Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Friday, July 16, 2010

Devarim, Tisha Be’Av, and that Empty Argument Feeling

Have you ever thought about how we need to be right most of the time? We always seem to think that since we thought of it, it must be true and therefore, anyone with an opposing opinion is obviously deluded for some reason. The hardest thing in the world is... to admit that we were wrong—not because we think someone else was right, but because we just cant admit that we were wrong in the first place! Think back to an argument that you had recently. Do you remember when it was over; all you could think was that you were glad it was over and that it probably wasn’t worth it to begin with?

This Shabbat, we will read Parshat Devarim (Things or Words), the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy in English. I have gone on-and-on in past blogs about how words and things are one-in-the-same (for a refresher, click here and here too if you dare), so why does Moses need to recap the adventures of the Israelites? The things were already said, so to speak...

Maybe we should start with the fact that Tisha Be’Av is on Monday night and we fast for 24 hours to morn the loss of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem. There are a lot of other things that have happened on that day to the Jews throughout history (look it up here), but why the destruction of BOTH Holy Temples? What do the Temples mean to us anyway; aren’t they just buildings that were there for us to worship G-D? Well, maybe we need to understand that a building is also a thing, which is also a word and contains, at its root, the word that created that particular thing, kind of like instantaneous subatomic grammatical conceptualization theory, or maybe not...

The bottom line is that when we argue with each other, we are denying that the word at the root of all things exists and in doing so, we, regrettably, negate that G-D created all of existence. Oy... That is a big one; how is this possible you may ask? It all comes down to ego. When we argue, we are thinking about Me, Myself, and I! “It was just so wrong for that person to behave like that to ME, to say that to ME, to be like that to ME! I could see it MYSELF, why couldn’t they see it like I did?” Sound familiar? I have these little conversations in my head all the time...

In Parshat Devarim, Moses needs to repeat the adventures of the Israelites, because every word we utter gives creation to something. Moses knew that he was going to die and he wanted to give the most important thing that he could in his last breaths, the words of creation and the words of the future. Moses lead by example and in each word he uttered, the connection between G-D and the Jews became greater. The world would be without Moses in generations to come, however he would have bestowed upon them the reason for existence; the connection to G-D through the Torah.

So what happened on Tisha Be’Av that caused the Temples to be destroyed? The Israelites lost faith in Hashem—that is what happened. They stopped listening to the words of Moses and began to create their own things with their own words. As Torah became less important and the needs of the individual egos became of utmost importance, the Jews began to hate Hashem out of selfish desires during the First Holy Temple period (Avoda Zora or Idol Worship) and they began to hate each other out of the same selfish desires during the Second Holy Temple period; Sinat Chinam (Unjustified Hatred of your fellow man).

How do we learn from this today you might ask? We need to always remember who runs the world and why we are challenged in the way that we are. Each test that we go through is a specific Tikkun (Fix) that we need for both our souls and for the world. When we say we are sorry, that is good, but not nearly as good as not arguing in the first place. The Sages tell us that because man came from dirt and woman came from man, a woman is more refined in her understandings of the way of the world. She may be able to see way beyond a man and her attempt to fix the world needs to come in the form of encouragement for a man to perfect himself, bringing creation back to the source. A man, on the other hand, has the job of perfecting himself by creating Shalom Bayit (Peace in the House) with his wife.

Ultimately, when we argue, it means something different for a man than it does for a woman. A woman argues to fix the world by getting closer to Hashem. A man argues to justify his ego and ends up taking G-D out of the picture at the same time, so all you women out there, keep up the good work (and maybe go a little easy on the guys, as they all mean well, but you already know that don’t you?), and all you men out there, peace is within you; all you need to do is to let G-D into your heart, which will squeeze out the ego like it was only a bunch of hot, smelly air, just waiting to be released into the falseness of the words that brought it into existence.

Shabbat Shalom ve Tsom Tov on Tisha Be’Av!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Caution: Parental Advisory Recommended

This blog may contain material that could be perceived as offensive or culturally dogmatic and as well, could be seen as the exact opposite of this idea or contrary to any preconceived notions that you may have been force-fed as a child or otherwise ingested over your lifetime and you might not like it either…

Picture is of the Golden Gate in Jerusalem.

When I was young, I lived in a world that I have referred to as The Precious Green Mold of My Life, where I often perceived myself as the only human being on an alien world set up as an experiment, just to see how I would react to introduced, or inserted into my consciousness, stimuli. We discovered that this was not so far from the truth, as it turned out. Well, the green mold grew and filled with air, hot and cold, and by the time I graduated from 4 years of high school, traveling around the world a bit, and then 7 years of art school, the precious green mold became an enormous sponge-monster that could absorb anything it touched, ‘The Good... the Bad... and the Ugly…’

That brings us to about a year ago when I learned from Rabbi I-pod about a section of Gomorrah that was one of a few sections that was forcibly removed from the Talmud by the Church about a century or two ago. It related the story of a certain individual, that will remain nameless for now, and his teacher, Yochanan ben Prachiah, that took place sometime before the Common Era, around the time of the Maccabees about 2,500 years ago. The teacher and student were on their way to Egypt and stopped at an inn for a rest and upon entering into the lobby of this particular Egyptian Holiday Inn, Yochanan ben Prachiah’s student noticed how beautiful the innkeeper was (yes, she was a woman) and said so aloud to his teacher. I guess it must have been a somewhat crude statement that deserved a slap on the wrist; however, Yochanan ben Prachiah let him have it with all his might and drove his student into complete depression, isolation, and then rebellion, with this severe admonishment.

In the Talmud, the ideas are there to teach us about how to live in a complicated world via the Oral Tradition received by Moses on Mount Sinai from Hashem. Each of the Sages have something to say regarding different aspects of the Oral Tradition and an opinion, as well, to champion. In the end, our hope is that we can see how to interact with the world and each other in a way that will help us get closer to Hashem, each other, and fix the broken world, all at the same time.

In this Yochanan ben Prachiah and his student story, the lesson is to push away with your left hand and to pull close with your right hand. Yochanan ben Prachiah was evidently so incensed that in anger, he pushed away with his right hand causing centuries of unneeded pain and suffering, from the Crusades to the Inquisition to the Cossacks and beyond, all from one stray student that was unnecessarily pushed away. How can I blame such a long list of heinous crimes against humanity on one lone student you may ask? I know, this is the counter cultural part of today’s blog and it may be really hard to stomach for some of my loyal fan-base out there (hence the warning), so kola kavod to those of you that have gotten this far! Some of you may have picked it up by now so, let me just continue with:

Naw, we can all figure out how to find ourselves in this mess of a broken world from here...

All I can say is Aleph (Hashem Energy) + Daled (Lack of Ego or Nothing) + Mem (Large Oceans of Water) = Adam, David, and Mashiach... all one Neshama (Soul), from the word Ness (Miracle) and Sham (There and Name) is all about Nisi’on or Tests from Hashem (the Miracle of Har Zion and the Evan Shtiah [Oceans of Water]) and making that effort to build and fix the World (Eretz - meaning Running) to arrive in Heaven (Shami’em or Name and Shem [think essence])... Shma Israel, Hashem Elokainu, Hashem Echad!!!

Amen ve yalla le kulam!