Sunday, May 27, 2007

Leo's Passagen

Benjamin's Passagen:

Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century
[Exposé of 1935]

"The waters are blue, the plants pink; the evening is sweet to look on;
One goes for a walk; the grandes dames go for a walk; behind them stroll the petites dames."
-Nguyen Trong Hiper (Hanoi, 1897)

"But precisely modernity is always citing primal history. Here, this occurs through the ambiguity peculiar to the social relations and products of this epoch. Ambiguity is the appearance of dialectic in images, the law of dialectics at a standstill."

"They are residues of a dream world. The realization of dream elements, in the course of waking up, is the paradigm of dialectical thinking."

[Exposé of 1939]
"History is like Janus; it has two faces. Whether it looks at the past or at the present, it always sees the same things."
-Maxime Du Camp.

Rolf Tiedemann on the Benjaminean dialectics at a standstill:

... That is, to assemble large-scale constructions out of the smallest and most precisely cut components. Indeed, to discover in the analysis of the small individual moment the crystal of the total event....

...He tried to represent the nineteenth century as 'commentary on a reality' rather than construing it in the abstract...

...Like Goethe's Empirie, it does not deduce the essence behind or above the thing- it knows it in the things themselves...

...Under capitalist relationships of production, history could be likened to the unconscious actions of the dreaming individual, at least insofar as history is man-made, yet without consciousness of design, as if in a dream....

...Both represented attempts to break the fixations and the encrustations in which thinking and its object, subject and object, have been frozen under the pressure of industrial production...

...Benjamin sought a concept of experience that would explode the limitations set by Kant and regain the fullness of the concept of experience held by earlier philosophers...

...Benjamin knew that this motif of awakening separated him from the Surrealist. They tried to abolish the line of demarcation between life and art, to shut off poetry in order to live writing or write life. For the early Surrealists, both dream and reality would unravel to be dreamed, unreal reality, from which no way led back to contemporary praxis and its demands...

"She would stroll about the city of Jerusalem like the spirit of poetry walking along the street"
-Leah Goldberg on Else Lasker-Schüler

"Her huge animated raven-black eyes always had an elusive, mysterious look... it was impossible to go anywhere without stopping to stare... She was the Prince of Thebes, Jussuf, Tino of Baghdad, the Black Swan."
-Gottfried Benn on Else Lasker-Schüler

"Dear Mill, I thank you for your beautiful card, it is here the time: Rain (Regen) but one day sunshine 20 grad, other day the sea from the sky. Here now all good. We all people very good, the Englishmen all gentlemen. I have momentan picture Austellung. A gentleman here has given me extra money for a travel through Palestine. Still one moment I go to Baghdad and Damascus and Beirut and one day to Cairo. One day from here for a Pfund to travel. But I'm very sorry for the world. All the men which dead now. Write soon again, yours, Yussuf"
-Else Lasker-Schüler to Emil Raas, Jerusalem, Hotel Vienna, 1940

...The nineteenth century is a dream we must wake up from; it is a nightmare that will weigh on the present as long as its spell remains unbroken. According to Benjamin, the images of dreaming and awakening from the dream are related as expression is related to interpretation...

...Capitalism was a natural phenomenon with which a new dream-filled sleep came over Europe, and, through it a reactivation of mythical forces...

...And in this same way, iron construction and glass architecture are transfigured in the arcades because the century could not match the new technical possibilities with a new social order...

... They're part of Blochian dreaming ahead, day-dreaming, anticipating the future: Every epoch, in fact, not only dreams the one to follow, but, in dreaming, precipitates its awakening. It bears its end within itself...

... The Passagen-Werk was supposed to bring nothing less than a 'Copernican revolution' of historical perception. Past history would be grounded in the present, analogous to Kant's epistemological grounding of objectivity in the depths of the subject. The first revolution occurred in the relationship in which subject and object, present and past meet in historical perception...

"History is the object of a construct whose site is not homogeneous, empty time, but time filled by Jetztzeit. Thus, to Robespierre ancient Rome was a past charged with now-time, which he blasted out of the continuum of history. The French Revolution viewed itself as Rome incarnate. It quoted ancient Rome" (Illuminations)

..The present would provide the text of the book; history, the quotatins in that text. To write history means to cite history...

...Benjamin invented the term dialectical images, for such configuration of the Now and the Then; he defined their content as a dialectic at standstill. Dialectical image and dialectical at standstill are, without a doubt, the central categories of the Passagen-Werken...

[Exposé of 1935]

"Ambiguity is the manifest imagining of dialectic, the law of dialectics at a standstill. This standstill is utopia, and the dialectical image, therefore, dream image. Such an image is afforded by the commodity per se: as fetish."

...Benjamin's dialectic tried to halt the flow of the movement, to grasp each becoming as being...

...Political action, no matter how destructive, should always reveal itself as messianic. Benjamin's historical materialism can be hardly severed from political messianism...

...Myth is liquidated in the dialectical image to make room for the dream of a thing; this dream is the dialectic at standstill, the piecing together of what history has broken to its bits, the tikkun of the Lurianic Kabbalah...

...But Benjamin's historiographer is endowed with a weak messianic power, a power to which the past has a claim...

From the journals of Lisa Fittko

"The world was coming apart, I thought, but not Benjamin's politesse"

"But it seems to me now that the real danger was not disregarded by Walter Benjamin during that night in Port-Bou; it was just that his real danger, his reality, differed from ours. He must have met again the little hunchback in Port-Bou.. his very own, the Benjamin hunchback, and he had to come to terms with it..."

Gershom Scholem on Benjamin

...The third requirement of his friendship, that of overlooking his secretiveness, often demanded a real effort, because there was something surprising, even ludicrous, about secretiveness in someone as sober, as melancholy as Benjamin...

"Do other people manage to have peace and quiet? I'd like to know the answer to that" (Benjamin)

...The word irgendwie (somehow) is the stamp of a point of view in the making. I never have heard anyone use this word more frequently than Benjamin...

"If I ever have a philosophy of my own, it somehow will be a philosophy of Judaism" (Benjamin)

...For years, however, he stubbornly expounded the strange thesis, to me and to others, that there was no such a thing as an unhappy love - a thesis that was so decisively refuted by the course of his own life...

"Philosophy is absolute experience, deduced in the systematic-symbolic context as language" (Benjamin)

...This is when I first noticed Benjamin's basic melancholy, the incipient depressive traits that later became more pronounced...

...Great though Benjamin's life may be in every sense - the only case near me of a life being led metaphysically . it nevertheless harbors elements of decadence to a fearful extent...

... I learned about Benjamin's death, on September 26 or 27, on November 8 in a brief letters from Hannah Arendt, who was then still in the south of France. When she arrived at Port-Bou months later, she sought Benjamin's grave in vain. 'It was not to be found, his name was not written anywhere.' Yet Frau Garland had, according to her report, bought a grave for him in September for five years. Hannah Arendt described the place: 'The cemetery faces a small bay directly overlooking the Mediterranean; it is carved in stone in terraces; the coffins are also pushed into such stone walls. It is by far one of the most beautiful spots I have seen in my life". Many years later, in the cemetery that Hannah Arendt had seen, a grave with Benjamin's name scrawled on wooden enclosure was being shown to visitors. The photographs before me clearly indicate that this grave, which is completely isolated and utterly separate from the actual burial places, is an invention of the cemetery attendants, who in considertaion og the number of inquired wanted to assure themselves of a tip. Visitors who where there have told they had the same impression. Certainly the spot is beautiful, but the grave is apocryphal...

Hannah Arendt on Benjamin

"Dusk will come again sometime.
Night will come down from the stars.
We will rest our outstretched arms
In the nearnesses, in the distances.

Out of the darkness sound softly
Small archaic melodies. Listening,
Let us wean ourselves away,
Let us at last break ranks.

Distant voices, sadnesses nearby.
Those are the voices and these the dead
Whom we have sent as messengers
Ahead, to lead us into slumber."
-"Walter Benjamin", poem of 1940

...Metaphors are the means by which the oneness of the world is poetically brought about...

"The main thing is to learn how to think crudely. Crude thinking, that is the thinking of the great"-Brecht

"An understanding of Kafka's production involves, among other things, the simple recognition that he was a failure" (Benjamin)

...One day earlier Benjamin would have got through without any trouble; one day later the people in Marseilles would have known that for the time being it was impossible to pass through Spain. Only on that particular day was the catastrophe possible...

"Anyone who cannot cope with life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate... but with this other he can jot down what he sees among the ruins, for he sees different and more things than the others; after all, he is dead in his own lifetime and the real survivor" -Kafka

...It was the secularized version of the ancient Jewish belief that those who learn the Torah of the Talmud, that is, God's Law, were the true elite of the people and should not be bothered with so vulgar an occupation as making money or working for it...

...Running start for suicides, as though he were obbeying an oder that says 'you have to earn your grave'...

...It was a though shortly before its disappearance the figure of the homme de lettres was destined to show itself once more in the fullness of its possibilities, although -or, possible, because -it had lost its material basis in such a catastrophic way, so that the purely intellectual passion which makes this figure so lovable might unfold all its most telling and impressive possibilities...

...They fought against Jewish society because it would not permit them to live in the world as it happened to be, without illusions....

"Does Karl Kraus stand at the threshold of a new age? Alas, by no means. He stands at the threshold of the Last Judgement" (Benjamin)

...Walter Benjamin knew that the break in the tradition and the loss of authority which occured in his lifetime were irreparable, and he concluded that he has to discover new ways of dealing with the past. In this he became a master when he discovered that the transmisibility of the past had been replaced by its citability and that in place of its authority there had arised a strange power to settle down, piecemeal, in the present and to deprive it of 'peace of mind', the mindless peace of complacency...

...This discovery of the modern function of quotations, according to Benjamin, who exemplified it by Karl Kraus, was born out of the despair -not the despair of a past that refuses to throw its light on the future, and lets the human mind wander in darkness as in Tocqueville, but out of the despair of the present and the desire to destroy it; hence their power is not strength to preserve but to cleanse, to tear out of context, to destroy...

In a letter from Benjamin:
"A report from Vienna dated summer 1939, saying that the local gas company had stopped supplying gas to the Jews. The gas consumption of the Jewish population involves a loss for the gas company, since the biggest consumers were the ones who did not pay their bills. The Jews used the gas especially for committing suicide".

...The main work consisted in tearing fragments out of their context and arranging them afresh in such a way that they illustrated one another and were able to prove their raison d'etre in a free-floating state, as it were. It definitely was a sort of surrealistic montage...

