects of an identity. Like the “face of a watch”, a human shows a visage and a hair backside without expression.

 Ever since, appearance and countenance reveal an image, not necessarily of who we are indeed. We are overcome with images and looks that do not exhibit the heart of the souls. A decade ago, was created in Harvard the famous world top “Facebook”. It is doubled with “Piczo” or drawing natural sites for the development of contact networks. Just as “Myspace” (which is very “musical and sounds”) and the various albums and blogs, they question our identity as holders of the “imprint, mark/chotam-חותם – Gr. “sphragis\σφραγης” and not only our self-esteem which is a basic virtue according to the Jewish rabbinic tradition.

For the Jewish tradition, our “faces” (it curiously gave the Yiddish plural form “punimerפאנימער - ”) are not narcissistic. If millions of self-addicted people spend hours in vamping up a virtual online presumed contact way to show off who they are or think they are, our self-esteem can be brought to the measure of our suffering of personal solitude; we might even feel abandoned in an immense universe of whirling voices, sounds, changing or photochopped  images. Would Abraham or the Sages of old naturally cope with the hi-tech world in which we live? In all times, the challenge has been to overcome fears, panics to feel alone and to face the “burden of some survival”. There is a sort of parallel between Sarah’s laughter and our swiftly virtual “lol”. Is it a desperate search for some kind of existence? In Israel, we constantly face “chopped” images of a wide God’s Likeness that is going through a sort of puzzlement.

It is said: “An extra measure of love was made known to the humans as they were created in God’s Image” (Avot 3:14). This also explains why Adam was unique and created singly: it allows every human being to get aware of the fact that s/he is personal has the same likeness as God and thus be saved –each soul encompasses the whole universe” (Sanhedrin 4:5).Good enough, but this is not what we may see in daily life. We go through times of shows, passivity and self-content. Modern techniques are a plus for a society as far as they allow it to improve its welfare and capacities. But the realm of visible things or people is nothing compared to the vast and immeasurable source of capacities that are beyond our sights and envisioning skills. This absence of plenitude may be a spiritual challenge in times of licentious, loose and libertine turmoil.

Jesus made an intriguing statement: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand” (Matthew 12:24). We have the tools utilized for building up ourselves and not making us sleepy or spaced out. We don’t  reach immortality or more power because we have records and archives at hand. Abraham’s blessing is stronger than anything we can share and thus requires a deft touch of reality.

 av aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Pave the way to all

"No way-in, entrance to foreigners", maybe we could say "aliens". I found this photo in FBfr. Revital Peretz's files quite a certain time ago. The social network systems and "buddy, pal, friend, contact conneting groups" make people often shy, backlaid, reluctant to share and answer adequately. The price of being alive, of being in our generation, of seeing and dealing with so many technical, spiritual, human tools and instruments should call us to more "humanity". As I was walking around in a mall at Boulogne-Billancourt (Paris suburb) two days ago, a place that is quite frequented by a lot of "middle-class" Jewish people, I bought a Diet Coke bottle at the Häagen Dazs shop. Two youths were working there on that day: a colored man and a youn gilr: tattooed and pierced, quite softly. My matushka asked me why I was smiling: in her neck, though she had nice long hair, the young girl had "engraved" a tattoo in Hebrew "אנשיות - humanity". Not really visible, but still. I could not miss it. We are used in jerusalem to get to the heart of anything very quickly. Due to some sense of security, care and definitely we are in a very young country, we get to things quickly and this is dynamic. I immediately spoke to the young lady who wanted to sell me some ice-cream, but I am more in Diet Coke... I said "hello" in Hebrew and she smiled back, very happy: she said that she hardly could speak Hebrew. I told her she had a special and nice tattoo in her neck. She got really happy and answered: "Wow, you saw it! Do you know what is written there?" - "Humanity". - "Yeah, gosh! you got it!" she replied, quite happy. she said she did not really know what the word means, but she got it tattooed in Hebrew because of her "backgrounds" she ascertained. "it is so cute that you got to that so quickly", she told me. I answered that she should learn Hebrew. She had made the tattoo in this Paris suburb and she was glad that, indeed, humanity makes sense in Hebrew. It does. sadly, but I may go back sometime there... I did not ask to take a picture of her neck. I have a lot of tattoos made in Israel. it is not kosher, but I conducted very interesting discussions on the subject with a retired Israeli ambassador to Europe, a specialist of tattooing in Israel at the present.

In Jerusalem, I know I would at once have taken a picture of this neck! But even in a context like a French suburban mall, it was difficult just because there were a lot of clients and the young girl was more likely to speak with me than to distribute the ice-creams... And her choice to get this word "printed" for always on he neck in Hebrew is catching.

We need humanity, being humane. Humane, the word is not that frequent in English. it is not that British or "tea time". Humane is Yiddish. In Yiddish "mentshlekh/מענטשלעך " is unique, just as "Yiddish" is unique and not evident: we are not called to reject anybody, to deny, to rebuke, but to enter something like being on a permanent "Dessine-moi un mouton/draw me a lamb, please" as "The Little Prince". Then to answer. Answering can make it discomfy, unconventional or beyond all conventional standards.

I often send some pictures (flowers, landscapes,...) to some Facebook friends. Both men and women. Or ask how they feel. Males as females would be astounded, they click and go. Some women who are into "introspection" can't leave their own page to drop a "hello friend answer". Of all Facebook contacts that I have, few finally came to meet at Jaffa Gate or in the Old City. They would hardly come to any otehr place in Jerusalem because the process is the same as on the picture above "strangers, foreigners are aliens and we are such so far we are at pains with taming".

Interestingly, the social networks allow Jewish Israelis and Palestinians or Arabs to share and discuss.
We are in a process of "hyper overspeeding process of self-hedonistic behaviors". after World War II, "hedonism" came to Europe and hardly to Israel because the survivors had to fight for the existence of a reality that still is hardly recognized. But the Jewish tradition is very "incarnated". it focuses on bodily, physical, mental, reflective and human veracity of life. So why are we so shy? Or as Viktor Frankl stated, overcoming death compulsorily leads us to be humane.