Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Monday, June 28, 2010

Anarchy, Gratitude, and the Well of Souls

The G-20 Anarchy that recently broke out in Toronto is, I believe, only one more tiny, little step in the declining ability for western ideals and traditions to appease the masses. We are inundated with the mixed message of peace activism = protest, protest = opposition, opposition = violent upheaval, or in other words, if A = B and B = C, then A = C… Peace Activism = Violent Upheaval!!! And this is perceived by many as deserved, while most of the rest view it as maybe only a distraction from apathy…

This is exactly why a flotilla of armed mercenaries can pass for peace activists. If we muddy the translation enough, i.e. put legitimate peace activists together with violent protesters, our inclination is to either accept the violence as deserved, think about how this is just wrong and continue to feel helpless, or turn the channel and ignore it out of a desire to have fun and the fluffy surface of a lightness of being…

Last Shabbat, we discussed many things in the Holy City of Jerusalem; one of which was the concept of gratitude. We went around the table asking for each other’s opinions, little children and esteemed rabbis alike. The overwhelming focus from everyone seemed to be that without gratitude, all we can expect is a sense of entitlement, degenerating into a sense of apathy. I would like to take this (predicted by young and old) degeneration one step further and contribute that ingratitude will eventually lead to non-existence.

I know... "What 'is' non-existence?" you may ask. Well, we think we understand existence because we learned in science class that we are evolved from lesser life forms. We started as amino acids and randomly changed to single cell organisms. Then we split and became multi-cell organisms. Then we randomly developed... and developed... and developed... over millions of years into monkeys... Then, either an alien from outer space or Hashem (equally unbelievable) added our spark of soul or what in Hebrew we call a Nesham.... sscrieeetchh!!! Sorry, I was talking about non-existence and I seemed to have gotten off-track.

Let’s just continue with... If the world has any meaning at all, then we have to assume that there is some sort of purpose to it. And likewise, if there is no meaning, than there is no purpose either. Many, it appears, seemingly live without purpose; you know, live fast and die young. If we think about it, do we really believe that there is no purpose to life? If this is the case then why would there be something as random as the speed of light or even the end of the universe for that matter? A truly random world should appear much more like Alice in Wonderland where anything is possible... just because! It seems, if we decide to think about it, there are real consequences to our actions and real boundaries to existence.

So, this is the segue I have been waiting for; if our actions have consequences and the consequences mean something, than there is reason to exist! Are you following? So, if there is reason to exist, than it is our job to figure out what it is, so that we can do what we are supposed to do in this life. Since this life is really just a series of tests and challenges to reach our potential, then if we choose to watch it go by, we are really missing the point.

Now, back to gratitude... If we understand that we exist so that we can meet our challenges and grow ourselves in order to understand meaning, then we need to understand where it all comes from first. If there is an Infinite Being out there that needs absolutely nothing, all that Infinite Being can do is to give. We humans, being the ultimate receivers, are hardwired to take. In order to find meaning, we need to give and what is the first thing we try to teach our children? I believe that after we teach them to say Mama or Dada, we teach them to say please and thanks (they usually say no somewhere in-between, which really points at our natures as takers and not givers). We need to learn to give and when we do give, we feel great! We feel like we are the center of the universe! And then when we hear "Thank you," the whole struggle to give is made worthwhile. If that same Infinite Being didn’t ever hear thank you, how long do you think we would continue to exist? Not that that Infinite Being is petty, just that the reason for giving (our growth) would no longer exist. Our reason for existence would then disappear, along with us.