...For Benjamin to quote is to name, and naming rather than speaking, the word rather than the sentence, brings truth to light. As one may read in the preface to the Origin of German Tragedy, Benjamin regarded truth as an exclusively acoustic phenomenon: Not Plato but Adam, who gave things their names, was to him, the father of philosophy....

Franz Rosenzweig:

"There is no remedy for death; not even health. A healthy man, however, has the strength to continue towards the grave. The sick man invokes death and lets himself be carried away in mortal fear. In health, even death comes at the proper time. Health is in good terms with Death. It knows that when the grim reaper comes he will remove his stone mask and catch the flickering torch from the anxious and weary and disappointed hands of Brother Life; it knows that he will dash it on the ground and extinguish it, but it also knows that only then the full brilliance of the nocturnal sky will brightly glow. It knows that it will be accepted into the open arms of Death. Life's eloquent lips are put to silence and the eternally Taciturn One will speak: 'Do you finally recognize me? I am your brother'."

Guilel's Passagen

Paris: My trip through Paris... personal notes, pictures and comments. 08-10/16-10 2003.

"Thus as Kafka puts it, there is an infinite amount of hope, but not for us. This statement to Max Brod really contains Kafka's hope; it is the source of his radiant serenity" (Benjamin)

Guilel's answer: "There's an infinite amount of love, just not for us"

'I am the moss in the wall
You are the cedar
And in you the leaves never fall
And thus there's nothing else I can say
Other than remain attached to the wall
And to hope that perhaps
My day will come as well
To become a florishing cedar'
-Poem to Leo, on ocassion of the Buchlein.

"This song reminds me of you and K. I think this is why you seemed so magical
when I saw you both together for the first time.
A song by Charles Aznavour"

Je vous parle d'un temps
Que les moins de vingt ans
Ne peuvent pas connaître
Montmartre en ce temps-là
Accrochait ses lilas
Jusque sous nos fenêtres
Et si l'humble garni
Qui nous servait de nid
Ne payait pas de mine
C'est là qu'on s'est connu
Moi qui criait famine
Et toi qui posais nue

La bohème, la bohème
Ça voulait dire on est heureux
La bohème, la bohème
Nous ne mangions qu'un jour sur deux

Dans les cafés voisins
Nous étions quelques-uns
Qui attendions la gloire
Et bien que miséreux
Avec le ventre creux
Nous ne cessions d'y croire
Et quand quelque bistro
Contre un bon repas chaud
Nous prenait une toile
Nous récitions des vers
Groupés autour du poêle
En oubliant l'hiver

La bohème, la bohème
Ça voulait dire tu es jolie
La bohème, la bohème
Et nous avions tous du génie

Souvent il m'arrivait
Devant mon chevalet
De passer des nuits blanches
Retouchant le dessin
De la ligne d'un sein
Du galbe d'une hanche
Et ce n'est qu'au matin
Qu'on s'asseyait enfin
Devant un café-crème
Epuisés mais ravis
Fallait-il que l'on s'aime
Et qu'on aime la vie

La bohème, la bohème
Ça voulait dire on a vingt ans
La bohème, la bohème
Et nous vivions de l'air du temps

Quand au hasard des jours
Je m'en vais faire un tour
A mon ancienne adresse
Je ne reconnais plus
Ni les murs, ni les rues
Qui ont vu ma jeunesse
En haut d'un escalier
Je cherche l'atelier
Dont plus rien ne subsiste
Dans son nouveau décor
Montmartre semble triste
Et les lilas sont morts

La bohème, la bohème
On était jeunes, on était fous
La bohème, la bohème
Ça ne veut plus rien dire du tout

"Simultaneity – Man is a simultaneous being, past and future exist in him at
the same time. Memory and hope live within man contradicting each other,
colliding, creating ever lasting conflict within the human mind and soul. At
first there was only the now, the near past and the near future. As myth
faded away and history replaced it, man could look into it's own past and
remember. Remembrance brought him to envisage a future, a distant future; it
gave him the ability to hope. In the process of looking backward and looking
forward man forgot to watch his steps, he lost the ability to exist in the
'now'. Today we feel the now as moments of exhilaration, of transcendence,
we call them spiritual moments, when we feel in 'our bodies' and we 'connect
to God' yet these moments are rare and one may live a lifetime without
experiencing the 'now'."
Guilel on Benjamin, letter to Leo

"I don't know how to love. I never knew it probably, not since the age of 16.
I don't know how to react to people touching me, seeking to give me comfort.
Yet I am so filled with love, with the desire to love, to be touched, to be
loved. It is as you told me Kafka said about hope; there is so much love
around but just not for me."

"You are right, you are not
my friend. You challenge me, you give me inspiration, and you have an
amazing amount of naiveté in you, without realizing it. You gave me for the
first time since his death hope, the world you exposed me to have filled me
with fires I have believed until now to be extinguished."

"I feel I have disappointed you"

"It's late and i have been sitting for quite a while in fron of my mail, as i
did yesterday. I cannot seem to succeed in writing a word. The feeling is
desperation and anxiety combined. I don't understand it."

Leo's reply:
'There's no motif of concern here, unless the painting had been sketched in advance, in which case the most significantly dignified device is surrender. But this is not what usually our doctors recommend, for one should always memorably lose any possible confrontation and all the more so whenever a rift arise in which no enmities are freely vouched in the air, yet only a "theosophos teutonicus" might be so keen on producing such advise, because at times the practical wisdom of the world is of too much consolation so that one would feel glad if he could die a death every week as to receive so much, but so much compassion. Yet not being Christian enough for this enterprise and rather taking pleasure in the visions of Hell I have no advise to produce in this treatise that could not be sought after in music or in the simple entanglements of lust and quotidianite. But I will not give up so easily, I will reproduce a letter from one of our readers; in case you find it useful to any extent be so kind not to notify us. The combination of desperation and anxiety is the most traditional symptom of truth and of understanding; and when not, it is always the beginning as the political theorists would say about what we believers would call "creation stories" and the simple man just "myth". If this does not work, please call our 1-800-confession line.

Letter from a reader:


I try to write some poems that could speak about all those interwoven stories we have but it's impossible, I can't go beyond some very banal statements. I can only speak about all that whilst thinking philosophy, while encountering the greatest minds and demolishing their arguments, through the passion of logic and reason - trying to find a definition that will satisfy our experiences and find those places for love and life in scholarship. I think I will never be able to really speak about you or G. in poetry, unless I'm very hurt from the world; otherwise I can only speak to both of you in pure thought, in hermeneutics, in demolishing critiques in which I speak contra myself and see my masks changing into one another before my eyes. Heidegger and Aristotle claim that poetry in its relationship to truth is very close to philosophy, that is springs forth from the same sources... and this is what I hold against Agnes Heller and her social import in philosophy. When I discover that the time is breaking apart in my hands with all the concepts that contain human life, the whole of my raw materials... only then I can truly communicate with you both. Even when the poetry works if at all it is only the key to the front door before the gate, but the door is always locked even though you're both inside. I can never leave, you can never come in, you can never leave, I can never come in. Then I have a claustrophobic feeling and that draws me to the most extreme solitude and upon its fall the disappointment and the emptiness in which the fullness of my thinking finds its counterparts. Only this radically pure thought can encompass the truth of our experiences and this doesn't belong to me alone, it belongs to what the Zeitgeist of our age is demanding... in that sense our lives are lived in the plurality of the company of people, which is a political beginning in every possible respect but it doesn't always work. Sometimes the company is also a heading toward death, a fear that grows into love and a love that grows into fear. It isn't pure madness, it's a logic so complex that becomes unreadable and only in that labyrinth I can find myself and meet you and him as well. As you wrote me yesterday "O yes I will dear Leo, denn ich kann nicht anders- because I somehow know your language von innen heraus, it seems as if I'm walking through the empty rooms of a house where I remember exactly where all furniture and things used to be, yet not there anymore".


"Because I trust and truly love you....
Please, I beg of you, ask me for an advice or just a shoulder if you need
one, I am here for you, truly, more then you think, and i am not such a
fragile person that i wouldn't know what to do.... with you, with this
place, or with the world..."

Passagen of Yussuf l'autre and Leo

"It is something about your humour and "ernst" at the same time that I like.,
I see this bitterboesen sarcasm is a means to take a little glance into some Abgrund.. maybe, a little further than without ."-Y.

"I'm falling into a state where nothing seems real again, and I cry a lot about this, it s a lack of reality about me, and even when I read, it meakes me even more like not being able to grasp reality, or what is present .. outside.
But how can it be here? I don t understand / i would love and like to be a person who is always with people, busy with many work to do , and responsibilities, and standing with the feets on the ground, not the opposite like me, who is always falling into pieces and then recognises being fixed up upsite down." -Y.

"I think... I wont be able to tell anybody in words what you meaant to me, and the time we spent,
I will only be able trough paintings,
tell guilel that I read his poem over and over" -Y.

"There's so much I have to tell you, but I am without
any calm moment"- Y.

"L. dear,
i dedicate this to you... ( as you know, I dedicate
all parties in my life to you, as they are all simple
reminders of our Wirkliche Feste!)

it is a drawing of 50 x 40 cm, i printed it on glass,
the so called stage oder room is a photoprint of a
jerusalem hotel.
The important point is, that the glass plate is in a
gap of 2 cm away from the image, so it is always just
the shadow of the drawing touching the room. And this
is why it is never the same, as the light changes.
I m sorry it is impossible to display this on a
At the moment I did 7 of them ( it was fucking
expensive to print on glass) but.. whatever... it s
all about Our PARTIES!

and i will call u cause there s so much to tell.
Eveline was here and it was all sooooo amazing to meet
i wrote u some sms ,
i want to know how u are, i heard u had quite
exasparating and dangerous times, that left their
marks and cuts on you...
ts, ts, ts...

well, i just want to send you this one Party of
Jerusalem" -Y.

