Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Crapper’s Maelstrom and It

This is my first blog post in over… a month, so we’ll have to cover some ground here quickly, but first, I just need to make clear that I have been struggling. Early on in this self-induced hiatus, I was even waking in the wee hours of the morning to an inevitable sense of irrational dread. At first I thought it might be about faith, but it wasn’t at all, as when I pondered this possibility, I came to realize that I seem to be fully cognizant of my place in the world and completely aware of ‘Who’ runs ‘it.’ I don’t know why, but I guess I just keep tripping on the rough edges, slipping ever downwards towards the ragged under-belly of… my perception of whatever ‘it’ is. If I were to have to describe ‘it’ somehow, I guess it would kind of feel like putting the last few pieces of a puzzle together and finding that there was more than one of the dang puzzle things mixed up inside the box. Now, when stepping back and trying to get a picture of the finished puzzle, I can feel the picture’s potential, but it is still confused enough to fall through the holes pocking the semi-evolved and utterly fractured landscape in front of me; I have been struggling… with… ‘it.’

In hindsight, maybe ‘it’ has something to do with my mother’s illness; not the voracious cancer fomenting within her innards, but the oh-so-subtle illness that has spanned, unchecked, for more than 20 years, in which a systematic attempt to extricate herself from ‘it’ by perverting whatever relationships remained after the untimely death of her husband, my father, was narrowly maintained. Or, maybe ‘it’ has to do with the new company she has been keeping, company that grovels and squirms the like of Grima Wormtongue of Middle Earth, manipulating a tired and sickly, old tyrant of a king. And then again, maybe ‘it’ is just that I am ‘so’ sick and tired of jumping out of the way of moving vehicles while walking to work, having the random Chutzpan yell something unprovoked and amazingly rude at the bull’s-eye that seems to be painted on my unprotected left eardrum, or when driving myself, barely careening out of the way of a crazed driver trying to pass a bus, barreling right at me while white knuckling down a deserted mountain road near Hebron, narrowly escaping the loss of…‘it.’

I guess you could say, ultimately, that ‘it’ must go back to, once-upon-a-time, having been a descendant of Esau and trading my red bean stew back for a chance to be Jacob, a chance at being Israel. About four years ago, before I transacted the deal of the stew, I remember being so intrigued with the concept of Tefillin (Phylacteries). After the trade a rabbi friend of mine told me that I felt the way I did when I donned my Tefillin, because I had been stuck with a Jewish soul shoveling red bean stew for more than half of my life. He said that normal Tefillin donning people don’t feel that same elation that I once felt, that sense of completed purpose that I was so privileged to have received when strapping my arm up like bridling a race horse and wearing the Shma immobilizing my third eye, like a prism of truth beaming forth, all just to commune with the Universe, to commune with God… Arghh… I STOPPED FEELING ‘IT!’

My wonderful wife knows a thing or two about ‘it’ and, trying to find ‘it’ again, I decided to give the reigns to the racehorse over for a bit. We decided to really get low and bask in the salt and in the mud that is found way… down… there. We went to the Dead Sea, which, sadly, is dying. We climbed from that low-down place to the heights of Masada and ran smack into Africa. There were about 7 or 8 of them from Uganda, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and others from the deep, dark continent, all learning from Israel how to be urban planners; we spoke to them on the summit, all of whom were as black as the moon appeared during the surreal eclipse that we later witnessed reflecting eerily off of the dying Dead Sea. They liked me. My dad was an urban planner and even designed the city of Irvine in California. They said that they were happy to meet ‘California’ (their name for me) and that they loved Israel, but missed their pork and beans, barely making it up the Snake Path leading to the top of the ancient plateau, to the fortress of Herod and one of the last places that the Jewish rebels stood, waiting for the Romans attempt to wipe them from the face… of…‘it.’

As far as the Romans, when Newt recently said, much to the dismay of Fayyad, "I think 'we' have invented the Palestinian people," he was right. Fayyad said that Newt should: "Review history," so, Fayyad, let's do that… then: The Romans, when they tried to wipe Israel from the map, renamed the land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, "Palestine" after an extinct sea-faring people called the Philistines. They renamed everything in the land of the Jews. They renamed Jerusalem to ‘Capitolina.’ They renamed Shechem to Neopolis (now just referred to by the Arabs as Nablus). The Romans took absolute power over The Land from Herod, who was the son of Antipater, who was an Idumaean (from Edom which is south-west of Jerusalem), whose father was converted to Judaism (the 'only' known forcibly converted people to Judaism) by Hyrcanus II, a very week figure that was easily controlled by the Romans. He was the son of the Hashnonean King Alexander Yannai, who ruled from 103 – 76 B.C.E and he was also a messed up grandchild of the forbidden combination of Cohen (Priest) and King, started by Shimon, who was the son of Mattathias of the Maccabean revolt and Chanukah fame… pheuuw. The people of Edom were the offspring of Esau, as per the oldest book of history available today, and, moving back forward in time, the Roman Empire, with the conversion of Constantine in the year 337 upon his deathbed, became the ‘Holy’ Roman Empire, Christendom, and the West, which then went on to conquer the Americas from the native peoples that have been ‘actually’ documented (unlike the so-called Palestinians) as living in the Americas for centuries. Newt, born of Esau = Rome, who renamed Palestine… get 'it?'

So, getting back to red bean stew… I have been struggling and I hope that 'it' is not headed down Crapper’s maelstrom. Through my learning over the last 3 - 4 years, I have really had answered for me mostly ‘all’ of the big questions in life, questions like, ‘Where do we come from,’ ‘What does it all mean,’ ‘Where do we go when we leave this place,’ and the doosey, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ So, why am I struggling then? I guess that is the last of the big questions and one that I am not going to pontificate on here (thank God). Let's just say that it has something to do with this:

"And they wrestled: The identity of the angel was the Guardian of Esau. And who is he? Sama'el. And it is appropriate that the dust of their feet went up to the Divine Throne for that is the place of judgment." [Zohar Bereshit 170a]

A speedy healing to my mother,

A complete resolution to my own seemingly split personality,

And a very happy and brightly lit holiday season to all!

Chag sumeach!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inner Truth and the Maelstrom’s Gullet

Quite often, when I sit down to write one of these blog entries, I swear under my breath, since my laptop is almost 10 years old and has become somewhat of a ‘hated’ machine. I purchased the thing from Costco (when they still had the return policy intact on computers), but ended up lugging it with me to Israel when I moved anyways. This computer has been through a lot. I used to strap it to my back, while pulling Cody, my three legged dog, in a Burley trailer behind my full suspension mountain bike (another antique that I still use) in Boulder, on my way back and forth to work at my custom cabinet shop. I never fell, but Cody did once. He tried to chase a prairie-dog and pogoed out of the trailer, but since he was leashed in with a harness, the trailer just flipped over on top of him. When I looked back, I thought he had snapped the leash and run away, since he was thoroughly hidden by the turtle-shell of a trailer, running along beneath the upended red and yellow thing that was now dragging along the ground on its aluminum safety bars…

Having visited the States recently, I was once again overwhelmed at the resources that are available. In Israel, it is just not the same. You can find anything and everything in the US! It is just so, so…, comfortable; and when I say comfortable, I mean the ‘sitting on a couch’ type of comfortable, not the satisfied kind. What? You didn’t know that satisfaction was a result of completion and not comfort? OK, OK, take the name Noah for instance; you know… the guy with the big boat, animals two by two and all of that? In Hebrew his name is Noach, which ‘means’ comfort. His wife’s name was Na’ama, which means ‘nice’ (Yeah, they were nice and comfortable, I’m sure!). The boat or Ark in Hebrew is called ‘Tevach,’ which is also a word for container, a controlled space that separates from chaos, or it can even mean a ‘word’.

