Halloween, Noach, and My 50th Birthday

Boo, my Black Cat, Came to Me in a Jack-o-lantern
I've come a long way baby… it's my 50th birthday this week; well, that is according to the Jewish calendar. In the States, I was always a Halloween baby, born the day before, but here in the land, I am a Noah baby! Yeah, it is Parshat Noach again, after a whole year of riding this seemingly God-forsaken planet around the Sun, with all of its trials and tribulations, tests, failures, and accomplishments, I have arrived at the crossroads of 'me,' once again. It kind of makes me wonder what "me" is, doesn't it for you? I have been pondering that, as of late, and the other day, on Simchat Torah, when we Jews celebrate completing the reading of the entire last years' worth of Torah and then beginning again, I found myself in a heated debate with the Creator of the Universe while I walked through the woods near my house. I have been vacillating with the whole idea of wearing a yarmulke every day and point blank, once and for all, asked God if I should go the way of Matisyahu (the singer, not the Maccabee) and engage in the 'me' that I spent about 45 years building before I arrived at the center of the vortex I live in now, the Middle East, the Jewish world view, and the Cradle of Civilization.

I know that this is off topic, but you have to wonder what the big deal is, don't you? I mean, why do they call it the Cradle of Civilization anyways? Yeah, we know that the archeological records show that the first cities, agriculture, animal domestication, music, literature, art, science, math, written language, and so on and so forth exploded between Mesopotamia and Egypt about 6,000 years ago from virtually nothing, but… OK, answered my own question… So, I guess I need to ask, what caused it? If you look around the Middle East today, civilization is about as far away from reality as you can find. In Syria, 30,000 people (at last count) have been slaughtered by their government, in Egypt, anti-Semitic vitriol is being vomited from the newly elected Islamic extremist leaning government, in Turkey, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, and everywhere else ‘Middle East,’ the rabble has risen, like spring in a Hieronymus Bosch painting, to declare their collective intention to rule the world, while in Israel, the Jewish people is still cowering at the foot of its own ego, ignoring its own 3,000 year old history on the spot it currently resides. Civilization seems about as far away from ‘civilized’ as it can get… here in the Middle East.

Speaking of civilization, what is Halloween all about anyway?  I always heard that it is remembrance of a time when the locals in some European backwoods town would dress up in scary costumes to scare away evil spirits and lingering ghosts to keep them from inhabiting the physical. OK, so, 'spirit' in Hebrew means Ruach. This is the level of soul that is created when a Neshama (the soul that God opens the womb with) and a Nefesh (the soul that is formed from the dust of the earth) are combined and interact. The Ruach, or Spirit, wants to live, to have substance, and to be free in the world; but, sadly, it is usually very confused, as it is also the center of our free will. When a person dies, his/her spirit can become trapped in this confusion and remain as a ghost. So, Halloween, regardless of being connected to a strange, linear calendar, is the process of trying to get those spirits back to the realm that they should inhabit. That sounds like a noble cause, don't you think?

So, getting back to me, when I try to understand what ‘me’ is, I have to really wonder what drove me to the place that I currently reside within. What caused me to move through so many spiritual pursuits, extreme sports, varied professions, and philosophical leanings? Having grown up with an absentee father and a mentally ill mother, I have to wonder whether or not I was destined by Hashem to be a searcher, ad infinitum… That is probably why, when I conduct these heated debates with the Creator of the Universe, I tend to listen a little deeper, a little stronger, and I tend to give emphasis to it a little bit more than to the civilized world. All in all, I have come to the conclusion that I have lost faith, but not in God… in Humanity. I just can’t expect, much less assume, that human beings will do the right thing anymore. I have to move on and that is what I was arguing with Hashem about on Simchat Torah. It kind of felt like the story of Noach, where he struggles with faith in Humanity, hoping that they will come around and listen to the truth. We all know how that story turns out, don’t we? Down to the last day, Noach had hope, but in the end he had to go it alone, pining on a boat out at sea, without civilization to keep him company on the storm surf that came into existence from the tears of Hashem.

So, when I asked Hashem, point blank, should I stop wearing my yarmulke for everyday use, I shouldn’t have been so surprised to be answered with rain. The day was overcast, slightly, but with very few clouds blowing by. As soon as I opened my mouth, uttering the words, “Hashem! What do you think about it? What do you think I should do? What should I do?” the heavens opened and the rain began to fall. I looked up at the clouds that had seemingly veered off course to answer my question and I raised my hands, asking louder this time, “So, I should take it off then, right?” and the clouds answered immediately by turning up the downpour’s volume. Still, I wasn’t sure that this answer was a ‘yes’ answer, so I asked again, not quite as loud, but deeper into the depths of my soul, just the same. The bushes and trees began to vibrate and grow in luminosity as I asked, just like the day that I got back from the mikveh after my orthodox conversion, and then the heavens began to dump bathtubs of water from the sky, hitting me over the head, literally, with the answer to my question.

Yeah, you have all heard me pontificate till I’m blue in the face about the spiritual dimensions and how they intersect the physical plane, but I just have to share this one thing again. It turns out that God, Himself, does only 3 things in the world, but before we get to those things, we need to understand how the rest of the world operates. Besides those 3 things that God does directly, there are 2 other ways that God interacts with the world. When He created everything known and unknown, He created Kachot (forces) and He created Malachim (angels). A force is the nature of things, like an apple tree growing only apples, not bananas and an angel is the being that encourages the apples to grow when God commands it. So, back to the 3 deeds that God Himself does… 1: He is responsible for opening the womb to bring a soul into the world, 2: He opens the grave when the Mashiach comes, and 3: He, alone, opens the heavens to cause rain to fall. So, that would make sense that the answers came exactly on queue then; God must have even known that I would ask the question before I did, since the rain had to have time to fall before it reached me, while I stood in the woods, and then dumped on my head...

This year, I think I am going to become reacquainted with me. 49 was a traumatic year, with the death of my mother, the theft of my father's legacy, and the culmination of the last 6 years spent in the Cradle of Civilization, reshaping my spiritual / emotional center. I think that I am going to wait for one more good rain, so that the streets are nice and clean, and then pull out my skateboard for a spin or two down the hill. I have two more weeks until my English birthday, so , yeah, that sounds like a great 50th birthday present to me, carving it up, baby… carving it up…

Shabbat Shalom!!

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