четверг, 8 июня 2017 г.

From Jews to Greeks

From Jews to Greeks
Boris Gulko
            I belong to the modern Orthodox (Mo) Jews. MO seek to keep the commandments of the Torah, and at the same time master secular knowledge and profession. During the celebration of Chanukah, a respected member of our synagogue, a professor of psychology, remarked - are we celebrating the defeat of our predecessors?
            Throughout its history, the Jews had to closely associate with many peoples. At the lecture of the linguist A.Y. Militariev, I learned that the Jews has learned surprisingly little out of their stay in Egypt. Hebrew has only about 30 Egyptian words, while there are about 300 Jewish words in Egyptian, many for the most important concepts. However, our clash with Greeks turned out to be a lot more essential then with Egyptians.
            In 332 BC Judea became a part of the empire of Alexander the Great. In the following centuries, it was controlled by the Greek rulers of Egypt Ptolemy and by  the Greek rulers of Syrian kingdom, Seleucids. The Hasmonean revolt (167-142 BC) restored the independence of Judea, but a century after that the Greek influence on the Jews was still strong. Founded by Alexander the Macedonian and named in his honor,   Alexandria for many centuries remained one of the main cultural and economic centers of both Greeks and Jews.
            The history of the ancient Greeks is exceptional. They created almost all sciences and arts and achieved perfection in some of them, not surpassed until now. It is unlikely that anyone who can recall a writer greater than Homer or a philosopher equal Plato and Aristotle. And a copy of the sculpture "Laocoön” found in Rome in 1505, created in Pergamum in 200 BC, was the envy of the genius Michelangelo.
            Thus the objects of the national pride of the Jews, such as scientists - Nobel laureates, great artists, poets, writers, musicians - they all inherit the traditions we took over from the Hellenes. Even Karl Marx we are not very proud of wrote his doctoral dissertation on the philosophy of the ancient Greek, Epicurus.
            However, the Greeks received even more from us. They acquired religion.
            The beliefs of the Hellenes were colorful. They abundantly nourished art. But they could not sustain the 400-year rivalry with Judaism and were rejected. It started with the first translation of the Torah into Greek by Ptolemy II Philadelphiu in 3rd century BC. It was called Septuagint.
            Two and a half centuries, beginning with the Hasmonean uprising and until the catastrophe of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, were full of internal religious wars of the Jews.
            The main rivals were the Sadducees sects, to which the high priests belonged - according to some opinions - all the high priests of the Second Temple period, the temple nobility, as well as the well-to-do people, and the Pharisees -- zealously religious simple people. The Hasmonean family, by status, should have been more of a Sadducees, but it had a Pharisaic view. However, their descendant, who ruled in the next generation - Hyrcan the First I - joined the Sadducees. In the war of his son Alexander Yanais with the Pharisees, according to the largest Jewish historian of antiquity Josephus Flavius, who wrote - characteristically - in Greek, 56,000 Jews were killed. The war for the throne between the two sons of Alexander Yanais completed the independence of Judea - one of the sons in 63 BC called to the aid of Gnaeus Pompey with the Roman army.
            By the time of the uprising against the Romans - by 66 AC -  the Jewish community consisted of Sadducees and Pharisees who hated each other, Zealots extremists, Sicari terrorists. They were diluted by the Hellenized Jews. The Nazareth sect was gaining popularity. They believed that the Messiah had already been announced. The Romans crucified the Mashiah[A1]  (Messiah), but he revived, appeared to his disciples and promised to come again. There were a lot of stories about that, but the Gospels that were canonized later were not written yet.
            There was also a sect of the Essenes. These retired from society to the Dead Sea in Qumran, in which they hid the manuscripts that are still being discovered. Preaching celibacy, the Essenes did not leave offspring.
            All these sects - to put it mildly - did not get along amongst themselves. Extremely hostile was the reaction to the Nazarenes, which was reflected even in the addition to the text of the daily prayer. Compare: today, many members of one of the significant Hasidic communities believe that their departed our world rabbi is Mashiach. And they remain an important part of the Jewish world.
            When in the course of the uprising of 66 the Romans besieged Jerusalem, the civil war continued between the three Jewish groups. One of them burned warehouses with food. Among the besieged - according to Flavius - 1 100 000 people died of hunger. The rest were sold into slavery. Our sages determined that the loss of the Second Temple and our country was our punishment for the senseless hatred of each other.
            In the historical perspective, the catastrophe of wars with the Romans was experienced only by the Pharisees and Nazareth. But the latter were mostly the Greeks who joined this Jewish sect. The Jewish "apostle of the Gentiles" Paul, who led the sect after the execution by the Jews of the brother of Jesus Jacob, allowed non-Jews to join the Nazarenes without circumcision. The Greeks accepted the invitation.