For Benjamin this is exactly the moment of redemption, the "absolute present" of Rosenzweig and Kafka, the moment of the event which stands both outside time but within its own limits: "Sun will not overstep his measures; otherwise the Erynies, ministers of Justice, will find him out". Redemption happens in the present, it is an "event", a present event that "takes place", and altogether constitutes both a story of creation and a story of revelation; "For being has the immanent meaning or revelation as well as of creation. Revelation is the creation of reason". At this point one can return to the burrow and mend the method of "access", the way through. The fox has pointed out the importance of the "how", insofar as it is, of things in opposition to the "what" which lives in sempiternal anxiety because in the moment of its reflection, insofar as it is, it is already lost and irretrievable: "In Jedem Falle gilt: wenn wir in bezug auf die Philosophie fragen: Was ist das?, dann fragen wir eine ursprüngliche greichische Frage".L. on Benjamin, to Guilel and Barbara

"His Messianism retains the impossibility and the spirit of the times, a rather funny pessimism that laughs about itself and in doing so retains its faith altogether. Because one simply can't give up, when as in Lasker-Schueler the boundaries between one's life and philosophy or poetry are no longer there and the world is experienced like Friedrich Gentz, "Gentz gave himself to the world immediately and directly, and it consumed him. His hedonism was only the most radical way open to him to let the world consume him"[36]. No gaps are left in between God, man and the world in the most radical form of bridging the gap between past and future: Living eternally in the present moment, which the time has lost sight of, crashing right before the unreflective vertigo. It is this absolute present and not any glorious past or distant Utopian future what leaves the door open for the Messiah." L. on Benjamin, to Guilel and Barbara

"Im Versuch des damals
Fast Jeweilig, stünde ich
In der äußerten barlosigkeit
Aber im Evaskostüm gleichzeitig
Unewiges, durchschnittlich
Und nachdem, hintereinander
Den unheimlichen Augenblick
Eines Nachbild je stellt im Unsterblichkeit vor
Zusammen noch immer weites
Mit den Stimmen der Vergänglichkeit
Die sich befindet nicht, im Verständis der Zeit
Sondern von vielfältigen und glücken Vergessen
Manchmal gleichmäßig schändlich
Noch Sittlich, verwundert.

Deine Herrlichkeit klingt jemals weiblich
Lakonisch trägisch, niemals rein oder wirklich
In einem Vorbei seines eigenes Vorlauf
Die Jeweiligkeit baut einen sichaussprechen
Unheimliche Ereignis
Gemeinlich, der weiß um seinen Tod
Er sendt eine Karte mit dem Post
"Gebrauchanweisung:Freundliche Grüßen"
Eine Verwandlung." L. to Guilel

"My dear Katharina

The clear evening has a light that shines but doesn't talk at all, it's seemly a picture of our earthly life from a vantage point in the universe that happens or unfolds in the instant just before the redemption. If you would share this scene with me, you would understand it makes the perfect painting, the most beautiful painting you could ever think of because it presents everything we've talked about without representing anything at all.

It's a very everyday scene which takes place right before love, right before creation as in the Biblical sense, a story of origins. The place isn't spectacular or evocative, but it is a house like one of those in which you and me have never lived, everything seems to be comfortably in place as though arranged by the conspicuous hand of a motherly care or at least of guilt it comes with. The room could be anybody else's but it's not and that's the source of the amazing mystery.

Yet this is only the sketch, the preambule before the real ecsatic thread. It was a dinner, similar to the Last Supper in a way yet not quite the same. It was in a present tense so absolute that language had been rapturedly taken away from me and I could only speak little "talk" about anything that comes to mind. An instant soup very different from the ambar we had in my provisorium, rather chalky and smooth but so uncannily "homely". Then a perfectly fried omelette (and remember Agnes' dictum: "it's better not to smash the omelette") and fresh cut vegetables on a plate. Everything dressed with a transparent distancing and hiding, no honest dishes or glasses of wine, everything furnished with plain water and some brief moments of silence together with an almost whispered conversation without any other-worldly meaning at all. Nothing heavy, as it were the day when Tereza and Thomas died and right before Tomas' son would think that his father wanted the kingdom of God on earth.

It's so different from our hotel freedoms and storage houses. But there's very little feeling and perhaps me being uncomfortable about it is what makes sense of it all because in a way I'm so totally unexpecting that if the painting wouldn't be complete at all I wouldn't be disappointed in anyway. I sit on the floor as though untimely mourning before my time and write non sense in my journal with the hope of understanding myself a little better but the air is charged with a smell of distraction directed toward the man in question that can only prove a rather dietetic form of confusion.

But somehow I insist this is the sight of our earthly life in the minute before the redemption that keeps the Messiah from coming everytime anew. In a way I'd like to escape very much and meet you again for the same reasons as before but in a way not. In a way I want to be drunk from this nearing that distances reality so much, at least as we know it: in the most extreme possibility of the consumption. This is perhaps the only form of life where the chair of the Messiah can remain always empty, because it's so terribly abstracted from itself and from anything else that I find myself at odds trying to describe the violent and loving feeling of philosophy coming home I feel right now, because I know it's only one another departure that leaves the finite in order to know itself and to lose itself to be more precise.

Somehow this is not boring because it feels me with terrible fear, the fear of the known and the found. Yet the time is already broken to start with, because no events can be perceived by the searching eye until they crash with the eye itself in a repair that resembles already their passing away more than their coming into being. It's not called happiness or a Hegelian reconciliation, maybe the genius of Augustine would be able to find the contradiction that allows one to lie and hide all the truth away from the world, lest we risk that it shall be found in its barest nudity and then somehow no one would want anything from this world as it is. Then painting and thinking would make no sense at all, there would be no possible creation history and therefore no possible freedom and in turn modernity would pass from being an illusion into becoming the foundation of all possible world, a Christian vale of tears. Which it is at the same time, only that from our searching eye it is the tear what keeps the redemption always a minute late, what makes this world possible at all.

Suddenly I cease to think about my death and without altogether embracing my life or myself to life I can keep myself a minute away from my death so that if it would reach me, no one could say death found me in the wrong moment as in the story of King David in the Talmud. That moment of death, always untimely should be the only turning point in which the actual transformation can take place and "happen" properly. Otherwise we're condemned to this kind of everyday life that shines next to Gillel's knowing smile, and because we have a very extreme kind of freedom we can hardly experience it. It's different because as Agnes said in regard to Genesis, the philosophical grief starts as soon as you discover the time and in using the language you've lost the time again forever. The painting is perfect, that's why it cannot be happy. Oh untimely disappointment, sweeter than death and fresher than bay leaves, continuous revolt and revolution. Yet alive, for the time being. Departure time, rapture time, impossible time." L. to Y.

"To my painter

"I hear the roaring and the roasting and I know that it is I"
-Gillian Rose

I thought I had seen me in the roaring
On a Friday night, over tears
When I was returned,
Turned back, turned away too
It had thick walls that unveiled things
All the more beautiful as I moved
But the path had been only broken then
So that in the despairing pain of my rib
Of my leg
I can see the middle just breaking apart
Continuously and in an ecstasic festival
Of disagreements with the others
But with you, only whiskeys and ryes
You know my death from close by
Have heard her smile too
But fool yourself not!
That's not at all the end
And not even the broken middle
But a paving way moving toward
That unrecognition of the mistake
Of the failure
That contains a whole life
Only for a while
And then there's a broken middle
With names and letters
Never answered perhaps
Unsorted telephone calls
And a misery of such degree
That can never discussed
Nor you could ever paint it
And at that I'm your artist
The painter of your images
The seer
That breaks the middle paths
Never reaching the broken at all
Everytime he cuts my flesh
Into tiny little pieces of delight
I feel my body ache more strongly
And I enter the mourning again
Whereby you can be no companion at all
At most your witnessing
Is all what I can take
Your care
Which is only time
Temporality, language
And altogether dead nature too!
But this is my will
To will this toll even more fiercely than I wish my death
When the chips turn adverse
And no communication is possible
Between us and the Gods
Between the arts and us
Shall this hurt too much
I should give up
And untimely
Before my time
Yet but never
Before I make sure
That the Chair of Redemption remains empty
And that he, only he
Awaits nothing
So that he could at least embrace the world
The only possible honour
Of the passing away
In which thinking makes sense at all
And in the company of others
Moments of eternity
In Jerusalem
The only eternity available to us
That crude reality
That rips the flesh
And trades pleasure for salvation
This roaring I hear
And what I see
Is not him
But that it is I
Distancing even more." L. to Y.


I'm so beautifully depressed, just reading G.R. and soaking so completely in the delight of desperate mourning which is at times the beginning of a new life.

I'm listening to Mahler's "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen". Unknown singer. Drawing this Protestant garden on and on, imagining that all life began in the garden. Musing about all the parties I had in my life before...

Discussing Blücher:

Blücher on the study of philosophy: "You can do it only if you know that the most important thing in your life would be to succeed in this and the second most important thing, almost as important, to fail in precisely this."


Because there can be just there two choices! To keep them in mind... Succeeding then always depends on the outer world somehow, if they are ahead enough for your thoughts. To fail? Painting, for example, means always failing, never succeeding. To know this gives me always the strength to start a new painting.


Bestimmt! Wahrheit wird niemals nach dem Zwielicht von Kunst und Philosophie darstellt zu habe. Nor noch Dichting köennte es erwarten, erfahren und darin gegründet zu sein. Kunst/Philosophie sind immer auf einem "moment of truth" angefangen und dann im darstellungsbegriff the moment ist schon durchgekommen geworden and you return to the Schöpfungsaugenblick again. Es wird niemals folglich vollständig ausgebaut, in der meinung von Goethe und Rilke.

"The chief fallacy is to believe that Truth is a result which comes at the end of a thought-process. Truth, on the contrary, is always the beginning of thought, thinking is always result-less. That is the difference between "philosophy" and science: Science has results, philosophy never. Thinking starts after an experience of truth has struck home, so to speak. The difference between philosophers and other people is that the former refuse to let go, but that they are the only receptacles of truth. This notion that truth is the result of thought is very old and goes back to ancient classical philosophy, possibly to Socrates himself. If I am right and if it a fallacy, then it probably is the oldest fallacy of Western philosophy. You can detect it in almost all definitions of truth, and especially in the traditional one of "aedequatio rei et intellectus" [the conformity of the intellect to the thing known]. Truth, in other words, is not "in" thought but to use Kant's language, the condition for the possibility of thinking. It is both, beginning and a priori." -Hannah Arendt to Mary McCarthy


But it's good and important then to have certain skills like dialogue, keeping friends, and so on. Creating ein geistiges umfeld, so to say practising reality.


To keep those channels open (friendship, dialogue, discourse) means to leave a possibilityin my opinion to alter an everyday life that can never be falsified, just like philosophies and works of art, an act of ewige Schöpfung.

Else Lasker-Schueler, 1943

God built Palestine from a spine
and from one only bone: Jerusalem.

I promenade as through mausoleums -
Of stones is our Holy City.
So rest the stones on the beds of their dead Sea
In place of watery silks that played herein: They come and die away.

They glaze into the wayfarer with a callous reasoning -
And he drowns in her glazing night.
I am angry, that I cannot be overwhelmed.

If you would come...
Enshrouded in a wintercoat -
And would do away with the dusk hours of my day -
My arm would frame you, a rather auxiliary image of the holy.

Like once when I suffered in the darkness of my heart -
Therein both your eyes: blue clouds.
They delivered me from my turbid mind.

If you would come...-
To the land of the ancestors -
You would exhort me like a little boy:
Jerusalem - come to know Resurrection!

