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Archive for Setembre de 2011

One day, Rabbi Chayim of Sanz told the following story:

A man kept taking the wrong path in the forest for many days so he was lost and unable to find his way out. One day he saw another man in the distance. He ran towards the man. His heart was pounding in his chest, full of joy. «Now I will finally find the way out» he kept saying to himself. When he finally approached the man he asked: «Could you please tell me which path is the right one? I have been taking the wrong path in this forest for so many days!» The other man answered: «I no longer know which is the right path because I have also taken the wrong way, but this I can tell you: do not take the path that I am coming from because you will get lost. But if you want, let’s look for an exit together.»

 The rabbi added: «The same thing happens to us. This is something I can tell you: the path that we have walked until today will lead us nowhere. Today we need to look for a new path.»

 

This parable applies to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It is a crossroad upon which we need to reflect so that we can  determine  which new path each of us should  take. Based on our previous experiences, we probably will choose to walk toward a future full of hope. The two men in our story reject their past. However, our liturgy seems to reproach the two men this attitude and, inspired by the book of Eicha / Lamentations, says: «חדש ימינו כקדם chadesh yameinu ke kedem / Renew our days as you have done of old!» (End of Torah service, Mahzor page 605

 

The idea of חידוש chidush, renewal, fits perfectly with  Rabbi Chayim of Sanz’s parable: the person who is taking a new path after being lost in the forest for so many days. But the expression «כקדם ke––kedem / as days of old» seems to be at odds with the story because it seems to lead us toward the past rather than the future. There is no question that the author of the Book of Eicha asks forgiveness from God, but instead of looking for new days, the author wants to go back to a past that was apparently better. But that day is expected from year to year because during these days of judgment, who can boast of having a past without blame, a memory with no shadows. On the other hand, we should not blame ourselves for having erred on the path like the lost people in the forest. It is uncertainty that dominates and not the certainty of failure or success.

 

But allow me to indulge in a review of the meaning of the rootקדם kedem in the expression, «חדש ימינו כקדם chadesh yameinu ke kedem / Renew our days as you have done of old!» The root kedemקדם is very rich. It has three meanings that can be helpful to us. Kedemקדם is above all the places where the sun rises, the East, the Orient, the symbol of renewal, the symbol of a new day that is just beginning, the idea of creation of the world that Rosh Hashanah celebrates. «The Lord planted a garden in Eden, in the east…» (Gen 2:8) we read in Genesis. Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world, היום הרת עולם hayom harat olam, the day when the world was created, the day when the day became day, the beginning of history.

 

Kedem does not translate only into the realm of space but also into the realm of time. The place where the sun rises is not only a geographical place, but it also marks the beginning of a new day. Kedem is then not only the «Orient» but also «front.» The Midrash Rabbah plays on words to link the one in front with the one who fulfills God’s will. «If anybody deserves praise they say to that person: You precede (קדמת kadamta) the angels of the holy service.» (Genesis Rabbah 8) And then we have yemei kedem, that is to say «ancient times.» Kedem appeals to the nostalgic times of something established, fixed, eternal. «Turn us back O Eternal, to You and we will return. Renew for us this kedem.» This sentence then reminds us of both the creation of the world, the Orient, the leadership necessary for those who walk in front, and the nostalgic view into the past. During this time of transition between years, we should be inspired by these three elements.

 

But renewal, the principle of life, is the quintessential theme of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. It is not about how we think the future will look, but rather having a vision for the future. Remember the lost men in the forest. The situation did not ask them to plant their tents and cry and lament about their fate, but rather to continue the search for the «right path.» חדש ימינו כקדם chadesh yameinu ke-kedem is above all a call for life, and the text of the Akedah, Isaac’s sacrifice that we have read today, offers us a good example. Abraham was commanded to take his beloved son, Isaac, his only child, and to offer him as a sacrifice on a mountain. Abraham fulfilled the divine command. He woke up at dawn and tied Isaac to the altar.  As Abraham was raising the knife, an angel intervened to stop the fatal act. This text has inspired countless commentaries, but I will just focus on the one which emphasizes the end of the story: Isaac was not sacrificed.