So what is The Well of Souls? If you look at the picture of the Even Shtiah (the Foundation Stone of the World that is currently under the little dome on Har Ha Bayit) real close, you can see a hole. This is prophesied to be the Well of Souls. Once upon a time, about 30 years ago, when I was a non-Jew, I went into the little dome on the Temple Mount and saw the Stone and the Well of Souls. It has a stairway that goes down, carved in the rock, and ends in a mysterious room. Many say that there is a crack that goes down from there to reach the belly button of the World. This is the place where, when Mashiach comes, will flow with fresh, sweet water, tumbling down from the Temple Mount and pouring into the canyons that surround the place that Hashem rested his presence in the world, thousands of years ago. One canyon is Gehenom or in English—Purgatory, the place where the Canaanites supposedly sacrificed their children and later, the Jews sent the azzazel ram off the cliff to wipe away their sins for the year. The other canyon to the east is the Valley of Souls, where the Mount of Olives, a massive mountain completely covered with Jewish graves of prophets, kings, and rabbis, descends to a barren plain at the bottom. A bridge once spanned this canyon that was built so as to temporarily create a barrier under the arches so that the Kohenim could travel across it without becoming impure. It is a place of deep wonder and soulful memory. It resonates with history, culture, spiritual highs and lows, and the depths of the unknown. The entire area pulsates with a tensioned calm, seemingly waiting for something almost miraculous to occur.

OK, now that we have a minor understanding of the Well of Souls, aren’t you thankful that there is meaning in the world? Without the Foundation Stone, we would not be here; so, the next time someone asks you how you are doing, say to them, “Thank God” or in Hebrew, “Baruch Hashem,” then, with out a doubt, you will really be living.

For you Jews out there, have a good fast tomorrow, and for all of you humans out there, remember that there is meaning in every instant that you exist and make the most of it!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Number 236, Politicians, and the Gaz-illa Effect

Like a lion = 236, and your staff = 236, Like the native born = 236, to communicate = 236, and if they overdrive them = 236, and giving recognition = 236, and they shall take down = 236, and finally... Balak greatly persisted = 236. So, what is the point? I read this today when researching the Parsha, Balak (Numbers 22:2 - 25:9). Essentially, it all comes down to how to say NO! Each one of these phrases said in Hebrew (with their gematria of course) has a unique way of driving home an idea about how we operate in the world and how we are duped by everyone from the street beggar that has a penthouse suite and a Mercedes to drive him to his street corner for work, to the leading politician in the world that can cause oceans to move (in this case by mixing oil and water) and continents to shift... in ideology at least. When we really sit down and look at the world, everything is totally upside down! I mean, who in their right mind would elect someone to rule over them that wanted the job? It makes no sense whatsoever!

Last Shabbat, my beautiful wife was reading out loud an article in the paper about the whole Gaza-Flotilla deal and she sped through it and said at one point Gaz-illa instead of Gaza Flotilla. I laughed at the time, but now I think it sums it up quite nicely. People are so busy trying to figure out how they know how to run the world, that they forget that we are all lost in a sea of subjectivity. Gaz-illa has become a monster in the night, preying on our fears of not being the star that we always thought we were. Everyone has an opinion about Gaz-illa... why did it happen? Whose fault was it? Was it politics? Was it a moral victory or failure..., it goes on an on. The bottom line is that we believe what we want to believe—the rest is just filling in the holes so as not to offend our egos with the inevitable fact that we are not the center of our own universe... and we don’t run the world. If only we could learn, once and for all, from Balak, that we can be as persistent as we like, but in the end, we are all going to fall off the edge of this world and wonder where we went wrong... Maybe we should all try to just say NO to anyone that wants to rule over us. Then we could easily see the humble greats as they scurry away from the limelight and maybe we could convince some of them to take the job.

Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Spies, Lies, and the Blurring of Reality

Blurring of reality? Who is to say that reality is real anyways? Look at the current unfortunate Middle East crisis that is affecting the entire world today. Reality tells us that this crisis, in the scheme of international politics, is really not that important. I guess I need to explain:

When you compare the Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1951, the Turks massacre of Kurds and subsequent take-over of their ancestral lands, The violent blood baths that have raged throughout Somalia and other parts of Africa, and all the way back to the first Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide committed by the Turks during and after World War 1 when a reported 3,000,000 people were killed, the little Flotilla raid to keep weapons out of Gaza was really not very important. Just look at the North Koreans and how they killed 46 people after firing a torpedo at the South Korean vessel Cheonan in their own waters (and this is not some dredged up history; it just happened!). Did the world do anything about it? This just enforces my understanding of reality further—based on a history of reality, reality is for the most part unreal…