She hails us
The living flag of the "only God",
Greening hands, that sow the odes of life. (L.'s translation)

L's trans. of Zelda's "Mephiboshet"

"Your flickering eyes
Small birds suckling the nectars.

When you wept
The king hearkened not.

When you fell
The world did not return
To void-and-chaos.

Mephiboshet, you dreamt
Of a more innocent friendship.

You sickened at the wisdom
Of the ancient serpent,

O Son of Jonathan!"

"Lastly the reality behind all this is that I share in my own personal life Taubes' most absolute rejection of this world as it is, and only in trying to reverse this situation and this feeling I can make myself at home in a world wherein I remain but a philosopher. Only in this process I can understand the human condition much more than I do in conversations, in letter to people I love or in the experience of art; I share with Benjamin and Taubes the "catastrophes of history" and somehow am beguiled by the lovelessness and the hopelessness available in the form of that Benjaminean infinite amount of hope but not for us, I feel this so strongly and only in speaking contra myself in these matters I can make sense of my life. Today as I spoke to my father on the phone we had one of those typical chit-chats about my life and then suddenly he asked me "Why can't you have a normal boyfriend? Normal friends? Lead a normal life for God's sake?" and unsurprisingly enough I had very little to back my arguments with, the answers to those questions I can produce only in philosophy, because it is the only language available I found to make my protest heard, my protest of the everyday which I so forcefully reject. My melancholy is my experience of that philosophical truth, of the thrownness and the bewilderment before the raw materials of existence, it is the only happiness available to me from within the womb of my struggles, of my failures and my tragic sense is the counterpart of the Protestant happiness that my childhood lived through. I truly feel this is a loveless and Godless world, but I refuse to believe it, I entirely refuse to believe it and in those dark moments when the chips are down and I experience the failures of wisdom, love and life only philosophy and the figure of the Occident come to my relief. My faith is one of un-faith, and its language very southern Germanic and urgent, its symbols are all Jewish and its representation is a form of truth that blurs the limits of philosophy and life and that wouldn't be possible without the companionship of those other loners thinking out there, only in their companionship I can embrace and live that humanitas for which philosophy is my only language, and my only protest." L. to Sandra

"But the concept of the private doesn't entail only individual privacy, individuality... but in general terms it is applied to institutions and functions, the private is part of the public and it does not necessarily lives 'hiding', but rather and only 'not in the public', meaning that its goods are not common properties to all, even though my life is a private matter and I might freely decide whether to take it or not whenever I temptatively attempt to 'take' other person's life I am subjected to the public punishment. There's 'privacy' in my 'home', albeit this can be also a 'publicly-owned' location, I am in 'public' whenever outing with a lover, but then I experience 'private conversations'. Here I introduce two additional concepts to the discussion on 'private' and 'public'; namely 'intimacy' and 'anonimity'. The private realm is composed of manifold institutions that assure public life, but in these institutions usually private men are rather anonymous than public and in a romantic relationship I have more 'intimacy' than I have 'privacy', after all friends might always come by in the middle of the night and yet I can't have intimacy with myself. As an anonymous person I am not a private, for I might engage in multiple 'casual stands' without divulging my name or real marital status but I can never be 'anonymous' among my friends, therefore as an 'anonymous' person I am always in public, while 'anonymous' relationships are not necessarily 'intimate'. Intimacy and anonimity are two terms whose relationship is not as dialectical as that in between public and private, and in fact because the blurry differentiation between public and private most of our everyday experiences are turned into intimate or anonymous - in both cases we can't attain them by ourselves, we need the company of others.

...There's no love in anonimity, and the tragedy of the loss of the Self is that it has become the only concern of our age and therefore the least useful of all, because that 'self' remains quite anonymous and is usually not a good partner for conversation nor in the company of other neither in solitude. The Self has replaced the coherence of metaphysics and theology to provide a model for a 'home', but it is quite an anonymous character and cannot be held responsible for anything before the political institutions, it doesn't have a public or private face. Its only ground is freedom from everything else, and that's exactly where the coherence can never be attained, because this foundation is not a narrative or a creation story, it is not an assurance of mortality or immortality, it is not a dialectical dialogue between life and death nor a hermeneutic tool. On the recovery of plurality (in the sense that even the lives of the saints are lived in the company of others, as Augustine pointed out) depends the possibility for the individuality, and while only extreme individuals have been proved to have a 'taste' in the Kantian sense for weightful decisions in the realms of ethics and politics this is of very little use if I live in a world where I stand all alone by myself and cannot see 'me', because after all the work of art has no effect in the world if I am condemned to be the only spectator. Political philosophy isn't much different, it needs a world which I can't provide myself, I need to come into it and then just as naturally leave it, and of which I'm free to think in whichever way it pleases me, but my intuition and faith is that if I understand this world to be the Augustinian desert or that endless 'hotel room' rather than the best of all possible worlds, I would certainly prefer to stay anonymous rather than public or private, and await the next world." L. to Sandra

'When I die, do not scream and weep at my grave, I'm not there.... I sleep' -Else Lasker-Schüler

'But we, my beloved companion, have life, useless hope, true friends and fire consuming our souls... the most important thing I learnt from you and that has brought me much peace is: contradictions are the only way we can understand life' -Guilel

'I know that unrest, it decomposes everything... I believe it's that which feeds one with so much urgency in life, but if one doesn't tend it properly, it does kill' - Y.


Ah, les gens là... Mon A..... Où est ce que toi? You're always in my heart, yes -always, nowhere else... I'm writing you this letter, it's difficult for me, words never like me too much, my tongue humpelt immer, I'm just living a strange life, seeking only passion and crazy laughter, living in an art-hospital....

Just listened sad music whole hours long, lying on bed, very tired, too tired to go to sleep, now I go to some bar in sperlgasse...

My life is all about seeking this crazy passion and it makes me so sad that life always fails at me in precisely that, the only thing I want... maybe it's only for that reason that I keep trying everyday, failing everyday, only so I'm able to live.... 'there's an infinite amount of love but just not for us'; who if not him to have understood the whole of Benjamin?

I think Eveline and G. are the only people who understood Benjamin at all, or at least the way I did, that makes me feel so 'heimlich', but the 'heimlichkeit' is so urgent that the present becomes all fear, it kills... then the heimlichkeit becomes useless and unheimlich again in a way.

It scares so badly as they're looking always for security, so living with no compromises means at the very essential point, to understand that there's no security, just empty air under your feet. Your concept is a philosophical concept in the most radical and brutal sense, as it allows no divisory lines between concept and life. A concept not only aesthetically, and because he loves you, he understands the concept even if he cannot live it.

Sure, but the break of the boundaries between life and thought is all what has been ever wanted from thought and life themselves; when they see it come alive, they feel at home in the world again but soon enough they also discover that this 'heimlichkeit' also kills, but this 'death' is the truth of living (in the ontological sense). Then the burgeoise consciousness advises one to escape but it's not entirely possible, so that one returns again in order to live but not for long, as he knows nothing will make sense after that. 'Socrates laughed once and he never wept'

J. on Eveline:
'It was so amazing as it is always... to meet Eveline, and especially to meet her in Vienna! She is the diva and all the others are so poor, because they are just trabanten of others... And she is the sun and moon in persona, and who else can understand this unheimlichkeit?

And who else understands what this Dringlichkeit means? The Dringlichkeit of gelebt zu haben (having lived)...

Die anderen - sie kennen schöne Wörte, aber sie kennen nicht die abgründe die zwischen ihnen liegen (the others - they know beautiful words, but they don't know the abysses that lie in between them).'

"I want to go to Palestine with the boy. Maybe if he's with me I can really bear everything. I know how miserable it would make him, but I can hardly bear things with him as they're. He's on the edge of things, so anxious... has been through so much toll and bad health, but all the same... things could be different than they are.

The dettachment would show him to which extent Germany is completely lost for us, but if I bring myself to the point of that decision I think there's really no way to return. Life as it is now had very little charm for me if alone, but still I must follow through even if he doesn't make up his mind. It can't be that good for the kid either, to grow up in such conditions. An unhappy mother can never aspire be, a good educator.

Sometimes I want to be dead... when I think about it, that I must go on.
I love him so much, and he loves me no less... but the expression of his love is so different from mine. So soon I turn into despair and my love, can already alienate him so much at the same time that it makes my own life so difficult to bear while I can only lament about the whole affair. Until everything comes out or I just suffocate. Then suddenly we just go through it and I realize that everything is just OK, but such agony.... these agonies!

I wish, that he would think about me a little more sometimes - why do I have evermore this need, this need to afford him some glee? But in the main it all has to do with education. He has the education of my parents, that kind of idiosincracy that makes him so embarrassed of the simple things, like sending flowers to each other. I'm so overflown with feelings for him, I want to lay the whole world in front of him... but this is how it goes, whoever loves more, suffers all the more so." Journal entry, Mascha Kaléko, 1938

"Dear Mill, I thank you for your beautiful card, it is here the time: Rain (Regen) but one day sunshine 20 grad, other day the sea from the sky. Here now all good. We all people very good, the Englishmen all gentlemen. I have momentan picture Austellung. A gentleman here has given me extra money for a travel through Palestine. Still one moment I go to Baghdad and Damascus and Beirut and one day to Cairo. One day from here for a Pfund to travel. But I'm very sorry for the world. All the men which dead now. Write soon again, yours, Yussuf"-Else Lasker Schüler


"Soll ich nach Jerusalem kommen Dir helfen die Briefe zu übersetzen? Yussuf l'autre"

"I was impressed and touched by your last article of den reisen of Princess of Thebes. I felt so touched and confused, because I felt this burning in head, heart and fingernails you must have had, when having those jewel letters in your hand. And this unmittelbare herzrasende erlebnis I recognize in these lines"

"You don't know what it was like to have those letters in my hands, it was like discovering America. Like knowing the Jerusalem of the Prinzesin like only Leo can know it. It was recognizing myself in the dark eyes of a German Jew who left those letters just for me. You know what I mean?"

"I know as far as I can even if I'll never be a German and Jew, but my eyes are dark and sparkling enough to know and recognize myself in those dark beautiful sad eyes of Else. As she is the old woman and still remains Yussuf, auch wenn längst alles verloren ist"

"Oy I'm at the bars again! The night won't end up well!"

"My nights never end up well, how beautiful that finally one gets tired or never.... But which night WANTS to end WELL?"

"A night that ends up well is a night in the world of Pavel and Ralf. I'm in this totally crowded bar yet so much alone with the music, isn't it so beautiful? Plus I'm spending my last money in alcohol and I feel so free running my own excess show. After finding those letters I made Jewish history already, with my own fingers! Nothing can matter now"


How was the exposition?

