domenica 11 agosto 2013

Lucy la fredda stava zitta seduta sulle scale e i ragazzi

Tutto questo  per farvi ascoltare un gran bel pezzo dell'Ivano. E anche per dirvi che rehov nahum ha traslocato. Qui. Spetta che lo ripeto. QUI. Ci vediamo la'. 

martedì 12 giugno 2012

Open Letter to MK Danon

An open letter to MK Danny Danon,

We are writing to you in respect of your position as the chairman of the Knesset committee for Aliyah, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, the chairman of World Likud and as a past chairman of World Betar. Recently we have seen a number of attacks on African migrants living in Israel. Regardless of their status in the country, these attacks have come as a shock and an embarrassment to us as Jews. However, your words in regard to the “national plague” (that is commonly referred to as African migrants) have greatly upset us as Betarim.

We would like to reiterate that Betar Australia firmly subscribes to Betar’s key stance of ‘Had-Ness’ – our most important value is Zionism, we subscribe to the importance of the Jewish majority and our highest flag is the Israeli flag. We do acknowledge the complexities related to the influx of African migrants, and we are not trying to mandate a policy to you from the other side of the world; however we believe that you need to urgently reassess your policy in regards of some of the important ideological principles held by Betar and Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

When Jabotinsky wrote “in the beginning, God created men” (The Story of My Days, 38); he was referring to mankind as a whole, to our shared origins and our shared humanity. This aspect of humanity is unequivocally expressed in our ideological principle of Hadar. Hadar, as you know does not specifically refer to the Jews – it refers to how all people should treat themselves and others in a ‘princely’ manner.

These people fleeing conflict from Africa, who have chosen Israel because they know it is a moral and free country, are just as human as us. In fact, in their present state, they are unmistakably similar to us as Jews. We have always been refugees; our ancestors have been refugees since the destruction of the first Temple up to our grandparents, who fled a climax of persecution around the world. Menachem Begin saw this when he allowed Vietnamese refugees who had been rejected by the rest of the world to settle in Israel, even granting them citizenship, as the minister, David Levy, the former Minister of Absorption said, “May they lend a hand to save women and children who are in the heart of the sea without a homeland, and lead them to safe shores.” Israel desperately needs to develop policy to deal with this crisis and to deal with it humanely. We reiterate that we are not seeking to dictate policy from outside of Israel. However, as Jews and Betarim we do expect for the political establishment in Israel to act decently and to approach this issue humanely, without prejudice and to acknowledge the responsibilities that Israel has towards refugees as a signatory to both the UN Refugee Convention (1951) and Protocol (1967).

Human rights have, apparently, been trademarked by the Left of politics, but as our ideology shows they have origins in the Right and as Begin’s story and the history of past Likud government’s show; it has almost always been the Right which has implemented the humanistic policies that have rendered Israel as ‘a light unto other nations.’ As Betarim, we urge you to reconsider your stance regarding these people and we request that you ensure that Israel fairly determines who needs protection and offers them this. To deport people to persecution and danger is not the act of a Jewish State. Jews have been persecuted for thousands of years and their state should not be one that has a hand in leading others to suffer the same fate. As Jabotinsky wrote, “there is no power that would be able to tear from one’s heart the hope for a better future.”

Ki Sheket Hu Refesh – Because Silence is Mud.

Tel Hai,
Betar Australia Inc.