 

It is interesting to frame this story in its historical context: it was a practice in some cultures to sacrifice children  to a divinity. The tragic story of Iphigenia, Agamemnon’s daughter, who was sacrificed in order to appease a goddess, has been immortalized in Greek, Latin and Western literature. Abraham wanted to show his loyalty to his new faith by following God’s order to sacrifice his son Isaac. But it is the conclusion of the story that provides the lesson God gives to Abraham and to us: Abraham’s God does not ultimately require the death of His followers through sacrifice… rather, it is life that is important.

 

Maimonides insists that the presence of the word ניסה nisah in the text which, placed at the opening of the chapter, makes it very clear to the reader that we are involved in a test: «And God put Abraham to the test.» (Gn 22:1) Abraham’s implication is very important, as emphasized by the Danish philosopher Soren Kirkegaard, but the happy ending is essential. In the words of Rabbi Louis Jacob, the heart of the conservative movement in UK, «The happy ending is not an emotional effect that diminishes the greatness of this episode. Because the God of Israel is the God of life, the lesson of this episode is that God does not require the death of Isaac… To ignore the end would be the equivalent of encouraging a morbid understanding of religion exalting what’s anti-rational in the human soul … at the cost of a healthy and normal view on life.»

 

This preference given to the principle of life can be found in the most simple gestures of Judaism as well as in its theology. The «חי chay» that some wear as a necklace, meaning «Life» has become a symbol of Judaic values. At the occasion of every holiday or happy event, before our lips touch the glass of wine, we cheer to each other «לחיים lechayim –– To life!» There are only three commandments that can never be transgressed: killing, incest and idolatry. Any other precept can be nullified in order to save a life. Even Shabbat, even Yom Kippur, can be nullified in order to safe a life. The Talmud is clear: «One who saves a life saves a world» (Pirke Avot 4:5)

 

Chadesh yamenu ke kedem חדש ימינו כקדם. Remember that the Eternal, our God, does not require human sacrifices. Remember that our religion has been advanced to its own time. Remember that we have the duty to make sure it still is, and that we ought to sanctify life.

 

When we hear  speeches by leaders who use religious language to defend sacrifices and call for human blood in order to defend their principles, remember that the spirit of religion cannot be betrayed. Religion’s reason for being is to sanctify life, not to kill it. The milchamot Adonay, the wars of the Lord, no longer exist. There is no longer Holy War. This is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. At the dawn of this new year, let us remember the reason why the Torah has been given to us, let us give the Torah its true value: «Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace. It is a tree of life to those that hold fast to it, and all who uphold it may be counted fortunate.» (Prov 3:17)

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Remember us for life,

our sovereign, who wishes us to live,

and write us in the Book of Life,

for your sake, ever-living God.

Rosh ha-Shanah morning amidah

 

This short passage from the Amidah might sound familiar to us because we repeat it every year from Rosh ha-Shanah and during all the High Holidays, these days when the community gathers. According to this text, it is God who writes down each persons’ name in The Book of Life. But Midrash Tanhuma presents us with a slightly different picture, referring to Adam, the first human being who was expelled from the Garden of Eden for having disobeyed God. His punishment is doubled because on the one hand, he will have to work hard to eat, and on the other, he is bringing death to humans.

However, Adam confronts God, saying: «Your Torah will say that I brought death into the world. I want to be considered responsible for the death of the sinners, but I do not want to be held responsible for the death of the just!» God answers him «Do not worry, Adam. I will ask each one to write down a story of their lives and to weigh it.» Therefore, according to this passage of the Midrash, it is not God but each of us who writes The Book of our Lives. This idea emphasizes our responsibility for our own actions.

Our lives do not depend on external, providential and deterministic interventions. We can shape our lives according to our own image. But, in the end, what is our image? Yes, we know very well that humans were created in God’s image, b’tselem elohim (Gn 1:27), but what is that image? What is that face? Do we know ourselves? Is it our true image or the image we think we present to others? If we are to write our names down in the Sefer ha-Hayim, in the Book of Life, how do we manage to have our names recorded in it? Is it a regular book? Do we really know ourselves enough to write a book that will be truly ours?

Tradition tells us to begin the year doing teshuvah, a return to our true selves. But needless to say, in order to come back to our true selves, first we need to know where we stand, where we are. Jackie Mason expressed this idea very well as he remembered his first visit to the therapist, who told him, «This is not the real you. We have to search for the real you.» Jackie Mason answered «If this is not the real me, where is it? And when we find it will I be able to recognize it? What will happen if I discover the real ME and I do not like it? And if I am not the real Me, why should I pay you?  The real Me will pay you!»

