Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Monday, May 12, 2008

Impromptu spelunking, House shopping, and Falafel

I had been hearing about a cave for 2 years that was somewhere near Givat Eden in Zichron Yaacov. This cave was supposedly written about over 2,000 years ago in the Talmud and when I got an invite to check it out with a friend from work, I jumped at the opportunity. After work and before we left I had a few minutes to ask a Rabbi friend of mine what the actual pusach was and he quickly checked it out on his tachnun macshev (computer program) and told me it was in the Talmud (Ha Maiish I think). OK, so now I need to wait for my hevrusa (learning partner) to get back from the States to look it up at the Yeshiva (safe travels and be well Moshe) so that part of this tale will have to follow. What I do know is that when a very high ztadik (holy wise man) moved to the Olam Haba (world to come) his body was sometimes buried with a seed in his mouth which, as you can imagine, eventually sprouted into a tree from cracks in the ground and because of water erosion, opened a new cave that joined the cave below. This was evidently the case in this cave but since it was 2,000 years ago that the tree first grew there, the tree that I saw was in all probability a different one.

My Son Josh came too and we met up with my friend who brought two other friends as well. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing when we got there because he kept rummaging around in the van but eventually emerged with headlamps, hardhats, backpacks, and more. We loaded up and made our way past some concrete construction projects, down a path by some big fancy houses, and into the brush beyond. It was about a 5 minute walk to the hole in the ground with the tree growing out of it and beyond that a little ways down the hill we found the entrance to the cave. It was a smallish opening but once inside we walked about 40 meters back to a very large cavern. We traced the opening up to the tree and explored it a little before my friend the madrich (guide) slipped on a fake beard and broke into song! (Remember a blog a ways back that had the title ‘singing in the halls’ in it?) Well this was better. Thanks Phillip!

As far as house shopping, (bad segway, sorry) a few months ago Adele and I started looking for a house to buy in our quaint little town of Zichron Yaacov, Israel. We searched high and low with about 4 different real estate agents. It was a great way to learn, not only our way around town but, the way of the big deal and the hard sell as well. The first house that we loved so much that we brought the extended family to tromp through the same day, turned out that in the end the seller just wanted to see what he could get for it so he could start looking for something else himself. needless to say, we were crushed however we bounced back with a different real estate agent (they kind of grow on trees around here but not the kind from caves either) and found another house that was so great we, once again, brought the extended family to check it out. We all shuffled through about 3 separate times and in the end, due to a couple of minor things like the house wasn’t really legal because of some back alley deals that weren’t (as of yet) finalized and the minor issue of the backyard literally falling off and down the hill, we decided to pass.

We must have seen about 20 houses including one that would have been just fine if it was designed for one family instead of three, one that had maximized the lot so perfectly that it was literally impossible to actually live in, and one house that would have been great if only whoever built it wouldn’t have in the first place… ma la a sote, (what is there to do?) right? So we kept looking and eventually found a house that was, as our new real estate agent took every opportunity to tell us “meode yaffe!” (very beautiful)

At first Adele loved the house and I thought it was too expensive. Then Adele thought it was too expensive and we both agreed to look some more. We found houses that had amazing views of the mosquito ponds down the hill, houses that had whole apartments in the basement that were essentially illegal, and houses that were, you guessed it, better off not having been built at all. Eventually we came back to the overly expensive albeit meode yaffe house. And with some fancy foot work, Angels working around the clock, the tremendous help and advice from Adele’s family that we received, (thank you, thank you, thank you!!!) and many, many blessings from Hashem, (Baruch Hashem) we decided to move forward with the purchase.