martedì 8 maggio 2012

Yair ben Nahum ve Sarah יאיר בן נחום ושרה

Yair, bambino mio,
Sei arrivato in uno strano periodo. 
E' un  periodo per imparare, per me. Perche', Yair, io devo imparare tutto, o quasi. Lo dicevo a tuo fratello Dov, quando imparavo come cambiare i pannolini -il che, ho scoperto, mi riesce ancora bene. Dovrai insegnarmi come volerti bene. Io non ho avuto grandi esempi di genitori, e devo imparare tutto dal principio. Dov e' molto contento che tu sia arrivato, non fa altro che parlare di te; vuol dire che io e mamma qualcosa di buono, finora, siamo riusciti a combinare con lui. 
Ma e' uno strano periodo, questo; ed una strana tribu' quella che ti accoglie. Questa tribu' sparsa un po' ovunque, tutti i Sabati usa leggere da un antico libro. Per solito leggiamo tutti, in qualunque parte del mondo ci troviamo, la stessa parte di quell'antico Libro. Ma nella settimana in cui sei nato, abbiamo letto parti diverse. 
C'e' chi legge una parte che insegna: Amerai lo straniero, perche' anche tu sei stato straniero. E a dire la verita', bambino mio, questa tua tribu' e' una tribu' di stranieri. Se prendi due persone a caso tra coloro che sono qui oggi, scoprirai che pochi sono nati nello stesso Paese, quasi nessuno nella stessa citta'. Anche noi: nati in Italia, passati per Israele, ci siamo per ora stabiliti a Londra, e chissa' nei prossimi anni dove ci troveremo. Che da questa condizione di stranieri si debba imparare ad amare e non a competere con altri stranieri e' uno degli insegnamenti della nostra antica Legge. Non e' facile. Ma meraviglioso e profondo. 
Ma c'e' anche chi, in questa strana tribu' di cui fai parte, legge una parte dell'antico Libro che dice: Avrai una sola legge, per te e per lo straniero. Questo non e' successo molte volte nella storia, Yair. Essere stranieri non e' mai una fortuna; tale e tanto e' l'impulso di vedere dei confini, che sono una cosa naturale, come i fiumi o la diversita' delle lingue, e trasformarli in gerarchie, in manifestazioni di potere, in differenze di legge, in discriminazioni. E' forse un impulso umano. Naturale, probabilmente. Bello e giusto, sicuramente no.
Tanto tempo fa, quando Abba iniziava a pensare di diventare rabbino, scrissi il mio primo Davar Torah, esattamente su questo passaggio, su questa legge, su questo imperativo, e su come si collegava a quell'altro, l'amore per lo straniero. Come il primo specifica il secondo, e come il secondo e' una premessa del primo e il primo una conseguenza del secondo ecc. ecc. Trovare questo genere di collegamenti all'interno dell'antico Libro, e' una caratteristica della nostra tribu', Yair. E' il nostro modo di cercare ispirazione, ed illuminazione.
Avevi evidentemente molta voglia di renderci felici, in questo strano periodo. E cosi' sei arrivato, leggermente in anticipo sulla data stabilita, nello spazio di tempo tra queste due parashot, questi due comandamenti, quando Shabbat era finito e la settimana stava per riconominciare, con i suoi primi raggi di luce, in una primavera che faceva fatica ad arrivare.
La luce ti da' il nome. Vogliamo che tu sia fonte di illuminazione ed ispirazione non solo per noi: per noi lo sei gia' ora,  ogni volta che apri gli occhi ed il mondo ti sembra un miracolo. Vogliamo che tu sia Yair, una scintilla di luce, per Israel, il popolo di Israele, questa  tribu' di cui fai parte e da cui prendi l'altro tuo nome. Vogliamo che, in qualunque luogo della Terra ti troverai a crescere, a diventare ragazzo prima, e poi uomo, tu riceva amore dalle persone che ti circondano, e che tu sappia illuminarli.
Ti vorro' sempre bene. 

sabato 21 gennaio 2012


There’s an old, old joke about Stalin and Trotsky. It goes this way: Stalin emerges to address an expectant crowd. “Comrades!,” he says. “I have in my hand a telegram from Comrade Trotsky, which I think will resolve our current differences of opinion. Let me read it to you: ‘You were right and I was wrong. You are the true heir of Lenin. I should apologize. Signed, Leon Trotsky.’” The crowd goes wild. But one man in the crowd signals to get Stalin’s attention.“Yes, comrade?,” Stalin asks. “Comrade Stalin, I think you know Comrade Trotsky is Jewish.” “Yes, I do.” “Well, I’m Jewish, too, and I thought I might have an extra insight on what Comrade Trotsky was trying to say. May I read the telegram myself?” “Of course, comrade!,” Stalin asks.The man gets up and starts reading: "You were right and I was wrong? (question mark) You are the true heir of Lenin? (question mark) I should apologize? (question mark) Signed, Leon Trotsky.”
See: when you are Jewish you add a lot of question marks, everywhere. And you realize that written words are not enough. Take for example the verses 2 and 3 of Exodus 6

