Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What is a kikayon anyways?

Over the last few weeks I have been studying Sipur Yona (The Story of Jonah) in preparation for the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) which is this Shabbat (Satuday). My Brother in Law, Abba, told me about a Rabbi called the Vilna Ga’on (genius from Vilna) that did an amazing study of Sipur Yona. Some people just refer to this guy as the Ga’on so you get the idea about how smart he was. He broke the story down into word by word metaphors and it is a really amazing ride to go on. I asked my Yeshiva student friend Moshe to study it with me and he has been so wonderful to work with on this. I go to the Yeshiva up the street from me once or twice a week and we have been covering Sipur Yona as deeply as possible… for us non geniuses that is. I really wanted to complete it for Yom Kippur, but it looks far away still. We have a chapter and a half to go. We shall see. Anyways, in the story, there is mention of a plant called a Kikayon, which grew over Yona and gave him some shade. I am not actually studying that part of the story yet but the word has been rolling around in my head… Kikayon, what is a kikayon anyways?

I asked the guys at work, first the Israelis at lunch, and got a lot of “lo yodea’s.” (don’t know’s) my friend Benny said that he knew something about the word. He said that it meant a weed that grows fast and dies and that it is an unimportant type of plant. Now that is really interesting because if you have ever read the Story of Jonah, you would find that the plant did actually grow fast and then it died over night when a worm or something ate it. Jonah was really bummed out about this and this is where it gets a little interesting. You see, Jonah was avoiding going to tell the people in the city of Nineveh (currently a place located somewhere in Iraq, I think) to change their ways or be wiped out by Hashem. He was just trying to sit out of the sun and enjoy himself when he should have been doing, not only the morally right thing to do but not doing specifically what G-D had asked him to do. Yikes! The Kikayon was really just something unimportant and temporary, just like what Benny said, but it had taken over Jonah’s mind and will. Now that is something that has to be interesting to find out about… something unimportant that can take over the mind of a Prophet like Jonah.

I left lunch early on a mission to do just that. I quickly went to my trusty milon (dictionary) and looked it up. Well, I didn’t know how to spell it. I looked under Koof and under Kaf, but to no avail. My friend and coworker Gideon showed up and we began to talk about it and lo and behold, he knew the word in German and was able to look it up on this program that my boss uses to find a word in English from German when we can’t find a way to communicate in Hebrew (oy, a mouth full). A Kikayon in English is a Castor Oil Plant. What? All I know about Castor Oil is that in the fifties in the States it was used by the ‘Old Wives’ (from the Old Wives Tales) to give to kids if they were sick and it supposedly tasted terrible. I always thought the idea really was to get the kids not to fake being sick or they would have to suffer through the terrible spoonful of the dreaded… Castor Oil! Aahhh! Well maybe there is something else there as well. If the plant is actually just unimportant, maybe it was the Old Wives way of addressing lethargy, you know, just like Jonah! Interesting… I did look up Castor Oil in the Milon and sure enough it said: שמן קיקיון (= shemen kikayon, or castor oil).

Well, I think that the moral of this little story is that we should be looking for our own Kikayon in our lives. What is it that keeps us from really being who we should be, who we want to be? Have we asked ourselves enough this year how can we be better at being who we are? When Jonah finally did move on to complete his journey through Niniveh to warn the people, the Vilna Ga’on taught us (the simple level of course) is that he was really doing Chuva (returning to G-D) and he was casting away his material and otherwise useless pursuits. He was choosing the moral high ground, the ground that we were all meant to ascend to and the reason that we are even here at all. We have a few more days to think about this before we meet our maker and the book of life closes with a thunderous and final clap. What is it going to be, Kikayon…. Or Chuva, Kikayon… Or Chuva…?

With that, Gamar Chatima Tova ve Tsom Tov! (May you be written in the book of life and have a good fast!)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Chag Sameach ve Shavua Tov!

We have had an amazing year here in Israel. We have visited many places where amazing things have occurred throughout history. We have begun to adjust to the many differences in culture and lifestyle (we still have miles… I mean kilometers to go!). And that is really what this time of the year is all about, anyways… to take stock of who we are, who we have been for the last year, and how do we want to be written in the book of life for the year to come. It is said that everything is decided for the year to come before we even begin to live it. Well if that is the case then I hope that everyone has the best year to come as is heavenly possible!

Ok, now that the official stuff is done… I went to the green line today. This is an artificially placed border which roughly defines the 1967 border of Israel and what is called the stachime (West Bank Territories) I went with my boss and some of the Germans from work to move some chairs for a Techus (ceremonial gathering) that they will be having at a new factory that they built next to Jenin. You know; the one in the news with all the terrorists... well if you listen to CNN you will hear about all the poor Palestinian children and Jimmy Carter. Anyways, that is another story. We got the job done and my boss showed me around a bit. We picked up a Russian guy in Pardes Hanna on the way so I got to sit in the middle of the front seat with this guy on my right and my boss on the left. On the way back we stopped to drop some extra wood in an Arab village. (Arabs are the primary workforce to build buildings in Israel and used to be employed in many areas, until the Intifada started again that is, now it is mostly Asian workers that send money home to there families abroad) we drove into this little village and the whole place was littered with garbage and rusty stuff. We passed grizzled old guys with kafias and cigarettes and Arab woman with full head coverings with there children in tow. It was a small village so we didn’t need to go far until we were instructed to back into a little barbwire wrapped dirt road and slowly inch up the hill to the top. We stopped and jumped out of the truck and began to unload.

