We are on Shabbat Nasoנשא in which is read the longest reading portion in the Book of Bemidbar-במדבר/Numbers 4:21-7:89. It deals with the laws governing the service inside the Tent of the Meeting, also the status of “nazirנזיר – nazarite” (who goes away or aside from the society, abstains from drinking wine. He gets God’s crown on his head and a total spirit of freedom.
This has always been a major life choice in Judaism, but too often confronted with Christian monastics views as lifeless. R. Shimon bar Yochai was a nazirite – so? Longhair down to thighs – eyes of burning interiority or hippy-yuppie trekking to some isolated mount (Bhutan as Phuket island in Thailand are en vogue with a drop in Thailand). Eastern Orthodox monks have the same look while, in the West, shaven skulls are humbly “clean-cut”. Jewish ancient nazarites as Christian monks are called to control their desires and get thus free – also from counting and polishing their hair constantly.
We often seem to ask the right question: whom God decided to chose and to whom did He gave or more accurately did He entrust the Torah and the Oral Law? At the present, the competition is just wild, nuts, berserk, frantic, infuriated. True. Shavuotשבועות – together with Christian new wave Western style Pentecost – are bonkers (cf. British naval slang: slightly drunken” with some touch of lightly crazy sexual fire).
We have the same in Jerusalem for Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles. But it is far more under control. Charismatic Shavuot and Western Christian New wave believers dance, scream, rock ‘n roll Hebrew psalms, speak in tongues. Long robes, white to orange through all sorts of rainbow truly beautiful clothes, makeup of essential products, shofar, harps, lyres, cymbals, and there it goes “Hallelujah, Blessed be the Lord, Baruch HaShem, yom-yomברוך ה’ יום יום – everyday”.
Right, Israel pathetically needs supporters or just feels the nation needs contacts, desperately and joyously at the same time. Then, we face an ethical issue. Can we play the fool with God Himself? The show can be gorgeously joyous; the same people would not miss their flight to some other continent and this ecstatic blowout will change to desperate rave-in from one airport to another. In the meanwhile, they would cross – but not meet – Orthodox Jews (they often give them a spit or two), Eastern Orthodox Christians from Russia (long-beards and hair covers for women, Slava Tebe, Gospodi/Слава Тебе Господи (exactly the same as our “Baruch HaShem…).
This year a large Brazilian group of visitors; it is going to be winter time there and it is better to warm up here. No. This year, “the Big Hug”, apparently run by some Dutch-speakers from Belgium seems to fade away as years pass. Not a Shavuot/Pentecost-linked movement. They met on the net. They could gather and get acquainted in Jerusalem. Indeed, the dilemma’s are basically the same: what to do with your mouth? To do or listen? Or, to speak and repeat the same truisms, with more or less conviction? We love to hug in Israel. Shoulders call upon shoulders and cheeks kiss other tanned fresh cheeks sometimes with a lot of friendship and joyfully.
This very American behavior was also largely development by late Diana, the Princess of Wales. We need warmth, people need warmth, Jews need warmth and even the goyim (Nations) need warmth. There is really something like shraviשרבי (wilderness wind) pep and dash these days. Is it mainly due to the development of conflicts at every level of the ruling leaderships, killings, snipers, bulldozers, tanks? “Dashד”ש = דרישת שלום” is the word in Hebrew for this hugging kissing warmth that makes you feel a “chosen” for a short while.
“Hug” comes from Old Norse “hugur – soul, mood, thought” – “hugsa – to think, remember, mind, comfort” – Germ. “Hegen – to cherish, cf. to make a hedge”. I recently met a nice group of sociologists or so that reflected in Dutch on “verheugen/memorizing and thinking and get clsoe”“Dash” is Hebrew is just sweet; it was “dashdesh/dasheshדשדש-דשש – to stamp upon”… “tramp a drunken person”, states Targum Isaiah 19:14.
