© 2020 Drew T. Noll

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lighting up the Darkness and the Smog Check Place


Tzipori Mosaic
I decided not to go to the wedding. It was at 3:30 on Friday afternoon for Heaven's sake… I mean, what were they thinking? How was the Rabbi even going to officiate the whole deal? Then I realized… This was not going to be a 'religious' affair; so, in my very special brand of finite wisdom, I conveniently forgot about it and made other Friday plans, which, happened to be ultimately (and rudely) interrupted by the appointment that we had… to get a smog check on our old car. Sheesh… the previous week, after waiting for about an hour and a half in the hot sun and spending about 300 shekels, it had failed… We were instructed by the guy at the garage to put this special German engine cleaner stuff in the tank and run it up and down the hills around here; we had only one day left to pass it — Friday. So, I put my plans on hold, crossed my fingers, and drove like a bat-outa-hell to get the last drop out of the German engine cleaner stuff before they plumbed the tail pipe with that alien probe thing.

Rewind to the week before:

While trying to navigate the sequence of eventual events at the smog check place, I walked up to one of the Arab technicians that worked there on the tell-all smog machine. As I was asking him where I should go to process my (oh-so-Russian style) paper-work, the other Arab worker guy in front of him started to back up a car with a rev, rev of his engine. I thought, "Is that guy going to stop?" You know how it works: first you have a flash of a thought, then a realization, and then it really sets in, then you watch it happen right in front of your eyes. The Arab got pinched between two cars, one of which was traveling at a 'really' high rate of speed, the other with the hood propped up. I knew I was going to watch the guy get cut in two… I just knew it. In that moment, as I was trying 'so' hard to navigate the corridors of existence in my life here, I was forced to let out a scream of terror. I yelled out at the top of my lungs, "Heeeeeyyyyyyy!!!!" The car stopped, just as it pinched the Arab's trousers. He couldn't move and began to protest the other Arab's driving, but in such a weird way that I thought this must be totally normal, like this was exactly what happened every single day at the smog check place…

Fast forward to the following Friday morning:

On the way to the smog check, my wonderfully accurate and timely wife began to tell me about the wedding that I had conveniently forgotten about. I, regrettably (and in-the-moment style innocently), had a flash of rage and confusion. I even 'pretended' that I didn't remember it; but, I knew right then that I had only covered it with blindness. I apologized to my wife, but was still steaming on the inside and began to sink deeper into the seat of the car. Now all my plans were ruined and on top of that, I had to go to this pseudo-wedding, this sham of reality here in the Promised Land. (Sometimes I can be such a putz…) So, we got to the smog check place and this time my wife had a plan to get the car to pass, in case the alien tail-pipe enema didn't go so well. She was going to flirt with the guy to get him to pass the car. I continued to melt into the seat and watched as she sauntered up and (really looking great) started to small talk the technician. Long story short, he neglected to probe the tail pipe completely, he smiled at my wife, then at me, and we drove away wondering what had happened. We were 'off' to the wedding.

Fast forward to about 3:30 that same Friday afternoon:

After about a 45 minute drive away to an ancient city called Tzipori, we arrived at the wedding. It was held at a private ranch, resplendent with all the frills. We parked the car and walked the rest of the way and upon entering the reception area, were greeted by an over-arching sign saying "Wellcome!" Yeah, it was misspelled… The whole place seemed to be styled after some kind of American / Texas ranch. Suffice it to say, it was not a typical Israeli wedding. We made our way over to someone that looked official and asked him if the food was kosher… no surprise there, so I went to the bar to order a beer (beer is kosher, for those of you that didn't know). The young women behind the bar were all scantily clad, hiking their miniskirts back down at every turn. After receiving a tall Tuborg, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Immediately I got nervous and felt I needed to explain that, "Beer was kosher" to the short bald guy that had said something that I didn't quite understand… I was thinking, "What is an Ed?" Oy, the guy was the father of the bride and they wanted me to be a witness at the wedding!

All I remember is hearing my wife say, "Well, you look like the only Jew here," I assume since the Rabbi and I were the only ones wearing a kippah. I ducked as a maître d' type raised a stanchion and admitted me into the private sanctum where only family and close friends were allowed. We arrived at a group of tables, one of which was covered with half eaten sausages and beer glasses. Me, the father of the bride, the father of the groom (and owner of the ranch), the groom, and the other witness (who had a cowboy hat on that the rabbi insisted he wear for lack of a kippah) all sat down and began signing the kettuba (wedding contract).

About this time, I realized that there was a hulking figure wandering about in the shadows behind us. He had long black dread-locks, hair everywhere, and looked vaguely familiar. I kept looking at him and catching his eye, as if he was waiting for me to recognize him. Yeah, as it turns out he is quite a famous musician in Israel – Mosh Ben-Ari. He played the wedding march and I assume, since the entire place was decked out like a concert hall, a rock concert later that night, which we couldn't stay to see… bummer…

We left, neck-in-neck with the rabbi, after 10 minutes under the Hupa (wedding canopy), as all the quests began to make their way over to the sumptuous roasting meat on spits that surrounded the gourmet tables at the edge of the stage. I was absolutely blown away by the wealth, but even more so at how little anyone there knew about the holiness of the event, the reason for the gathering in the first place. We were all surrounded by extreme beauty and affluence, smack in the middle of the ancient Holy Land, and I was confused at the lack of knowledge, the inability to see the true depth in life; but, it wasn't until I read a commentary on the parsha, Be'halot'cha (Numbers 8-12), for this week that I truly understood what had really happened.

Fast forward to yesterday:

I read: "When you kindle the lights, toward the (face) center of the Menorah shall the seven lights shine." The commentary went on to explain that the Menorah had seven lights, one in the center that pointed straight up and three on each side of it that pointed towards the center. The Sages explain that the three lights on the right represent those who are totally committed to spirituality and Torah, while the three lights on the left represent the people who spend most of their time dwelling in matters of the world. As well, instead of the Torah using the word "Lehadlik," meaning to kindle, it uses the word "Be'halot'cha," which literally means: to elevate. By pointing all of the lights toward the center, the Torah is teaching us that no matter whether a person is on the left or on the right, no matter whether a person is dwelling in this world or reaching for the next, what is of utmost importance (and really all that ultimately matters) is that each one of us focus our attention toward the Creator, who is at the center of the Menorah, who is at the center of the Universe, who is ultimate Truth and at the Center of each and every one of us.

What's the bottom line…? Well, I guess I just have to say it then… "We're all One baby!"

Shabbat Shalom!!