The Big Ride and the Running Mouth

How strange it is to sit at the kitchen table, after lighting one little, tiny memorial candle, and cry. I don’t have any relatives that perished in the Holocaust. I do know people that had relatives that perished and I have friends that are one generation removed from those that escaped, barely. But... I was born a Goy that, somewhere along the way, joined the Jewish People and moved to Israel. I have cried about my dad’s death; I have cried about my mom’s illness; but, I didn’t think about those things at all while sitting at the kitchen table, sobbing with hesitant breaths. I think that I might have thought briefly about some level of pain and suffering... that I just could not even begin to fathom, and just stopped dead in my mind’s tracks. When I looked at the candle that I had lit, as it flickered in a tiny little way, I was instantly overwhelmed. There was no thought that drove the plunge. There was no signal that something had occurred to induce my spasms. I (as in me, my soul) just had no place to go, I had lost the road, so after I released whatever was evidently stored deep under my knowledge, I rode my body up the stairs and went to sleep.

That night was a fitful one, but I awoke refreshed and ready to be alive. I prayed with additional fervor for the day and then I talked to God. As usual, He answered me, and this time I heard what seemed at the time like a question. “What is death,” He said. I went about making my breakfast and then sat down to check my emails. In front of me, my computer said, “Osama Bin Laden is Dead.” At first, I felt a surge of adrenaline, which gave way to introspection quickly. I started asking questions like, “What now?” and “Why?” and “Why now?” Meanwhile, it was reported that massive riots, the like of a winning sports team celebration, swept across places in the United States. In Israel, that morning, there were a few knowing winks here and there, but it was just business as usual for most people. Even the Arabs seemed to pay little attention to it. Before I left the house, I wrote, “Dead…” on my Facebook page and went to work where at 10:00 that morning we all stood for one minute in silent meditation (across the entire country) and considered the Holocaust and fairly recent slaughter of 9 ‘million’ people, including 6 million Jews.

They (whoever ‘they’ are) have now released pictures of the dead Osama Bin Laden. The picture I saw didn’t look real to me; I mean… didn’t he have gray facial hair? Do you think he was using hair dye while hiding in his mansion-compound in the mountains of Pakistan? It made me think that maybe there was some kind of conspiracy going on, like many were saying, but then I realized that the unrealistic quality of the photograph could also have been from the ‘life’ having ‘left’ the body. I have been in the presence of dead bodies before and they really look like a shell, like the one-time resident has just gone somewhere else, leaving rumpled remains behind as a passing indication that they, at one time, may have actually been home.

Once, when I was a kid, I found myself skateboarding down this hill to avoid waiting in the car. My family got trapped in a traffic jam somewhere in the back-woods near my house and I wanted to see if I could figure out what the holdup was; so, I grabbed my skateboard and headed down the hill to see what I could see. I wove in and out, in long slalom turns, around the parked cars that were strewn all over the street and at the end of the long line of cars, what I saw was fairly gruesome and has stuck with me for many years. Just as I arrived at the scene of an accident and the reason for the traffic jam, the rescue squad hauled up over the edge of a cliff, the dead floppy body of a motorcyclist that had flown off sometime earlier. He was whiter than snow, like he had just come out of a freezer.

This, of course, makes me think of Tzaraas, the ‘leprosy type’ of disease that the Torah talks about, which turns the skin deathly white. The disease is translated as leprosy into English, however it really has nothing to do with leprosy. Tzaraas is a spiritual affliction that manifests physically. It is caused by what we call Le’Shon Hara or Evil-Speak. What is that? Well, it is kind of like gossip. Essentially it is wasted words in the world. You see, every word we speak is a creation into the finite of something that may have once been an infinite concept or awareness, like an idea. An idea has no boundaries until you speak it out into the world and give it some type of form. I have covered this before, so I am not going to dwell on it now; however, what is important to grasp here is that when we waste words, we are essentially imprisoning our spirits, killing their potential. Earlier, when I wrote about riding my body up the stairs, I meant it. I am not my body, I am my soul. I inhabit my body. If I allow my body to do the talking, the reason for my existence becomes mute and my soul retracts and eventually I become a prisoner, trapped until I am released upon the death of my body.

The Rabbis call this process, “putting the mouth before the eye” and it is backed up with lots of source material throughout the Torah, writings on the Garden of Eden, Miriam criticizing Moses, the Spies when Scouting the Land, and an immense amount of Cabalistic ideas. In this week’s parsha, Emor (Leviticus 21-24), mostly what is discussed is different laws, but near the end, it switches voices, seemingly, and speaks of a man ‘using God’s Name in vain’ in a very strange juxtaposition to the rest of the laws that are listed around it. I don’t have time to get into it now, but if you are interested, here is a link to a great read:

This man had used the ineffable, private, and personal name of God to speak nothingness into the world. By doing so, he trapped his soul, his true self, and lost his chance to live in the world of action — this world. By wasting words, especially at the level that he did, there was no way to preserve his ability to grow himself in this world of action; so, after Moses asked and God confirmed that this was actually the case, his body was stoned to death in order to free him (his soul) from its grasp.

Well, seeing as I have ‘lost the road,’ so to speak, and have no possible way of making any sense what-so-ever out of the beyond tragic, unreal, and horrifying Holocaust of 9 million people, and I don’t think that, ultimately, we are ever going to be able to make any sense out of the whole Osama Bin Laden death thing, our reaction as a human race (positive or negative), and the bizarre need by some to feel vindicated and others (Hamas in Gaza and various Imams preaching to the Muslim masses around the world) to seek revenge, I think that the bottom line to this blog must be this:

We ‘can,’ ultimately, make some sense out of our understanding of how we fit into this world and how absolutely important we are, each and every one of us. Everything we do and say, for the duration of our entire lives, is either an act of creation or an act of destruction and our actions are being placed on one side of the scale or the other, tipping the balance of how effective we are being at this process called ‘living.’ We know from history and literature, from secular sources as well as Torah sources, that one of the worst things that we can do to ourselves is to take life for granted and just let our mouths lead us around. Life is precious and so is every moment that we have, both to us and to our bodies.

So, think first, speak after... but only if you have something wonderful to create!

Shabbat Shalom!!

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