Yes, words are also containers. Think about it. A word is used today to describe something, right? Well, how do we know what to call the thing we are trying to describe in the first place? If no one ever taught a person anything, a ‘rock’ would be named for its intrinsic qualities, as perceived by that person; the rock would ‘speak’ its name first, so to speak…

This is how Adam ha’Rishon (you know, the half man / half woman proto spiritual being) was able to name the animals. They all ‘spoke’ to him on a kind of spiritual level. He was able to see right into the genetic nature of each creature and the name of the animal ‘jumped’ out at him. This is all a great theory and everything; but, what I am trying to figure out is that when Adam named the animals, were they really animals in the sense that we understand animals today? I mean, how is it that the snake wasn’t slithering on and eating dirt yet? This happened to the snake only as a result or ‘consequence’ of attempting to fool Eve into having a fling with him, while Adam was reportedly snoozing in the bushes somewhere nearby. The snake, based on the consequences of his actions, goes on to be the oh-so-phallic, slithering, dirt eating, ‘extremely’ physical creature that we see today.

I guess I gotta bring in the heavy hitter, the Rambam, who explains that the animals in the Garden were humanoid in form, but with very specific animal traits. The ‘snake,’ therefore, must just have been another one of those Cro-Magnons running around with a club, I guess. Well, there is that whole, “Likeness of God” thing to consider here, right? "And the Almighty said, 'Let us make Man in Our image, as our likeness...' “(Genesis 1:26). This verse, seemingly, is about an 8.7 on the Torah Richter Scale of strangeness. I mean, how is it possible to say that a finite human being is in the image of an Infinite, Formless, ‘Everything’ Being?

Is it time yet? Yup; it’s time to bring in that whole... ‘levels of soul’ deal. "And the Infinite, Almighty, formed the man as dust from the ground, and He blew into his nostrils a living soul, and the man was life for a spirit" (Genesis 2:7). Human beings are a combination of a physical self (dust from the earth or a ‘Nefesh’) and a spiritual self (a soul or ‘Neshama’). The physical self was created from the ground, from physical matter or form that God had already created in the universe. The spiritual self or soul was "blown into" human beings by God Himself.

So, these “animals” or “Cro-Magnons” running around must have only had the first level of soul, the Nefesh. Adam ha’Rishon, and later on Adam and Eve, had both levels of soul, which explains the reason that God had to send Noah and Na’ama into a big boat-like container and spend exactly 365 days on the high-seas. The world was inhabited by Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons… running amok and challenging God with all sorts of nonsense, like Babylonian towers and cave-man technology (the likes that only Thomas Crapper’s mother would have appreciated!), murder, and emptiness. Mankind had united ‘against’ God. They chose the lowest valley that they could find, so as to not utilize any of the God-given hilltops or mountains to build from, and began their technological feat from bricks, not stone (for the same reason). Mankind had lost its connection to the Creator and the only reason for existence in the first place.

OK, back to comfort; maybe we can understand what comfort is in a different way. In Psalms 105: 3-4, it states, “The heart of those that seek God shall rejoice. Seek God and His might, constantly seek His countenance.” Yes, this is, apparently, a very comfortable position to be in, rejoicing in God, but it also sounds suspiciously like effort to me… Yeah, it definitely is; but, didn’t I already say that comfort wasn’t akin to a slacker on the couch, but success through effort? I read that Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm stated that the above Psalm can be explained like this: “Spiritual quests are qualitatively different from physical ones. In worldly matters, a quest is futile if one finds nothing and the disappointment is frustrating (think tower to nowhere). Not so in one's search for God, wherein the search itself brings joy, for the very inquiry elevates the searcher!”

Noah, it seems, was named ‘Comfort’ for a reason by Lamech, his father. It would appear that his father knew that he was going to be the last man on Earth to know God... in a world that had utterly abandoned Him. Noah was named Comfort so that all the future generations could have the ability to feel the success of becoming aware of meaning, of becoming aware of our purpose, the continual search for meaning throughout human history, of our collective awareness of God; but, it isn’t until this very generation that meaning has been reduced to things like down-time, vacation, killing-time, physical comfort, and couch-time... Oy... ‘Killing time...’ Can you imagine what a dying man would give for just one more day?

Seemingly, we are living in a time where the Tower of Babel is rising rapidly in the world, bringing ever wider gaps between the generations, between individuals, between the right and the wrong, the Left and the Right, and the East and the West. Technological development has become so rampant that we can never get enough of the latest and greatest, since there is always the next big thing perpetually right around the next corner. And yes, our level of satisfaction with the latest and the greatest ramps off suddenly ‘exactly’ as we rejoice in our new ‘time sucker, space filler’ of a thing. I fear that our collective container, our Ark, has burst its seams and is beginning to let in the dark, murky abyss that has been swirling around us, waiting patiently for us to forget.

We, as in the Human Race, are being scattered to the far reaches of our collective understandings. We, as in the Human Race, have forgotten how to let the inner world speak to us. We, sadly, as our predecessors in Mesopotamia once did, seem to be progressively forgetting about our Creator, as we easily glide down the slip-and-slide gullet of a maelstrom of babble and ultimate nothingness. I guess maybe that my broke-down and hated machine is teaching me something after all. Maybe being comfortable is overrated. Maybe it is all written in the words, written in the containers of everything around me. Maybe it is all meant to be and I just forgot how to actually see into it, in order to name it with truth...

Yalla and Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Womb World and Birthing a Spiritual Singularity

Now that we all know that we don’t really exist (assuming that you have been following along), we can move on to more important things, like how we can have the most joy in life and how we can avoid the pitfalls of poor decisions. Yeah, sounds just like a parental lecture; doesn’t it? Actually, I don’t really remember too many of those ‘parental lectures’ growing up. In a lot of ways, I grew up in a vacuum (not a dust sucking machine, but the vacuum of space). I didn’t get the ‘birds and bees talk,’ for instance, until I had already been singing with the birds for a few years and had been stung by a few bees too... Maybe it was the radical difference between my parent’s generation and mine. After all, they may have looked like hippies, with their long hair, beard and ponytail, loose clothing, and general ‘free-love appearance,’ but, for all practical purposes, they acted like they were on the set of Leave it to Beaver. My dad, beard and all, even drove this great, custom VW van (real hippy style) to work, five days a week, 8 to 6 or 7 everyday, as if he was ‘actually’ a corporate zombie.

When I think back on those times, I get a fuzzy feeling inside, like I entered a sacred space or something. Then again, maybe it is just natural to want to reminisce, like closing your eyes and remembering the beginning, experiencing the womb. I don’t have a lot of memories, but the ones that I do have are pivotal to who ‘I think’ I am today. Yeah, I know, I don’t really exist, but let’s just move on from that concept for now (no use beating a non-existent dead cow).

I guess I bring up the idea of who ‘I think’ I am for a reason. As it turns out, recently I ‘have’ been really trying to figure out who I actually am. We all go through these types of ‘soul searching’ events in our lives, some of which become new pathways and others that seem to grind us down even more. For instance, five years and four months ago, I moved to Israel from Boulder, Colorado. I had lived in Boulder for 15 years, steadily building a custom woodworking business. I had everything I could ever dream of wanting, but I was not happy or satisfied with life. Now, five and a half years later, after learning a new language, a new culture, a new religion, and a radically new way of life, I find that I am still grappling with the same problems, just a bit different, somehow...

