Identity

by I. B. Singer

“It never happened in the world that a people were exiled from their country and afterwards did not assimilate. As a rule, when people are exiled or even if they just emigrate, after a generation or two they become assimilated in their new environment. Millions and millions of Germans emigrated to this country; they all became ‘real’ Americans.

But the Jewish people have been in exile for two thousands years; they have lived in hundreds of countries, spoken many languages and still kept their old language, Hebrew. They kept their Aramaic, later their Jiddish; they kept their books; they did not forsake their faith; and after two thousand years they are going back to Israel. This is such a special case in human history that if it hadn't happened, no one would believe it possible.”

Isaac B. Singer & Richard Burgin (1980). Conversations with Isaac Bashevis Singer

A foundation of life

by W. Wenders

​I do not have the slightest problem with the Ten Commandments, quite the contrary however: I find it to be extremely astonishing, almost inapprehensible, how relevant and lively they still are. In order not to resent them too much, we may consider the following:

Translations from ancient Hebrew indicate that the tense of the verbs should not be solely understood as “You shall not” but also can be interpreted as a future tense, namely as “You will not ...”. And, already, these Ten Commandments appear in a very different light.

Simply put, this means: If you acknowledge me as your God and Creator, people, then you will honor me. You will not lie. You will not murder … etc. Easy as that. And absolutely clear. People who bow to their Creator and feel lovingly observed by Him, do actually not need commandments but will recognize the consequences of this relationship. 

I do not see in these the rules of a game upon which God shows us his red card if we do not follow them, but rather his promise to assist us if we acknowledge him as our Creator and Lord. 

Those who consider this an outmoded concept in the age of internet, genetic manipulation and globalization, have probably never in the slightest contemplated to trust in God and therefore only trust themselves or the inventions of humankind which, in my opinion, is pretty much the same thing. 

Those who seek the world, will only find the world. Those who seek God, WILL find Him. Basically, the Ten Commandments do not state anything different: The lives of those who seek God will follow the track that has been defined here tenfold. Even 3500 years later, these Ten Commandments – ‘offerings’ as I am tempted to call them – form a fundamental rule for community life and a foundation for a life that you can lead in good conscience before God and before yourself. 

From: Stern, issue no. 52, (2001), article by Wim Wenders after September 11, 2001. Wenders wanted to become a priest, then surgeon, and finally painter. In the end, his love for the movies won and he became a film director. 

What is necessary

by A. Delp SJ

The accomplishment of the saint: rendering exceptional homage to God, corresponds in fact with the real order of things. Nowadays, a combination of both qualities is desired, indeed necessary: actual religiosity and actual, factual handling of secular matters.

In insisting on these, I condemn ‘purely religious’ endeavors as sterile today, because they do not confront humans in the depths of their needs, but merely skim the surface, although they speak of vital concerns.

Translated from: Alfred Delp SJ, Gesammelte Schriften Band 4 (1982): Aus dem Gefängnis

When the angel calls

On November 1st, actress Anne Bennent quoted in the literature museum in Vienna a prolonged passage from “The Greater Hope” by Ilse Aichinger:

“Tomorrow becomes today. ... Today becomes yesterday... don't you permit it. Catch hold of today! Make sure that you stay! ... Now in the hour of death. ... Pain always brings a benefit. ... Come and give Him (God) your sins, because you have nothing else. ... We're all on the way to the holy land! – Where is the holy land? – It's everywhere that shepherds watch their sheep and leave everything when the angel summons them.”

The young writer wrote this just after the war had ended in Vienna. In the 2007 edition, Ilse Aichinger concludes her “Speech to the youth” with the appeal to continue the pursuit of the “patient, but never soporific search”: “Always await this joy but never let this hope be corrupted.” On November 11th, Ilse Aichinger passed away in Vienna. dio

Very serious

by S. Kierkegaard

„One must become a Christian as a child, it must be commenced in childhood“; that is, the parents want to be exempt from becoming Christians, but then want to have a mask, and therefore this: to bring their children up to be true Christians.

