Hakafot and Mar/Mor Yaakov Day

Mar Yaakov day on 10/23 – 11/05


James the Greater (died in 61) was the first bishop of Jerusalem, heading the Early Church. Yaakovיעקב [Hebrew: “heel”]- Иаков – Iakobos adelphotheos – Ιακωβος ο αδελφοθεος (brother of G-d) was seemingly a high priest, highly respected by the Jews and he was going to the Temple everyday. He took the first synod decision at Jerusalem allowing the Gentile to be “adopted” without having to be circumcised, but having to respectfully fulfill the Noahide laws. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem [my home and Church where I serve] commemorates his day on November 4th/5th following the Julian old style calendar. In the West, it will be on Oct. 23rd, always starting with the evening prayers = on 10/22nd. He was indeed considered as a צדיק – Just (tsaddik), having an ascetic way of living. His decision is most important because it enabled the Gentiles/Nations to enter the Covenant to the full.

av Aleksandr

Photograph:
מר יעקב א בהעיה”ק – Mar/Mor Yaakov – Bishop A of Jerusalem

Fr. A. James Bernstein (Seattle, WA) wrote
at 4:08pm on October 22nd, 2008
St James the Just is my patron saint. He presided at the first Council of Jerusalem described in Acts chapter 15 (also see Galatians chapter 2).
An aspect of the Council’s decree that I find most amazing are the guidelines required of Gentiles coming into the Church (becoming Christian). In the earliest days the Jews who followed Jesus were not called Christians but were called Nazarenes. The title ‘Christian ‘ first arose in the Gentile city of Antioch which included Gentiles as well as Jews.

The requirements provided the Gentile to be received into the Church were minimal. Yet today among various ethnic Churches requirements are often extensive.

I believe that one of the most amazing things presented by the earliest Church was their willingness to transcend culture in their desire to embrace converts.

This is all the more astounding when we consider how strict James and his party were in observing the Mosaic Law (see Galatians 2:12). They did not require the Gentile Christians to adhere to the Mosaic Law, to learn Hebrew or Aramaic, to adopt Jewish customs and traditions, or to become Jewish. The Jewish Christians were not only very accepting, but were also highly supportive of the development of a Gentilized Christianity.

This is a model that present day Orthodox Christians should follow. Unfortunately within National Churches and Ethnic Groupings there is such a strong identification of ethnicity and culture with the Orthodox Faith that they become one and the same. So as the result to become Orthodox means to become Greek, or to become Russian or to become Arabic. In contast the early Jewish Christians did not require the Gentile believers to become Jewish. They were able to somehow have faith transcend culture. We should do the same.
Fr A. James Bernstein

October 26, 2008 3:11 PM

Delete

Comment by Av_a:
“In contrast the early Jewish Christians did not require the Gentile believers to become Jewish. They were able to somehow have faith transcend culture. We should do the same”.

Thank you so much for your comment, Fr. James. Have a blessed Name Day and we shall congratulate you once again on November 5. But this is a veery good and insightful remark.
av a.

October 26, 2008 3:16 PM

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hakafot: Rejoicing in going around


“Shemini Atzeret/Simhat Torah – “שמיני עצרתשמחת תורה” have started in Israel and consist of two feasts in one eve, one night and day, two days in the diasporas. The main wors are interesting with regards to two different festivals: Atzeret marks the end of Sukkot as a final touch to the Hoshanot/Prayers for pardon and salvation. At night, all the Sifrei Torah – ספרי תורה/Scrolls of the Torah are carried in joyous circles around the “bima-almenor – במה – אלמנור/pulpit” and recall the seven goings around Jericho, later around the Mount of Olives, then the Mikdash/Temple. These are “hakafot – הקפות”, which has very special and intriguing meanings, some of them being much significant in our present swinging economic system. E.g.: root “naqaf / נקף = to surround” > “They surrounded the camp with utensils and saddles (Erubin I,8[15b]) and ropes for marking the Shabbat (Erubin 9b)” – “to surround a place” = <…gardens or orchards to make them inaccessible> (Erubin 53b). “To cause to go around: <“I shall make them go around 40 yers in the desert” (Mekhilta Beshalach 1)… until he (the Nazirite) has hair grown around his hair” (Sanhedrin 8,1)>; thus the same verbal root also refers to “cutting all round or the corners of the head as of the field (hair locks/pe’ot/peiyes-ותפא) (Nazir 57b).