Maybe it is because of being on such a crossroads in so many ways. I mean, so many things are in the process of seeing closure now. Take Gilad Shalit (sorry, poor choice of words) for instance. He was on a border patrol inside Israel and was captured at the beginning of the Second Lebanon War by tunneling terrorists, just two weeks after we moved to Israel. Seeing him returned was incredible. His kidnapping and subsequent imprisonment has been a constant reality to my experience living in Israel. As long as my family and I have been here, he has been denied his freedom, rotting in a tiny cell with no light and no outside communication. Now he is home with his family and friends, thank God!

Thanking God is a strange business as well. I had a conversation with a friend recently, in which I said that I was ‘absolutely’ positive that there is a God and that He runs the world, injecting His energy into it multiple times a second. I really do feel this is a fact, based on the learning that I have done in a variety of subjects, such as history, physics, and philosophy. Now, keep in mind that I am an artist, not a scientist, mathematician, or historian, but I really try hard to understand the nature of existence and, when combining all these subjects, it does seem to inextricably lead to the understanding that God runs the world.

So, why is it that I am so unsure and even somewhat depressed? During this time of Sukkot, we are supposed to be joyous; oh... maybe that is the issue... We are ‘supposed’ to be joyous. I mean, how do you force something like that, anyways? Being depressed is like being void of joy, just a vast empty space to be filled, which, of course, reminds me of how, in the beginning, the Universe was ‘void and formless.’ Everything in the Universe was compressed into something smaller than a mustard seed and then, all of a sudden, it expanded with a really ‘BIG BANG.’ Before the Universe had time to coalesce into anything, it was, yup, first void (empty) and then formless (a useless blob), as if the emptiness was filled in by some kind of form (which was still formless), eventually to take shape and resolve into the form of the Universe that we understand now.

If you think about it, ‘the beginning’ is the same process wherever you look. Think about the womb. This is a place that starts as only potential. It takes action (you know, like the birds and the bees…) to create life there. Once a life has begun, it is no longer void, but now has form. The form then grows and expands, physically, mentally, and spiritually, until it begins life again by becoming birthed into the physical world; the ultimate embodiment of pure potential and one of the biggest joys in life that can be had, I might add.

I was born on October 30th, 1962, which on the Hebrew calendar is Bet ve’Cheshvan, 5723 (celebrated on the same exact day this year!). But, why do we celebrate the beginning of potential anyways? After all, nothing has been achieved yet… Really, the celebration of a birthday should be for the moms in the world. My mom (if you have been following) is clinging to life now in a hospital bed on the opposite side of the planet from me. I recently unearthed some letters from her to her mother about me when I was a baby. Joy was very evident... Maybe that is what it is about. Not joy for the birthed, but joy for everyone, because of the birth.

The last blog entry I wrote, two weeks ago, developed the idea of how death is really a birth and therefore, the beginning and not the end (as well as pontificating on the nature of non-existence). Well, non-existence is not exactly what I mean. It is just a very different type of existence, kind of like life inside the womb, followed by birth into the physical world. This would be to say that when a soul is birthed into this world, it dies at the same time in Womb-world.

There are actually some ideas about what Womb-world is like. Of course, these ideas are similar to the ideas on the Spiritual world; you know… things like the Angel Gabriel, tucked into the womb with a soul that is growing there and whispering all the secrets of the Universe into the consciousness of the soul, only to remove that knowledge later as the transition to the physical world begins… Gilad, in a very week voice during an interview, said, "I thought I'd find myself in this situation for many years to come," when he was released from captivity. This must be what it is like to be born, to come into the world with no idea about anything, having been forced to forget it all and being left with a sense weariness after a long day’s work, but only emptiness to show for it. This must be the void, which, if God really does run the world, would have to be followed by the form; may it fit perfectly as we impress upon Gilad and his family the joy we ‘all’ feel at his return to the world of the living.

Blessings for a complete recovery and much joy in life to Gilad Shalit... home at last!

Chag Sumeach and Shabbat Shalom!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Deciphering the Real World

Space and Time: Finite Reality is Born into Non-existence...
Having jetlag is like living in another dimension. I could swear that over the last week I saw rainbow trails in the air, as I turned my head this way and that. Often, my feet were behind me and reacted to my mind’s sluggish commands as if slung from a rubber-band-gun with all the sound effects reverberating in slow motion. I tried to work the day I returned from my emotion-filled flat-line adventure, only to find that it was like swimming under water fully dressed and wearing rubber galoshes. I know you have all experienced this—other dimensional feeling—whether from jetlag or other sorted endeavors; it reminded me of my youth, while exploring the cosmos from the confines of the straitjacket of physicality. It also reminds me of a few amazing occasions when I learned something about the Universe, while walking with a distant hazy view of the hills of Judea and Samaria, listening to Rabbi Ipod (R.I.P. Steve Jobs) and feeling like my feet were floating on a cushion of spiritual levity.

When I was young, I knew everything and I could honestly live forever, safe in that knowledge. Today, I can assure you that I have spent a good deal of time learning that I know nothing of the true nature of reality. You know how it goes, ‘the more you know, the less you know, and the more you want to know?’ Yeah… ignorance ‘is’ bliss, no matter how dumb you end up…

Seeing as this blog entry is the last of my year long flirt with tying in the weekly parsha, I feel a need to cover some of the knowledge that I have gained, leading me to the understanding that I know absolutely nothing in ever increasing amounts as I move through my life. Let’s try and cover some ground as quickly as possible and since you read (all of) the blog entries from the past year, you should have no problem keeping up. I broke it all down to 7 basic sections (because I like the number 7):

# 1. We don’t really exist. (1)

# 2. Quantum physics with a spattering of Rashi and Ramban, perfectly explain the six days of creation as written in Genesis, for the scientifically inclined mind. (2)

# 3. Finite reality, which doesn’t really exist, is a two dimensional reality in which each dimension contains its own sub-dimensions of a combination (or lack thereof) of space and time. (3)

# 4. We already possess the ‘original’ plan that God used to create Finite Reality; we just don’t necessarily know how to read it. (4)

# 5. Deciphering the plan is only the beginning; the ‘real’ in reality is ‘building’ Finite Reality, which is tough and confusing, because Finite Reality doesn’t really exist. (5)

# 6. In a world that doesn’t exist, the EGO and its cohorts rule (if you let them). (6)

# 7. Death is an inevitable part of Finite Reality, but since Finite Reality doesn’t exist, it cannot be and ‘is-not’ the end, which is the subject of today’s blog entry.

In this week’s parsha, V'Zot HaBracha (Deuteronomy 33-34), Moses knows he is going to die. This is not the same as wondering if and when you are going to die, but actually knowing it, as if God Himself told you so. Psychologically, we all ‘know’ that we are going to die ‘someday,’ but choose to bury that knowledge if we can get away with it. If a deadline (excuse the pun), however, is presented to us, it just seems to hit home all the more so. For instance, when my dad was given his death sentence from brain cancer, he started to try and change his life. I don’t think he was very pleased with the way he had lived it. Visiting his (very soon to be rectified) unmarked grave recently has brought back some of those memories, memories of his abrupt decline in physicality and rapid incline in spirituality at the end of his life. By the time he was ‘days before crossing over,’ he literally had one foot in each half of Finite Reality, the Physical World and the Spiritual World.

