I am often asked how I can stand the conditions in which I live. In a recent interview given to some American Orthodox medium, I could reflect on the unbelievable situation in which we live here. Maybe because I spent many years of my life out of social contacts and could only count on myself and my capacity to hope and work for the future, I am never really surprised by life’s hardships. When I entered the different circles of society I could frequent, I also discovered they can be rude, raw, basic instinct, spiritual and stingy, stiff.
I will never have a lot of Israeli and Hebrew-speaking faithful at a Divine Liturgy. We could better meet outside in the desert of the Negev as it often happens, or be in contact through the reality of Israeli society. Some foreigners can be fascinated by the fact that it is possible to pray in the Eastern Orthodox Church in Hebrew. I have always considered that the marvel is that God could tolerate that He could be praised and lauded, sanctified in the many tongues of the world by nations who do not understand or can even imagine what it means that through His Flesh, Jesus has made void and ineffective the wall of the separation between Israel and the Nations!
as years pass, I can speak some dozens of languages rather easily still as most “professional and trained” linguists can do. The best model I had in my life was Rasmus Rask (the Danish scholar of the 19th century), then Roman Jakobson indeed whose I knew from my early childhood but then for other reasons! The real example was certainly my very dear friend Fr. Michel van Esbroeck, late Jesuit and Bollandist (we worked on different subjects, especially the “two Caiaphas” in the Gospel of Matthew and the Profession of Faith by Simon-Peter son of Iona). Knowledge of languages and capacity to catch them quickly and understand their internal functioning is very special. In the case of clergy people, knowing and control of languages, speech means something else: it opens to the vast field of the immense human abilities to exist and create new things. Languages are then the means for more openness to all the peoples and most possible amount of persons in the richness of their minds.
This is what I would wish for this feast of Pesach and Easter 5771/2011. That each of us may meet with much spirituality and joy. This constantly obliges to overcome the meanness of many aspects of our daily lives in Jerusalem. We can be stiff, narrow-minded, stubborn and keep silent, reluctant to share, without the desire to consider that others are superior to ourselves.Speech as liturgy can be turned to slander and even to ritualized sort of dialogue with God.
The wonderful thing I discovered is that God gave me, in some unexpected way and after many years of some hell, to open the gates of this earthly and divine heavenly Jerusalem where I always wanted to live. Jerusalem is Israel the way I was taught in Judaism. I do not have political intention in writing this. Here, there are all sorts of nations that live and had lived before some Jews decided to come back to the Eretz Israel. Israel has to accept it as it is clear that it will have to accept the anteriority of Christianity and Islam, previous to his come-back here, say even two centuries ago. It humbles but at least it makes sense to recognize facts for what they are: it makes feel fre.
But since I was a child, I always felt I was born at Zion. I was not even a dream. I always heard of the reality of a living and frail State of Israel. On the other hand, the Hebrew and Aramaic prayers, the Yiddish “adaptations” were the sort of “lyulke/cradle” that embodied this existence of Jews and nations living together on the Place of Holiness. In some way, it is as if everyone could say the “Nunc Demittis” pronounced by Simon welcoming Jesus in the Temple. and still, things continue to develop for some unknown project. I could not expect that meeting with poets on the first day of Hanukkah 5771, one of them would catch my word an write too quickly a book of poetry with shared and stolen words to say that we spoke of spirituality and that she could eventually return to Jewish prayer. The problem in this country and heritage is not to use and abuse the people we meet. I spent my life never wanting to quit anyone but considering that Jesus’ words are most important and source of life: “And He (Jesus) was going forth getting through the middle of the crowds.
I always recall that we should never misuse prayer books. as it was previously written in the 18-19th centuries in the Jewish prayer-books: “Do not drive me crazy or out of my mind, conscience”. Something that is very comparable to the agreement passed by God and Satan and Satan agreed not to drive Job out of his brain. It may happen, in particular in the Eastern traditions that we clutch to words and expressions and consider them as rules and do not them to show the wide open scopes of life that they encompass.
May the blessings of the Lord cover all of you and of course much more than you alone, your families, your co-workers, the peoples you like and who like or love you and those who just hate you. In Jerusalem we are anonymously present for the time of birth that may turn to the resurrection. It takes lives to measure such a grace that has not measure for any human being!
av aleksandr (Winoradsky Frenkel)
April 18/5, 2011-7519 – 14 Nisan 5771 – 15 Jumada al-Ula 1432