Oy oy... I dedicated everything to you. You're already famous! Because all I'm telling in my drawings is a secret that only we know. I don't care if they don't understand the Wirklichkeit of our encounter.

What? I'm in such gloom that your words brought dry tears to my eyes in a warm night when all failures of the present weight upon me so heavily.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Theological Disneyland

I left home just too early perhaps and quite weary from the unresponsiveness of all my addreseès, as to want to delude myself into some theological excess if only in order to bring upfront the untheological nature of my living together with that un-Christian faith that has led me through and through for a few years now - an anti-metaphysical view of the world, but a very beautiful one. Leaving was a sort of a betrayal to that intense thinking-through I had been engaged since the morning after speedily recovering from the excesses of the night before, or rather of the morning a few hours before touching the dim light of awareness. The night before was one of un-adulterated truth, and how much I long for censorship sometimes! In besonderes... emotional censorship! My encounter with Michalis was really unexpected and in this contingent world everything is really all too likely to happen, the encounter of the thin line between life and death typical of the postmodern man, a blurry encounter almost clothed in the sensuality of murder. That was an encounter of theological measures, yes... my best friend of all in the world of the Talmudic academies and Halachic discussions - doubtless a different sort of anti-metaphysics, but not that I would praise for its aesthetics. That friend who also rebuked me for my Christianity of fathers, for my lack of interest in the world-to-come (something that Asher has beautifully interpreted for me, it isn't a world to come but an ever-coming-world, an ever-be-coming-world). Somehow he knew my heretic heart from the outset, my lack of conformity and henceforth, of happiness. One couldn't be too much at home in a yeshiva, certainly not as someone who had seen the world and that came to study the Talmud with the stiff and subtle touch of a Greek ear, albeit today I must recognize the flaws in my protracted insights - I truly don't know what the world is, unless I'd return to my most recent 'chiddush'; that worldliness is the application of love, the poetry of 'acting in the world', and therefore the only possible autonomy of the political. I came armed with little more than those years of Biblical Hebrew under Noél's mentorship, and honest truth is that studying Biblical Hebrew with a former Jesuit with twenty sociology students of Marxist tendencies, one failed seminarian and one cocaine addict aren't exactly what you would call apophantic enlightenment, it was hardly gnostic at all and merely pink dots in the life of a young man for whom the Jewish school and the Hebrew lessons in Sunday school were something as far off removed as adulthood is from wisdom. I had learnt already the Hebrew from the streets of Tel Aviv, which had stolen from me all my epistemological innocence at the same time that it remained at best a bad translation of Pauline Greek!

And oh Michalis, my good friend... the Ruth of our times, joining the Jewish people by a personal decree, as though one were granted, fix the days and hours of his elonged and eroded life-long death! For us, members of the too-choosen-nation, these privileges are a thing of pagan times and all the more informal in the age of identity cards and Jewishness certificates printed by a bunch of idol-worshippers that trade women's divorces like one plays truth-or-penalty with a bottle in the company of the least inspiring youths. So many hours he and me spent in the cafés, an early and more day-timely version of la bohéme, thoroughly vanquishing in spirit from the skull-caps and after-meal blessings known all too well. Of course as a philosopher I had to be always wrong, since I knew in a Socratic fashion that the enterprise was faulty from scratch, unlike my friend... a man of faith whose whole knowledge of the world was based on repeating second-rate Semitic poetry day after day (and in a Lithuanian style) in a way unfashionable enough as to cause one less lust than irony. He had visited me several times after my descent from the stinky households of divinity and had been less keen to show his shame about my relinquished spiritual status than I had expected. So many opportunities I had to share my public secret, but I always found the trick to delay it once more, it kind of lost all its theological importance too early in my holy career and became rather the stumbling block of socialization; it was impossible to find myself in any of those elegant soirées in East Jerusalem without being the victim of a flirtateous diplomat or clerical doll - the curse of all socialite, so that one had to lie so much as to pretend not to notice any of that but with a blinking eye spurious enough as to notice the change in the pressure cooker from a distance of a thousand miles. My secret was indeed so public that no one would comment on it anymore, lest it be Sister Bernadette, the kindest of all nuns in Mount Zion who one day slumbed the door of the concert hall on my face, believing it to be that of an Arab trying to disrupt into the peaceful harmony of a lost collonialist power... only in order to provoke me later, into "reading" theology with a certain Lebanese intellectual who had as much theological interest in me, as I have now metaphysical interets in the legs of a certain voluptuous female instructor of political science whom I have to see more often that I would even desire to see the jaded-eyed and most beloved recipient of my endless letters.

Two times I fixed dinners for Michalis, while we discussed in between the screeching noises of burstling oil and frying potatoes, the insights of Leo Shestov's "Athens and Jerusalem", the most discredited of all existentialist books perhaps because it's too Jewish to indulge in the 'authenticity' required by all existential philosophy, an authenticity in fact so devastating that it needed to have a political arm burning each and every possible Jewish book in the land of the philosophers as to set a precedent for their lack of authenticity. For him it was the most befitting of all philosophical books (only from the introduction though, the book is in fact so heavily Western that it could only exponentially bore the poetical but Philistine and sentimental mind of my good friend), someone living in Athens and then in Jerusalem with a stoppover in the Ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods of Manchester, a ghetto so authentic in its worldlessness and backward ways that even the residents of Bnei Barak find it be, not sufficiently modern or adaptive for contemporary religious practice. So that in the end I had to find the best of all moralizers inside the uncleanest loop in town, at which I arrived willy-nilly not even prey to my own desires, but rather wafting from one excess to the other in one of those typical Jerusalemite nights where one is forbidden to sleep away his own inner urgency... I find myself there not quite elated yet and very unkindred from the endless text messaging, one could as well call but no, that's how the cowardice of romance is, especially when coupled with friendship and love... it's never timely to do what one deems correct, it's always expected that one will do the outright wrong thing. Thus I'm summoned to the street to find that my favourite Jew is actually also a criminal who shares in the same public secret of mine but in reverse dialectics: his is a secret publicity, because after all if one's going through a "regressive therapy" to change his 'taste', as though one could take a crash course in antinomian aesthetics in order to enjoy newspaper advertisements instead of frescoes and oil-canvases... it's all made funny by turning up in one of those loopholes where the wrecks of internet-educated humanity gather at the orgiastic tunes of industrial noises that preclude concentration and biffurcate desire. Yet, if one's allows like some of us are, to either speak to God in the middle of that bacchanal of bad taste or write research notes in the middle of a Eurovision night, I guess it's completely OK to go out in the world and try out his luck in regressive therapy in such a milieu.

So it's no wonder I would awake to such hysterical un-drunk tunes this morning and even less that I would pray for a little miracle that would draw me to the divinity, more out of hunger than of faith. I walk slowly toward the stone, keeping a faithful encroaching behind my pullover soaked in eau-de-toilette from the night before that the stone will actually glitter in my soul this time... but Vitaly was always right about this, no matter how much one tries it's all about praying for the powers that be, at best one can get a good lie in lieu of religious contigency, namely the attitude that one day you can believe such and such, and then just as easily believe something else later on that day. Vitaly of course was the most religious of all Jews and a Zionist at that, only out of not knowing what that religion says about anything at all and even more beautiful, out of being a three-quarters of a Jew that can't be Jewish at all, but at least he's granted to be beautiful and angry, two qualities unheard of by our Talmud-army. The arrival to the usual orgiastic idol-worshipping in Aramaic was not at all surprising, but I couldn't help to find it as funny as I usually do and less aesthetic than ever, except for neatly ironed fur coats that unbecome any possible religiosity. For the millionth time I was unable to pray at all, in fact this writing is as close as I could ever come to praying in any language, plus one thing I do know about poetry is that it forbids one to separate praying from murdering, so that the Biblical Cain remains the endless topic of so many verses, while the goodie-goodie of his brother is only a secondary character in third-rate theater plays that not even Brecht would have found amusing at all, and that would have been banned in East Germany anyway because they contain too much sexuality. Too many of the faces were familiar already, but yet I was unrecognizable... not because the gloom has shrunk my body weight but because I've just changed too much through the days, every month I seemly have a different past of my own. Yet, they all remain the same... so that in the process of human evolution I've lost just too many valuable friendships out of progressing too rapidly into decay... that is, growing so young and disgusted all the time, that the salvation never stood as far removed from me than it does today, so that the sin is the only possible way to live a life. I walk in between the ocean of black silk and find myself to be a tourist in the most absolute sense, spotting the eyes of every possible outsider and their normal desbelief as to remind myself of both Vitaly and Guilel, two rather different figurines but yet one body of letter-writing and for-the-sake-of-nothing praying Angst. I planned steadely on joining the orgiastic liturgies knowing I wouldn't be able to fulfill my promise, and then just go home... the latter especially I knew, it wouldn't be feasible.

Suddenly my Mexican friend appears out of the black waterish landscape of stone and summons me through the streets of Meah Shearim to join my old interlocutor at the Shabbes table, trying to release myself from the ambiguity of living in completeness with myself... not because of having adopted the Platonic circumlocution of not contradicting myself but rather out of being absolutely convinced the contradicting is the only possible form of dialogue. I sit at the same table than the year before and in this abnormality of circumstances I seem to fit all too well in the landscape: hundreds of useless books, shabby tables and all of it adorned with little pictures from a certain village in Russia. I start running my own show of heresies, and instructing my flabergasted hosts in the pidgins and slangs in use by the Israeli youth, as foreign to them as their God is foreign to me.... but on a positive note I found a book with that certain Midrash on Korach that I needed in order to complete my piece on Shavuot, without altogether understanding what on earth in Esther doing in that Midrash. The smells of the festive cooking drew me from a far into that idle conversation, because in my poetic madness one's fed with little more than one needs to better from malaria, while he's also fed up from it. The hours are horses dancing slowly in the palm of my hand and I dream about that unwritten lecture to be delivered in four days from now, while altogether I just set on a pilgrimage to prove my host the uselessness of the Jewish religion. In a way I did learn to keep quiet about my opinions, expressing them only insofar as they cannot be taken that seriously and presenting people with the innocent gift of laughter, which was the last thing Socrates could do before his death... and even Rosenzweig! Perhaps I wasn't Jewish enough to them, so it couldn't be too important, but what did matter is that my eloquent ignorance on all matters Jewish is not a public 'docta ignorantia', for I believe to have learnt as much as can be learnt from the academies, but it's still so little that I'm in the lame situation of being too much enlightened in so little. Doubtless that there was also some longing about my being there, because in a way it was a return to the only world in which I had ever been home, and that in an unsurprising way I thoroughly rejected only for the sake of diremption. This is still far from Cain's antinomies of love, that I could hardly swallow as an established dogma and that no less doubtless will hasten his spiritual death faster than a world like this can be unredeemed. The streets were so sweet and the dishes not as much, but they did accentuate my ability to be a visitor in so many worlds, so that perhaps one's inability to really live is a gift that comes not without the charm of being able to present everyone with a chasm about themselves.