In our parsha of the week, Moses delivers a speech in his last words to the Israelites and bids his farewell with glorious blessings. Moses, knows that he is going to die and he is not afraid. This entire episode is meant to serve as an example for us all. Sure Moses had a direct relationship with the Creator, but if you think about it, we all do as well. We may be riding the pond ripples as opposed to a tsunami, but we can still feel the truth when we approach it. If we quiet our minds, we know! My dad, for instance, towards the end, was full of spiritual light. If you really concentrated, you could see his aura glow and he seemed almost to float off his sick-bed. His physical true-self was letting go, his Nephesh was starting to detach from the world. That was easy to see, but his spiritual self, his Neshama, was also letting go, which took a little more effort to notice. (7)

While visiting my mom last week on the other side of the planet, I wondered if she too was starting to let go. She’s a strong woman (well, parts of her personality are anyways) and at least said that she wanted to live, but she seemed so tired… Her mind appeared to be continually dreaming. When I looked at her while she slept, I felt that she was already flying beyond my (supposed) knowledge of this side of Finite Reality and into the next. She had surgery last week and now she is unable to speak. She isn’t moving either. I had the nurse hold the phone to her ear and spoke some encouraging words to her, but I don’t know if she heard them or not. Since I cannot see or hear her, I imagine her just like I saw my dad, with one foot in each side of Finite Reality. I hope and pray that her physical self pulls back from the spiritual side and attempts to put two feet on the physical ground, but time will tell.

The place between the Physical World and the Spiritual World is so hard to understand. In the Physical World there are consequences to our actions. In the Spiritual World there are no actions, only the consequences that we accumulated and carried over from the Physical World. Yom Kippur is around the corner and this is a day that we ride that line, between the Physical World and the Spiritual World. We starve our bodies of physical sustenance and fill our souls with a spiritual feast, the opposite, mostly, of what we do for 364 days a year.

Even though I wasn’t always accepted as a Jew in the world, this time of the year has always been a heavy time for me. I was born during this time. My little brother was also born during this time. My dad died during this time. My brother and his son were shot at while standing in their living room in California by a crazed hoodlum during this time. I converted to Judaism during this time. And now, my mom is in the hospital, riding that same line right now, during this time. This time is the place between the Physical World and the Spiritual World for Moses in our parsha of the week and this time also separates the last parsha in the Torah from the first parsha, Genesis, the beginning of Creation.

Let's go a little further. By adding an Infinite dimension to the Finite by tying the end of the Torah (also known as the Chumash or Pentateuch) (V'Zot HaBracha – Deuteronomy 33-34) together with the beginning (Bereishit – Genesis 1:1-6:8), we learn that the level we can reach on the Day of Yom Kippur is comparable to the level that Adam and Eve attained, prior to mucking up Finite Reality by eating from the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Yom Kippur is a day to balance the levels between the physical and the spiritual, the two halves of Finite Reality. According to Nachmanides, this is also the same level that we reach in the Messianic era. In this era, we will no longer have the option to follow the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) and it will become an automatic instinct to follow the will of God. Free choice in moral and ethical matters will be automatically removed and we will all ‘know’ the true reality.

Yeah, I gotta shore up these ideas a little with gematria: The numerical value of the word Ha-Satan (The Satan or Evil Inclination) is 364. As you know, this number is one day short of the 365 days that we have in a solar year. This is how we know that on one day a year, on Yom Kippur, Satan does not prosecute us and therefore, we are bereft of the pitfalls of ethical and moral murkiness. As a matter of fact, the Midrash tells us that on Yom Kippur, the Satan actually defends us. The spiritual plane becomes on par with the physical plane, once again, though our efforts to create that perfect balance within Finite Reality, or more to the point, bringing into being the Garden of Eden, if only for a day…

Thanks to all the loyal Brave New Land followers for sticking with me over the past year, while I continued to learn how much I already don’t know!

Refua Shelemah to my mom,

Shana Tova,

Have an easy fast this Yom Kippur,

Gamar Chatima Tova,

And Shabbat Shalom!!


1. Because we live in a finite world (everything with an end or edges including atomic particles and the entire Universe both in time and in space), it is impossible to deduce that at some point reality stops, as this would mean the end of our ability to perceive existence. The only way to explain our perceived existence is by becoming aware of the Infinite, something without borders, an Original Being or Ain Sof. And, because an Infinite Being can only be understood by finite beings from a finite perspective, i.e., everything, everyplace, and all the time, we (as in finite beings) don’t really have any reality to exist within. Yet, when we look around, we see something that, without a doubt, appears to exist; we must then assume that whatever this dimension is, it cannot be real in the true sense of reality. Therefore, if we perceive our own existence, it is only immaterial to the reality of the Universe that we believe we perceive and thus, un-real. In other words, we don’t really exist.

2. Time is an element of the Finite World; therefore, as the Universe expands from its central region, time is also being stretched. If we position ourselves at the center of the Universe and watch it expand away from us, we can mathematically formulate an exact calculation for the time dilation that occurred from the time of the Big Bang (or what the 12th Century Torah scholar Ramban wrote, “The entire Universe was once contained in a space no larger than a mustard seed,”) to our current state of time and space within the perceived Universe. With these calculations, we can ‘extremely’ accurately account for 6 days of creation, or simply put, a ‘day’ before the Sun (Sol) even exists, has nothing to do with the spin of the Earth. For more on this topic, refer to ‘Genesis and the Big Bang’ or ‘The Science of God’ by noted MIT Physicist, Dr. Gerald Schroeder.

3. Finite Reality is made up of two dimensions, the physical and the spiritual. Each is bound by its own finite rules. The physical world is made up of time and space, where the spiritual world is bound only to time. Each dimension, both the physical and the spiritual, have shared characteristics, such as waves; however, the physical dimension also contains particles. Light is a good example of this phenomenon, as in the physical world, light is both a wave ‘and’ a particle. In the spiritual realm it is only a wave, transmitting data through the cycling and recycling ‘conceptually’ upward spiral of time, without the baggage of space.

4. A Torah scroll is written with black ink on white parchment, but there is a rule that every letter must be completely surrounded by the parchment. This makes the white parchment an integral part of the Torah itself and incredibly enough, the white space around the letters is ‘actually’ considered a higher form of Torah then the letters themselves. The white space is analogous to the white fire of Mount Sinai, a hidden Torah that cannot be read in the normal way. This is why we already have the plan for the Universe, as God looked into the ‘Torah’ in order to create the Universe, but because the Torah is both the written and what the writing is on, it is impossible to understand the true depth of Torah, or the Universe, by reading only the black letters.

5. Building Finite Reality is based upon the principle of connecting the dots. Each construct in our Physical World connects to the next, via edges and sides that have physical and spiritual attributes. The way we effect change in this reality is by being active in the physical world, while not abandoning the spiritual. Larootz in Hebrew means To Run. The Physical World that we exist in is called Ha-Aretz or The-Land (The-Earth). The word ‘Aretz’ is based on the same root as the word for ‘Run’ and that is how we know that this world is the world of action. Shamayim in Hebrew means Heaven or the Spirit World. Its root is Sham (There). It is also the word for ‘Name’ as in “The Name (Ha-Shem),” referring to the unpronounceable Tetragrammaton. The point being that in order to build Finite Reality, we need to ‘Run’ to ‘There,’ ‘Run’ to ‘Hashem.’ This is broken down like this for a reason. You see, we are now in a world where we ‘can’ do something. When we pass over to the Spirit World, we have to let the cards lay where they landed. Ultimately this same principle applies to the Next World or Olam Haba as well. Once we are there, we are as close to the Creator, the One, the only Reality that there ever was, is, and will be, as we are ‘ever’ going to get.