The relation of the parents to the children comes to resemble the relation of the pastors to their congregations. The pastors are not exactly desirous of becoming Christians themselves either – but their congregations, they are to become true Christians. The hoax is always to get rid of the earnestness (of becoming a Christian oneself) and to introduce instead the profound earnestness (!) of wanting to make others Christians.  „Christendom,“ from generation to generation, is a society of non-Christians; and the formula for the way this happens is this: the individual himself is unwilling to be a Christian, but takes it upon himself to beget children, who are to become Christians; and these children in turn conduct themselves in the same way. God sits in heaven – made to look like a fool.

From: Kierkegaard, Søren (1855). The Moment

The barn allegory

by V. E. Frankl

How does the average person see ‘time’?

He only sees the stubble field of mortality – but he doesn't see the full barns of the past. He'd like the time to freeze so that everything stops fading; however, that way he is similar to a man hoping for the mower and threshing machines to stand still and to work at the very same place instead of working while moving; because when the machine keeps moving on the field, he shudderingly sees the enlarging stubble part while ignoring the increasing amount of grain inside the machine.

That way, the only thing humans tend to notice with past things is their absence; they do not see the granaries they have been brought into. They say: it's gone because it is evanescent – however, they should say, it's gone; after meeting time ‘one time’, they are immortalised 'for ever’.

From: Frankl, Victor E. (1964). Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy 

Fighting for the heritage

by J.-M. Lustiger

In the patristic heritage you can find texts that are part of a theological and spiritual continuity so strong that no one could tell if they are of Christian or of Jewish origin.

The traditional polemic against the synagogues was fighting for the heritage, other than rejecting the heritage which is practised by the modern anti-Semitism.

It's wrong to state that Israel had not acknowledged the Messiah as the primordial church was a Jewish one. 

From: Lustiger, Jean-Marie Cardinal (1992). The choice of God 

Shimon Peres, died 28th September, 2016

I am convinced, that life is not about what you are, but what you do. 

Titles have never impressed me. I have, I believe, understood early on, that as a public person you should not reign but serve the people. I prefer serving over reigning. 

Early on I became aware that we have nothing. Israel is a very poor country. Small, dry, a rather barren than promised land. However, I then realised, we have a great treasure - the people.

My entire life, I tried to help others. If I help others, I help myself.

Before I go to bed, I make a list of all mistakes I made throughout the day.

From an interview of the Bild newspaper from 6th June, 2013, shortly before his 90th birthday.

Shear Yashuv Cohen, Rabbi of Haifa, died 5th September, 2016

He was the first rabbi in history who was asked to speak in front of the committee of bishops in the Vatican; invited by Benedikt XVI. In this speech on 6th October, 2008, Rabbi Cohen said:

“Between our people and our belief and the Catholic church, there is a long, difficult, and painful history that is drenched in blood and tears. My presence, I am deeply aware, is a sign of hope, a message of love, coexistence and peace for us as well as for generations to come.

Your invitation is also a confirmation that you are ready to proceed your teachings in a direction, which called us ‘our older brothers’ and ‘the People of God’, with whom he has closed an eternal pact – a statement we appreciate deeply. I thank God, who let's us have this day together.”

Full text of the speech (German)

Peter Esterhazy, died 14th July, 2016

“I do no live radically enough.

I live as if I had an eternal future ahead of me, not total doom. This means, I live in the servitude of my future and not in the infinite freedom of my mortality.”

From: Borchard, Ralf (2016). Ich lebe, als erwarte mich ewiges Dasein. Deutschlandradio. Available at http://www.deutschlandradiokultur.de/zum-tod-von-peter-esterhazy-ich-lebe-als-erwarte-mich.2165.de.html?dram:article_id=360182 (Accessed 22 July. 2016). 

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