            The moment when Christianity became an independent religion, and not a Jewish sect, was the Council of Nicaea in 325 years. On it, Christians replaced the Sabbath with Sunday and recognized Jesus as a God. The second was in the tradition of the Romans, who deified not only the great Julius Caesar, but also the worthless Claudius. In the Jewish understanding of the Most High, there is no place for such an expansion.
            However, the idea of ​​the Trinity became the reason for many intra-Christian conflicts. So, in the 13th century the Albigensian Crusade was organized, against its opponents, a sect called the Cathars, destroying about a million people.
            Christianity, which has become the largest world religion, owes its distribution to the symbiosis of the Jewish and Greek components. The contribution of Hellenism - a weighty appendage to Jewish theology - comes from the Greeks aesthetics.
            The music of Handel and Bach, Madonnas of Leonardo, Raphael and Murillo, the works of the best sculptors, the architectural perfection of many cathedrals were a huge emotional addition to worship.
            In 1992, in the cathedral of Leon, Spain - the former capital of the Leon-Castile Kingdom -- I visited the exhibit "Music and Religion." The majestic basilica was filled with sculptures and paintings depicting musical subjects from the Bible brought there from all over Spain, from somewhere beneath the dome enchanting music can be heard. I experienced an intense aesthetic,  almost erotic enjoyment.
            Two years later I showed Paris to my family.  We walked along the right bank of the Seine along the greatest architectural masterpiece of the world - Notre Dame de Paris. The newly opened building prospects were breathtaking. My 13-year-old son David spent the previous year in Israel and became a zealous Jew while being there. "When the Messiah comes, this cathedral will turn into a synagogue," he suggested.
            The absence of visible objects in the Jewish liturgy is explained by the second Sinai commandment: "... You shall not make for yourself a carved imageany likeness of anything that is in heaven above, and what is on the earth below, and what is in the water below the earth. Do not worship them and do not serve them ... "It can be assumed that realistic images are meant.
            With the emergence of modernism we see some remarkable Jewish painters. Camille Pissarro, Chaim Soutine, Amedeo Modigliani, Marc Chagall became the founders of new styles in Art.  The Chagall Museum in Nice has on display his “Biblical Images" which shows several paintings on the topics of TANAKH. But there are still no images in the synagogues.
            In the twentieth century, Christian trends, which used aesthetics in worship, withered away. First there was a terrible catastrophe in Russia. Russian Orthodox people in the Civil war burned their churches, killed 11 million their own believers and, by the by, several hundred thousand Jews. Half a century later, Catholics in Europe, without any reason, abandoned their cathedrals.
            Now the Russian authorities are trying to bring religiousness back to the country. A central idea is needed for the revival of spirituality. What would this idea be?
            Recently I was in correspondence with two Russian Orthodox priests. One of them, referring to the words of the apostle Paul "if there was no Resurrection of Christ, then our faith and hope are vain," wrote in his article: "The fact of the Resurrection of Christ is one of the most important, and given these words by "the Apostle of Languages” ​it may be the most important foundations of our faith." Another one put it simply: "If Christ died and rose again, our faith is true." I asked the first: "If souls, as we know, are immortal, the status of Jesus differs from others in that not only that the soul remained immortal, but the body also resurrected. However, the body can not enter the spiritual worlds, where there is no room for materiality. Where is Jesus then with his body? Near the Most High, as we know, there is no bodily form, and the version of Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel is just a beautiful allegory.
            The Jews have a notion that the prophet Elijah remained in the body. In difficult times he can help a man out. We pour a glass of wine during an Easter Seder and open the door. But we believe that he is not dead, but is somewhere in this world."
            I wrote to another priest that I do not understand the importance of his proof. "The prophet Elisha resurrected a young man. Jesus Himself resurrected Lazarus. So what? For those times it was nothing unusual. 
            The young man raised by Elisha, a Jewish tradition says, grew up to be the prophet Jonah. He spent 3 days in the belly of the fish and remained alive. This is a far greater miracle than a resurrection from the dead, which, according to the prophet Ezekiel, is in the future for all of us"
            I was perplexed: TANAKH (Old Testament) told the Christians about the Sinai revelation, about the 10 commandments. They are given the psalms of David, the prophets, the scriptures. Why does the whole faith of my correspondents depends, as they say, on the 2,000-years-old resurrection of one Jew? But then I realized: if this is not a small miracle by Jewish standards, then Christianity will be indistinguishable from its maternal religion, it will merge with it and disappear.
            Protestants evangelists, like Jews, follow the ban on images in their prayer houses. An important focus of their spiritual life is the miraculous transformations of the Jews in the last century - our return to the Land of Israel, the supernatural victories like those gained in the Six Day War, the anniversary of which we celebrate these days. Like the Jews, evangelicals expect the coming of the Mashiach after the miraculous revival of Israel. In his personality, they diverge with the Jews, but this dark question will be resolved by the future itself.