This story exemplifies for us the fear that we feel facing the possibility of discovering the «real me» whom we ignore and the immediate excuse saying, «It is not my fault! I am not responsible, someone else is.»  But the voice of Tradition forbids us to escape. It demands that we face reality, to stop dreaming for a moment and be honest with ourselves, one of the most difficult things to do because it does not give room for indulgence.

Once, the great Hassidic leader, Zusia, came to his followers. His eyes were red with tears, and his face was pale with fear.

«Zusia, what’s the matter? You look frightened!»

«The other day, I had a vision. In it, I learned the question that the angels will one day ask me about my life.»

The followers were puzzled. «Zusia, you are pious. You are scholarly and humble. You have helped so many of us. What question about your life could be so terrifying that you would be frightened to answer it?»

Zusia turned his gaze to heaven. «I have learned that the angels will not ask me, Why weren’t you a Moses, leading your people out of slavery?»

His followers persisted. «So, what will they ask you?»

«And I have learned,« Zusia sighed, «that the angels will not ask me, Why weren’t you a Joshua, leading your people into the promised land?»

One of his followers approached Zusia and placed his hands on Zusia’s shoulders. Looking him in the eyes, the follower demanded, «But what will they ask you?»

«They will say to me, Zusia, there was only one thing that no power of heaven or earth could have prevented you from becoming. They will say, Zusia, why weren’t you Zusia?»

Have you done during your life all those things that you were able to do? Have you used your skills and gifts to help others and to improve the world around you? Or only to profit from it? Have you been yourself? Or have you held yourself back?

Frequently we like to give an image of ourselves as a reaction to or in opposition to other people.  We like to label, and sometimes, instead of reflecting, asking ourselves what we really think, we act in a very superficial way. Today we are like Zusia. Our Mahzor reads:

«And all who come into the world pass before you like sheep for the shepherd for just as a shepherd numbers the flock passing the herd by the staff, so do you make us pass by before you and number and count and determine the life…»

Unetaneh tokef, Mahzor page 349

Like Zusia, we stand before God and before ourselves in judgment. We will not be compared to another person, only to ourselves and to the potential that it is in us but that we have not put into action yet.

The Torah gives us the example of Judah, the son of Jacob, brother of Joseph. Judah is like any of us, a fallible, imperfect human. He has played an active role in selling his brother, Joseph, into slavery, and he has mistreated his daughter in law, Tamar. Then Judah has to address the prince of Egypt about protecting his younger brother, Benjamin, whose life is in the hands of Judah. The text says: «Then Judah went up to him.» The peshat, the literal meaning of the text, is that he approached the prince, but the drash, the metaphoric level of reading, is that he approached himself because it is when he is close to himself, open and honest to himself, that he will be able to give the best of himself.

It is not wise to let impulses lead your life. The Shema reminds us of this point twice a day: «so you won’t go after the lust of your hearts or after what catches your eye.» (Nm 15:38) We should not follow the strong and violent voice of our desires, no, but that still small voice kol d’mama dakah (1 Kings 19:12) that dictates the ethical behavior which gives us peace of mind and spirit, reassuring us that we have done good.

Judah had sinned, as we have sinned during this past year, but it was given to him as it is given to us now the possibility to reconstruct ourselves, to build ourselves anew. The true teshuvah, the true repentance, begins then with coming back to the true self, acknowledging who we truly are, with no excuses, no masks, our real face, the only face with which we can turn to God.

The halachah, the Jewish law, teaches us that, during our lives, each of us should write a sefer Torah, a Torah scroll. This mitzvah, or precept, can be understood literally, but it can also be  interpreted metaphorically. Thus it is really us who will write the Book of our Life, even if it is God who inspires us, even if it is God who provides the ink, the pen and the parchment. It is us who decide the plot, the time when we want to start a new chapter.

Rosh ha-Shanah may seem insignificant. It is up to us to make it a time of reflection, a silence in this book that will allow us to think about, analyze, and discern which path we want to walk on. It will not be just turning the page, but a renewal, full of promises. With every New Year it seems that there is an omen for shalom, peace. But for peace, shalom, to be complete, shalem, it is necessary for it to be both internal and external.