So today we met with the lawyers and the sellers. In Israel there is no escrow. You just sign a contract (that was all in Hebrew that neither one of us could read) and give the lawyers and the owner very large checks. Sound simple? Ha ha ha… so we walk in to our appointment almost right on time (Adele almost ran out of gas on the way and stopped briefly to refill) and the owner’s lawyer was still haggling with our lawyer. We had time to get a bite to eat and checked out the new kosher pizza place down the street. (I love Israel!) when we got back they were just getting into the thick of it so we sat down to be joined shortly by the owner, his cablan (contractor), the real estate agent, and eventually the owners mother (I guess she really owned the house since in the end she did all the signing), but I am getting ahead of myself.

About halfway through our meeting, the energy began to rise. This is something we heard about and were fully prepared to just turn and walk away from the deal if need be. The cablan was yelling about how the house was perfect, the other lawyer was yelling about how he needed another installment of money before the end of the term of the month, and the owner was yelling about how he was giving us such a good deal and to just take it as is. Our lawyer was yelling too and Adele and I just mostly listened and tried to understand what was being said. They all left at one point and were yelling in the hall while smoking cigarettes and when they came back in, we were almost instantly all settled, made the necessary changes to the contract, and started passing around papers and forms to sign, at which point the other lawyer started getting really animated about some kind of amazing falafel in Ramat Gan or someplace. He was going on and on about how the line was an hour an a half long and went clear around the block. Everybody in the room seemed to have this little knowing smile on their faces like… yup, that is really the way you finish a deal in the Middle East… falafel… I guess someday I will get there. All I know is that both Adele and I left with a stomach ache from the combination of adrenaline and angst and were not in the mood for falafel. The last thing I heard was the real estate agent saying, “meode yaffe!” you know what? It is a meode yaffe house, we got a meode yaffe deal on it, and in time I think we will start to feel meode yaffe… really! Wish us baatstlacha! (Not luck, but success as referenced in a previous blog) We can save mazal tov until we actually move in, Baruch Hashem, sometime towards the end of next month.

Lahetraote kulam

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Floating above the Earth

Imagine yourself floating above the Earth, high above a city. You look down at the city and see how the streets form patterns around the buildings. You notice the traffic patterns and the movements that you see all feel familiar to you. These same patterns are occurring behind and inside the buildings. The people are moving with a purpose, like ants moving in mass, with intent.

Still floating above the city, you close your eyes. When you open them, you have moved away from the city into a space above the Earth. You see the planet as it recedes from you. You are safe and warm and as you fly further out from the Earth, the Moon comes around the planet and it too recedes until both the Earth and the Moon are only satellites revolving around the Sun. they are joined by the other planets of the Solar System and the pattern that emerges is recognizable and comfortably expected. Now you hover, deep in space, looking out at the Solar System. It is predictable, like a clock mechanism as it revolves and rotates into the light of the Sun and out again.

You close your eyes and when you open them, you are gliding further out into space. You are still comfortable and warm as the Solar System recedes in front of you. You pass the asteroid belt and continue further out into space. The Solar System becomes a dot of light as other dots join and begin to make patterns. You can start to make out constellations as you float further into the cosmos. The patterns of constellations are reassuring and familiar. They speak to you of things to come and are comforting. They tell you that you are with many others and not alone. They tell you that there is purpose to it all, a meaning that is just beyond your reach, like the colorful toys hanging from the top of the crib when you were a baby.

You close your eyes again. When you open them, you are receding even faster. The constellations begin to tighten and condense. You are still very comfortable and feel invigorated by what you see. The stars of the Galaxy are beginning to thicken as you move away at even greater speeds. The arm of the Milky Way Galaxy that contains your home planet Earth becomes visible like a giant tentacle sweeping away from you. Your speed increases even more and the arm is joined by two others. The Galaxy is spinning and spiraling in a familiar pattern. It is relaxing to watch as it rotates and spirals out to its edges. You are warm and feel like you are looking at your home. It has a pattern that soothes you as it moves twinkling and swirling in the deep black of space.