Interestingly – at least for the present turbulence affecting the economic swinging system, “naqaf” also means “to sell on terms”, i.e. for a special period of time, a cycle/tekufah- תקופה): “the shopkeeper allowed credit” in Avot 3:16 = . BECAUSE : “eyn nakkifin / אין נקיפין… > there is no loan allowed on time = compared with Mark 3:29: “insult against the Spirit will never be pardoned”.

The initial root was “quf – קוף/ turn, make circle”, which does not seem to be connected with “kof – קוף/ ape” often mentioned in the Mishnah. ON THE OTHER HAND, “hakafah / הקפה ” firstly refers to holiness and the circles around the altar > “hakafot hamizbeach – הקפות המזבח/the going around the altar with the bouquet = Lulavלולב” (the move may be compared with the going around with the incense-burner in most Oriental Churches, also the Roman Church at times). The word mainly means “a going around that lead to a new cycle of time”. The seven goings around show that the year is over and reached its fulfillment.

This aspect is not very clear for the believers and need some clear call to meditation and cosideration of what happens during the several annual “circling cycles, periods, turns of the sun, solstices” > “tekufat – – – equinoxes/solstices < תקופת ניסןתמוזתשריטבת” (Rosh Hashanah 8a). The famous saying “time is money” suddenly makes sense these days. Well, it is an old reflection grounded on a meditation expressed with the root linked to the “hakafot”. Indeed, “tekufah – תקופה” also refer to “debts for merchandise that ought to be paid at certain seasons (Sanhedrin 68b)/ “tekufat chanut – תקופת חנות” are the shop debts which are not submitted to the limitation provided during the Sabbatical year (She’ebiit 10,1). The Scrolls are thus a sign of time and sanctity for the Jews who are sealed for a new year. The Scrolls are “sacred things” and therefore, it is not possible to touch the text with the finger. Subsequently, dancing with the Scrolls allows to climaxing rejoicing. It should be respected by non-Jews, not to supersede this privilege also linked to the Birkat Kohanim = ברכת כהנים, the priestly blessing, the unique remaining act from the time when the Temple was extant. Holding the Scrolls in the arms could someway be compared to au “Eucharistic” enthusiastic gesture, a special participation in the Divine Presence. Indeed, it is the “service of Israel” to show such a Presence to the world and to gather in all the “mishpechot goyim – משפחות גוים” (Psalm 22:28) because of a special privilege that cannot be denied or taken over as stated by Paul of Tarsus: “… Children of Israel, to whom pertains… the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promise” (Romans 9:4). The Scrolls substantiate, embody the Presence of the Bore HaKol Yakhol – בורא הכל יכול, the Creation of All-things. The Feast of Simhat Torah appeared later. At the present there are seven “aliyot – אליות = ascents to the bema to do a reading”. The year is closed with the portion “VeZot Haberachahוזאת הברכה” in Devarim/Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12, about the blessings given by Moses. The new cycle starts by the reading of Genesis done by the chatan Bereishitחתן בראשית – the bridegroom of “In head > in commencement, firstly”.

At this point, each denomination is called to gather by the time of Sukkot, “hechag – The Feast” par excellence. This is the time that the Jewish community celebrates on the eighth day of the Assembly/atzeret- . This feast is parallel to the account of Jesus, standing in the Temple on the last day of the great Feast (the Booths) (John 7:37). The new cycle of reading Genesis is specific to the Jewish congregations. It should be noted that during the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), the faithful Muslims also turn around the Ka’aba, circumbulating around the the big cube that shelters the ancient Black Stone tracking back to Abraham-Ibrahim and even to Adam and Eve (cf. Rosh Hashanah is the anniversation of the creation for the Jews). In the Holy Sepulcher, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox use to make three goings around the Tomb of Jesus.

We are in a period of slow moves towards assembling different spiritual identities. Such attempts resemble the pangs of birth in view to reach more connection and unity.

av Aleksandr

October 22/9, 2008 – 23 deTishri 5769 – כ”ג דתשרי תשס”ט

Photographs:
ספר תורה על הבמה – Scroll of the Torah
הר הבית – Temple Mount
קבר ישוע אמנאל הנצרי – Edicule of the tomb of Jesus in the Holy Sepulcher – Anastasis

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