Bereishit 5770

Acharei hachagimאחרי החגים: “when the feasts are over” is a popular saying and a refreshing song full of true nostalgia and a touch of shmaltz, sort of mixed excessive emotional mush combined with some banality. The other folk’s best is then “geshem-גשם/rain”, the yearly hit that “will enable us to continue to march on the way”… It is quite amusing how Israeli society that may be crafty suddenly falls into a state of pathetic needs to be cuddled and pampered with a touch of childlike desires to be overprotected. Fall can be indeed a time of transition. A bit red as some of our hair cuts of the automnal leaves: “‘s fal’n di bleterס’פאלן די בלעטער – the leaves are falling” is also an after world war II hit firstly sung by Yves Montand in French, then in Yiddish… Yossi Banai made it in Hebrew… “Listopad-листопад” means “November” in Ukrainian and Polish and means “leaf fall”. The approaching month of Marcheshvanמרחשון is thus a time of “sweeping away old stuff” and regular fasting days paving the way for the clarity of Kislev and the Feast of the Lights (Chanukkah).

It is very trendy to feel down. Of course, e.g. we live in a society that is approximately contented. This was shown in a recent poll and the Israelis are definitely optimistic compared to the way they are looked at from abroad as living in a threatening and dead-end situation. But as regards privacy, we respond with constant equanimity that is on the verge of puzzling perplexity. Just try the poll. It is very forward to play with insightful polls. Just ask: “How are you doing?” to some ordinary anonymous Israel inhabitants. Whatever tongue, the respond is: “Good – beseder – tayeb/kwayes (Arabic version = to:yeb in Jerusalem) – sheyn”. The Russian-speaking inmates would tend to say “normal’noнормально (normal = seemingly good)” but if you continue the poll, Russian will turn to “bolee li menee = more or less (well), cf. “chetzi-chetziחצי חצי – fifty-firty”. The same happens in English, Yinglish, Arabic. There is a Hebrew, Greek and Russian/all-Slavic hip-hop hit:”Baruch HaShem (yom-yom: day-to-day)! = Gr. Doksa tou Theou! = Slava Tebe, Gospodi! (glory to You, Lord – interfaith version)”. It does mean that things are going well at all. This is the plain answer of plain people who squelch spontaneous emotion to maximum private neutrality. We are sorts of firewalls. The problem is that it may kill because human beings are born to talk and need to speak out what they feel, from their insides to their brain and heart.

Can we say that we live in a gentle and kind society? Basically, Israeli society is geting tempted by mor and more internal violence. Justice and righteousness are still relevant but are deeply endangered by different tendencies. It is difficult to say that Israel is not a free state. It is. The biggest part of the country is powerfully dynamic, young, full of creativity. Young and elderly can achieve their goals if they are able to speak out and want to reach specific goals. Israel is an internationally developing country, on a universal basis. In the forthcoming years, some elements might be strengthened: ties with Asia, Africa. The United States and Canada are considered a part of the “golden State – Goldene medineגאלדענע מדינה” but it is not sure that the real dynamics come from there although the general trend is to “think Anglo”.

Times may show that the connection with the former Soviet Union and its satellite republics or autonomous regions together with China, Japan and Korea may be far more meaningful. This is due the cradle of the State of Modern Israel. It has inherited something very strong from the “Eretz Knaanארץ כנען = Poland and the the border regions of Great Russia” as we used to say in Yiddish. We have been used for two centuries that emigration came from Eastern Europe to Europe and then America or via the Far East to Hong Kong, Manchuria, Mongolia, Harbin down to America and/or South America, in particular Argentina, Uruguay, Chile or Mexico. The move is now a “classic” of international people flow.

It is deeply present in Israel and progressively raises inside of the country some significant signs of constant seeds. It is rare that a country is steadfastly nourished and nurtured from the same basic human, linguistic, spiritual, mental area as it has been the case from the first aliyah till now. There is a permanent level of educational system between my great grand parents, parents (they would be 108 this year) and my cultural background that copes with that of late R. Yeshayahu Leibowicz born in Riga. He discovered with stupefaction that the young former Soviet youths had the same roots and education as he was given in Latvia a century ago.

This can easily be felt in Israeli society when speaking with the various actors of this part of the population that is going through a deep and quick assimilation process of Hebraization. This does not only relate to the language, but to cultural and mental positioning. It is a trend toward freedom and control over personal conscience. People interrogate themselves about the way they can be free, which is a typical Slavic and curiously Eastern Orthodox way of putting things on the table. It does not mean that people would reject the freedom they gained. They need to feel protected, much more than the in-born Israelis or those who arrived before 1967. Slavic people are also “mentally born gamblers”. Those who came continue to develop the country on the verge of legacy in many cases. It can also imperil the State, but, on the other hand, such people are ready to start new lives because “games, plays, theater, gym, moves” are always on air and constant standards of reference. This is not the case of the European and American immigrants.

