Syntax And Socializing, We Are Alive!

Avraham Ben Baruch,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Avraham Ben Baruch
Talmudist and specialist of intercultural situations in Israeli society

There are times and delays, years, months and days. They swing along the calendars that we have defined. There are tons of calendars, like logs that allow those humans who can calculate to get some insights in the expanding powers, long beyond our being aware of how we come and go.

Talmud Yevamot 62b shows a reality that we cannot grasp but to which we clutch as to a fancying tool "The Messiah will come when all the (human) generations will be born". Amazing, because we have no idea of which scheduled generation we belong to...

I start this blog on Mar Cheshvan 13, 5778, an autumnal portion of the year that is already a part of "choref-חורף/winter" according to the Jewish tradition. It is known to be a special month: no feasts and no particular mitzvot to be accomplished... as if the implementing of all the mitzvot were not to be the goal and life-line of our survival. I am not sure that "survival" is the exact word. We love to say that we are survivors and, historically speaking, this sounds correct. I would hesitate though... not that sure of this historic steeple-chasing process.

One thing seems evident: the course of life appears to be on a constant struggle to overstep some barrier, to break through hindrances that often remain in the shape of ghostly shades. "Survival" is too much in English because it relates to a sort of "surplus" and that the Latin prefix "sur-" roughly corresponds to British "over-", the same in Dutch, "über" in German... This explains why, in Yiddish, we are told to "survive = iberleb'n\איבערלעבן". Still, who are we to cross life by running over life? It sounds bizarre. In Hebrew, the verbal Hitpael form allows our minds to fathom that dynamics drift us far away to renewed topics, prospects, projects, concepts, without taking a leave of anybody or ourselves. As when we say "lehit'/להת'' instead of "levihra'ot, see you (again)", which is really more powerful than the common Italian ciao, German Tschüss, Russian пока /poka/... the French would say "à plus".

The plus is precisely that we are here. Well, in Israel, after the autumnal feasts of renewal, we expect some rain. It shows nowadays with with hail, cold, floods. Cheshvan/חשון is a time of "plus", not necessarily a month of "surplus". Just ordinary days, except that their messianic features are overshadowed by the fresh memory of a possible destruction. Yet it brings forth an in-born hope that overcomes all hopes. Cheshvan is the month of the Flood or "Mabool/מבול'' because it started on Mar Cheshvan 17 and ceased the following year on the 27th day of the same month.

Things could stop. It appears that they did not. We experience this nightmare quite often and repeatedly on a regular basis: destruction is barred by some extravagant dynamic impulse to walk ahead...

I do believe in God. Of course, HaSHem is more correct because the Name surpasses all names, all speech capacities. It is the linguistic tongue-twister that makes reflection and languages slip when we think that we control the words we were given by birth or because of our life-paths. I would say more accurately that may be He believed in me and my family or parentage. But as Yossel Ben Yossel Rakover of Ternopol wrote as he was about to die in the Warsaw Ghetto, I feel a special tempo that beats again and again: "Even if You, HaShem, would reject me, I would not stop trusting and believing in You". Just can' help as many can't either.

I have no relatives, no direct family. It never really thought it is possible. There must be someone, somewhere. At Yad VaShem, I see how people who got separated during the time of the Churban suddenly meet right out of some blue moon at the gate of the place. But the point is that there is a gap. My parents were born in Russia, let's say Ukraine because we love to break down the former immense empire and union of Soviet republics. They were born with the 20th century and I only showed in the middle of it. Just to memorize that some pogroms, killings, Shoah, Catastrophe had passed. All the family had been swallowed in the bonfires of revolutions, hatred, alterity, exclusion. None was called to survive. I inherited the mitzvah to give life to two children in order to walk on His ways.

Isaac Bashevis Singer's words are written at Yad VaShem: "Olam she'avar/עולם שעבר = a world that passed over", also a society, people, human and humane beings who were a part of this "flood of generation to generation". This is why I love Yiddish. It is not only my mother tongue, it is the refreshing memory of words that sprang from all over so many landscapes. Some people consider that these soils and countries were typically European. Yiddish is connected with another memory: it is the 10th century Jewish Esperanto, vividly created by men, women and children whose daily nourishment was the reality of Zion and Jerusalem whilst discussing of the Torah and the Mishnah, the Gemarah in a familiar way.

There is a kind of a syntax that directs our common life-paths, building up a special society of human-e beings born to witness to a flood whose waters are only composed of seeds of life. Languages have grammars, not always... Chinese has no real tenses, Afrikaans though born out of Creole-like Dutch in a South African Bantu environment shows similarities with Swahili and the Namibian Herrero tongues. Yet there exists word orders that regulate the logics of mental ways of thinking.

Yiddish traces me back to some speech and lexicon as it was in use some 120 years ago in the shtetlech of Transcarpathia, down the Bug and Nikolayev in Russian, Mykoalyiv in Ukrainian. Some floods have passed... Usual stuff. But typing on a laptop for an Israeli blog online has nothing to do with any surviving: it is just a mechaye, i. e. normal stuff, a blessing.

"Mabool" is the Flood and, in Hebrew, we speak of "meboolbal/מבולבל", when things or situations are confused, twisted, weirdo. We are told the nations are like swarms raging around on a storm-beaten globe.

This year is special. We have the privilege to see a society that looks for its identity and structure. Israel is a reality and this is a miracle for each of us. And our eyes can see what generations of Jews have seen in their davenen, in their daily study, in their dreams. Our eyes see the land but also utter in new words the substantial experience of setting up the new syntax of our old-new society smashed from all part of the world into a living and dynamic laboratory. This sight corresponds to some new mitzvah to retain the records of such views because they are not only our's: they belong to age-long individuals and families.