On the way home I felt grateful for the largesse of the meal and laughed in my heart about the Socratic nature of Talmudic education; an almost Orphic crowd of believers gathering around a peripathetic and oversized wiseman, indulging in more Eros than they would admit to themselves, so that a certain very intelligent fellow from these circles would remark to me in a bar the night before that it's not rational to say that the Greek philosophers indulged in the pleasures of the flesh describes by the historians, because otherwise how would then the Jewish philosophers of the middle ages have turned to them with such blind adherence? It only proves that the world itself is an antinomy. The increasing pain of my rib couldn't distract me too much from this Gnostic luck-pot, even though I did pray silently that I would make it through the night, knowing too well in advance that I wouldn't die on such an amusing evening. The only moral of the story is that perhaps my Cain and me could learn so much about the Eros of conversation from our Talmudic foes, and no wonder he remarked once that his family didn't like Rabbis too much. It's all a matter of detesting an alterity that resembles oneself just too much and that is unwilling to lie to itself about the simplest issues of existence. Out of the theological disneyland I find myself in the bars again, knowing that the night wouldn't end up well, and anyway... how could a night want to end well after all, said Katharina. I loved being in that well-known crowd but only for the first ten minutes, after which I only wished to run away and encounter the silence of my own limitless lack of shame. So I find myself home again in this desolate laboratory of intellectual failures, simply writing as though it had any power at all to vilify the experience less than it could redeem it. Tomorrow I won't be as lucky, but there's no way to really know; at this rate my room does resemble what Arendt said, that we might have been turned from the people of the book, into the people of the papers... a motto that our local university has always known how to live up to just too well. But one can't have enough irony at 4 a.m. in the morning, so that it's better to turn in and leave the "abroad" of night excesses and shows to others, even if only for one day.


"Soll ich nach Jerusalem kommen Dir helfen die Briefe zu übersetzen? Yussuf l'autre"

"I was impressed and touched by your last article of den reisen of Princess of Thebes. I felt so touched and confused, because I felt this burning in head, heart and fingernails you must have had, when having those jewel letters in your hand. And this unmittelbare herzrasende erlebnis I recognize in these lines"

"You don't know what it was like to have those letters in my hands, it was like discovering America. Like knowing the Jerusalem of the Prinzesin like only Leo can know it. It was recognizing myself in the dark eyes of a German Jew who left those letters just for me. You know what I mean?"

"I know as far as I can even if I'll never be a German and Jew, but my eyes are dark and sparkling enough to know and recognize myself in those dark beautiful sad eyes of Else. As she is the old woman and still remains Yussuf, auch wenn längst alles verloren ist"

"Oy I'm at the bars again! The night won't end up well!"

"My nights never end up well, how beautiful that finally one gets tired or never.... But which night WANTS to end WELL?"

"A night that ends up well is a night in the world of Pavel and Ralf. I'm in this totally crowded bar yet so much alone with the music, isn't it so beautiful? Plus I'm spending my last money in alcohol and I feel so free running my own excess show. After finding those letters I made Jewish history already, with my own fingers! Nothing can matter now"

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Unpublished Princess of Thebes! (Jüdische Denker III)

I guess what I'll do here is quite illegal, but then again it's the internet and I'm also doing it in a private blog so it should be OK. I came across a whole box of Else Lasker-Schüler's papers that apparently hadn't been seen by anyone before me... about 70 envelopes each containing a couple of letters, sometimes one or even a single postcard. The series is rather fragmentary (and I can tell this only out of my experience with the Hannah Arendt Papers where the gaps in between months or years isn't as pronounced). The letters are all directed to Emil Rass (her lawyer friend in Switzerland) and start in 1933, although the early letters (at least these ones) aren't too interesting for me and I was more keen on finding the Jerusalem-related stuff, and I did! The hand-writing is very very difficult and it'll take me long months until I might be able to decipher her almost hyeroglyphical-German, unless Katharina comes to Jerusalem or that I might have someone to help me (and this might not happen anytime before November). But I did manage to read most of it at a glance, the letters are incredibly uncanny because of the innocent language portrayed therein (and which is in a way the all-devastating success of Lasker-Schüler's beyond-surrealism aesthetic sense) and the drawings in so many of them are just fantastic. One day I'd like to make a collage out of them, there're so many themes there... so many thoughts! Already in a letter of March 23. 1938 (around the same time of Mascha Kaléko's journals of emigration) she writes to Raas about her arrival in Jerusalem before 1. June 1938, I'm not sure if this materialized... this is not the definitely the date when she made her home in Jerusalem, but I do know she spent a short period in Palestine and also travelling through Egypt, time after which she wrote "The Land of the Hebrews" (that is coming out in English very soon, first present I'll give to G. for his starting a master's degree), but I'm not too clear in my head about when did this exactly happen. Anyways she's in Jerusalem already by 1. April 1939 when she writes a letter to Raas and tells him her address is in some "Hotel Vienna", there she would live at least for the first few years... in the letter she says she's been in town for three days already. I wasn't sure at all about the location of the hotel, and I don't know if it exists still (due to be checked...) but as far as I know until the early 1970's it still stood in Sheikh Jarra, a neighbourhood in East Jerusalem where today many wealthy Arabs and foreign diplomats live, quite a stone's throw from the Hebrew University.

It's uncannily difficult to imagine what those six years should have been like, while she was living in Jerusalem, and we know from accounts of other people (most beautiful of those accounts are the long stories re-told by the Israeli German-born writer Yehuda Amichai, that he wrote many years later as an introduction to his Hebrew translations of her poems and later on translated into English as a foreword to translations of her poetry into this language, impossible to forget how Amichai relates that "she was the first hippy I ever saw"). What puzzled me from the letters I read is that later on she started writing letters to Raas in the most broken English I can think of, adding as well that she prefers to write English because she writes it better than she can speak it!!!! Even my painter's English is far better!

This is a postcard she writes to Raas on 21. January 1.940,

"Dear Mill, I thank you for your beautiful card, it is here the time: Rain (Regen) but one day sunshine 20 grad, other day the sea from the sky. Here now all good. We all people very good, the Englishmen all gentlemen. I have momentan picture Austellung. A gentleman here has given me extra money for a travel through Palestine. Still one moment I go to Baghdad and Damascus and Beirut and one day to Cairo. One day from here for a Pfund to travel. But I'm very sorry for the world. All the men which dead now. Write soon again, yours, Yussuf"

This truely made me laugh so hard, only because I can no longer weep. Not to mention how she spoke about King David in one letter, it was thoroughly nerves-freezing.

And here now an unpublished poem of April 1.938 (and there aren't many of these anymore), the poem is such a perfect rhyme in German that by translating it I can only destroy it, but perhaps that's all what I could ever do with such jewel of beauty.

"Im Bautsch und Bogen ungelogen,
Muss ich aus meine Cautsch herautsch;
Es kommt ein Spatz wohl angeflogen,
Doch nie ein Frühstück an mein Cautsch.

So leb ich seit ich rautschgezogen
Vor fünf ein halbes Jahr o grautsch!
Schau auf den Zürchersee, aud seine wogen...
Fürwahr so schlecht war nicht der Tautsch."

(by the way... the poem has those horrible Swiss-German word-contractions!.. this means the translation has to wait for a day or two... I'm too tired)

Research Note II Jüdischer Denker - Walter Calé

Every time I spend a few hours at the archives of the National Library in Jerusalem is much worse and much better than the time before in each and every respect. Better as I'm totally flabergasted by the quantity of material to be found and researched and worse because it brings fully in the open my total ignorance on all matters of the esprit and the intellecet. Today I started to share my bits and pieces with Eveline, and came to the sad conclusion that my curiously awkward research does need some partners in crime and that I can't get away with everything by myself. In short there's some institutional support, but it does mean in the end of the day that I have to share "credits" with people sitting in the idle comfort of their homes while I break my head against thick walls of German hand-writing, yellowing paper and obscure references. This heavy editing work has to be done almost for free and just for the sake of art, but in this respect I guess I've come to sympathize with Rahel Varnhagen on that "the greatest artist, philosopher or poet is not above me... we are made of the same materials, stand on the same level, belong together. That's what life has required of me". I mean to say that it has been who sat face to face with all those letters, diaries, newspaper cuts, who learnt the stories from as first hand as it is possible for us moderns to learn about our immediate past. I guess this love-erfüllt engagement with the past is as much understanding as one can get from the realm of aesthetics and in taking a personal position, a stance so to speak, one also positions himself one step ahead of aesthetics but not quite yet reaching the other side.

Today my curiosity was sparkled at having found an archive file under the name of Walter Calé, who died already in 1904 and it puzzled me to think that any of his stuff might have found his way to Jerusalem. He was no doubt an interesting character, born in Berlin in 1881 to an assimilated family... studied some Greek and Latin and then was actively engaged in the study of philosophy at the local university, wrote a large chunk of poems that were never published during his lifetime. At the young age of 23 he took his own life, that was in the year 1904 and only later his poems started to appear in three different volumes I think (although I presume, like most young poets of the time, his poems might have found their way to some cheap gazette that either was destroyed by the Nazis or sleeps a public death in the libraries of Berlin and Cracow). "Musik am Abend" and "Und keine Brücke ist von Mensch zu Mensch", both of them published shortly after his death and that might have seen a couple of re-prints during the times of the Weimar Republik, although there were also reprints of one in 1948 and the other in both 1985 and 1989. Both of these books have been for long out of print. In fact the oblivion of Calé in the contemporary world of lettrès is beyond reason; even poets as forgotten as Margarete Susman and Mascha Kaléko have internet entries and re-prints of diaries, letters, articles, etc. from rather well-known elite publishers in Germany, at least during the 90's (a new biography of Kaléko came out this month in conmemoration of her 100th anniversary and a book with letters and essays of Susman was published in 2002 by the prestigious Jüdischer Verlag). The most well-known (this is already a joke) book of Calè is the so-called "Nachgelassene Schrifte" (posthumous writings) edited by his Arthur Brückmann and introduced by Calé's friend Fritz Mauthner. This book was published in 1907 and saw subsequent editions in 1912, 1914 and 1920 as far as I know. Several copies survive all over the world. This rather hefty book contains most of his poems (if not all, but I'm not sure at all about this), a great part of his journal entries and letters.