6. The Ego tries, always, to make this non-existent world, Finite Reality, the real world. If we follow the Ego, we will exist ‘only’ in Finite Reality and cease to exist within the Infinite or the ‘ONE.’ To understand how the Ego rules in a reality that doesn’t exist, we need to break down the entire structure of the spiritual realm and understand how ‘we’ fit into this part of Finite Reality. This is a very complex endeavor, but one that I have explained somewhat within the bowels of this blog, so I will just leave it with these 15 main elements that, if you are truly seeking spiritual oneness or ultimate enlightenment, you should already be aware of: a. Gan Eden = The Garden of Eden or Complete World of Perfection b. Olam Ha Neshimote = The Spirit World c. Kachote = Forces that govern the Spirit World and the Physical World d. Malachim = Angels or agents that carry out tasks in the Spiritual and Physical Worlds e. Adam Ha Rishon = The Proto Adam, made of both Man and Woman f. Eze Kedegdo = The “Helper Against” or Chava (Eve), meaning Love g. Yetzer Ha Tov and Yetzer Ha Ra = Ego or lack thereof h. Nefesh = Our Animal Soul from the dust of the Earth i. Neshama = Our Human or Heavenly Soul that was blown into us by Hashem j. Ruach = Our Free Will or Soul / Spirit that chooses between the Nefesh and Neshama via the Ego or lack thereof k. Olam HaZe = The World of Action where our Ruach can operate l. Gehenom = Purgatory or the Cosmic Washing Machine that cleans our Neshama / Nefesh of the mistakes made by our Ruach when we pass over to the Spirit World / Sheol m. Sheol = The Abode of the Dead (also known as Hell or Lake of Fire) where our Nefesh (Animal Soul) goes to wait until Olam Haba is manifest n. Mashiach = Human Being that is the Savior in the World of Action to usher in Olam Haba o. Olam Haba = The Next World or the world that will be

7. Click here for link to the blog entry entitled, “My Dad and the Beit Din

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Knuckle Dragging my Way Home

After leaving my mother’s hospital bedside last week, I traveled south to visit my dad. I hadn’t really visited him since his funeral in October of 1996. We had some trouble finding his gravesite, as a marker was never installed… I sat on a bench, after finding the location of his grave, and talked to him about his wife, my mother. You see, she had decided not to be buried in their duel plot. She wanted to be in the mountains, closer to her ‘new’ life and her ‘new’ husband. I called her on the phone from the gravesite, looking out at the green fields covered with plaques and flower pots, and asked her again what she wanted to do if she was not to make it out of the surgery that she was due to receive in a day or two. I still don’t really understand her decision.

Growing up, most of my friends, having come from broken homes, considered ‘my’ family the perfect family unit. I told my mom that she was going to have to explain her decision to Dad when she met him on the other side. I cried and apologized to my father for everything. I have no idea how everything got so twisted. Even though I always felt, while growing up, a lacking or a kind of fog that had descended upon my head, I still believed what my friends were saying. I mean, when I looked around, things for everyone else seemed ‘really’ messed up and I had nothing to complain about.

One of my best friends, for instance, was a White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant surf rat like me and had a father that was known to wear six-shooters on his belt. He was a treasure hunter and quite eccentric. I will always remember the day he was arrested for walking into a bank with his guns strapped to his hips. I guess that is illegal in California… We hung out with another one of our best friends, a Vietnamese refugee. He is a Buddhist, but was taken in by and lived behind a local Episcopalian church with his family. He had some stories to tell, and still does, of a world absolutely upside down, stories of last minute escapes from a war-torn land and leaving an entire life behind.

Another good friend of mine, who was a Jehovah’s Witness that happened to introduce me to the Hare Krishna temple, was diagnosed with cancer when he was a young child. Children’s Hospital wanted to amputate his leg, but his mom took him to Mexico instead for a special diet and a year of holistic treatments. He survived his cancer and would do these dietary fasts throughout my relationship with him, where you could see his eyes getting bluer by the day, as he exfoliated through his pores and orifices all the toxins that he said had built up in his system. I lost track of him and can’t find him on Facebook or Google, so I don’t know if he is still with us. He was an amazing artist, even way back then…

Another good friend of mine’s father, a German professor, was caught cheating on his mother, a French Catholic housewife, with a Chinese graduate student. The father was disgraced after the divorce and moved back to Germany, where he died alone. I also had a Pilipino neighbor that was a chef at a local Hawaiian restaurant. Evidently they were Muslim before immigrating to the US, but had cast it all aside in favor of secular values like the rest of us. I understand that the father lost everything due to gambling and alcoholism.

One of my best friends when I was in grade school ended up in Juvenile Hall with his older brother for breaking and entering and theft. Their mom grew marihuana amongst their tomato plants right in front of their trailer house behind the school. We went there for lunch sometimes. Nobody knew, including me. I haven’t been able to find him or his brother either…

There are many more stories about how my entire generation was seemingly doomed to disintegration, so I always thought that my brother and I were some of the lucky ones to have escaped such pitfalls and depravity in the world. When I speak to my old friends, they are always amazed and how things could have changed so much. They would even visit my parents, while my dad was still alive, just because they were remembered as a source of stability, I guess.

So, being this time of year, right before Rosh Hashanah, I shouldn’t be surprised to still be feeling the ground pulling at me. I tried to do the right thing with my mom, by encouraging her to dig deep with the little time she may have left in the world of action, and to make her decisions in life mean something lasting for her and for us all, but I left feeling that she was probably incapable. It was like that fog had just consumed what was left of her, as she headed into surgery to have the muck of cancer removed from her innards. It was like years of the sludge of built-up toxic waste had accumulated and was now overflowing into all of our lives, especially hers, I guess...

As you can probably sense, I am not telling the whole story here. Maybe someday I will share it with the world, but for now, I am going to try and cling to the light in the world and not dwell on the darkness. As a case in point, while traveling back to my home in Israel, I had a layover in Amsterdam for a day. I thought, “I should go to a museum or visit a café. I could wander around and see Amsterdam again.” I was tired from the long flight, but thought I could do it anyways. I thought that maybe I could even visit the synagogue where the Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ben Lutzato) prayed with his family. He had been banned from Padua, Italy for being dangerously close to the light, a real Mechubal, in a time that was still reeling from the escapades of Shabtai Svi, a false messiah that led the world into darkness in the 17th century. The Ramchal wrote some amazing books that explain our purpose here on Earth, as well as outlining the entire spiritual world and all its denizens.

So, I had a plan. I was going to find the Van Gogh Museum, find a little café, and visit the Ramchal’s synagogue. I got off the train and made my way to a tourist shop to purchase a map. I found the Van Gogh Museum on the map and began to make my way there. I was immediately assaulted by drug paraphernalia and sex stores along the street. I tried to cross the street and tripped on a train track, tumbling to the pavement and ripping holes through my pant-legs and into my knees. My knuckles dragged across the rough pavement and my glasses flew out of my shirt pocket, sliding to a stop a few feet away. I recovered, somewhat, stood up, and ran out of the way of an oncoming bicycle. I stood on the other side of the street, bleeding profusely from my hands and knees, while someone helped get my glasses from the path of oncoming traffic. I then wandered aimlessly, blood soaking my shirt and pants, until I finally found a beautiful public restroom to clean up in. I went into the men’s room, which glistened and gleamed, and attempted to relieve myself. There was no door and while urinating, I watched as people strolled up and down the promedade. The young woman in charge of the restroom kept circling behind me, stocking the toilet paper, as I tried to go. I was still bleeding. I washed up and left, tried twice to attempt a recovery of my Amsterdam plan, but ultimately, disgruntled from the darkness all around, caught the train back to the airport and fell asleep on the floor in a corner, waiting for my plane home.

