Friday, September 26, 2014

Binding love, rescue – 5775 = תשע »ה = תעשה\let’s act!

Binding love, rescue – 5775 = תשע »ה = תעשה\let’s act!

Some years ago, we went on a tour around Jerusalem with some
former Soviet newcomers. We were speaking Russian, mainly because of the
parents. Their children were definitely not reluctant to speak Hebrew.
The yhad learnt to discuss quite well. This was part one of the
"quarrel". For the parents, Hebrew was then a sort of social Esperanto.
They did not really care about finding their roots here in the revival
of the national tongue.

The children were nice boys and girls, strong-minded and a bit
over-protected. They felt in need for the tenderness and cultural
backgrounds from “tam/там = there”, i.e. some former Soviet region. They
were captivated by the quick development of the Hebrew culture and the
street westernized culture. They were chewing some gum ready to explode
out of their mouths plus a lit cigarette hold in manicured fingers.

They were aggressive: dad and mom were totally unplugged and should
understand that the local youths had a deep desire to speak Arabic
fluently. The parents were in shock. Good gracious, lesser British it
sounds "B-ozhe, izbavi/Боже избави!" (G-d preserve), why
Arabic? Because it is a must, they answered! Millions of Arabs live
around Israel as also in or along our cities. It is a Semitic tongue as
Hebrew, with an immense scientific and literary prestige, the native
tongue of many Jews but of course Arabs, both Christians and Muslims.

"Bubele-Babushka/Бубеле-Бабушка = granny" was on the verge
to faint. The educated part of the band explained how the Mongols had
attacked the Ukraine and Russia. Correct! Russia has always been a
protection wall against violent conquerors : Russians had resisted and
saved the many nations of Central and East Europe that had never showed
very grateful for the help.

Our Ottomans (the same that occupied Eretz Israel/Palestine for
centuries) stopped at Vienna (leaving croissants, viennoiseries and
Turkish/Arabic or Greek coffee). From the 13th to the defeat of Kulikovo
in 1380, the Mongol Golden Horde ruled over Russia and only disappeared
in 1480.

The Ukraine and the main Russian cities were profoundly marked by the
Tatar and Mongol Golden Horde conquest. The Mongols allowed the immense
country to benefit from a social and fiscal, post system. The Russians,
the White Russians and the Ukrainians have been pinched between the
Tatar-Mongol rulers coming from the East. They were far more frightened
by the Western invaders, in particular the crusaders that often deeply
threatened Christian Eastern Orthodoxy and their lifestyles.

This suspicion against both East and West does explain some sort of
border protections from ethnic aggressions. These protections often
developed into the deportation of numerous nations, especially affecting
the Tatars, but also some Baltic peoples and the Jews, displacing some
nationals from West to the Far East, along the Chinese border.

The Jews have been traditionally enclosed in borderland regions, in micro-societal "shtetlech/שטאטלעך - ghettos" with "strach-touha : attraction/ repulsion"
relationships as Franz Kafka described  in Czech such postures made of
some interest and love and profound repulsion on both sides.

Most former Soviet citizens living in Israel have directly landed in
Israel. They had left a sort of mental prison system and they arrived in
Israel,  discovering a multicultural and new country without having
ever experienced any system of freedom in different countries.

The second generation has somehow partly or totally assimilated. it
depends on the lifestyle, the cultural background. Those who were born
in Israel or arrived very early feel a ttoal clutch with Israel and the
Jewish-Israeli style. Some other people, especially the youths are
tormented, cannot find their place, take all possible benefits from the
country but they hate the culture and the language.

Over the many decades, in particular the past twenty years, I saw all
sorts of situations. It started long before the fall of communism and
the rebirth of the Church in Eastern Europe and the Slavic "block",
mainly the former Soviet "Empire" or Union of "free republics".

At the present, many newcomers from the former Soviet Union are glad
to discover a world that is connected to the planet. Today, it is much
easier for them to move and travel, inside of the country and abroad. As
numerous migrants, they also exercise a kind of selection. Some decide
to settle in Israel. Others prefer to go on a trip to the Western part
of the world. Many cannot break the profound ties with Russia or the

Over the specific period of the past twenty years, I encounter a lot
of "true Israelis". Others wander on their own trip, journey to egos
that are pretty difficult to find. Many would acculturate in the society
by mixing up with the Arabs, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Christian Arabs need women and many "non-halachically recognized
Jewesses" prefer their society. They get baptized among the Arab milieu
or men and women will integrate among the Galilean Arab Christian
youths. Or the ywill choose to leave the country for North America,
Australia or Europe (Germany or Scandinavia, Italy or Spain).

Basically, the process of integration in Israeli society proceeds
from the very powerful capacity of the "society as a body" to assimilate
all kinds of human backgrounds and to insert them into the reality of
Judaism. I also met many cases of personal "lifepaths" where the Jewish
authorities continue to accept that newcomers find their road or
cross-roads through the many possible options, inside or outside
Jewishness. The whole process can be a real "way of the Cross", with
immense personal sufferings and "mal-d'être", "Unbehagen in der Kultur".

This is also due to the exceptional flexibility of Israeli society.
Some people are trained to follow the right path. Others will make their
way(s) as through a jungle and think that everything is permitted,
which is definitely wrong in the country. For some reason, numerous
"Christians" come around and can spend years as true "anti-Semites and
anti-Judaic "true" believers" without being bothered by any "social or
national system of control". In the meanwhile, the Churches that had
been present locally for centuries are at pains with the new and rather
unexpected Israeli and Jewish State rules in force.

Thus, the Jewish tradition is wider than any kind of limitations and rejections.