It is a misfortune he's so little known today so that I can't put up a pic of his here, since there's none available. The National Archive holds a large notebook (that in my opinion is really hand-written by the poet) with most of his poems and a journal of his from the first months of 1904, thereof the fragments 1-150 (from 7.01.1904 to 27.02.1904) remain unpublished. Apparently the library also holds some other texts but they're off limits to the public on account of their being published somewhere else. The poems in the notebook are written in this really diminute hand-writing that somehow resembles Benjamin's and a carefully reading might reveal some pieces that escaped the original editors who might have seen them from a different source; it is difficult to tell how on earth such material found a way to Jerusalem, but I might be able to find out in the forthcoming weeks. I would like to translate some of these poems in the near future to my beloved K. and G., because of that uncanny catastrophic Romantic feeling therein. I can say I don't feel too close to him somehow, perhaps it's just too classical a model for me to want to follow, nor would I like to take my own life at the age of 23 (which is my age now)... not out of too much willingness to live but rather out of too little willingness to give up.

In the folder in question there's also a photocopy of a chapter in Theodor Lessing's book from 1930 "Der jüdische Selbsthaß" (The Jewish Self-Hatred) which is a classic on the topic and that devotes one chapter to Calè, the book tackling the personalities of a good number of prominent Jews of the generation (and that means the generation when Arendt and Benjamin were still too young) of whom little is known today. I know about Mr. Lessing from Gershom Scholem's book on Walter Benjamin where he mentions that Benjamin sent his a postcard on ocassion of his reading "Philosophie der Tat" (Philosophy of Action), a book by this Theodor Lessing, apparently a Jew. A book no one would remember these days, just like all those books on Jewish theology published around the time of Rosenzweig's "Star of Redemption" and mentioned in some nice article in a collection of essays about Rosenzweig's thought edited by Paul Mendes-Flohr some seventeen years ago. I think it's really maybe my life to be dedicated to this German-Jewish heritage, because perhaps it is the only way in which my own story makes sense as a history. I can't face myself too directly, so that I need to be shielded from the world somehow in order to be able to find a place to stand thereupon.

There were in the archive, also a couple of very lacrimous essays on Calè from 1906 (one of them back-sided by a really interesting article in the feuilleton about death). They can only hint at what Katharina told me when I told her about them: "When I was in Tel Aviv I had a small book in my hand, it made me very angry at the same time that I was fascinated. It included a series of male Jewish writers of the fin-de-siécle like Weiniger and Calé who committed suicide at an early age. I hated the book because it just presented their deaths in tragic ways and not their work; moreover what should this be? Antology of suicides? But if I find correspondence of Calé... that's another matter.... We can never divine life and work of a poet, but his death is always outside to me. Yet these curious and intromisive creeps are greedy on these erotic touchy stories... Well... this is disgusting in the sense that they reduce Calé to the writer who committed suicide. They don't read his poems as poems but as if they were the embassies of his later suicide... but it is such a vulgar and sentimenal reduction!"

I couldn't agree any more... those wonderful newspaper articles are kitschy and sentimental to the point of despair and in fact they're almost image-less pornography... while it reminds one how much Europeans know to praise the dead Jews while they can barely stand by those who are still on their feet, I know this all too well. A Jew that isn't victimized or death can't be that alright. Lastly my sorrow is that eventually I'll have Calé's stuff published in Austria but not willy-nilly! I'll have to do the whole work almost for free and of course share the credit with my mentor. But I guess it's all about works of love, and from G. and K. I've learnt just so much about it that I can't care any less... and it isn't about being altruist really, it's so much about yourself as it is about them, I've learnt this. Perhaps this is my chiddush, that "Yivne Olam Chesed" is really that Arendtian "worldliness".

Research Note for 100 Jahre Jüdische Denker

German-Jewish writers of less renown with archives filed in Jerusalem. Most of them died in Israel. I'll try to fill in some bibliographical information.

Peter Alternberg (pseudonym of Richard Engländer). 1859-1919. Austrian writer, newspaper editor and publisher.

Richard Beer-Hoffmann. 1866-1945. Austrian poet.

Moshe Yaakov Ben Gabriel (formerly Eugen Hoeflich). 1891-1965. Austrian writer.

Walter Calé. 1881-1904. German poet.

Albert Ehrenstein. 1886-1950. Austrian writer and poet.

Carl Ehrenstein. 1892-1967. Austrian writer and poet.

Paul Engelmann. 1891-1965. Czech German-speaking philosopher and architect.

Yona Fink. 1906-1964. German painter and writer.

Rudolf Fuchs. 1890-1942. Czech German-speaking poet and translator.

Frieda Hebel. 1914-199?. German poet and writer.

Gustav Landauer. 1870-1919. German writer.

Eugen Mayer. 1882-1967. German poet.

Ernst Müller. 1880-1947. German writer.

Gerty Spies. 1897-1997. German writer.

Gerson Stern. 1874-1956. German poet and writer.

Arie Ludwig Strauss. 1892-1953. German poet.

George Strauss. 1896-1975. German writer.

Manfred Sturmann. 1903-1989. German poet.

Yehuda Louis Weinberg. 1883-1960. German poet.


In the mornings sometimes
There can be just so much fear
A hand that wooes, ails, arrives
Causing you a little uproar
Marching through the faces
Of the loves, the furor, tar
Enough for less infringements
That might always coat or mar
The gifts of the sun, the lives
With the contempt so far
Clean from the abysmal inches
That separate the love, the fear
When the mornings break the waters
And throws the difference
Into the other's face
Out of love
Out of a grave
Simply housing another thread
Another journal
Of a journey that never was
Of a love, you never lacked
Lest the dampness in the walls
Counts as longing
And the little worms
As friends
In the nothingness
Of the eternal life.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Schism of Love (Shavuot)

To CY students, Shira, Pesach, Matt.... in friendship, and to Guilel in chasm.

"Rabbi Zeira said: This book does not contain any ordinances about purity and impurity, no prohibitions or permissions. But then why would it be written at all? In order to teach you, how great is the reward to whomever acts out of love". -Ruth Rabba 15

ודע, כי מחלוקת בחינת בריאת העולם. כי יקר בריאת העולם - על-ידי חלל הפנוי כנ"ל, כי בלא זה היה הכל אין סוף, ולא היה מקום לבריאת העולם כנ"ל, ועל-כן צמצם האור לצדדין, ונעשה חלל הפנוי, ובתוכו ברא את הכל הבריאה, הינו הימים והדמות, על-ידי הדבור, כנזכר לעיל: בדבור ה' שמים וארץ נעשו וכו'. וכן הוא בחינת המחלוקות, כי אלו היו כל התלמידי-החכמים אחד, לא היה מקום לבריאת העולם רק על-ידי המחלוקות שביניהם, והם נחלקים זה מזה, וכל אחד מושך עצמו לצד אחר, על-ידי-זה נעשה ביניהם בחינות חלל הפנוי, שהוא בחינות צמצום האור לצדדין, שבו הוא בריאת העולם על-ידי הדבור כנ"ל, כי כל דברים שכל אחד מהם מדבר, הכל רק בשביל בריאת עולם, שנעשה על ידם בתוך החלל הפני שביניהם, כי תלמידי-חכמים בוראים את הכל על-ידי דבוריהם, כמו שכתוב: ולאמר לציון עמי אתה - אל תקרי עמי, אלא עימי, מה אנא עבדי שמיא וארעא. -לקוטי מוהרן ס"ד, ד

I [Psalms 87, 88, 89]

It is certainly correct what was remarked during a dinner I attended last week, it is that there's no such a thing as 'what Judaism says' in respect to this or that issue, there's always this plurality of variegating ideas. In this spirit I
would like to say that according to some (יש אומרים) there are certain Psalms that cast some light on the Feast of the Weeks, mentioned in the Torah twice, once in the Book of Sh'mot and once in the Book of D'varim. This Shavuot festivity is intertwinted with the Passover, and thencewith a number of days are counted until the former. In between the deliverance of the Israelites from slave-bondage to the Revelation of the Torah in Mt. Sinai there're a number of significant events among which stands out in my aggadic predilection the story of Korach. In fact the Psalm most closely associated with Shavuot is Psalm 89, that contains the famous saying עולם חסד יבנה which stands in interpretive closeness to the message of the Scroll of Ruth; the central reading of the morning services during Shavuot. The link between Ruth and Shavuot is certainly not Biblical; the connection is made on the basis of the descriptions of the harvest seasson in the Scroll (for Shavuot is also the Feast of the Fruits, that in Biblical times constituted one of the three annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem in which one could individually bring the first 'Bikkurim', the first fruits taken from the seven species of the Land of Israel) and also of Ruth's desire to join the Jewish people, who are defined by their acceptance of the Torah that is the leading theological message of the holiday in modern times. Moreover Ruth is a book about love and redemption, that starts with the pilgrimage to a foreign land on account of famine, middles with the love for the stranger amidst the tents of the people and ends with David, so that the Biblical commentators would add that everything leads up in the last instance to David, and therefore to the Messianic times. The descent of the great king and poet in Israel is traced to a moabite ancestry, to a 'foreign' ancestry.

A mediation on this love and redemption is found in that 89th Psalm, but before I would like to turn to the two preceeding Psalms that are still attributed by the tradition to the Sons of Korach (who are believed to have been the first music directors in the Temple) . In Psalm 87 there's a prophetic and paradoxical message of the love of God for the people of Israel in an astonishing line, "אהב יהוה שערי ציון מכל משכנות יעקב" (The Lord loveth the gates of Zion / More than all the dwellings of Jacob). Last night, as I passed through the medieval Zion Gate and curiously stared at the churches in the block circumventing silently the passage in between the gate into the Jewish city and the ancient City of David, I thought for a second that this passage couldn't be right, because if the dwellings of Jacob means what the commentators say, namely any other Israelite dwelling; how could God love more the Gates of Zion that I understood to be Jerusalem, anymore than he could love any other of the dwellings in the land? The question can only be answered later. In the next Psalm, 88, there's a desperate plight in gloom, another plight by the Sons of Korach, in fact the Psalm stars with the word שיר and not מזמור, it is a song and not a Psalm because hereby no connotation of joy is included. It is already a Psalm in captivity, but what does the captivity have to do with Ruth after all? and with Shavuot? Apparently nothing, lest one could hear more than the eye can touch. What is most striking about this Psalm is not necessarily the gloom and darkness with which it clothens but rather the fact that it is an entirely individual plight, there's no 'other' involved, no 'us' or 'I and...', it is a very lonely I, and the Psalm ends with a claim that could have been made by Adam or by Cain, even by me; "הרחקת ממני אהב ורע מידעי מחשך" (Friend and companion hast Thou put far from me / And mine acquaintance into darkness).