I am very happy to be back home, in the land of light, even though I am still quite jet-lagged and my fingers can't type so well. So, just to finish up this year's commitment to tie each week's blog entry into the parsha, this week’s parsha is called Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32) and for obvious reasons, I have no idea what it is about. Maybe I will read it over the next few days and let you know next week…

Gamar Chatima Tova,

Shana Tova,
And Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Far, Far Away and Letting the Flies In

It is Wednesday and I am sitting in a hospital room in Fresno, California. I have been in Fresno for almost a week now, running around, trying to catch up on all the pieces that have been floating about and, yes, sitting. This is a really weird place. Everything is flat for miles around. It is hot like the desert, but has lots of agriculture spattering the landscape between hotels, run-down ranch houses, and fast-food restaurants. Everything is really big here too, which is probably similar to the rest of America; I just don’t always remember it until I get back here and experience it for myself. Even though I have been under a lot of stress as of late, being here feels like having a fogginess that has descended upon my head. It could be jetlag, but I don’t think so. It seems to me that with comfort, plenty of room to move and to breathe, and lots of space, personal and otherwise, we just tend to expand out and fill it all up, just becoming kind of spiritually-psychologically less compressed. This idea, as well, seems to be intrinsically related to the amount of effort we are prodded into making, just to move forward in our lives. The more space we have to roam, the easier it is to deny, both, who we are and the reason we exist in the first place.

Maybe, because Israel is so small and, at the same time, contains so much culture and history that have affected the entire world, this helps to explain why Israel is such a hotspot on the planet. Take this ridiculous Palestinian statehood UN bid for instance. There are plenty of ‘legitimate’ peoples on the planet that have been denied a state, like Tibetans, Kurds, and Tamils, but aren’t trying to create a homeland by smashing through the backdoor screen, letting all the flies in. I mean, the Palestinians have never had a currency of their own, a government body of their own, a ruling party or elected officials of their own, or even any known history throughout ‘all’ of time. The Kurds have been assaulted by their neighbors, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey from ancient times, all the way up to today with an assortment of modern chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. The Tibetans have been denied an entire country by China, which had existed for hundreds, if not thousands of years and I don’t see the Dalai Lama trying to punch a hole in the UN’s backdoor screen. The Palestinians, including every single one that I (personally) have asked, come from Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, or Syria, not the so called Palestinian Territories, which by the way includes all of modern day Jordan as well (Jordan has been historically populated by the ancient Hashmonean People: basically Bedouins and not Arabs).

Having asked people here in Fresno about Israel, you know... what they know and do they have any experience with it, results mostly with wide eyes and empty stares, which seems to fit nicely into this idea of compression resulting in action, producing the phenomenon as to what and why we are always hearing about Israel. The Fresno-ians know what they have learned, which is not much and mostly from their respective faiths and, of course, the News is first and foremost. Some have said that they heard it was quite beautiful, which ‘is’ true. They just haven’t had to endure the same level of ‘compression’ that others may have had to. I am sure that there are other places in the US that provide that kind of compression, places like New York and Chicago maybe, but on the whole, this is most likely the case throughout the entire USA. It is the land of opportunity for Heaven’s sake...

Speaking of Heaven, there is an idea that I heard once that describes the act of Creation by God and how acts of creation that ‘we’ do emulate this same process. It goes like this: Initially there is the light that comes from somewhere unknowable. This is the filling of an, also, unknowable space. The light then retracts, leaving something that is void and formless, a vast ‘void’ space filled with the finite potential of manipulating the ‘formless’ materials that are contained within it. If we look at any act of creation, this is the exact same process. First we have the idea or conceptualization, which blows up the balloon of potential. Then we have to organize the potential into actable pieces and work to manipulate the materials into a form. This is the world of action. If we act without a plan, we run in circles, really accomplishing nothing. If we have a plan and never act on it, we also accomplish nothing.

I bring this idea in because it seems to me that the more compressed we are, meaning the more raw materials that are present in a confined space, the more we are intrinsically forced to act. It is the nature of life. The 'Torah' of life is how we choose to act. In America, there may be a lot of resources to manipulate in the environment, but there is an incredible amount of space to do it within. It took me five hours to drive to Fresno from LAX for instance. It takes six hours to drive from the northern end of Israel to the Southern end. The space in America is vast, which I am postulating here makes it easier to be comfortable to roam, not compressing to action. Now, keep in mind that I am speaking in generalities. The United States of America is an amazing place and a ‘great’ country on Planet Earth. It is just that I can’t help but notice the difference between the US and Israel, no matter where you look. Israel is compressed, where the US is not.

In this week’s parsha, Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9 - 30:20), we are told that “It (the Torah) is not found in Heaven” (Lo Be’Shamaim Hoo). To understand this, we have to understand the difference between Heaven and Earth. In Heaven there is time but no space, where as on Earth there is both. Space is the raw material, the ‘form’ in the ‘void.’ In Heaven, there is no form, only void, which means that we are unable to ‘do’ anything to manipulate our environment. Earth, in Hebrew, is called Eretz from the word for run, Ratz. This is movement or action and it is only in time and space that it is achievable. With this idea, we can see that the more we are challenged to act in life, the more we are manipulating our environment and the more we are actually creating within time. If we have an abundance of resource and an abundance of space, we are not challenged to move, therefore making creations that have a lot of waste and that don’t last or have long-term value.

When I look around Fresno, I see a vast space that is chocked full of resources. I also see a population that is accustomed to the comfort of those resources, as they entertain themselves from one fast-food restaurant to the next, interspersed with a favorite TV show and another enjoyable outing to whatever tickles the current fancy. This doesn’t mean that people aren’t working, creating, and growing, just that it is not forced from the outside, quite the same way as it is in Israel. So, sitting here in the hospital in Fresno by my mother’s side, I wonder to myself about the meaning of life. Facing the potential possibility of death, facing the ending of the world of action, it makes a person wonder if they have accomplished all that could have been or should have been in life. It makes a person wonder whether or not they have ducked the lies that are circulated in the world through insidious weaknesses and trip wires, such as laziness, arrogance, and discontentedness. In the end, it makes a person wonder if they have acted with 'Torah' in the world or have instead, selfishly tried to shortcut reality from an irrational sense of fear and loathing by ripping a hole in the back-door screen, letting all the flies in, and ‘artificially’ compressing the world just a little bit more.

Refua Shlemah to my mom,

Looking forward to having the fog removed from my being by returning to the ‘naturally’ spiritually-psychologically compressed land of Israel,

And Shabbat Shalom to everyone around the planet!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The other day, as I was praying, I looked out the sliding glass and saw one of the Arab workers, building a wall for a neighbor, across the street. We caught each other’s eye and looked briefly at one another, but right to the core. I realized, in that moment, that a whole world of ‘hidden to the naked eye’ information was flowing between us. My Tallit (prayer shawl) was up over my head with only my Tefillin (phylacteries) showing from under it. I knew that this man, this Muslim who was working across the street, saw deep into the nature of what I was attempting to do, that I was attempting to commune with the Creator of the Universe. He, after all, believes that there is ‘one’ Creator of everything too.

In the second that we locked eyes, a praying Jew in the Holy Land and an Arab construction worker somewhere in the Middle East, it reminded me of a story I heard once about how in the 1700’s, the Vilna Goan, Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer of Vilna, was accused of assisting a Christian in abandoning his faith. The story goes that the Vilna Goan just sat there in a courtroom during the entire proceeding, reading a book and saying nothing to defend himself from the accusations in the face of threats of years of imprisonment in Siberia. It wasn’t until his students tried to rally their teacher into saying something in his own defense that they all noticed his Tefillin, which had been covered by his Tallit. The Vilna Goan then pulled back his Tallit, exposing his Tefillin, and the entire courtroom began to tremble. The court members were paralyzed with fear and then immediately adjourned the court, telling the Vilna Goan that he was free to go.