This week, the reading portion of the Torah accounts how Abraham and
Sarah got Itzchak and how Hagar and Ishmael were sent away to the

Later on, God tested Abraham again. Early in the morning, Abraham
swiftly left his home with his son Isaac (the boy was supposedly 37
years-old) and they quitted the servants telling them they will soon
come back. Abraham gathered the wood to bind his “only son- b’no yechido\בנו יחידו” as a “olah\עולה – burnt offering”,
which removed – for this special time – any reference to his first-born
Ishmael\ישמעאל. But Itzchak\יצחק (“God laughed”) is the son of  pure
Providence, beyond any natural patterns, a laughter to challenge
generations – toledot\תלדות = history and perduration.

Abraham seems to accomplish God’s goodwill as if he were blind. Talmud Taanit III:65d points out that the Lord “yire\ירא- shall see and provide”
because of this total act of confidence in God that has been disputed
at length by the monotheistic traditions (Quran 37:99-111). God provided
a ram - ayil\איל: in Hebrew the root is powerful and energizing. It
comes from “awal\אוו\א\ל = to circle, to rise (cf. olah\עולה-אולא),
beginning, early season” as in Targum Hosea 9:10 in Aramaic.

The Divine Providence supplies and replaces in order to generate tiny
seeds of life. But “ayil\איל” is linked to the beginning of “olam\עולם =
the universe, world” as a visible and consistant project, with a switch
from consonant "one, alef" to consonant "ayin, multitude".

It seems that Abraham is submitted to special series of tests. They 
seem to be beyond all rational views, dragging slaughtering and
high-violent impulses with total trust in God’s capacity to preserve
life. This challenge is that of a deathproof experience among groups
fascinated by their own destroying abilities or their will to killing.
On the third day, Abraham returned to Beer Sheva.

The text of the “binding of Itzchak – Akeidat Itzchak\עקדת יצחק” is
read every day in the Jewish tradition during the morning Shacharit
Service. It is the most developed prayer, rising from early archaic
prayers to sophisticated phrases of fulfillment.

In the account of Genesis/Bereishit chapter 22 the binding of the
“ben yachid\בן יחיד – only son” summons us every day to take into
profound consideration Abraham’s call to constant survival.

This last and seemingly inhumane “good deed or mitzvah” to obey would
be and has been compared to and considered as ancient and pagan men
sacrifices. It reaches out to trust that life respect can indeed be
stronger than any compulsion to death or extermination.

Curiously, it is so close to the text that Christianity considers as
an early example of envisioning Jesus as being put onto the wood (the
Cross) that is defined as an "altar" in the Christian traditions. The
question has been discussed and analyzed for centuries.

The point is that Judaism does consider that this chapter unveils
God’s good  and positive projects of rescuing all mankind from death and

In the Gospel, it is stated that “By faith Abraham, when he was
tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered
up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall
be called” (Hebrews 11:17-19)
. At this point, the “act of faith”
should never evolve to some evil and corruptible spirit of rivalry. Some
modern Jewish authors have depicted how God could only be reluctant to
putting to death the “only begotten son”. This is also clearly mentioned
in the last verse that was added lately to Psalm 51 (50): "Then they
shall offer bulls on Your altar" (Psalm 51:19) in which
"bull/parim-פרים" corresponds to the traditional "offering accepted by
the Jew(s) as "strong-minded and complying with the meaning of

Interestingly, the reading portion of the week also includes the
reading of Sodom’s and Gomorrah that precedes the binding of Itzchak.
The “binding\עקדה” is a climaxing event that supersedes all trials. The
outrage of the two cities came to mainly refer to sexuality and handling
of our human carnality.

True, we see how inflaming these matters can be, in particular in the
"complicated" contexts of imperiled social or structural destinies. The
great sin of the inhabitants was that they showed their total absence
of hospitality to Lot and Abraham's kin. Rejection and systematic
exclusion arepart of a recurrent and very trendy socio-cultural

There maybe more than cultural outrages. It can  be provoked by
geo-physical circumstances such as tellurium melting processes or
temblors, unpredictable earthquakes that still can affect our minds with
much violence, beyond our control. We are in a period of great and
averall planetarian revolving process that affects the Earth, the
weather, climatic changes...

Israel is a land that intertwines all sorts of  individuals and
identities without tearing them up and down them. They can only lash
themselves and be reduced to nil.

On the other hand, God wants to bless, to save and to sow. This is
why we can be bound to Him like Abraham, Isaac and the Son of Man for
the sake of life and love. It may cost a lot. The price of hope beyond

Before they split into a multitude of separate groups, Judaism as
Christianity had envisioned a full-openness that is called
“hospitality”. We live in a guest-homeland. We are praying and
grace-begging guests, often dazzled by the power of our uncontrolled

In this country, people can ask anywhere and anytime if they see you
having a suitcase "where you are leaving to…" “Chutzah\חוצה – To
outside”. This can be heard in all languages. That was not Abraham’s
choice: “he was sitting by the terebinths of Mamre, at the entrance of
his tent “bechom hayom\בחום היום” as the day was growing very hot”
(Genesis 18:1).

This shows the profound impact of long personal journeys, exiles and
dispersions as a pedagogical training to welcome everybody. “Baruch
haba\ברוך הבא” = “Blessed be the one who comes, arrives”; the answer is 
“venimtza\ונמצא = and is found"; somehow the individual has found
him-herself at the right place”.

It is a miracle that, in a context like ours in which most elements
are likely to collect and clutch to some powers of evil and wrongdoing -
we can’t help;  yet we accept a simple fact:  “God makes rise His sun
on the bad and the good and causes rain to fall on the just and the
unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you
have? If you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?”
(Matthew 5:45-47).

av Aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)