Alexander A. Winogradsky Frenkel

Save now! Entry in Jerusalem

Palms (AWF)
Palms (AWF)

Things can be very special. Today, on Sunday 28th of April 2024, the Eastern and Orient Orthodox Churches following the Julian calendar celebrate the Entry of Jesus in Jerusalem, on a she-donkey as the people throw and greet Him with willow and branches, shouting: “Hosannah!”

In Aramaic, ܐܘܫܥܢܐ/Hosheina is the specific liturgical celebration of this encounter of Jesus of Nazareth on His way to Jerusalem. In fact, when you are in Jerusalem, there is a special place to look at: the road, at the top of the Mount of Olives, that turns from the desert and there you see the whole of the city of Jerusalem. The Gospel show a sort of mixing up of the Nisan Spring New Year and Pesach-Pascha and the Tishrei Autumnal New Year.

The Byzantine Great Lent forty days commence with a Service of forgiveness/atonement that “corresponds and/or is rooted in the Service of Yom Kippur while the Byzantine and Christian tradition of the entry of Jesus in Jerusalem recalls some “hybrid” mixture of Passover celebration and Feast of the Matzot and the death followed by the resurrection of the Lord and some episode like the waving of the willows, the branches, and the cries that are typical of the autumnal feast of the Rosh-HaShanah festive days. Because on the 21st day of autumnal new year month Tishrei, there is the Hoshana Rabbaהושנא רבה, the last praying act to be performed under the sukkah-סוכה/booth and then the feast will soon be over with some divine judgment. God waits… it takes Him so much time to write our names into the Book of the living. We are very good at rejecting promptly anybody, i.e. usually without knowing or trying to understand anything. God is not only patient: He appraises the price of our nights and days. The Hoshana Rabbah day is the 21st day of the new year and traces back to Abraham who got the blessings for all the generations. According to the tradition, Abraham belonged to the 21st generation after the shaping of Adam. Then, on this day, we got to the high spot to make up our minds: rejoice — go through the pangs of birth and conversion and trust in God. Because God does trust in us. Just get to the news: killings, violence, fights in words, acts, rapes, lies, corruption and still God confides in us. Oh, we would love to put God into a box.

The great Megillot/Scrolls of the Torah that are lodged in the “Aron haqodesh-הארון הקודש / holy ark” serve to release us as each letter aims to make us free.The 21st and last day under the sukkah is called “Hoshana Rabbah” and is thus substantial and significant. It is also called in Yiddish “a git’n kvitl/ א גוטן קוויטל — a good note” day. We are used to surf on the web. Jews write kvitlech or tzetlech, “small posts/requests – קוויטלעך און צעטלעך” to their rabbis. Long lists of “notes” daily arrive at the Western Wall either by fax, emails or now mobiles (there are delightful pictures of Jews putting their mobile to the stones of the Wall allowing somebody to speak out his soul from afar. In return, God sends back the “gite kvitlechגוטע קוויטלעך”, the good judgment from heaven for a blessed year. As they hold the “Arba’a minim/ארבעה מינים — four species” the Jews will, on that special day, cry out: “Ana HaShem Hoshiya na/ אנא ה’ הושיע נא = o Lord, be merciful and save us” (Psalm 118:25).

To begin with, it recalls the “hakafot/הקפות – circular movements” around the town of Jericho (Joshuah 6:14-15) as well as the sprinkling of the waters in the Temple (Talmud Yoma 59a).In the Mikdash-מקדש/Temple willow branches that require a lot of water, were put at the four corners of the altar. The seven circular goings around the altar, later , after the destruction of the Temple, the movement around the “Bema or almenor/במה — אלמנור”(lectern) are comparable to the shaving of the head (harvest) as in Talmud Nazir 29a or specific payment of debts in Sabbatical year (Sanhedrin 68b). The people cry, shout and this is a “joyous moaning” combining happiness and anxious expectation of a good note well-sealed and duly sent by God. This comes out of the entrails: ”Please, save right now!”.

Targum Onkelos suggests that “הושיע נא\Hoshiya-na” means “save Yourself right now!” This is an interesting matter. While they go around in circles, the Jews read a wonderful text for the Hoshana Rabbah and chant: “Ani VaHu Hoshiya-na/אני והוא הושיע נא — I and He save right now!” The Jewish tradition considers that this links two verses of the TaNaKH, i.e. Ezekiel 1:1 “Ani (I) betoch hagolah/אני בתוך הגולה — I was amongst the exiled’ and Jeremiah 40:1: “VeHu (And He) was found in chains with all the other captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being deported to Babylon/והוא אסור באזיקים בתוך כל-הגלות ירושלים ויהודה המגלים בבלה”. In both verses the text refers to God, in first and third Person, showing the deep connection in times of despair as in times of hope. We may not be aware that this leads to a victory that saves God’s reign and His human creatures.

As a result, we may grow: “He is my father’s God and I shall extol Him/אנוהו” (in Hebrew: “Anvehu”; Exodus/Shmot 15:2).All through our existences, we are called to make savings. This “financial” word does not imply that we would be God’s odd soul savings or properties, under His strict and limited control. In our cultures, savings mean that we would not spend or make money, profits. But when God saves us with a good one-year ticket, it is our task to make the fruit grow. He might say, “Enough!” This is also our own historic experience. We are good at savings, it is far more difficult to agree that we are saved.

In the Gospel it is accounted: “Aha, you (Jesus), save yourself and us as well” (Luke 23:39). In his “priestly prayer”, Jesus also says to God: “All I have is Yours and Yours is mine… May they all be one, just as, Father, You are in me, and I am in You” (John 17:21). We reach to last days that challenge the way we express our sense of unity. Frankly, at present, unity is like a “farce” dream, less than any utopia. If we move to the right way and joyously show we are real mentchen/מענטשן (human beings of good heart), who said we should die or be rejected? Well, Hoshana Rabba sounds like the good old “Save Our Souls” that brings the lost ones back to society. The Jewish tradition of the Hoshanah Rabba sheds a special light on what happened in Jerusalem when Jesus of Bethlehem and Nazareth came for the feast of Passover. What and why this allusion to the autumnal festive celebration of the “species”? It is common to all Christian denominations. It shows cries of respect, recognition and, on Good Friday, “Save now” becomes a tragic cry that apparently ends with despair and abandonment “Why have You forsaken me?”. Where is God in the mess of the world and its affairs? Do we save God, or do we leave Him aside?

About the Author
Alexander is a psycho-linguist specializing in bi-multi-linguistics and Yiddish. He is a Talmudist, comparative theologian, and logotherapist. He is a professor of Compared Judaism and Christian heritages, Archpriest of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, and International Counselor.
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