In this week’s parsha, Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8), we read, "All the nations will see that God's name is called upon you and will fear you." The Talmud says that this statement refers to the Tefillin of the head, which is called the Rosh, and this line in the Torah predicts exactly what happened in that courtroom with the Vilna Gaon. What, you don’t believe me? This is actual history, not some fantastical whimsy concocted for our amusement. OK, here is another example of predicting the future from the parsha of ‘this’ week: "God will bring upon you a nation from afar as the Eagle flies. A nation that you will not understand its language, a brazen nation that will show no pity on old or young." (Deut 28:49)

Nachmanides relates that the nation mentioned here was Rome, whose symbol was the eagle, who came from afar, who spoke Latin, and was a nation that had no compassion on their subjects. What, that isn’t enough for you? How about this then: "Until the walls and fortifications that you depended on all fall down" (Deut. 28:52), which became a reality in 1967 to 1973 with the ‘Bar Lev Line.’ This ‘perceived’ line was only a ‘fairy tale of security’ that utterly fell in 24 hours during the Yom Kippur War, when it took Sadat only 24 hours to cross it. Interestingly enough, this same myth of fortitude and security was obliterated in America when the September 11th attacks occurred, which, coincidentally or not, happened ‘exactly’ 10 years ago this week.

What, still not enough? OK, now we have to get a little gruesome. In Deuteronomy 28:26, it says, "Your corpses will be food for the birds and beasts, and no one will chase them away." Roman Historian, Josephus Flavius describes this phenomenon exactly in The Jewish Wars when he writes about the cruelty of the Romans during the destruction of the Second Temple, when they left the bodies of the murdered Jews to rot in the sun, forbidding them to be buried.

Yes, there is a lot more: "And you shall be a proverb and a byword among all the nations that God will drive you there." (Deut. 28:37). This is anti-Semitism, plain and simple... Anti-Semitism is different than all other forms of discrimination, since it has lasted for thousands of years. It has absolutely no logical explanation either, not that any discrimination does. Anti-Semitism is, however, the mother of all discriminations and it is alive and well in the world today; just look at the Arab Spring flings going on around the Middle East. Last Friday’s attack on Israel's embassy in Cairo was caused by a crowd that was whipped into a frenzy by clerics attending Friday prayers, causing them to tear down the building’s security barrier and then to ransack the entire place.The personnel stationed there barely escaped with their lives.

Or… what about Iran, which had a ceremony on Monday to inaugurate the 1,000-megawatt Bushehr nuclear plant? The mullahs of Iran (same type as in Egypt that whipped the crowd into a violent frenzy) claim it will be used for peaceful purposes, but we can’t forget the statements made by their president to ‘wipe’ Israel off the map, now can we? And, I might add, in terms of anti-Semitism, this is just what we read about in the papers…

So, how does all this relate to our Moslem construction worker friend? Well, it means to him, and to the entire world, that the People of the Book, the Jews, are waking up and coming in droves back to the Holy Land, the land of their birth. It also means that the responsibility to fix the world relies solely on the righteous. What do 'I' mean? Well, there is a concept in the Talmud that relates the following:

In Ezekiel 9:4 it is written that, “God said to the angel, ‘Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and mark the letter 'tav' on the foreheads of the people who sigh and moan over all the abominations that are done in its midst.’”

The Talmud then goes on to say that a conversation ensued between God and the angel Gabriel: “Go and mark a 'tav' of ink on the foreheads of the righteous, so that the angels of destruction should have no power over them; and on the foreheads of the wicked a 'tav' of blood, so that the angels of destruction should have power over them."

Said the Attribute of Justice (the angel Gabriel) before God, "Master of the Universe, what is the difference between these and these?"

God replied, "These are completely righteous and these are completely wicked."
Justice than argued, "But the righteous had the opportunity to protest and they didn't protest!"

God replied, "It is revealed and known to Me that if they had protested, the sinners would not have accepted it from them."

Justice then argued, "If it is revealed before You, is it (also) revealed to them?"

You see the dilemma here, don’t you? Well, actually there are two dilemmas; one is that an angel is questioning God in the first place and the other is, just because God knows the future, that doesn’t mean that everyone else should know it. The first dilemma I will leave to minds ‘much’ brighter than my own (something along the lines of ‘social justice’ and social ethics changing the world I think), but the second dilemma fits in nicely here. You see, God ‘did’ change his mind and He killed the righteous first. The righteous had the responsibility of at least trying to compel the others to turn to the good, but they didn’t. They sat in the comfort of the knowledge that they, personally, had made the right decisions, but what they forgot is that they, each and every one of them, also had the ability to change the world… Hey, that sounds like the first dilemma…

No matter; the world has been descending into collective apathy for an entire generation now. We fool ourselves into thinking that we ‘can’t’ make a difference. We fool ourselves into thinking that it is not ‘my’ fault that the world is the way it is. That Arab across the street understands that this is the way we are all operating and it is only a brief glimpse, a momentary connection to something deeper, that can compel him to a true understanding. When he witnessed me, the Anglo Jew, ‘trying’ to commune with the Creator, he was momentarily shocked out of his stupor, but only momentarily. I, as well, was shocked out of my self-righteousness, as we locked eyes that morning. When the moment was over, I dulled back down to my meat-like self and the Arab across the street narrowed his eyes and the spark left its momentary resting place, as he returned to making dust and noise, seemingly trying to send a shock back out to an apathetic world.

I gotta long ways to go now; so… Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Parts of One and the Hole in the Backyard

On Sunday morning, after an amazing bike ride through the Roman ruin covered hills by my house, I threw out my back while trying to get into the car to go work. I usually walk to work, as it is a nice 30 minute walk for me, but I got a late start, so my wife offered to give me a lift. I could barely sit all day long. I should have stretched a little I guess. Well, it could also have been the weekend warrior syndrome from the days prior to that morning’s ride, just being generally out of shape, maybe the looming UN unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, or it could have been the stress of my mom being in the hospital for the last few weeks. Looking back on it, I think it must have been all of the above.

Last Friday, my back had ‘already’ started to bother me as we drove down south to visit my son at the base in Beersheva. At the time, I figured that it was because of being stiff from digging a hole with my younger son and his friend in the backyard (yes, weekend warrior syndrome). My wife and I bought some little fruit trees to commemorate our 25th wedding anniversary, which was ‘also’ this week, and found that the spot we wanted to put the prize tree, a Leachy, was used as a dump when they built the house 10 years ago.

Why would someone do such a thing? Initially I thought that maybe it could be related to the idea that the primary construction force in Israel is from the Arab sector. Remember when the (ongoing) construction freeze in the West Bank happened and a large majority of the locals living there were upset about it? I am talking about the Arabs, not the Jews, as they were all losing their construction jobs in the wake of the ‘Western’ peace process pressure. Then again, maybe it is just a ‘Middle Eastern thing,’ to dump trash and bury it on the property. After all, I am pretty sure that the ‘Jewish’ builder that built my house was ‘also’ privy to the little backyard dump, maybe even ordering it done in the first place. They just covered up the cement blocks, plaster, stucco, and the plastic hosing and buckets with some nice looking topsoil just for ‘me’ to have to poke at with a shovel 10 years later.

After digging most of the trash from the hole in the backyard, we had to order new dirt from the local hardware store. We followed the forklift, loaded with two giant hauling bags full of topsoil, though the little 150+ year old hybrid farming / tourist town that we live in, and then, by the shovelful, moved it all to the backyard to fill in the whole… hole. We worked late into the night, as the little Leachy was wilting in anticipation. We did have one small triumph at the end of the night though. Once the little leachy was tucked in for the night, we topped off our evening by ordering pizza from ‘American Pizza’ and sucking down a beer or two... just like old times...