            In the twentieth century, Christian trends, which used aesthetics in worship,  withered. First there was a terrible catastrophe in Russia. The Orthodox people in the civil war burned the church, interrupted 11 million co-religionists and, in a way, several hundred thousand Jews. Half a century later, Catholics in Europe, without cause, abandoned their cathedrals.
            Now the Russian authorities are trying to bring religiousness back to the country. A central idea is needed for the revival of spirituality, What is it?
            Recently I was in correspondence with two Orthodox priests. One of them, referring to the words of the apostle Paul, that "if there was no Resurrection of Christ, then our faith and hope are vain," wrote in his article: "The fact of the Resurrection of Christ is one of the most important, and given these words by "he Apostle of Languages​​" it may be the most important of the foundations of our faith."
            Another one put it simply: "If Christ died and rose again, our faith is true." I asked the first: "If souls, as we know, are immortal, the status of Jesus differs from others in that not only the soul remained immortal, but the body also resurrected. However, the body can not enter the spiritual worlds, where there is no room for materiality. Where is Jesus then with his body? Near the Most High, as we know, there is no bodily form, and the version of Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel is just a beautiful allegory.
            The Jews have a notion that the prophet Elijah remained in the body. In difficult times he can help a man out. We pour a glass of wine during the Easter Seder and open the door. But we believe that he is not dead, but is somewhere in this world. "
            I wrote to another priest that I do not understand the importance of his proof. "The prophet Elisha resurrected the young man. Jesus Himself resurrected Lazarus. So what? For those times it was almost everyday occurrence.
            Raised by Elisha, a young man, a Jewish tradition says, grew up in the prophet Jonah. He spent 3 days in the belly of the fish and was alive. This is a far greater miracle than a resurrection from the dead, which, according to the prophet Ezekiel, is, for all of us. "
            I was perplexed: TANAKH (Old Testament) told the Christians about the Sinai revelation, about the 10 commandments. They are given in the psalms of David, the prophets, the scriptures. Why does the whole faith of my correspondents depend, as they say, on the 2,000-year-old resurrection of a Jew? But then I realized: if this is not a small miracle by Jewish standards, then Christianity will be indistinguishable from its maternal religion, it will merge with it and disappear.
            Protestant Evangelicals, like Jews, follow the ban on images in their prayer houses. An important focus of their spiritual life is the miraculous transformations of the Jews in the last century - our return to the Land of Israel, the supernatural victories like those gained in the Six Day War, the anniversary of which we celebrated recently. Like the Jews, evangelicals expect the coming of the Messiah, after the miraculous revival of Israel. They diverge from the Jews as far as His personality, but this mute point will be resolved by the future itself.
            Evangelicals are the only dynamic Christian denomination, it has in the US 60-70 million followers. Their active support of the Jewish project in the Land of Israel seems to provide them with the spiritual help of Heaven themselves.
        And what about the direct legacy of the Greeks - Orthodoxy? In my experience I often come across Eastern Orthodox clerics who are  Jews. The most famous of them is Archpriest Alexander Men, who was hacked by his co-religionists with an ax. Depressive self-awareness of the Orthodox Jew, who belongs to the only direction of Christianity that preserved the doctrine of anti-Semitism, expressed in the lines of this verse the theology teacher I.A. Zabezhinsky:
            "You can leave the Church only if you lose your mind ... this is a bitter understanding of what could have happened to me, or even can happen at any moment ... If only we had triply unwise patriarch. If only we had quadruple tyrant bishops, greedy for money and power. Even if 90% of them were pederasts (Lord save us from this madness), without the Church there is no salvation."
            Why does this Jew have no salvation without a church? Is it not about him Mandelshtam[A2]  wrote these lines: "Your kinship and boring neighborhood \ We knowingly and freely despise."
            Apparently, our rivalry with the Greeks has not yet ended.


                                                                       Translated by Alla Axelrod  06/07/2027


 [A1]Jews call Messiah Mashiah.
 [A2]Osip Mandelshtam 1891-1938 was one of the greatest Russian poets of the 20th century, he died in Stalin’s GULAG camps. 

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Красильщиков Аркадий - сын Льва. Родился в Ленинграде. 18 декабря 1945 г. За годы трудовой деятельности перевел на стружку центнеры железа,километры кинопленки, тонну бумаги, иссушил море чернил, убил четыре компьютера и продолжает заниматься этой разрушительной деятельностью.
Плюсы: построил три дома (один в Израиле), родил двоих детей, посадил целую рощу, собрал 597 кг.грибов и увидел четырех внучек..