There was only dirt, cracked stucco and rusty metal buildings, and the ever present garbage that was strewn about by the wind, which is why I was so surprised when I looked up and saw this beautiful structure standing about 30 meters away on the top of the central hill that the village was built on. Everything around it seemed to descend from this place. In its environment, it was actually shining, like it was the Taj Mahal or something. I quickly unloaded the wood with the help of some of the locals and then noticed someone yelling in Arabic in our direction. I looked up and on the prominently placed mirpesset (balcony) an Arab was standing casually leaning over the edge and shouting orders. This wasn’t any normal looking Arab guy though. He had some kind of headdress on, had a long black beard, and fiery light colored eyes. This guy was scary looking. He looked like a Taliban warlord and must have been the chief of the town or maybe he just had all the towns’ money, who knows.

We made it back ok and only got into a little argument in the truck. The Russian guy was a bit of a Leftist. My boss, the German, is a bit of a Rightist. And me, sitting in the middle of the cab of the truck and also somewhere in the middle politically (maybe just on the fence) started to talk about the Arab situation in Israel. I was mostly just trying to keep up with the Hebrew but it was sure interesting.

So, to finish off the year the right way…

May you all be written in the book of life for the year to come with health, wealth, and the wisdom to use them both for only dvarim tovim (good things), Baruch Hashem!

And Shana Tova too!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Golan, Safed, and the Arsim next door

We have been exploring some of the Golan Heights recently. Well, not really the hights but the rivers and pools. Zach explored Nachal Zavitan with a really cool new adventure group that my brother-in-law Abba sent him on with his cousins. Wow, Zach really changed over night on that one. More recently, the whole mishpacha (family) went with one of the same group leaders on a trip to Nachal Jahudiah and hiked through water and canyons that were truly amazing. We all jumped from a 10 or 12 meter cliff into the bricha (pool) at the bottom of a water fall and then hiked and swam down stream. At one spot everyone needed to climb down a ladder and into a long pool that we had to swim through. There were so many people that had to climb down that there was a line to do it. I kept looking at this group of ulra-orthodox people, you know like you see in the movies with black hats and everything, and wondering what the plan was. After all, we had our cool (Teva – means nature in Hebrew) river sandals and camel backs with dry bags for our stuff. They didn’t have anything accept big black hats and long black coats (and it was hot out too!) they didn’t even pause. They slipped right into the water, hats and all, and swam across. Yikes!

This week I took a day off of work to go to a place called Bricat HaMeshushim (hexagon pools) and spent some time with the kids before they go back to school. This is an amazing hike that starts, as all these hikes do, in a hot dessert environment and continues down into a wadi (canyon) to the bottom, where there are the most amazing pools of water and lush growth. This particular hike takes you to a pool that was cut through a volcanic plug that had dried slowly, causing the magma to crystallize into tall hexagonal conjoined pillars. Many of you may be familiar with something similar in the States called Devils Post Pile. Anyways, we spent some time swimming and hanging out and then we hiked back to the car and decided to drive to Sefad.

Safad (pronounced Svaat) is one of four cities (Safed, Hebron, Jerusalem, and Tiberius) in Israel that have been continually occupied by Jews since the time of the Israelites. Well, that isn’t completely true… I think. Jerusalem’s Jews were wiped out and kicked out for a few years by the invading Crusader armies, and in more contemporary times, the Arabs killed the Jews that lived in the Old City of Jerusalem. Also, in more recent times, the Jews were slaughtered in Hebron by the Arabs. But besides these small breaks, these cities are full of amazing history and Jewish culture. Safad is considered a mystical city because of the receiving of the Zohar, a book that… well, that is a long story (but well worthwhile!) If you are interested check this site out. http://www.kabbalah.info/engkab/book_1/book1eng_ch04.htm
I loved it in Safed. If it had an ocean, it would be perfect to live in for me. Well, it is pretty close, only about an hour and a half away. I’ll be back…

One thing left… ‘The Arsim next door’… that is pretty simple and no, I didn’t save the best for last. These people are really annoying. From the moment we moved in here the dog next door has been incessantly barking at exactly the times when it seems to test me the most. You know, times like when I need to get to sleep because I need to wake up in 6 hours to go to work. But that is not why the neighbors next door are Arsim. By the way, Arsim is a word that, I think is derived from English. Can you guess the word? If you need a clue, the answer is another word for donkey. Anyways, Zach informed me that the guy that stole his bike from behind him a few months back, rode it for a while and trashed it up a bit, and then had it removed from his house by the police, was seen at one of the many misibote (parties) that the Arsim kids next door keep having. The thief does live right up the street so I just hope he doesn’t put two and two together or we might have all kinds of problems like the broken light in the front of the house that I suspect was related to one of these misibote. Well, to be fair, they sometimes are quite nice like the time when they planted our front walk with bulbs… OK, just relax… what was that mantra again… ‘We have a dog, we have a rabbit, and we live in the Middle East…ok, ok, enough of that one…we might not have rabbit for long anyways. Josh wants to be done with it and of course Adele has been done with it since we got it. Adele and Josh went to one of the local pet stores to ask what to do with it and the guy there replied with, “just let him go in the forest. He will make a great meal for some wild animal out there.” Yup, this is the Middle East isn’t it… can you imagine that happening in Boulder? I think not. So we shall see about the rabbit. Adele still wants chickens and maybe we can use the cluv arnav (rabbit cage) for them! Aye yaey yaey…

Shavua tov kulam