וַיְדַבֵּר אֱלֹהִים, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה; וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, אֲנִי יְהוָה.
וָאֵרָא, אֶל-אַבְרָהָם אֶל-יִצְחָק וְאֶל-יַעֲקֹב--בְּאֵל שַׁדָּי; וּשְׁמִי יְהוָה, לֹא נוֹדַעְתִּי לָהֶם

God spoke to Moses and said: אֲנִי יְהוָה. I am God. I appeared to Abraham, to Izak, to Jakov in El Shadai, and my name  יְהוָה, Adonay, לֹא נוֹדַעְתִּי לָהֶם .
This לֹא נוֹדַעְתִּי לָהֶם lo-nodaati lahem is problematic: it is a first person passive form, a niphal, of the verb ידע, which literally means to know. So if we translate closely, we should read: "I, God, was not known to them", to the Patriarchs.
Wait a minute. Is the text saying that God appeared to the Patriarchs and they did not know God’s name? The classical commentators have an ingenious solution for this problem. Because the problem we are struggling with is very serious. It is a theological one. Is the God who appears to Moses different from the one who appears to the Patriarchs? Of course not, Rashi says. We need to read it like that telegram from Leon Trotsky: adding the proper punctuation.
וָאֵרָא,  I revealed myself, אֶל-אַבְרָהָם אֶל-יִצְחָק וְאֶל-יַעֲקֹב to Abraham, Isaac and Jakov בְּאֵל שַׁדָּי As El Shadai, but my name isיְהוָה Adonay, and that I did not revealed to them”.
According to Rashi, El Shaddai is a Divine Name related to the Promise, so you see there is a logic in his understanding of the text. When God appeared to the Patriarchs, it was about the Promise. Now that God appears to Moses, the Promise is coming close to be fulfilled.
The interpretation of the classic commentators is apparently so convincing that it has become mainstream. You will find it in the the English translation in the contemporary commentaries, like Etz Hayym, the American Conservative, the Stone Chumash, or our British Hertz: “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name”. They all rely on a row of classical commentators who buys into that Rashi reading of the text. Like Ibn Ezra, who even states: "This verb is not a niphal, passive; it’s an hiphil, a causative. You should read: I did not make my Name known to them. God did not make his Name known to the Patriarchs, rather He revealed himself completely to Moses, to whom he’s speaking now".
That’s fine, but to me the problem is that, well, that verb is not a causative form. It’s a passive form. And the root י ד ע in Biblical Hebrew does not mean to reveal, it means to know, in a very direct, experiential way: in a Biblical way, literally. Therefore the proper reading of the text is exactly the most troubling: God said: “I appeared to your forefathers as El Shaddai, and they did not know Me”. And I quite like the reading of this passage from the writing of the Maharal from Prague: the understanding, the knowledge, of the banim, the children, is not the understanding of the avot, the fathers, to whom God appeared as El Shaddai.
Now, I find it very moving: in Italy, the Shaddai, is a special amulet, usually handed to you from your parents. Often is a simple Magen David, that the parents place in the cradle, under the pillow. And when you grow up, it becomes a pendant for your necklace. Before you ask, I will admit: yes, it’s pure superstition. It aims to protect the weak child from the omnipresent evil eye, the ayin haraa, which becomes envy, which becomes gossiping, which leads to fight and war. Did our parents really believe to this superstition? If asked, they would say that “believing” is probably not the proper word. They would never admit it, and only speak of Shaddai as a lovely, lovely tradition.
“As El Shaddai God appeared to the previous generations”  says our verse. Do we really believe to the superstitions related to the word Shaddai? Of course not. Do we live in the same world, dominated by the uncontrollable force of the ayin ha-raa, the envious eye? Of course not. We live in a world that had been able to transform envy, greed, in a force for the development of the economy. Although the consequences are not always good, but that is for another sermon.
And, yes, our understanding of God is different from our parents, and from the previous generations. Indeed, we can say that God appeared to them, as in our verse; but they did not know God in the same way we know. The various understandings are so different that even the same object has different meanings: one for the generation of the parents and another for the sons’ generation.
And how difficult it is, so difficult, to find a common language, a way to communicate, to hand down to our children what we have received from our elders. That we ourselves understood in a different way. It is the case for a jewel. It is the same case for our belief system, for our culture, for being Jewish; as it is the same case for God.
To me, the strength of Judaism, the source of the resilience of our faith, is not that it has always been the same. As (supposedly) it was in the old days, as if we had the duty to preserve and pass on intact. No: Judaism is a progressive religion. Every Jewish generation has a different, and perfectly legitimate understanding of Judaism. Every generation lives in a different world from the previous one. As our verse implies by listing the different Patriarchs, Avot, in their historical, chronological order: “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jakov”. Just before, there is a revelation, Vaera’, I appeared. But every generation understands it, names it, in a different way.
I really cannot know, now, which sort of understanding my son will have, when he will be my age. What will mean to him to be a Jew. What will he do with this precious gift that me and my wife are handing over to him; by lighting the Shabbat candles, going to shul, narrating stories from the Torah, celebrating the holidays, going to Limmud, maintaining a relation with Israel, learning Hebrew etc. To me all of this is El Shadday, which carries a nice resemblance with dai, dayenu!, enough! But most probably my son will give another name to all of this, to being Jewish. And as a proud Jewish parent, at the moment, I can only say it will be a smart, intelligent, and clever one.
Whether I will understand it, or not.