The speaker here is not holding a grudge against God, and his claim sounds more like a statement of fact than a complain, for where is the "איה?" (where) or the "מדוע?" (wherefore) that one finds in Job or in the Prophets. In the story-telling involved about the individual plight only one question is asked with an interjection, four verses before this final statement aforementioned, "למה יהוה תזנה נפשי תסתיר פניך ממני" (Lord, why castest Thou off my soul? Why hidest Thou thy face from me?). The interpretation is the final verse above also resounds in former verses thus; "friend and companion" is possibly meant to address those to whom he had a right to look for help in his desperate plight, and "put far away from me" doesn't mean necessarily that they distanced willy-nilly but that the distance is necessary as another verse in the Psalm suggests with a syntatic juxtaposition,
"הרחקת מידעי ממני / שתני תועבות למו / כלא בלא אצא" (Thou hast put mine acquaintance far from me / Thou hast made me an abomination unto them / I am shut up, and I cannot come forth). The verse describes the condition of leper and the abomination in plural has an intensive force: an utter abomination; therefore the 'intimate friends' had to be put far away. "מידעי מחשך" (and mine acquaintance into darkness), the last sentence could also be translated as "my intimate friends are darkness", this can mean two things - either he's so abandoned that can only surround himself with the darkness as a friend or that his good friends have become this darkness, therefore are of no avail. The song ends with a definite hopelessness. Still the question of the relevance of these passages to Shavuot and therefore to Korach and Rut remains unanswered, we shall turn now to the last Psalm in this section, 89 - that which bears the interpretive intimacy with Ruth.

Psalm 89 is not a Korahite one, but a Ezrahite sang by Ethan the Ezrahite, although there's also a Korahite Ethan and it is difficult to establish any connection between Ezrahites and Korahites. It is a Psalm of meditation in the midst of national adversity, clearly divided into two different sections, the second of which breaks after the verse 39. Significant enough is to notice the features of the first part, dealing with the attributes of God in the "past", such as mercy and faithfulness ad thoroughly demonstrated to Israel. Most important here in connection the Ruth, is also the promise of David and the endurance of his throne. Paradoxically enough is the second part there's a clear exposition of the nation's vicissitudes and the overthrow of the very same kingdom promised in the first part by a victorious enemy. The contrast glitters in one's tongue so that perplexity ensues and at the end of these three Psalms one finds the Psalmist's prayer for hope for the nation. Let's turn to some important passages in this Psalm.

The second and third verses open already with the most closely connected aporias to the Book of Ruth, the famous עולם חסד יבנה, the main theme of the Psalm during this first section is in fact the "Chesed", namely the acts of love wrought for Israel out of God's goodness, albeit there's surprisingly little mention of God's exercising of mercy upon the sinfulness of the people, a theme rather recurrent in the prophets of the exile, so that one gets the impression the text is pointing toward the circumstances of the national downfall before the Babylonians but not quite there yet. Straight in the text:
חסדי יהוה עולם אשירה
לדר ודר אודיע אמונתך בפי
כי-אמרתי עולם חסד יבנה
שמים תכן אמונתך בהם
(I will sing the mercies of the Lord forever / To all generations I will make know Thy faithfulness with my mouth / For I have said: For ever is mercy built / In the very heavens Thou dost establish Thy faithfulness). The grammar of this brief text is already a cunning problem, because עולם (forever) is also understood to mean "world"; therefore the "world" (one of the most deliberately confused concepts in contemporary philosophy) is turned into a concept of time in fact linked undeniably to eternity and therefore to the end of history, or to meta-history. Only faith or belief can be a huam meta-history, a space for trascending that is seemly problematic in the face of the anti-ontological nature of the relationship of the Israelites with their world. Therefore "Forever mercy is built" is also understood as "A world of mercy he will build" and in accordance to the tradition, "A world of love he will build", love as hermeneutics of history; this is immediately confirmed two verses below, for there it is said "עד-עולם אכין זרעך ובניתי לדור-ודור כסאך סלה" (For ever will I establish thy seed, and build up thy throne to all generations).

In this passage "forever" is not rendered עולם but עד-עולם, the difference is semantically meaningful; for עד means "until" but also "eternity", in the style of a Rabbinical inquiry it is possible to ask why the word "eternity" would have to be repeated unless one of the two words have a different meaning than the obvious one? And perhaps even both have a meaning different than that abscribed. Perhaps until "the world will be established" will be possible to build the throne? But wasn't the world created already? Another possible interpretation would be "in the eternity of the world", but isn't the world created out of the cosmos (חלל) and not eternal but passing as Kohelet affirms? Clarity on the second possibility will not become feasible until the last chapter of this dialogue, so for the time being we shall return to the first one. My intuition is that by saying עולם חסד יבנה the Psalm is making clear a point unheard of before: That it is not eternity but love the world itself, St. Augustine said once that "the world is the lovers of the world", from which together with the Biblical hermeneutics I would like to propose a different reading in accordance with the secular caution of Arendt's reading, I want to say that it is love the only possible form of worldliness and therefore not trascendence in the absolute sense but of the recognition of the broken forms of both trascendence and immanence, the Kafkian devise to account for past and future, no less than for the profane and the holy. This is where the Psalm approaches in giant steps the Book of Ruth, but what does Korach have to do with this story?

In verse 21 there's mention of God having found David, "מצאתי דוד עבדי בשמן קדשי משחתיו" (I have found David my servant / With my holy oil have I annointed him), "annointed" because of course the sign that he has been chosen already to bear the stamp of the Messianic times and therefore it is assured that his kingdom will never fall, what is altogether repeated in verse 36, "אחת נשבעתי בקדשי אם-לדוד אכזב" (Once I have sworn my holiness, surely I will not false unto David) and then again the promise of never letting the kingdom fall is reassured, both in terms of "world" and "eternity" as in עולם. In contrast to עד (ad) "eternity" there's also mention in the following verse of עד (ed) "witness", "כירח יכון עולם ועד בשחק נאמן סלה" (It shall be established forever as the moon; and be steadfast as the witness in the sky) which obviously refers to David's kingdom. There can be multiple other readings of this verse, "It shall be established forever and ever as the steadfast moon in the sky forever", "It shall be established in this world and beyond it as the steadfast moon in the sky" or "The world shall be established as the steadfast moon and a witness in the sky". These possible interpretations raise more questions than this humble essay could dare attempt to tackle. The interlapse between world and sky as separate entities is very meaningful in our coinage of worldnessness, for apparently the world and the earth are two different concepts, therefore this world or worldliness based on Chesed or love, is something inside the firmament, inside the universe, inside the abyss but yet not entirely a part of it, there's a kiddush, a separation. Everything up to this point has only mentioned however, promises made in the past and in verse 39 it turns to the present.

In this verse it is clear that the people have rejected the offer of God, and alas! have rejected the Messiah! for it is written "ואתה זנחת ותמאם התעברת עם-משיחך" (But Thou hast cast off and rejected, Thou hast been wroth with Thine annointed), the annointed is of course the Messiah, how has the people then been wroth with their annointed, annointed by whom? Was it a false Messiah annointed by the people or the one of God given to them already at some point? It is interesting to notice how "wroth" can mean also "pregnant". For the following seven verses God is reproaching the attitudes of the people that have caused them being led into exile, and in verse 47 there's a slight variation from a plea made in Psalms 79 and 88 (the Korahite Psalm mentioned before) "עד-מה יהוה תסתר לנצח תבער כמו-אש חמתך" (How long, O Lord, wilt Thou hide Thyself forever? How long shall Thy wrath burn like fire?) with a philological variegance of using a different word for "forever" than our common stock "olam". This is followed by five verses in which the people are facing God and confronting him so that he will "remember" them, a plea for clemency. Verses 50 and 52 return to David and the Messianic promises once again thus: "איה חסדך הראשונים / אדני נשבעת לדוד באמונתך" (Where are Thy former mercies, O Lord? Which Thou sisar swear unto David in Thy faithfulness?), hereby returning to promises made in the first part of the Psalm and also in the previous Korahite Psalms, this verse couldn't go without the company of a Messianic claim,
"אשר חרפו אויביך יהוה אשר חרפו עקבות משיחך" (Wherewith Thine enemies have tauned, O Lord, Wherewith they have tauned the footsteps of Thy anointed); from this verse we learn (as we do both in the Book of Sh'mot) that oftentimes God attached the Messiah to the people or the people to him, among other things, just like in the conversations between God and Moses regarding the People of Israel. The last verse, which is a statement of hope would be significant for our enquiry (and I believe it is, in traditional Jewish readings) but I will leave it, as it is seemly a mere closing doxology that isn't part of the Psalm but simply the usual form of ending a Book of the Psalter. The People of Israel are in Exile, they're in need of Redemption and it certainly has to do with David and therefore it is directly connected to Ruth, henceforth to what I mentioned before, my concept of love as worldliness. But we still have to pave the way through Korach, why? Let us turn to matters at hand now.

II [Parashat Korach]

III [The Scroll of Ruth]
IV [A "Machloket": Shavuot & The Schism of Love]


Arendt, Hannah. "Von der Menschlichkeit in finsteren Zeiten: Rede über Lessing". Piper, München, 1960.
Heller, Agnes. "Die Auferstehung des jüdischen Jesus". Philo, Berlin, 2002.
Goodman-Thau, Eveline. "Liebe und Erlösung: Das Buch Ruth". LIT, Wien, 2006.
- "Metamorphosis as Messianic Myth: Dream and Reality in the Writings of Franz Kafka", in "Kafka, Zionism and Beyond", ed. M. Gelber, Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen, 2003.
- "Gott auf der Spur: Biblischer Humanismus in der Philosophie des Anderen von Emmanuel Levinas", in "Vergegenwartigung des zerstörten jüdischen Erbes", ed. W. Schmied-Kowarziek, Kassel Univ. Press, 1997.
- Kaléko, Mascha. "Aus den sechs Leben der Mascha Kaléko: Biographische Skizzen, ein Tagebuch und Briefen". ed. Gisela Zoch-Westphal, Arani Verlag, Berlin, 1987.
Rosen, Stanley. "Hermeneutics as Politics". OUP, 1987.
Susman, Margarete. "Ich Habe Viele Leben Gelebt". Dtv, 1964.
- "Das Hiob-Problem bei Kafka", in "Das Nah- und Fernsein des Fremden", ed. I. Nordmann, Jüdischer Verlag, 2002.
Zornberg, Aviva. "The Beginnings of Desire: Reflections on Genesis". Image, New York, 1996.
- "The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus". Image, New York, 2002.
- "From Another Shore: Moshe and Korach", public lecture, Tikkun Leil Shavuot, May, 2007.