© 2020 Drew T. Noll

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Man, Woman, and the Arab Spring-board

The Middle East is getting hot. No, really, the air around here must be full of electric Kool-Aid or something. I mean, from the local hardware store, to the parliamentary building, and all the way downstream to my little family, we have been struggling to get along with each other for days now. For the last two weeks, the energy has gone up and down with rapidly decelerating acceleration, creating all kinds of interpersonal mayhem and sociological eddy current-crevasses. Even the dogs ran away and, for the first time since they have been our four-legged family additions, they had to spend the night in doggy-jail at the pound (at 300 Shekels apiece!). They just took off for a day on the town; I guess until the evil dog catcher snatched them from their revelry. Maybe it has something to do with the changing weather here in the Middle East, with sticky, sweaty, sloth-slug inclinations taking shape in our sub-consciousnesses. Or it could be the changing political climate that always involves buffoonery and shadow puppets going head to head in the perceived world championship for a really big belt buckle... with a ‘star’ and everything smack in the middle. Maybe, on the other hand, it is all just written ‘in the stars…’

Dogs have a sort of 6th sense about things. We learn that there is still a reduced form of prophesy in the world. Of course, it is not the same version of prophesy that was removed by God about 2500…+ years ago, but nevertheless, it still exists as a kind of Ruach ha’Kodesh or Spirit of Holiness. Kids have a sense of it until they grow out of it about the same time they learn to speak, forgetting the Torah that they were taught in the womb by a patient, but insistent angel. Crazy people are also said to possess it to some degree, however contorted and difficult to follow for us undeveloped types. And yes, dogs also are said to possess this knowledge of the hidden worlds, this energy that flows from our physical reality to another, unseen, reality. With this kind of 6th sense, it seems that Dude and Bongo, my black and white pound-puppies, got caught up in something deeper than we could see or feel, something hidden in the air we breathe, something secret and, under the surface, driving the reality that we think is real.

OK, OK, I jumped right into the depths there… didn’t I? Let’s just back up to the changing weather. Or, maybe even better yet, how about the political climate in the region? Now these are things we can relate to and talk about. These types of things are safe things that everyone can chime in with. One might ask me why people have more to say about these things and I would have to say that it is more comfortable for people to talk about what they ‘think’ they know. Yup, then... one might say, “That is an uncomfortable subject” and... in the end, I would have to agree, just to make peace…

‘Peace’ is a strange and awful bird, isn’t it? We seem to think that peace is something that in order to achieve, both sides need to compromise their positions and come together, somewhere in the middle. The problem is that this doesn’t necessarily create peace; this, for all practical purposes, creates pent-up frustration, eventually becoming all out war. Look at what has happened across the Arab world with this whole Arab Spring deal. One could argue that it all goes back to a particular speech, given by a particular world leader, a tall, dark king among kings, who prodded the Arab masses, unwittingly so, to revolt. Just think about it like this: If the warden of a prison walks into a really crowded jail cell and while wearing his designer suit and tie, delivers a stirring, inspirational speech about freedom and the American way, what do you think is going to happen? Now we can see that the warden’s intensions are good. He wants the inmates to embrace law and order, to embrace what freedom is all about, to inspire them to live lives that they will be proud of. The problem is that good intensions can pave the way to Hell and the inmates are…? Yes, in jail.

The Arab world was primed and ready for some really well-meaning leader to give them a light, a flicker of a flame on a cold, long, dark night... and to subsequently blow the lid off of the dictator soup. Democracy is never easy to attain and historically this has been shown over and over again. Muslims, as well, are taught from a very young age that ‘their’ people with ‘their’ faith will one day rule the planet, a kind of ‘Muslim Democracy,’ per se. We know that whether they are moderate or extreme, the core is the same. So, a Muslim revolution looks a lot like what we see today. They are calling it the ‘Arab Spring’ in the news, but what is the Arab Spring going to grow, what will sprout from the tree that sucks from the garden that has been dormant and waiting, the garden that has now been watered with fresh, innocent intention and fertilized with massive levels of self-inflicted ignorance and totally unparalleled fervor? That is the real question…

Speaking of the garden, I recently read a book called: “The Garden of Peace” by Rav Shalom Arush. It is accompanied by another book that I, as a male, am forbidden to read called: “The Garden of Emunah (Faith). The way the whole story falls out is that essentially to create an enlightened state of being, similar to what was once present in the Garden of Eden, a man is responsible for Shalom Bayit or Peace in the Home and a woman is responsible for, I am told since I can’t read the book, emunah or faith in the idea that the man will accomplish what he is supposed to accomplish, i.e., connect with the Creator above, while holding the hand of the woman, who is already embracing the Shchinah (kind of a… Famale Aspect of God). By mixing peace and faith in this way, the human experience is connecting to Hashem, bringing together all of creation and carrying our part of the agreement to co-create the world. You see, mixing peace with faith is actually one of the most normal things that we can accomplish, which ultimately leads to the unity of everything — making all One.