sabato 10 dicembre 2011


The Yabbok is a tributary of the Jordan River. Biblical archaeologists identify it with a river called Zarka in Arabic, that runs through a deep ravine in northern Jordan. It is mentioned in the Pentateuch as the northern boundary of the territories of the Israelite tribes. But the Yabbok is especially known for having been the scenario of the wrestling of Jacob with ish, a mysterious man mentioned in Gen 32:25.

Who was this mysterious man? In the Targumim, Aramaic translations of the Biblical text read in the early synagogues, it is mostly identified with an angel. Not one of the chubby babies we are used to see in the works of Christian painters. Rather, such an ish is explained to be an emissary from the Other World, resembling an human being. Only through the fight, because of its superhuman strength, Jacob comes to understand that, despite its semblance, it cannot be a man. It is too strong, too resilient: the battle went on for a whole night.

Midrashic sources, like Bereshit Rabbah, maintain that such an ish was a brigand. Not a rough street- bandit, a robber, but a rather a sophisticated financial criminal. He saw that Jacob was a wealthy man, who could send droves of goats, cows, bulls and rams as gifts to his brother. So the brigand comes to the side of the Yabbok with his flocks and his camels, and proposes to Jacob a transaction: “Let’s put our assets together, and they will grow in number and will give us profits”. But Jacob realizes that there’s a trick, that the mysterious ish is not an honest businessman but a sorcerer with whom it is very dangerous to get along.

Medieval commentators evoke both these two characters: the emissary from the Other World, and the shrewd, deceptive sorcerer. They maintain the ish was an evil force. According to Rashi, for example, it was the guardian angel of the most deceptive and cruel man of that time: Esau. The whole purpose of the fight was to prevent Jacob going on, crossing the Yabbok, to continue his journey towards the reconciliation with his brother.

Contemporary commentators are indeed less comfortable with guardian angels. Etz Hayim, the Torah Commentary published by the Rabbinic Assembly of the American Conservative Movement, points out that this mysterious entity, in the mind if the author of the text, could even be the demonic guardian of the Yabbok river, a sort of local deity with whom Jacob struggles in his most lonely hour.

But regardless of the origins or the purposes of that ish, all the commentators point out that the struggle, the fight, happens when Jacob is alone, just before a crucial moment in his life. Jacob is aware of the relevance of that moment: he is to meet with his brother, with whom he lost contact decades before.