Thus the book, that book that are to begin to write, will not be any type of book whose success depends on the plot or its literary quality, nor will it echo the latest trendy ideas. This book will be successful because it will take our true feelings into it, without hypocrisy, because ethics will find a pivotal role and will make its authors into better persons.

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Mentre el seu darrer discurs al israelites arriba a la fin, Moisès es preocupa més i més pel problema de la continuïtat. Com pot garantir que la historia del viatge que aquest poble ha fet a través del desert i la seva identitat no acabin diluint-se i desapareixent? Com hem vist anteriorment en parlar dels dos darrers preceptes dels 613 totals, tenen l’objectiu de garantir que els ensenyaments de Moisès siguin tramesos a les generacions futures mitjançant la lectura pública de la Torà i el precepte que cada persona escrigui una Torà.

En la lectura de Dt 32:1-52, Moisès encara està preocupat pel repte que la comunitat té al davant i presenta un darrer càntic que subratlla la importància de conservar el passat: “Recorda els temps antics,repassa els anys, generació per generació; pregunta-ho al teu pare i t’ho dirà, fes-t’ho contar pels ancians.” (Dt 32:7)

En parlar del passat hi ha una diferència bàsica entre memòria i història. La història narra els fets, allò que va tenir lloc. La memòria té a veure amb la relació entre el passat i nosaltres mateixos. És el passat tal com està reflectit en la nostra identitat.

Aquesta diferència queda clarament accentuada en les darreres paraules de Moisès. La primera meitat del verset ens parla d’història “Recorda els temps antics, repassa els anys, generació per generació.” “els temps antics” i repassar els anys són expressions d’història en el sentit objectiu i remot.

Però la segona meitat del verset ens suggereix que una comprensió objectiva de la història no és suficient: “pregunta-ho al teu pare i t’ho dirà, fes-t’ho contar pels ancians.” Aquí Moisès ens diu que hem de d’esforçar-nos per a comprendre el passat, fent preguntes i establint-hi un lligam personal, per adonar-nos que el passat és un missatge que els nostres avantpassats i els nostres pares ens han enviat. Aquí Moisès no ens parla d’història, sinó de memòria.

El repte d’agafar el passat i transformar-lo d’història en memòria està present en qüasi bé tots els aspectes de la vida jueva. Les festes del calendari són intents de transmetre aquesta immediatesa als moments històrics i de connectar-los amb les nostres vides, com per exemple, reviure l’èxode durant la nit de Pasqua, o la destrucció del Temple o l’exili el 9 del mes d’Av (entre Juliol i Agost). Igualment moltes tradicions vinculades al cicle de vida es centren en el recordar, des de triar noms de familiars ja morts per a criatures fins al trencar el got al final de la cerimònia de casament per a recordar la destrucció del Temple i la pregària del Kadix i del Izkor com a memòria dels morts.

En el pensament jueu existeix una altra diferència essencial entre història i memòria. La història és una disciplina acadèmica que només exigeix el coneixement del passat. La memòria, en la interpretació jueva, ens demana que aprenem les lliçons del passat i que les possem en pràctica en el futur.

El famós comentarista francès del segle XI, Raixi, ens suggereix que aquesta idea ja està present en les paraules de Moisès. Raixí ens proposa que “Recorda els temps antics”demana que la gent recordi els esdeveniments que varen tenir lloc en el passat, mentre que la segona meitat del verset, “repassa els anys,” es refereix no al passat sinó al futur. Aquestes paraules expressen el nostre deure de tenir en compte les implicacions del passat cara al futur.

Aquesta concepció de la memòria jueva que recorda el passat per a que influeixi en com entrem en relació amb el futur queda reflectida en el verb hebreu “zakhor” (Recorda). El Gran rabí del Regne Unit, R. Immanuel Jakobovitz, va subratllar com a en el llibre de Gènesis trobem tres referències que diuen que Déu recorda: “Déu es va recordar de Noè” (Gn 8:1) i el fa fer sortir de l’arca quan la terra ja estava eixuta; “… es va recordar d’Abraham” (Gn 19:21) i va salvar el seu nebot, Lot, de morir en la destrucció de Sodoma i Gomorra; “Aleshores Déu es va recordar de Raquel” (Gn 30:22) i li va donar un fill.

