The Big Ride

The day before the 9 days began (more on that later), I went surfing with my son and nephews. I am sorry to say that I have been a bit remiss in my surf management as of late. You know, when there are waves you are supposed to drop everything and head west, that kind of thing... Recently, I managed to bring my long-lost long-board back from California to the Middle East and since I ‘have’ been so remiss, this was the first time that I took it out. The day before we went, I saw that the waves were cranking, but on the day that I finally ‘did’ inaugurate my long-board to the Mediterranean Sea, it was just about flat. We all had a great time though. My son used the fun-board (a long-board for big waves) and my nephews both shared the fish, a board that I almost expect to see a couple of semi-hidden eyes on one side, like a flounder. By the end of the day, we were all tired, including the dogs — they played with all the strays running up and down the miles of sandy beaches the entire time.

Since there were no ‘real’ waves to speak of, I had plenty of time to sit on my board, thinking, and while waiting for the next set of Mediterranean ripples to come my way, I began to think about how storms brew, “Maybe somewhere off the coast of Greece or Italy, the wind whips up the waves and then sends them traveling all the way down the length of the sea to the shores of Lebanon and Israel…” As I sat there, twirling my feet in the clear blue water, I started to form an idea about how the entire world is made of matter, which when added to energy, causes waves to roll out into the universe. I revisited the idea that the solid foundation under our feet, the ground that we take for granted day in and day out, is really just a flimsy shell, constantly moving and reacting to energy and forces that we cannot see. I also began to explore the very ‘real’ concept that those ‘waves’ emanating from all matter, waves that we may or may not be able to see, also emanate from our physiological-spiritual centers, forming the makings of a really neat and complicated kind of algorithm potential...

Not that I know ‘anything’ about math, but this week, after experiencing a little earthquake at work, I started to look up whether or not these kinds of things are predictable, mathematically speaking of course — and, to some extent, they are it seems. This particular earthquake was only a tiny little excretion of an earthquake that, while sitting at my desk at work and crunching key-words for a website, caused my wheeled chair to roll back and forth, ever so slightly. I looked up and the plant in my office was also shaking almost imperceptibly. There were other people around the office that started to freak out a bit, but it was normal for me. You see, I grew up in California and one of my earliest memories was, while the Selma earthquake was knocking down freeway overpasses, about 250 miles away, I was thrown from the top bunk of my bunk bed, only to freefall and crash onto a hardwood floor. I remember dreaming all the way down, 6 feet below. It was slow motion falling, until I woke with a start, my face, elbows, and knees all registering the siren of some kind of trauma as they bounced off the floor. Those ‘land waves’ had traveled all that way, just for me, just to give my day a kick-start in the wee hours of the morning.

I have been though other earthquakes as well. Probably the most recent ‘large’ quake I experienced was the Northridge quake, in which I had just packed up my belongings to move from the ‘Rodney King riot’ torn city of LA, where martial law had been declared, creating a ‘wave’ of panic and eventually scaring many of the yuppie-like white people to higher ground (in my case all the way to the Rocky Mountains). At the time of the earthquake, I was sleeping on the floor of a 15th floor rented apartment on the beach in Santa Monica in a sleeping bag and woke, once again in the wee hours of the morning. All my stuff was waiting for me in a moving truck with a tow-trailer for my pickup truck attached, so I just rolled up my sleeping bag, took the stairs down to the parking lot, and high-tailed it out of town, even before the Sun had risen…

A little tidbit that I picked up along the way, through my adventures on the ‘maybe-soon-to-be’ island of California, is that in a high-rise building, the waves that are generated during an earthquake whip and vibrate up it, evidently maximizing at every 9th floor to the full extent of the wave cycle. I also learned that the first wave that emanates from an earthquake epicenter is a ‘back-and-forth’ type wave, which can knock buildings off their foundations. The next wave that rolls in is an ‘up-and-down’ type of wave. Now everything that had shifted off its foundation gets rocked back and forth, eventually, catastrophically, causing the top to summersault over the bottom.