All the memories of that troubled relationship come to surface. Jacob is struggling with his past; literally: with his conscience. The ish might have been deceptive, shrewd businessman-like: but Jacob himself had been deceitful with his brother, stealing a blessing which was destined for Esau. The mysterious man can be an emissary from the dark, Other World. Jacob, exactly at this point, is dealing with the darkest part of his past.

And what sort of a fight was it? Every fight has its rules, and indeed the mysterious ish become a rather sporting gentleman towards the end. He and Jacob realize none of them could win completely, so Jacob asks for –and receives- a blessing.

Given that it was a fair match, which were the rules of that fight, on the Yabbok’s riverside?

Jacob, as we know, was not an athletic type. He was thin, and slender, like Daniel Mendoza, a Sephardi Jew, who in the XIXth Century was a famous boxer in England. Thanks to Mendoza the stereotype of the weak, cowardly defenceless Jew was eradicated from the British press –at least for a generation. So, were they, on the Yabbok riverside, trading fists against each other, like in the modern boxing?

Or was there, between Jacob and the angel, a match of krav maga? Krav maga, is a martial art developed at the beginning of the State of Israel, by an Israeli soldier, Imi Sde Or – born Imre Lichtenfeld in Bratislava. Krav maga consists mainly in kicks and punches aimed firstly to remove weapons from the opponent’s hand and, secondly, to hit his vital organs.

In other words: on that crucial night, was Jacob trying to hit violently his opponent’ vital organs? Did he feel threatened as if that mysterious ish was carrying a lethal weapon? But no weapons are mentioned in the Torah; and, as I have said, it looks like it was a rather fair fight.

I tend to think it was a less violent form of physical confrontation. I think it was a matter of agility. There have maybe been kicks and punches, but probably more twists, grabs and throws. In that match, to my mind, Jacob and his opponent did their best to force each other to loose balance, to fall down, to end up lieing down on the ground defenceless. Something like an Aikido match, where the winner is not the most strong, the most powerful, but rather the most agile, the one who is able to turn against the opponent, the same strength and power with whom the opponent is trying to hit him.

For a whole night, on the river of the Yabbok, Jacob is fighting with a mysterious ish, a man who represents his past, who wants to prevent his reconciliation with Esau. It was a confrontation that Jacob had tried to avoid for years. Now he has sent lots of gifts to his brother. He tried to appease him and maybe he thought Esau would be satisfied with his share, and will avoid the troubling moment of face-to-face. But the opponent, the ish, the man, is more agile, grabs Jacob and forces him to confront his past. We do not know how many twists and turns happened that night, how many times Jacob, or his opponent, came closer to total defeat, to be exposed to the other’s mercy.

The Torah leaves all the details to our imagination. But it tells us that Jacob emerged from that confrontation as a more complete human being: that despite the physical wounds that he found on his body after that match, he was ready to make peace with his brother, to confront his past and to move forward.

He discovered his weakness, certainly: but, definitively he also discovered his humanity.

martedì 29 novembre 2011

Questa vignetta fa schifo

Questa vignetta era su Il manifesto di oggi.

Le ossessioni di Berlusconi sono comiche ed e' possibile sfotterlo in ogni possibile modo. Mi chiedo pero' che bisogno ci sia di parlare della sua impotenza (politica e sessuale) ricordando ai lettori italiani la triste condizione di chi invecchia, ammalato, nell'Europa di oggi, Italia compresa. 

Tra le persone che invecchia(va)no andrebbe incluso anche Lucio Magri, fondatore del quotidiano comunista, che se ne e' andato per sua scelta la notte scorsa. Ma mentre Magri invecchiava, nessuno ha pensato di fare battute sui suoi cateteri o le infermiere. O l'impotenza dei comunisti. 

Il manifesto e' un quotidiano... Boh, trovate voi la definizione. Tra l'altro anche Vauro, autore della vignetta pseudo umoristica, non e' proprio giovanissimo.