It is getting cold in Jerusalem. I am told every day. The first rain fell, the expected blessings. As every year, not that chilly, really cold after some days of sharav-שרב / khamsin, the desert wind I love when it rises up from the desert and looks “orange” in Hebrew, “yellow” in Arabic and Russian. This year I shall return to Jerusalem soon, after the fall of the leaves (Listopad = Листопад in Ukrainian = November).
Five years ago, I buried a woman in the South. The wind was swirling around the family and it was so dark, with a yelling thunderstorm, sand was blowing and covered us. It was about to absorb the departed. She was reposing not so far from the place where Abraham found his call to settle after her long journey through human life and long distances. The parshat “lekh lekhaלך-לך” (reading portion) of the week accounts Abraham’s journey from his homeland Ur-Kasdim, in Chaldea (Mesopotamia) till his circumcision at the age of 99 years-old with his young son Ishmael (Genesis/Bereishit 17:26).
There is this call: “lekhלך – go! move on/out” and according to the tradition, Abram could not leave his father’s house or make up his mind. Thus, God told him again “lekh lekhלך לך – go on, move out really, leave!” with another goal : “lekh lekhלך לך – go on, go out (into the unknown) and you will reach out to yourself”.
We know that Abram before he became Abraham quit his homeland and his father Terach after he destroyed all the idols as symbols of abomination; then, he went on a trip… It was certainly far more than a simple family clash. A serious search for God, the meaning of His call.
Still going on some “stumbling trip”. Judaism considers that Abraham was committed to ten “temptations – nissayonotנסיונות”, but these were more tests than “luring temptations” and rather “experiences, experimental zigzagging ways” to find the right place and become a man.
Abraham committed himself to a major human experience willingly, with the intimate conviction that it did make sense. It was called to become the one individual and person, conscious human being who he was called to be. This ahd been “warranted” by the promise that he would be given numerous blessings dispatched over all generations.
This seems a bit too much for one man. It also means that “zigzagging” (linso’aלנסוע = to travel, hinassotהנסות = to try, test, tempt) is not morally wrong. It may be a sort of additional educational system!
We were in the state of embryos (golemגולם); there is a right to wander, err, stay outside proper bounds provided that we don’t fall. Israeli youths love to travel after school to Kathmandu and maybe enjoy a Chabad Pessach Seder on the roof of the world, then take off to Europe, Asia, America, Australia and India. This year 5772/2011, one of the best known Israeli women in the street protests, Stav Shaffir, refers to Bhutan and Dzongkha, its national language… Aung San Suu Kyi, the Birman Nobel Prize woman winner was married to a British specialist of the Bhutanese culture… the land where “happiness and welfare” are a rule and a must at the present… I had it and kept it throughout my life when I studied Tibetan and learnt Himalayan Lepcha of Gangkok/Sikkim that I could practice online through the web. Himalaya is swallowing the Jewish globe-trotters of human nature and spirituality till they have a Seder and get into the cultural realm of the East.
Spiritual places are hits. It is exciting to discover that Jews do exist abroad as well as other human groups in their own environments. I know Japanese restaurants where nobody speaks Japanese, Thai cooks work with Arabs and Russians and waitresses are young Israeli girls whose ancestors lived in the Habsburg Empire, Romania or Caucasus.
When they are on their journey abroad, Abraham’s children continue to look at landscapes and peoples; they discover who they are, with a lot of multi-faceted variety of possible variants and choices. Other peoples would be more inquisitive and go through some psychoanalytic in-depth or surface introspection processes. Indeed, we are in a special area, with tons of youths circulating with “themselves” and writing thick copybooks in order to slice down their internal journeys.
They discover with much self-delight how pleasant it is to be en route to their ego’s. Some would nicely agree to share their rare if not unique self-picturing during a talk while others would wrap themselves into some their apparent certitudes, like fences
. The Russian connection does exist through extensive blogs of young Israelis who would never dare confide how life is both a joyous playtime and a burden for uncertain identities who should be protected and respected in order to mature and grow consistantly.
The trip may often be as painful as it was a hard test for Abraham. But his example is pretty much a unique model of all possible wanderings. Israel is maybe one of the very special countries where souls definitely cannot get sold for any spiritual or economic goals. There is no harm, no sin, nothing that can affect or injure the souls.
There is no way to control the development of the souls. Every soul has to knock here and there and find the way. It may include the need to take over wide ranges of open personal capacities. The Jews have learned in their turbulent journeys to face the various “paysages/landscapes” of the Nations as late Rav Yehudah Leon Askenazi used to say. It was his 15th hazkarah/הזכרה on November 3/ Mar ‘Heshvan 6, 5772.
Thirty years ago, I had been asked to assist him in writing a book on his life and religious convictions. He never rejected our co-work. We had a full year series of meetings, also in Jerusalem. He has been very touched that because of our working together, I could ask the hand of my wife on the Sea of Galilee and Jerusalem. I had met him as a child at the Scouts Israélites de France. He never argued or attacked my being a Christian and got to the specificity of a “tantamount testimony to be a Jew without pretence inside of the Church”.It is based on something that has no clutch with social or assimilation to any Gentile “paysage/landscape and context”.
Immense crowds of Jews experienced that over the long periods of dispersion.