As your body becomes relaxed, you close your eyes. When you open them again, you are hurtling away from the Milky Way Galaxy. It spirals in on itself, becoming a starfish, and then a dot of light as it is joined by other spiraling starfish and lights. The swirls and lights are all now filling the space in front of you. They are all moving away from you, like the twinkling lights of millions of candles. As they hurtle away, the space around you becomes primordial. You are flying back in time to the beginning of the Universe. You can see the stretching of space as time becomes elongated. The lights that you see from all the millions of Galaxies are moving forward into time and space. You are moving backwards, all the way back to the beginning.

You close your eyes and when you open them you are outside of time and space. There is nothing around you. There is no space and there is no time. There is nothing but you, floating in nothing, before the Universe had form. It feels like being in the womb, without awareness of any other. And then there is a light. It is the size of a grain of rice. It is in front of you and it is light like no other. All around the light there is only nothingness. The light is more brilliant then you could possibly imagine and when you squint and look close, inside the light, there is movement. It is moving in patterns, but so quickly it is not possible to fully see or comprehend. Then the light expands out instantly and time grabs on once again. Its outer edge passes you in a flash and its inertia pushes and then pulls you along with it. You are now flying with it, though time and space. The gelatinous gasses are forming substance as you fly along with it. Time is stretching and you can see into the past and into the future from where you cling. The galaxies are forming, along with all the stars and planets. You can see patterns however they are too complex to understand. The Universe is unfolding in front of you, both in time and in space.

You close your eyes. When you open them, you recognize the constellations once again. As you turn around, you see your home and the familiarity of the Solar System. It is coming closer and you now can see Earth. You soar down over your city and see the patterns of people moving throughout its streets and passages. You then float down and comfortably step onto the sidewalk. The people around you are engaged in normal patterns. They are eating a snack on their way to work, talking on the phone, talking amongst themselves, and engaging comfortably and normally. You see someone that you know, someone that intrigues you. You want to get closer so you walk slowly in that direction. Your feet are just millimeters above the ground and you glide until you are facing the person. As you look, you notice that this person is you.

You blink for a moment and are immediately compelled to be one with this person. When you open your eyes you are inside this person and you begin to shrink. You watch as your body begins to grow around you. You can see the brain as it goes from organic material filled with blood and electricity to cells that cling and dislodge in perfect timing with their surroundings. You shrink some more until you find yourself looking at the spiraling DNA molecules that make up the cells. You stop briefly to notice how the molecules look very much like the galaxies in space that you had just witnessed. They swirled and spun, adding and subtracting energies and masses. Now you begin to shrink some more. You see a group of celestial bodies that can only be atoms that are constantly separating and combining parts of each other. You focus on a particular group of atoms and zoom in some more to see protons, neutrons, and electrons revolving around the spherical body of a nucleus. This nucleus is glowing with an internal energy and when you look deeply, you can see something inside it. From your perspective, it is the size of a grain of rice and has the same patterns of energy that you saw way back, before there was time. You are looking at a quark. It is made of only energy and it is what holds together all the atomic particles, all the molecules, and all the matter that you have witnessed thus far in your entire journey.

You feel both amazed and reassured and when you close your eyes again you feel yourself growing. You can now see the energy materializing into solids once again, all the way back through the particles and organic matter, until you are now standing on the sidewalk in your city. There are people walking all around you and you are comfortable. You look down and see your feet. You can feel the wind blow your hair. You begin to walk and you see a window with the reflections of the city around you. You walk up to the window and look at your reflection. It looks just like you. It has the same hair and eyes, the same wrinkles and moles, and the same expression that you define yourself with. As you look at your reflection, your eyes close once again, only this time you fall asleep.

When you open your eyes, you see yourself in the glass of the store in front of you. Then you look past the glass and see what you can buy for yourself in the display. You walk into the stores’ double glass doors, turn to the sales clerk and ask if there is something in blue just like what you saw in the display on the other side of the glass. You are only left with a nagging insistence that there is more then just this. You know that later, when it is quite and you have time, you will wonder about crazy things like creation, evolution, science, physics, history, and of course, G-D.