Soviet and Ethiopian people bring natural links to Christianity. This matter is important because of the mixed nature of the newcomers. The Halachah can hardly be proven. In fact, the same situation is applicable to the United State migrants because they often cannot show evidence of all the required certificates of ketubot/marriage of their parents and family. But the importance of the ex-USSR immigration has superseded this defect as well as the coming of the Ethiopians.

On the other hand, the constant defense of Israel and the way the State has to assume this protection question a lot of people that would prefer to leave and settle abroad. This problem is real and is taken into account by the Israeli authorities.

It is exact that a society needs joyful relaxing times; once New Year 5770 started up, it seems the countdown switched on and we may scrap the plans and continue to go around without finding the true way-out. To be honest, what can be new? Fashion? we use 5th to 18th century clothes and hats to makes a distinction between our social and religious groups. Modern chardal (modern ultra-Orthodox = mustard in Hebrew!) women covers and hats were created in Western Europe around 1920 and circulated to the America before showing up here again lately. The planet-wide jeans (even with holes and stigmas) appeared in Genova(= /jeans/), Italy, just before Christopher Columbus left for some Indian “unzoned area”.

Things are new everyday though we grow old at the same time. So is it bad or good to march in the development of a New Year? Blasé apathetic characters would say – as for the daily “alright” – that Kohelet, read at Sukkot is correct: “What has been, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun. Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!” has already existed (in the ages that) preceded us.”(Kohelet 1:9-10).

This can refer to the immensity, the width, depth, breadth, length and thus plenitude of God in His Written and Oral Law. Everything is present in the Talmud, i.e. not only morals, but materials and instruments that progressively seem to be created in our culture: e.g. micro-wavers, computers, fashion, nuclear skills or freezers… The problem is how to get to newness and its encoding.

Tractate Yevamot 62b states that God has a huge reserve of all the souls that have to be hosted in the bodies that show in the development of the human generations. As for the Christians: there is a great similarly between the Oral Law and what the Christian world receives through the Holy Spirit. Thus, when Jews remove the Talmud studies as the Karaites (the Samaritans did the same as the Sadducees), they stop to truly believe in the into the World-to-Come. When the Christians cancel or lower the action of the Spirit, they ritualize and reduce the intensity of their faith and reject the resurrection.

Newness is inscribed in the soul of the Semitic speech. In Hebrew, two past tenses (seven “past” tenses in Arabic) that seem to speak about what already was and indeed focus on the future. Monotheistic speech is prophetic, opens the way to any event or creation. “Asher asah la’asotאשר עשה לעשות – that (God) has been making in order to (continue the action of) being creating” (Genesis 2:3). The Gospel shows the same: “The Father and I (Jesus) are always at work”(John 5:19).

In Hebrew “davarדבר” is both “word, speech and object”. We take a great responsibility in renewing the world with words of beauty and creativity. We are often hurt or injured and human speech can be terribly cruel. There is something we have in Hebrew: we always speak of the future, are obsessed by newness. God was also deceived when he looked at His creation and decided to wipe it out (Genesis 6:5-8). Thus, since we are survivors, we cannot even think of stopping the move toward future, betterment and being real “mentchenמענטשען”, humans with a tender and good heart.

In the Gospel it is said:”You, brood of vipers, how can you say good things when you are evil? For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. I (Jesus) tell you, on the day of judgment, people will render an account of every careless word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted and by your word you will be condemned” (Matthew 13:34-37).

We have to prove that we are not a “brood of vipers”… In the new year 5770, the State of Israel will have to show that it is indeed a State of freedom of conscience and faith according to its law regulations. I always refer to the example of Prof. Nissim Dana who was heading for a time the Minister of Interior – Christian Communities Department. A professor at the Haifa University, he is specialized in the life of the Druse communities. In his book dedicated to this population, he underscored how the Tel Aviv embryo of Parliament and government was very carefully checking that each non-Jewish community should be treated with full justice and according to their rights. This was during the Independence war.

Recent turmoil with in the Armenian Quarter, i.e. on the way to the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter, constant embattlement with other Christian Churches, the absence of real prevention of missionary actions on all sides – both Jewish and Christian – according to the Laws in force are not positive. Interestingly, there are groups in Los Angeles and other West Coast cities who would be ready to “shelter” the imperiled local Jerusalemite Christian communities (sic)! It is the duty of the Churches to recognize Israel for who and what the State of the Jews is. It is not a problem of everlasting Shoah issue that does fit with either party’s commitments. It has to deal with much more than that: daily experience of living seeds of theology, Living Word in a real and living society of the Jews that has to accept to be grafted onto the tree and branches of very old Christian communities. We have to overcome and leave our pretence and though it is a Divine commandment, it is a terrible hardship to carry out.

It may sound a bit tough. But we are blessing-beggars… So if, in the end, we get a lot of flooding rain that renews the soil and the land, it means that we also can plant new good ideas, opinions, wit and insights when our mouth speaks heartfully. On air at the present: clean up our Word system and turn over a new leaf… It may lead us, God willing, to some real step forward toward Gan Gan.

av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

October 16/3, 2009 – 28 deTishrei 5770 – כ”ח דתשרי תש”ע

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