When the Spirit was spread over Jerusalem at Pentecost, it is said that people looked a bit “drunk” (Acts of Apostles 2:13). This group gathered with a real question – nothing to do with porn or sex: human beings are supposedly 37,2C in the morning and can show some comforting warmth, which became also a psychological assistance method in this country.
Incidentally, during the Eastern Byzantine Divine Liturgy, the priest pours hot water into the cup of red wine (cf. blood) because Jesus is considered as risen from the dead and thus has a “humane” temperature (besides all other cultural explanations).
Still, the reading portion of the week does not only focus on all that. Firstly, there is the verse of Bemidbar/Numbers 6:22-27 called the “Birkat Kohanimברכת כהנים – Priestly Blessing”. The blessing is recited daily and has been throughout the age in most peculiar places of the world.
This year, we want to climb up the Temple Mount. Then we must be aware that this blessing is the last priestly and sacrificial act perpetually performed by the Jews and inherited from the Temple Service.
It implicitly extends God’s blessing to all the Nations and the kohanim are totally overshadowed by their prayer-shawls, they separate their fingers to let the Shekhinah come through and reach out to the people. Chosen? Yes, but not for themselves. Someway, spirituality always stumbles between low-profiled humility and high-tech arrogance.
Luther had translated with a rare exactitude the Massoretic verse of Num. 7:89: “Moses…would hear the Voice “spoken him – meddaber elavמדבר אליו –redend zu sich” from above the cover (kaporet) of the Tent”. This is a grammatical quiz that is very intriguing. R. Leibowitz traced back to Maimonides as to Rashi. “meddaberמדבר” is a reflexive “mitdaberמתדבר, shortened into meddaberמדבר”. It means that God was speaking to Himself when meeting with Moses. This is the quiz, a permanent quiz.
Everything comes from Him and returns to Him (cf. John 13:3). Mishleyמשלי/Proverbs16:4 stated likewise that “God makes everything for Himself”. Thus, it means that from Moses to us and ahead of us God only discusses with Himself and shares what humans are able to understand, cope with, deny at times or rediscover fortuitously.
This Saturday-Sunday, the Eastern Orthodox and local Oriental/ancient Christian Churches will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost and the Spreading of the Holy Spirit. One of the very interesting decisions taken by the Roman Catholic Church during the Second Council of Vatican (1965) was to reintroduce, as a consequence of common studies and dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, various prayers to the Holy Spirit during the liturgies.
We pretend to commemorate the Second Vatican Council. Pretend because it is not possible to shorten the decision to the sole Catholic and Latin world and act as if the whole of the faithful should do the same. Is it wise and “meaningful” to have an international so-called “interfaith broadcasting” at a minor Oriental Catholic church in Jerusalem just on the day the “Mother of all Churches” and the Orthodox plus Oriental Churches celebrate the Giving of the Holy Spirit in their own communities and according to their “most venerable traditions”… and more than that on this year as it falls on the celebration day of SS Constantine and Helena, those who “regulated” Christianity from the finding of the True Cross down to our days… Simple goodwill does not suffice, it may rebuke in times of hardships. The Spirit unites, does not divide according to our “wandering desires”.
Oriental Churches have always been very Spirit-oriented as the “Ruah Elokim merachefetרוח אלהים מרחפת, the Spirit of God was sweeping as the eagle over the water” (Gen. 1:2). Pentecost is Greek for Arabic Hamsin (sounds like sharav!) = 50. It seems to be confusing for some Jews abroad. The Russians call the Feast “Most Holy Troytza/Пресвятая Троица” which underscores the very complex definition of the Trinity vs. One God. Monday is more specifically the “Day of the Holy Spirit”.
Somehow, Shavuot and Pentecost, in multi-faceted ways in the Jewish and Christian traditions, point out that we are reinvigorated by God’s Gifts Who blows into our nostrils the soul of warmth and comfort. Maybe we get to cuddling hugs that warm us up, eh like good pastries, look around and have a question: “Can we tame each other, which means that we can respect each other and the immense value of our being alive?”
av aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)