Cada cop que Déu es recorda, conclou Jakovobitz, no és per a quedar-se tancat en el passat sinó per a actuar per tal de protegir el futur.
Per això aquest és el concepte jueu de memòria: un procés que s’inicia amb la història però que no s’acaba amb ella. Ens demana no només que recordem el passat, sinó a més que l’interioritzem i que assumim el seu missatge per a conservar i continuar la identitat jueva per les generacions futures.

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Ha’Azinu

On the very last day of his life, the prophet Moshe delivers an extraordinary message to the people of Israel through the song, or poem, Ha’Azinu. While in the next and final parashah of the Torah, V’Zot haBrachah, Moshe will give a blessing to each tribe of Israel just before he dies, the words of Ha’Azinu are his final message to the people of Israel as a whole. The poem is extraordinary in its structure and its expanse, covering the terms of the covenantal relationship between God and Israel. In poetic form, Moshe relates the history of the relationship and foretells what the future will hold.

According to the tradition, this poem encapsulates the essence of the relationship of God with Israel, and in effect the entire Torah itself. Taken on a literal level, describing a future in which after exile Israel will war with the enemy who will be slain by the sword of God, one shudders at how this could be applied in contemporary terms. It is time that we take to task the essence of the poem, the essence of Torah: what it means that God is just and we wax fat. The question in front of each and every Jew is what is the nature of the covenant between God and Israel? This question is at the heart of this season of the Yamim Noraim – and it is probably the most important question facing each segment of humanity that claims it believes in God and follows a “holy scripture” as the “word of God”. If all of us were to be literalists, if all of us fundamentalists, the triumphalist orgiastic bloodletting that we encounter on the surface of this poem and is found in parallel religious traditions would unfold upon us. For this reason, the 21st century has seen the rapid growth of atheism and rejection of God.

But here we are, faithful Jews, still believing in God, the Eternal Mystery, the One we understand as the Creator of All Life, the Source of Conscious Being. Ironically, we must now show our faithfulness to God by contextualizing and containing some of the words of our ancestors that have been handed down to us as “the words of God”.

Today, we wax fat when we assert we know God’s will and God’s word. The faithlessness of idolatry described in the Ha’Azinu and the rest of Torah concerned the actual worship of wood and stone, of things. Ironically, the faithlessness of our generation is the veneration of the word more than the intent of the word itself. All we actually know is how our ancestors understood God’s will and word. In general, they established the parameters that we as Jews follow to this day in our covenant with God. We are the people of Israel, connected to the land of Israel, where we are to be a model nation in the service of God. We remain loyal to God, and loyal to our ancestral covenant with God, when we remember that the core principle of Torah is that we are here as to serve God. Given our evolving understanding of God as the One of which are all part and which flows through us, we follow Torah as it teaches us to preserve and enhance life.

Shabbat Shalom

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Les dues lectures més breus de tota la Torà, Nitsavim i va-eliekh, sempre es llegeixen juntes. Quan col·loquem els títols en línia colpeig el contrast entre els dos noms: Nitsavim significa “estar” i Vaielekh significa “i va anar.”

La paradoxa està servida. A Nitsavim el poble que a punt d’entrar a la terra promesa esta aturat. A Vaielekh, Moisès, que no els acompanyarà, va d’una tribu a una altra per a compartir els seus darrers pensaments.

Aquest contrast entre la comunitat i l’individu, entre l’element estàtic i l’element dinàmic queda també reflectit en els dos darrers preceptes d’un total de 613 que trobem en la secció d’aquesta setmana.

El penúltim precepte rep el nom de “Haqhel” o “reuneix!” Cada set anys durant la setmana de la festa de Sukkot de l’any sabàtic, tota la comunitat (“homes, dones i criatures, i els forasters que visquin a les teves ciutats,…” Dt 31,12) s’havia de reunir a Jerusalem per a escoltar la lectura pública de la Torà.

El llibre de Nehemies ens fa una vívida descripció (8:1 i ss) d’una d’aquestes trobades presidida per Esdres a la tornada de l’exili de Babilònia. A part de descriure la espectacular lectura per a la qual el poble s’havia reunit “com un sol home,” la descripció conté també un bon nombre d’elements que han esdevingut la base per com llegim avui la Torà a les nostres sinagogues: llegir la Torà des de una bimà o plataforma, dir una benedicció especial per la Torà, alçar el rotlle per tal que tota la comunitat la pugui veure, etc.