This week’s Parsha of the Week is Shlach (Send). It includes the story of the spies that were sent into the land of Israel to scout the area. While they were there, Rashi explains that the spies overheard the giants saying, “There are ants in the vineyard that look like people.” What does that mean? I thought they were like grasshoppers, not ants... Long story short, the commentators conclude that ants are creatures that prepare for the future and grasshoppers (locusts) live now. Ants store up more food than they will ever need in their lives and grasshoppers live to eat food every moment of their lives. We learn from this that there are basically two dimensions of life; a kind of duality. Ants are using this life to save for the next life and grasshoppers are using this life to live now.

The twins from Genesis, Jacob and Esau, were like this. Jacob was the ant and Esau was the grasshopper. Esau was destined to master and rule the world. He had all the power and physical might. He lived now, in this world. Jacob, on the other hand, lived now for the next world. He saved and saved, doing good deeds and mitzvot. It is like the shell and the seed, the skin and the organs, the vessel and the light, or the body and the soul.

When the body does something for itself, it feels good and then the feel-good disappears. When the body does something for the soul, it doesn’t always feel good in the moment, but it grows and grows, like the ants food storehouse. When the spies came back and most complained that they were like grasshoppers in the eyes of the giants, they were doomed. Hashem wanted us to be ants, not grasshoppers and only ants, Joshua and Caleb, were allowed to live and prosper in this world and in the next.

Now that we have explored a little fabled philosophy, let’s get back to reality. Do you know how many people have died from violent Muslim on Muslim confrontations in Muslim countries just in the last 60 years?

For You Tube Video, Click Here (When the video is over, click on the back arrow to return to the blog).

If you watched the video, you now know that over the last 60 years, somewhere between 7,640,000 and 11,825,000 men, women, and children have been massacred, murdered, or just plain killed... by extreme Muslims in their own countries.

I have a hard time visualizing any part of that... Why are all the nations of the Earth so upset about a little Flotilla trying to smuggle unneeded supplies through a legal blockade? It doesn’t make any sense when you look at the reality of it. Is there any reality to this? The only thing I can think is that there must be something deeper here.

So, what is the difference between power, material possession, and intellect? These are the essential natures of the three great monotheistic religions on the planet. Abraham was first and embodied intellect, wealth, and power in the world to pass it down to his heirs. Next was his son, Ishmael, who inherited the vast wealth and property of the world. Then Abraham’s son Isaac passed the intellect/spirituality down to Jacob who came into the world on the heel of Esau, who via Edom and Rome became the West with the power to transform the planet into humanities plaything.

We are all still struggling with these inherent natures. Esau, the shell/skin/vessel/body in the world wants to run the show without Jacob, the seed/organs/light/soul in the world. The vessel claims to be the contents of the vessel from ego and fear. The claims by the western countries that Israel’s Flotilla raid was not OK have nothing to do with reality, as we can all see... It is the shell/skin/vessel/body claiming to be the seed/organs/light/soul. Jacob can’t connect the world to Hashem without Esau and in the meantime, Ishmael is spreading, true to his nature, throughout the world.

In Hebrew, Ishmael means Hashem-hears—Shma (hear) El (one of Hashem’s names). Muslims don’t transform the world, they make more Muslims. The West doesn’t covet converts, it builds power bases with capitalism, the reward of fame and fortune, and ends up just growing bigger and more hollow, but it can never take it with it, and it knows deep down the truth of this. The Jews are Jacob in this world with the responsibility to build the relationship between Hashem and His creation. Sadly we can see that when none of us are doing any of our jobs in the world, Ishmael is able to get a word in edgewise.

It is up to all of us to stop trying to fix the broken reality that we think we see and get real with our true natures. Just like a tree needs a seed to grow and a shell to protect the seed, we need each other. Peace on Earth is only a small step away from our egos, directly into the depths of our souls. When we start to pay attention make a little noise together, the Muslims will have a lot harder time getting that (edgewise) word in.

Shabbat Shalom!