Indeed, Hebrew "tachbir/תחביר = syntax" may be linked to "chevra/חברה = society or even socializing" because we can hang out and build, just build and build anew a sense of true humanness.

There are times and delays, years, months and days. They swing along the calendars that we have defined. There are tons of calendars, like logs that allow those humans who can calculate to get some insights in the expanding powers, long beyond our being aware of how we come and go.

Talmud Yevamot 62b shows a reality that we cannot grasp but to which we clutch as to a fancying tool "The Messiah will come when all the (human) generations will be born". Amazing, because we have no idea of which scheduled generation we belong to...

I start this blog on Mar Cheshvan 13, 5778, an autumnal portion of the year that is already a part of "choref-חורף/winter" according to the Jewish tradition. It is known to be a special month: no feasts and no particular mitzvot to be accomplished... as if the implementing of all the mitzvot were not to be the goal and life-line of our survival. I am not sure that "survival" is the exact word. We love to say that we are survivors and, historically speaking, this sounds correct. I would hesitate though... not that sure of this historic steeple-chasing process.

One thing seems evident: the course of life appears to be on a constant struggle to overstep some barrier, to break through hindrances that often remain in the shape of ghostly shades. "Survival" is too much in English because it relates to a sort of "surplus" and that the Latin prefix "sur-" roughly corresponds to British "over-", the same in Dutch, "über" in German... This explains why, in Yiddish, we are told to "survive = iberleb'n\איבערלעבן". Still, who are we to cross life by running over life? It sounds bizarre. In Hebrew, the verbal Hitpael form allows our minds to fathom that dynamics drift us far away to renewed topics, prospects, projects, concepts, without taking a leave of anybody or ourselves. As when we say "lehit'/להת'' instead of "levihra'ot, see you (again)", which is really more powerful than the common Italian ciao, German Tschüss, Russian пока /poka/... the French would say "à plus".

The plus is precisely that we are here. Well, in Israel, after the autumnal feasts of renewal, we expect some rain. It shows nowadays with with hail, cold, floods. Cheshvan/חשון is a time of "plus", not necessarily a month of "surplus". Just ordinary days, except that their messianic features are overshadowed by the fresh memory of a possible destruction. Yet it brings forth an in-born hope that overcomes all hopes. Cheshvan is the month of the Flood or "Mabool/מבול'' because it started on Mar Cheshvan 17 and ceased the following year on the 27th day of the same month.

Things could stop. It appears that they did not. We experience this nightmare quite often and repeatedly on a regular basis: destruction is barred by some extravagant dynamic impulse to walk ahead...

I do believe in God. Of course, HaSHem is more correct because the Name surpasses all names, all speech capacities. It is the linguistic tongue-twister that makes reflection and languages slip when we think that we control the words we were given by birth or because of our life-paths. I would say more accurately that may be He believed in me and my family or parentage. But as Yossel Ben Yossel Rakover of Ternopol wrote as he was about to die in the Warsaw Ghetto, I feel a special tempo that beats again and again: "Even if You, HaShem, would reject me, I would not stop trusting and believing in You". Just can' help as many can't either.

I have no relatives, no direct family. It never really thought it is possible. There must be someone, somewhere. At Yad VaShem, I see how people who got separated during the time of the Churban suddenly meet right out of some blue moon at the gate of the place. But the point is that there is a gap. My parents were born in Russia, let's say Ukraine because we love to break down the former immense empire and union of Soviet republics. They were born with the 20th century and I only showed in the middle of it. Just to memorize that some pogroms, killings, Shoah, Catastrophe had passed. All the family had been swallowed in the bonfires of revolutions, hatred, alterity, exclusion. None was called to survive. I inherited the mitzvah to give life to two children in order to walk on His ways.

Isaac Bashevis Singer's words are written at Yad VaShem: "Olam she'avar/עולם שעבר = a world that passed over", also a society, people, human and humane beings who were a part of this "flood of generation to generation". This is why I love Yiddish. It is not only my mother tongue, it is the refreshing memory of words that sprang from all over so many landscapes. Some people consider that these soils and countries were typically European. Yiddish is connected with another memory: it is the 10th century Jewish Esperanto, vividly created by men, women and children whose daily nourishment was the reality of Zion and Jerusalem whilst discussing of the Torah and the Mishnah, the Gemarah in a familiar way.

There is a kind of a syntax that directs our common life-paths, building up a special society of human-e beings born to witness to a flood whose waters are only composed of seeds of life. Languages have grammars, not always... Chinese has no real tenses, Afrikaans though born out of Creole-like Dutch in a South African Bantu environment shows similarities with Swahili and the Namibian Herrero tongues. Yet there exists word orders that regulate the logics of mental ways of thinking.

Yiddish traces me back to some speech and lexicon as it was in use some 120 years ago in the shtetlech of Transcarpathia, down the Bug and Nikolayev in Russian, Mykoalyiv in Ukrainian. Some floods have passed... Usual stuff. But typing on a laptop for an Israeli blog online has nothing to do with any surviving: it is just a mechaye, i. e. normal stuff, a blessing.

"Mabool" is the Flood and, in Hebrew, we speak of "meboolbal/מבולבל", when things or situations are confused, twisted, weirdo. We are told the nations are like swarms raging around on a storm-beaten globe.

This year is special. We have the privilege to see a society that looks for its identity and structure. Israel is a reality and this is a miracle for each of us. And our eyes can see what generations of Jews have seen in their davenen, in their daily study, in their dreams. Our eyes see the land but also utter in new words the substantial experience of setting up the new syntax of our old-new society smashed from all part of the world into a living and dynamic laboratory. This sight corresponds to some new mitzvah to retain the records of such views because they are not only our's: they belong to age-long individuals and families.