This phenomenon is very similar to riding a giant wave on a surfboard and having to bail out, as the crest builds up over-head, leaving only one access of retreat — right through the wave and out ‘the back door.’ On one memorable occasion, this happened to me while surfing in San Diego after a large forest fire had emptied its carbon into the skies, giving the day-time sky an orange-brown Armageddon feel. I took off on, for me, a giant wave — maybe a 12 foot face — and it totally closed out on me. The power of the wave shot the lip out over my head, I rode down its face and made a back-side bottom turn, only to look up and see the brown sky getting darker and darker. There was no place to go and as the lip of the wave reached down and sealed itself closed onto the shallow, sucked-out, bottom of the ocean, everything went brown-black, like being on the dark side and watching the closing of a door to a semi-lit room. I remember standing there, with plenty of airspace above my head and, yes, my jaw hanging slightly ajar. I had to find the back door quickly, but time had just stopped. That wave has stayed with me for my entire life. It didn’t just end as I frantically punched a hole through the back of its extended, primeval intestines, this wave moved with me in time as well.

Waves work like that, wherever they find themselves; in the water, the air, the earth, within light or sound, and the list goes on. Take for instance Tisha be’Av, the day of mourning that just passed this week. This is the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av, which culminates the 9 days that I spoke of earlier. Looking at this day throughout history is an easy way to see how waves go out into the Universe and even ‘time’ is no exception to this phenomenon. Let’s start with the remaining ripples of this calamitous event, since these are the waves that we can still see to some extent, and work backwards in time:

One of the last visible ripples that we can see in history from Tisha be’Av was in 1942. It was the ‘first’ mass deportation of Jews in cattle-cars from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka Death Camp.

Before that, in 1914, World War I broke out on Tisha be’Av, which set the tone of racist policies toward the Jews, economic hardship on the German people, and ultimately concluded with World War II and the Holocaust.

In the year 1290 on the ninth of the month of Av, King Edward I expelled all the Jews from England to keep from having to pay back loaned money.

On Tisha be’Av… in 1492, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue (whose ‘first’ language happened to be Ladino – a mix of Hebrew and Spanish), the expulsion of the Jews from Spain at the conclusion of the Spanish Inquisition occurred.

In 135 CE, the Roman Emperor Hadrian crushed the Bar Kochba revolt and 100,000 Jews were slaughtered.

On Tisha be’Av, next in our historical lineage, the Holy Temple Mount and its surroundings were plowed under by the Roman General Turnus Rufus. Jerusalem was rebuilt as a pagan city and renamed Aelia Capitolina, Judea and Samaria were renamed Palestine after an extinct people, and all in order to attempt to wipe the Jews from the map of mankind.

In the year 70 CE, the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, causing the Diaspora when Jews spread around the planet to inhabit just about every corner possible.

In 586 BCE, the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar, ushering in a time without the Holy Ark of the Covenant and beginning mankind’s treacherous slide away from God.

And all of these waves, large and not so small, go back to one cataclysmic event in the year 1312 BCE, during the time of Moses, when the Jews in the desert accepted the slanderous report of the 12 Spies, and a decree was issued forbidding them from entering the Land of Israel for 40 years. God told them that every year, on this date in history, they would cry…

As you can see, the waves extend out in time as well as space. We remember something and as time unfolds, we can see the relevance as all these incidents run together, creating a set of catastrophic ripples that emanate from one cataclysmic event, like a meteor hitting the ocean and sending out its reverberations all throughout time and space.

In this week’s parsha (Deut. 6:4-10), we read one of the most important things to remember of all time. We learn how to ride the mother of all waves — we learn, from the Shema, how to ride life: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is ONE; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates...”

So, how do you control the direction of the waves you are constantly making? First and foremost, you should be acutely aware of the waves that are already around you, the waves that you are riding. Remember, some of those waves were created centuries ago and some of them were also created in your own childhood by your parents and surroundings. This is why we are instructed to teach ourselves, over and over again, and to teach our children, from generation to generation that God is ONE. We don’t really exist beyond God and it is our responsibility, our part of the partnership of ONE, to jump in the water and paddle out, no matter how big the surf seems to be.

Humanity is so full of itself, its science, and its collective ego, that all along we have been blinded to the incredible wave of life that we were fortunate enough to have caught. We haven’t paid attention to the swells jacking up on the horizon and we definitely haven’t been paying attention to the waves that have cascaded out with horrific force from our own wake. Riding a wave is being able to react in a positive way, in a proactive way, to anything that comes along and this is no different than the ‘wave of life’ that we are all gliding down the face of, just praying that we can make that bottom turn and ride it out, maybe all the way ‘inside’ to the warm soft sand on the shore of paradise.

One last thing: Just remember, if you do get stuck in a murky dark tube with no real exit to speak of, no place obvious to go, God will always provide a back door for you to punch through; you just have to have the ‘guts’ to have the ‘faith’ to do it!

Shabbat Shalom!

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