Why does it seem so difficult then? Let me put it this way: Making peace is not compromising; making peace is giving over to the adversary what they desire, to the point that there is no ‘adversary.’ Having faith is to know, on a deep level, that what is and what will be is what is meant to be. The more faith we have, the more we are in control of our world. By having ultimate faith, I am at ultimate peace. Being in total peace, I don’t have to struggle with anything — I just do what I do, one step at a time, and keep the faith.

What are we describing here? This is definitely not a human ‘brokered’ type of peace. I mean, humans are the ones that always seem to attempt to blur the borders between each other’s separate domains. Humans are the ones that are unwittingly destroying the world with territorial bet hedging and the erasure of historical, concrete fact.

The one place in life that we can most see this edge and its intricacies clearly, yeah it is hard to fathom, is the blurring line between a man and a woman. This seems to be the crux of it and you will find that by the end of this blog, you may know just a little more about this, oh so horrible, dichotomy of self. Just in this week’s parsha, Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89), we are told of an unusual ceremony that always brings up heated debate and discussion ‘between’ the sexes.

This ceremony, Sota, requires a woman that has been accused of adultery by her husband to drink ‘bitter waters’ into which the personal name of Hashem has been dissolved, a problem in itself... (*see note below) If she refuses, the husband can divorce her; if she accepts (and is guilty), she dies a horrible, instantaneous death. It is hard to understand this strange text with only the written Torah, but in the oral tradition it is explained much more thoroughly. We discover via these intricacies, believe it or not, that the man in this situation is ‘truly’ at the woman's mercy.

*Note: One of the really perplexing elements of this ‘Sota’ ceremony is that in Deuteronomy 12:3, we learn that we shouldn’t deface or erase the name of God. The people were commanded that when they inherit the Promised Land, as God promised Abraham they would, all idolatrous objects relating to the indigenous religions of the region should be utterly destroyed, including the names of the local deities. Immediately afterwards, the people are commanded not to do the same to the One True God. From this, the rabbis inferred that we are commanded not to destroy any holy thing, and not to erase or deface any Name of God, especially this Name no doubt...

OK, so, if you want a ‘real’ education on the complexities of the Sota ceremony, click here. If you are beyond that and just want to explore some more about the divine nature of the Universe and our role in it from a fundamentally cosmic yet archetypical standpoint, just keep reading; but remember, I warned you!

When the world was created, both solid and ethereal, the Infinite Light did so with two Forces or Consciousnesses. One Consciousness always was, is, and always will be aware from above. The other Consciousness always was, is, and always will be aware from below. This Eternal Light, this Infinite and Eternal One Being, knew the world’s entirety from everyplace, above, below, before, and after, which makes anything and all things totally nonexistent for all eternity. The place where these two separate paradoxical (yet One) Forces meet is the Essence, the Center of the Infinite Light and the Paradox of Adam ha’Rishon in Gan Eden.

Adam ha’Rishon, the original proto-human, lived in the Garden at this exact crux, at this paradox of Infinite Light and nonexistence. The split of the proto-human was manifest from the Compassion of the Infinite Light and the first, aforementioned Force, the One from above, thereupon ‘descended’ into man. The second, aforementioned Force, the One from below, likewise ‘descended’ into woman. The Proto-Adam, the single spiritual unit, became Ish (the word for male) and Isha (the word for female). Ish is spelled, aleph, yud, shin. Isha is spelled aleph, shin, heh. The yud and the hey, the letters that male and female do not share, spell the Name of God, Yah. This is the name with which God created the world, both solid and ethereal.

We learn from the Torah that the letter heh, the letter that the woman possesses, but the man does not, was used to create this world, the solid world. The letter yud, the letter that the man possesses, but the woman does not, was used to create a kind of next world, the ethereal world. When these two letters are put together, creating the Name of God, they add up to the entirety of creation and form one single Image or Reflection of God. If you take these letters out of the words for male (Ish) and female (Isha), you are left with the word ‘aish’ (aleph, shin). This is the word for fire and when all alone in the vast universe, it means complete consumption without any purpose whatsoever…

So, from this, we can understand that the purpose of man, his job in the world, is to make shalom or peace, while the purpose of woman, her job in the world, is to embrace emunah or faith. This is because the man is anchored to the ethereal world, with his head in the clouds, while the woman is anchored to the solid world, with her feet on the ground. When we put peace and faith together, we arrive at completion, we arrive at Yah-ere-Shaliem (God ‘will’ see completion or... the center, the essence, of the world: Jerusalem). We arrive at the true likeness of the Creator and live, once again, in the Garden communing with the One, with the Originator of Everything, communing with God at the paradoxical crux of the Forces of Eternal Light — with the only thing that we are capable of perceiving, the Will of God.

I for one would like to see the Arab Spring, with all its pent-up energy and perceived potential, grow to manifest something beautiful, something awesome, something utterly magnificent, kind of like that, but I just, somehow, don’t see it happening…

Shabbat Shalom!