Rabbi Tamás Verő in Balassagyarmat:
„That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.”
2010. (the year 5771.) November the 24th: Rabbi Tamás Verő, Rabbi of Buda District (Budapest) held a presentment at the Roman Catholic Church of Balassagyarmat. The audience was very excited about hearing, what he wants to say. And this had nothing to do with in which religion do you believe.
The city was rebuilt in the 17th century, and ever since it has strong ties with its jewish citizen. They were so numerous, that one of the Old City's streets was called Jerusalem Street (Jerusalem Gasse) until 1900. Even our parish church's main altar had hebrew inscription on it.
Béla Majdán, town historian, secretary of the István Kertész Foundation, which tries to guard and protect the jewish heritage of the town, pointed it out in his speech, that how special this occasion really is, and also mentioned Baron Pál Balassa 's - who built this church- actions toward the jewish people. You can read his speech on the link below: Here.
Rabbi Tamás Verő tried to sum up how a religious jew lives by the guidence of the Old Testament.
First of all he spoke about the clothing of jewish men. Especially about the kippah, which should protect you all time. The kippah separates the limitless power of the Almighty from the small and fragile created soul, the man. But the Almighty watches over all of us.
The Old Testament is the holy book of the Jewry. This is the Torah, the five books of Moses, which also contains the Ten Commandments. Its structure is complex. It teaches you about God, about mankind, the world, and Israel. It has many aspects, historical, cultural, etc. Its like a book of law. A jewish men should read these five books in a year, in a stipulated order. The teachings of the Torah are explained in the Talmud.
The Talmud also determinates the form of the Torah scroll, which is used for readings at the synagogue. At every synagogue there is an ark of the covenant containing the Torah scroll.
The Torah begins with the second letter of the hebrew alphabet, "beth" . The last letter is "lamed". The first and the last letter together - "lev" means "heart". This is a symbol, and its meaning is, that everyone should open his heart for the Almighty. The first letter of the hebrew alphabet is alef, and it is reserved for the Almighty.
He tried to show the audience how it is to live by the Old Testament by using the symbol of a pyramid. The presence of the Almighty is at the top. Directly under him stands the Tablets of Stones of Moses with the Ten Commandments. Under that, we can find the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. The next level is the Mishna (oral tradition). This is a collection of ancient traditions, with 6 parts and 523 chapters. Next is the 64 books of the Talmud (Mishna and Gemara) which explains all that is above. (In fact there are two Talmuds - the Babilonian Talmud and the Talmud of Jerusalem, according to the different traditions of the two area.) And the lowest level is the book Shulchan Aruch (Set Table) the most recent code of jewish law. Long ago, the foundation, like in every monoteism, was the Ten Commandments.
The sacred land of the jewry is Jerusalem, since the 10th century B.C., when David announced it as the capital of the Jewry. His son, Salamon built the First Temple there, where the Ark of the Covenant was placed with the stone tablets of Moses. Only a religious leader was allowed to enter the into the "holy of the holies". The altar was placed outside, where the jews could express their gratitude toward the Almighty by sacrifying animals. Titus, Emperor of Rome burnt Jerusalem to the ground in 70 BC and desttroyed the Second Temple. Nowadays only a small fregmant of the original wall is still standing, the so called "Wailing Wall". In the Byzantine era they allowed the jews to commemorate their nations downfall at the site of the old temple. Right now a muslim mosque stands at the spot where the Temple used to be.
The painting of a dutchman from the 17. th century, its title: When Titus ordered his man to destroy Jerusalem .
On the second picture you can see the fragment of an embossment, showing the triumphal arch of Titus in Rome. The soldiers are taking the menorah of the Temple of jerusalem with them in a victory march.
After the Sanctuary in Jerusalem ceased to exist, praying was all that was left for those, who wanted to express their feelings toward the Allighty. They established places for praying, called: 'beyt knesset', the synagogue. The prayer has a schedule which must be complied all times.
Rabbi Tamás Verő also tried to describe the main stages of the life of a religious jew, all the traditions from birth to death. Of course the habits changed a bit over time, but the essence remained.
The marriage is a divine institution in their eyes. The Talmud describes it as a social duty. „Multiply and prosper!”. The newborn child recieves a name on the first day, which has three parts. The first is the own, hebrew name, the second shows you, that he or she is a child nd the final is the hebrew name of his/her father. When they give the baby a name, the father asks for blessing upon his child in front of the Torah, from the Almighty. The boys traditionally get circumcised. At the age of 12-13 the child is promoted to be an adult. (12 for girls, 13 for boys). The girls of that age only need to participate in a nice, playful ceremony, but the boys need to show they are prepared and wise enough. They need to read from the Torah in front of their community.
Before the marriage the engagement is a very important step. The participation on the wedding is a very important duty. Traditionally the jewish wedding was held under a tent. But to go outside, had a meaning too. The tradition has it, that as many stars the newly-weds see, that many child they will have. Before the wedding ceremony the bride takes a ritual bath, and the groom asks for blessing on their marriage. After the ceremony the couple leave the others and they remain all alone for the first time. The important ingredients of a traditional jewish marriage are the part when the groom buys the bride - which means that the groom puts a ring on the index finger on the bride's right hand -, and "to bed". Nowadays the wealth is not important at a marriage anymore
The final destination of a man's life is death. After the funeral there are three different stages. the week of mourning, the month of mourning and the year of mourning.