Els darrer dels 613 preceptes suggereix una aproximació diferent per a garantir la continuïtat de la tradició. El precepte deriva del verset “Ara, doncs, escriviu aquest càntic i ensenyeu-lo als fills d’Israel. Poseu-lo als seus llavis,…” (Dt 31,19)

Segons la majoria dels comentaristes tradicionals, el càntic al que està fent referència el text és tota la Torà, i el precepte d’escriure s’aplica a tota persona. Ja que clarament no s’espera que cada persona esdevingui un cal·lígraf i escrivà, podem observar el precepte creant la nostra pròpia biblioteca i estudiant els llibres, fent viable econòmicament la publicació de llibres. En els darrers anys s’ha posat de moda en el món jueu el fer un donatiu per a escriure una lletra de la Torà i participar en la creació d’un rotlle de la Torà.

Aquests dos darrers preceptes tracten el problema de com podem conservar i continuar la tradició de generació en generació. Però de fet aquests dos versets ens presenten dues vies ben diferents de com aconseguir-ho.

Comunitat i individu – la cerimònia del haqhel es desenvolupa davant de tota la comunitat. Escriure una Torà, però, és un acte privat i individual.

L’element passiu i l’element actiu – La lectura pública de la Torà és un esdeveniment passiu. La única cosa que requereix és escoltar. Per a escriure la Torà és necessari un element actiu: escriure. L’èmfasi no recau en l’orella sinó en la boca ja que el precepte consisteix en “posar en els llavis” per a que puguin explorar-la d’una manera activa.

L’element fix i l’element dinàmic – La lectura del haqhel només pot tenir lloc en un moment prefixat en un lloc preestablert. Segueix una estructura ordenada prèviament i mira de conservar la tradició. El precepte d’escriure la Torà pot ser observat en qualsevol moment i en qualsevol lloc.

Estudiats conjuntament aquests dos preceptes ens suggereixen que, buscant de garantir la continuïtat de la tradició, fàcilment ens podem trobar en una continua tensió entre la comunitat, que intenta conservar una interpretació fixa i universal de la tradició, i la recerca individual que vol conferir a la tradició una expressió més creativa i dinàmica.

Potser no podrem resoldre mai aquestes tensions. Potser no volem resoldre-les. Però en confrontar-les podem trobar un cert confort en un comentari de rabí Iekhiel Epstein (Lituània XIX) que en la seva introducció al seu llibre Arukh ha-Xulkhan es demana perquè el text fa referència a la Torà com a “càntic.” Heus ací la seva resposta: la tradició hebrea està farcida d’opinions divergents i de discussions i és per aquesta raó que la Torà és anomenada “càntic,” perquè una cançó és més bonica quan està escrita per a moltes veus creant una magnífica harmonia.

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Very Near Indeed

In her best-selling memoir “Eat, Pray, Love,” author Elizabeth Gilbert writes:

Traditionally, I have responded to the transcendent mystics of all religions. I have always responded with breathless excitement to anyone who has ever said that God does not live in a dogmatic scripture or in a distant throne in the sky, but instead abides very close to us indeed—much closer than we can imagine, breathing right through our own hearts.” (p. 14)

Throughout her quest for self-exploration, meaningful spirituality and personal empowerment, I wonder if Mrs. Gilbert read Moses’ words from Parashat Nitzavim. Speaking to the Israelites as they prepare to cross the Jordan River and step into the Promised Land, Moses reminds the Israelites:

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.”

(Deuteronomy 30:11-14).

Both Gilbert and Moses speak of a God that is eminently accessible. For Gilbert, that God is one that is near, within us, close to us, “breathing right through our own hearts.” For Moses, that God is a God who instructs us through loving commandments, and remains ever-present in the words we speak and the feelings of our hearts. For both Gilbert and Moses, God is with us; we just have to be open to the experience of letting God’s presence into our lives.

Moses’ message, couched in one of his final speeches to the Israelites comes at a most opportune time. We always read the words of Parashat Nitzavim on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah. As we prepare ourselves to hear the piercing cry of the shofar, as we seek t’shuva (repentance) for our misdeeds in the past year, and as we offer forgiveness to those who may have wronged us, the Torah’s framework provides us comfort on our most important journey. The gift of Torah is that it is accessible; Torah is found in the words we speak, the actions we perform, and the feelings we hold deep in our hearts. And if we allow the most basic lessons of Torah to be accessible to us, then we will realize that God’s presence is near to us as well, very near indeed.