This is why misconducts are so shameful since we instinctively have the keys to correct all human situations. At time it seems that we think to be rather reluctant to changes…
Six years ago, I unexpectedly was rather close, in Jerusalem, to the annual gay and lesbian pride as I was trying to get out of the mob. The police were everywhere and fights started down the street.
All monotheistic religions do condemn homosexuality. Today, American has “samesex” which means quite the same, but sounds “nicer”. I am rather reluctant to use the word “gay” for women. As it often happens in psychosocial analysis, “temptations and perversions or abnormalities to commonly admitted behaviors” are referred by the name of the place where it was usually. Lesbians have a “harbor” in the island of Lesbos, a maculine name. But Poetess and “teacheress” Sappho wrote there her hymns and songs, poems to womanhood.
Before the time of Noah – and this concerns himself as well -, sex and sins were mixing up with unclear moral rules. The Jewish attitude of total reluctance toward same-sex intercourses (Leviticus/VaYikra 18:22) is based on the rejection of the pagan (Egyptian, Sumerian, Greek and Latin pre-Christian). Before the Giving of the Torah and the firs tCommandments (Noahide) sexual practices were intermingling and not pre-determined (Sifra Aharey Mot 8:8-9).
“To’evahתועבה = abomination” consists in the process of reducing Humanity to a lower state. “Awahעוה ” – to crook, be crooked, wind feelings in displeasure” as in Talmud Sanhedrin 97b). “To’evahתועבה” means to “be wandering/mistaken away from the path of nature”.Abomination evolves into something else: the journey turns to be hellish and devilish. It is not a way to freedom, but to more than slavery or addiction. It destroys which is the goal of sins. Human nature and brains need to be educated and to understand how to overcome a sin. Sin is in the world. But the major element is that we can ask and get the way how never to lose our freedom and quit the scope of sins.
Paul of Tarsus has very severe words: “Do not be deceived: neither fornicators nor idolaters, adulterers, boy prostitutes, practicing homosexuals… will inherit the Kingdom of God… The body is not for immorality but for the Lord” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11.13). Thus, it is definitely normal and a part of the spiritual task of “spiritual guides” to strongly oppose same-sex demonstrations that often turn to provocative showoffs.
Clerics of all denominations and their congregations have to face at the present aggravated pedophilia and same-sex scandals. Some Churches push to consecration of open gay and lesbian pastors. Relations between Faith and religion, freedom of body/soul and renouncement to any sin or defective attitudes have led to constant combats that put human nature to carnal trials.
This is concomitant with our marching in to holy things and places (qodeshקודש). In this respect, God’s call to Abraham to “go on and leave, find himself” can be a personal and social inflamed problem. Secularization has brought us to new idolatry and we need a lot of inner resources to handle such modern-style sexual issues that are often discussed in psychology and anthropology.
More than ever before, it is so difficult to get mature and act with awareness and in a responsible way. It is even harder because sexual conducts and deviances did show from the beginning of human experience and history.There are terrible sufferings that derive from waves of freedom and they changed to severe restrictions. Thirty years ago HIV and AIDS obliged to carrying a full reconsideration of diseases, morals, but also humane care, social care, theological and spiritual care and loving-kindness.
I have spent two years as a social and spiritual assistant to the street people, which included a lot of male and female prostitutes. People just lost or cast away, totally desperate, drug-addicted, often dying of Aids. Trans-genders of all backgrounds that were far from the beaming queers.
We were quite amazed to see many Jews/Jewesses as if some absence of any hope would lead them astray from morals. Many of all these men and women had some basic faith that could keep them somehow on surface. This had been a very peculiar experience that made me understand a lot about identity problems as they show at the present in Israel. This is definitely not judgmental. There is more. The commandment “Lo tiqrevu legalot ervahלא תקרבו לגלות ערוה = you shall not approach a human being in view to commit a sexual crime” (Leviticus 20:13 on “abominationתועבה) requires a very profound capacity of loving-kindness.
The religious history of the Holy Land is paved, in all denominations, with the lives of all sexual wrongdoers who left themselves to reach out more mature and coherent ways. We are in times of deep violence shown in rampant wars, distrust, sexual criminal cases on probe. Homosexuals were deported as Jewish boys and girls were abused in the concentration camps, disrespected in their bodies and souls. Just as Lesbians and transgenders or people reduced to sexual objects.
It is thus a real question to correctly appraise why the secular body of Israeli society – the Supreme Court and the Police – is given the duty to protect any group, to safeguard their rights and to prevent various national communities against their violence and intense animosity. In the meanwhile, cleric of all monotheistic religions condemn and may fall into the same deviations that they strongly reprove.
Gay and Lesbian Prides are everywhere. The point is to understand why faith and spirituality call so many individuals and societies to “convert” or adopt new moral conducts while others dance in other life-styles.
Abraham returned unharmed to Beersheva. He had gotten to himself at a very high price. He got to the point as if it were evident. Indeed, it is evident and the normal life path fvcor each humane being to be tested. Then, things are more difficult to face in “solitude”. Nobody is alone, but it is the result of having found themselves. It is a must to welcome everybody joyously and with radiant care!
av aleksandr (Winoradsky Frenkel)