According to the traditions the funeral should be held as soon as possible. When Moses and his people wondered through the desert this was the obvious thing to do, if they wanted to avoid diseases. On the other hand if someone loses somebody he or she loves it is the best to close the painful events.
Of course the coffin is not closed. The corpse is in all white, which means he/she was born pure, and he/she dies pure. All jewish people who die, will receive a little desert-sand under his/her head, so they say, he/she can rest on the land of Israel. The mouth and the eyeswill be covered with pieces of tile, to protect him/her from the brightness above. They stick a little bough between his/her fingers, hoping it will help the resurrection.
During the week of mourning they remember to the deceased with candles. They spend at least one hour on the floor, and they need to sit unconfortable, and remember the deceased at least for a hour. For a month they are not allowed to visit -disturb as they say- the deceased. they need to reserve themselves from the happy events. The next 11 month is for the year of mourning.
All things in a religious jews life is connected to his/her community. The community of ten religious jews is called minyan. Public prayers can only be said and done in front of the minyan.
After this, Rabbi Tamás Verő showed us the casual ways of a religious jew. He showed us the religious necessities too, which things serve to strengthen one's faith. „Inscript my words into your hearts and souls, tie it to your hands, wear it as an ornament on your forhands! Teach your children to them,...Write it down on your house's door frame, and on your gate..." says the Second Book of Laws and its 11th chapter. And this is something a religious jew means literally.
There is also a scarf for prayers, the so called: talit. Long ago it was on their heads, or over their neck. Nowadays they wear it under their cloths. The fringes on the scarf remind them to the 613 commands of the Torah.
They also use a special belt for their prayers, it is tied to their foreheads, and its name is: tfilin. It has strappings, and in its four compartments there is a parchment with quotes from Moses's commandments. The four parts also represents the four sensory organs on the head. They strapped boxes to their arms too.
The so called mezuzah, which contains a prayer written on a parchment, and which is strapped to the door frame, also helps to keep contact with the Almighty.
(On the picture on the left side you can see József Bauer the leader of the community, alongside his family, among the audience)
To wash your hand is also a ritual habit at a few special occasions, for example during praying. The religious jew says a blessing called bracha to everyhing important. When a jewish man wakes up in the morning he washes his hands three times and says a prayer to the Almighty, thanking him, that he helped him to restart his life after the dreams.
And he also presented a shofar, which is the only wind instrument in a synagogue. It is a bugle made out of ramhorn, as the Torah orders. Since the begining of the jewish religion, the melodic, staggering sound of the shofar called the "people of God" to their great religious festivals.
The hexagram-shaped, twelve-sided David star's shape is most commonly explained by the fact that the ark of the covenant was guarded and encircled by 12 tribes.
Rabbi Tamás Verő also spoke about the Creation. Why did the Almighty create the first couple of humans into the Garden of Eden? Why did he choose to put a forbidden tree inside it too? Because he gave us the freedom of choice...
We also heard a few facts about the recent situation of the hungarian jews. Recently there are about 100000 jews in Hungary alltogether. And there are about 10000 seats in the synagogues. And only three times in a year are those seats filled, on the major holidays. The hungarian jews have own Kindergarten, three schools, and they also have a rabbi-constituting institution, an university. The most of the activities of the jewish culture and society are related to Budapest.
Saturday is when they celebrate the ending of the process of the Creation, so it is their holiday. Every event starts at Friday evening and it ends on Saturdays evening. The community of a synagogue starts waiting for the Saturday on Fridays with saying prayers. They welcome Saturdays as they would welcome a queen. When they reach the 7th psalm, they turn around, and the poor people, who were standing behind so far, become the first in the line. This is a symbol, it means during the holidays even they should be in a leading , dignitary position.
The rabbi summed up the essence of the jewish religion by quoting the famous Rabbi, Hillel: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.!".
(On the pictures you can see Rabbi Tamás Verő, prebend Stella Leontin, Béla Majdán historian and József Bauer, Chairman of the jewish community )
Prebend Stella Leontin, parish priest thanked to Rabbi Tamás Verő, that he showed us how deeply he is commited to the Almighty, and he continued:
"We witnessed a special event, not just in our city, but in our country. We got us an unforgettable evening. Our hear opened wide, our knowledge widened too, because the Rabbi shared these religious secrets with us. We have a common goal and a common misery. We have a common faith in God and in the Old Testament and in the Ten Commandments. We believe that there will be a resurrection. And for the not important questions I shall answer with the words of Pope John Paul II: "our jewish brothers are our older brothers". We need to work on unity and on making the world a better, more cheerful place. We went to the Sacred land, we have put on a kippah. I wrote down on my script, which I placed on the Wailing Wall: Let there be peace and love on this Earth. Even in a good family, members sometimes hurt each other, but forgiving is the greatest virtue of all, and with love we can defeat any obstacle. I wish you on behalf of my audience good health, and I wish you to continue your work with this kind of clear vision, pure hearth and glowing faith.
I wish you to be blessed by both hands of the Almighty!"
An album with the illustrations to Imre Madách's famous drama "Moses" was given to the rabbi by its creator, Zoltán Réti artist, who lives in Balassagyarmat. You can read more about this book at the link below: www.balassagyarmat.eu sublink Recommended books.
Published by: Angela Nagy
Translated by Majdán Béla Jr. (lectored by the ed.)