Shabbat Shalom

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El meu pare era un arameu errant, que baixà a l’Egipte amb un grup petit i s’hi refugià. Allà es convertí en un gran poble, potent i nombrós. Els egipcis ens maltractaren, ens perseguiren i ens imposaren treballs pesats. Cridàrem a l’Etern, Déu dels nostres pares, i l’Etern escoltà el nostre clam i tingué en compte la nostra opressió, el nostre treball i la nostra pena. l’Etern ens féu sortir d’Egipte amb mà forta i amb braç poderós, enmig d’un gran terror, enmig de senyals i de prodigis…” (Dt 26,5-8)

Aquests versets estan inclosos en la lectura de la Torà d’aquesta setmana Dt 26,1-29,8, perquè es tracta de la declaració feta pels israelites quan portaven la ofrene de les primícies per primer cop al temple. Aquestes paraules també resultaran familiars a aquells que hagin participat del seder pasqual perquè constitueixen la base per a la narració que recorda la història de la sortida d’Egipte.

Sembla estrany que la haggadà esculli com a base de la seva narració aquests versets extrets del llibre de Deuteronomi, adreçats a una generació que en realitat no va participar de l’èxode. En comptes sembla que hauria estat més lògic que la haggadà hagués agafat textos del llibre de l’Èxode que descriuen “de primera mà” la experiència de l’èxode. Per què l’Haggadà es basa en una descripció de segona mà en comptes de la descripció més dramàtica i realista i directe de l’esdeveniment?

La història que llegim a Èxode és realment dramàtica i impressionant, però la breu presentació que llegim a Dt 26, que varen ser recitats pels israelites la primera vegada que varen portar la ofrena de les primícies al temple de Jerusalem, contenen tres elements que no estan presents en la primera narració i que són molt escaients quan volem recuperar i transmetre la nostra pròpia història a les futures generacions.

Un model de memòria – un dels principals temes de la nit pasqual és la memòria, la obligació de reviure les experiències del passat com si fossin nostres. Com diu l’Haggadà “en cada generació , cada u ha de considerar-se com si ell mateix hagués sortit d’Egipte.” Per aquesta raó és apropiat que el text en el que ens basem no sigui el del llibre de l’Èxode, que descriu l’esdeveniment des de la perspectiva dels protagonistes, sinó aquest passatge de Deuteronomi que va ser recitat per la primera generació que va haver de fer memòria i reviure el passat com si hagués estat una experiència personal.

Un viatge incomplet – la història, com la narra el llibre de l’èxode, és incompleta. Conclou amb els israelites que han deixat Egipte endinsant-se en el desert. En realitat el viatge no conclou amb l’entrada en el desert, sinó amb l’arribada a la terra promesa. Per aquesta raó és escaient que el model pel seder pasqual sigui el proposat pels israelites quan varen entrar a la terra. Per això, els 4 versets citats a l’Haggadà estan seguits per un cinquè verset que il·lumina l’Exode i la entrada a la terra: “

La llibertat com a mitjà, i no com a destinació – la narració de l’èxode es concentra en l’alliberament nacional dels israelites. La frase de Moisès “Deixa sortir el meu poble!” ha estat un lema utilitzat per molts moviments d’alliberament nacional al llarg de la història. En realitat hi ha gut una tendència a oblidar la segona part de la frase “Deixa sortir el meu poble…. per a que em serveixi.” La llibertat no és una finalitat en sí mateixa sinó més aviat un mitjà per a dedicar-se a una forma superior de servei. Per aquest raó és escaient que l’Haggadà esculli basar-se no en la història del llibre de l’Èxode que es concentra en l’alliberament físic dels israelites, sinó en els versets de Deuteronomi, recitats pels agriucltors israelites que compliren la seva obligació de dur les primícies. Allò que varen celebrar no era la llibertat que fer allò que volguessin, sinó la llibertat de dedicar-se a una forma superior de servei.

En escollir de prendre com a base de la història de l’èxode aquests versets, l’Haggadà transmet tres missatge formidables sobre la nostra relació amb la memòria. Per començar hem de reviure el nostre passat com a part de la nostra experiència. El viatge que descriu roman inacabat fins que no arribarem a la terra promesa. El nostre viatge cap a la llibertat no és un fi en sí mateix, sinó un mitjà que ens permet dedicar-nos a una forma de servei superior.

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