Looking back on one of those ‘old times,’ well, actually when I was a kid, I remember my dad digging out garbage that ‘he’ had dumped and buried in his backyard in order to plant a tree. Evidently, burying the stuff you don’t know what to do with (or just want to hide from) in the backyard isn’t an Arab thing ‘or’ a Middle Eastern thing. It must just be a normal human behavior type of thing – to bury the trash ‘out of sight and out of mind’ (for now)... Yeah, that is a real problem in our natures, but the bigger issue here is that the more we hide, the more we are just burying it for later, even for our own children to stumble over — think inflation, out of control borrowing, and soaring debt…

Our health seems to work like this too; for instance: neglecting my health for the last few months, not riding my bike like usual and not keeping fit (now that I drive a desk for a living)... Health, it seems, is something we tend to bury in the backyard... um... right… My mom, for instance, has been in the hospital on the other side of the planet for a few weeks now. It has been really hard to get any real information, which is strange, because this week I have a friend here in Israel that also ended up in the hospital. And it was ‘also’ difficult for him to get any information, as he doesn’t speak much Hebrew.

While sitting there in the hospital with my wife, talking to him and trying to communicate to the nurses and doctors, I kept thinking about how my mom was in a hospital, very much the same, only she was halfway around the planet. Here in the Middle East we had the difficulty of cultural differences and language barriers, but getting information here was so much more successful than it has been speaking English over the phone, all the way to the USA. It is a ‘huge’ divide in time and in space for me. OK, maybe I am just burying it in the backyard of my own mind…

Moving along... In the backyard of my childhood home, 25 years ago and ‘exactly’ on the spot where my dad had dug out the garbage to plant a tree, I got married to my amazing and beautiful wife. I don’t know if Rabbi Cohen knew how well the whole story was going to loop together, while we stood under that Huppa, but the roots from those trees we planted last week (on this side of the planet) to honor our anniversary are already (seemingly) going a lot deeper than we ever thought possible. You see, we were married in the month of Elul, which is an acronym for Ani ledodi vedodi li (I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me) from Song of Songs - 6:3. The time of Elul is a time of special closeness between the Divine Groom and His bride, between God and Mankind.

The month of Elul has the astral sign of Betulah (Virgo – virgin). This is the female aspect of Hashem that, in some unknowable way, broke off from the Creator when Adam ate from the Tree of the Knowledge between Good and Evil. This is also the time when Man and Woman diverged, relinquishing their prior ‘Oneness’ to a world of effort, struggle, and even pain.

What… You think that the whole Garden of Eden thing is just a nice bedtime story? Well consider this:

Archeological records show that Homo-sapiens lived for hundreds of thousands of years on the planet, right? Well, the record also shows that it wasn’t until about 5,000 years ago that the trappings of civilization were born; yet, throughout this transitional period, the skeletal remains of Homo-sapiens remained exactly the same. We see from this that we didn’t just suddenly grow bigger brains — something else ‘entirely’ is responsible for the sudden surge of cultural evolution within Humanity. As it happens, this is exactly the same time that the Torah tells us that Adam was born in the Garden. So, it would appear that we are the ‘spiritual’ descendants of Adam and Eve, two halves of the same spiritual being, ‘as well’ as their genetic descendants.

Speaking of intrinsic, geneticized spirituality, in a marriage, each one of us Homo-sapiens is charged with bringing back together the ‘Female’ aspect of the Creator to the ‘Male’ aspect of the Creator. A woman is intrinsically connected to the Female aspect and a man is, likewise, connected to the Male aspect. When a holy union is made, on a spiritual level, the woman holds on tight to the Shchinah or Female aspect of the Creator and the Male reaches out through prayer to the Male aspect of the Creator, Hashem. When a man and a woman join in holy matrimony, they are fixing the world, bringing these spiritual forces in the world back together again and that is why the month of Elul (remember… “I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me”) is so important and that is also why this week’s parsha, Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19), gives us a perfect example of bringing opposite extremes together again, making them whole... as ‘One.’

I am going to be brief, since I am about out of time. There is a commandment in this week’s parsha called Shiluach HaKen to send away a mother bird... I guess before taking her eggs to make an omelet: "You should send the mother bird away and take the young for yourself — in order that it will be good for you and that you will have a long life." This commandment is not about compassion; in fact, it is the exact opposite, seeing as you have to forcibly part a mother with her nest of young ones. We learn from the Torah that long life is achieved by keeping both this commandment and one other as well. In Exodus 20:12 it says, “Honor your father and mother. You will then live long...” This particular commandment is ‘all’ about compassion, as anyone who has cared for a sick parent can testify to. The Vilna Gaon explained that the completeness of a person in serving God is only possible when two opposite character traits are brought together, in this case: ‘compassion’ and ‘harshness.’

This bringing together of opposites is the same idea as the joining of a man and a woman in holy matrimony, bringing together Mankind and God in a completeness that finishes the creation of the World, and this is exactly why, when the UN tries to launch a Palestinian state without working through the issues in a diplomatic way, it is just like trying to plant a tree by digging through buried garbage in the backyard. The process is going to be nasty, it will take a heavy toll on everyone involved, the ground is going to be unfertile and filled with poisons, and the tree that we spend so much time dreaming about, planning for, and nurturing to grow into something amazing... will eventually wilt and die a horrible, smelly, and depressing death.

Refua Shlema to my back, which is feeling better now,

Refua Shlema to my friend, who is home from the hospital now,

Refua Shlema Gedolah to my mom, who is still struggling valiantly,

And Shlema Gedolah to the World... may we have true, complete, and everlasting peace in our days.

Happy anniversary to my very special link to the Shchinah too!

Shabbat Shalom!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Death in the Garden, the Green Machine, and Elul

I read that a 55 year old surfer died while surfing Hurricane Irene off of New Smyrna, Florida. He was found face-down, floating. He had hit his head, receiving a large gash, and was later pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. Reading this article, I was reminded of a video that I once saw of a guy that actually made it on one of those hurricane waves in Florida; it is pure adrenaline to even watch something like that, much less ride it. Not that I could ever even consider it… but, there was that one time when I was a kid in California when I decided to take my 6’ 8” self modified pintail-gun out on a day that was way too big for me. You see, surfing becomes ‘kind of’ an addiction, causing a sort of deluded mental hysteria, and the bigger the waves, the more hysteria. Did you ever hear the word, ‘stoke?’ Yeah, that is just a buzzword for ‘adrenaline,’ as it pumps throughout your body, giving you a rush-buzz-stoke or whatever. The more your brain wants it, the easier it is to listen to your ego and deny your soul its opportunity to soar. Yes, the soul definitely responds to the stoke, that is, if the ego doesn’t hog all the glory. Ultimately, the deeper down that the soul gets stuffed by the ego, the easier it becomes for the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) to compel the 3-D’s out of you: Distraction, Distrust, and… Disaster.

Distraction: That day when I was a kid, I checked out the waves and I saw a guy sitting on his surfboard out there in the white caps, beyond the break zone; so, I thought, “If he can do it, then I can too!”

Distrust: Of course, by the time I made it out through the breakers, the guy had just enough time to tell me (while paddling by me on his way back inside during the same lull in the waves) to go back in, that it wasn’t worth it. I, of course, had to see for myself…

Disaster: And he was right. I was trapped out there by the monstrous surf, alone in the universe, freezing in the wind and head-high white caps for about 45 minutes, before I got up the nerve to paddle back between sets, trying to avoid the sharp volcanic rocks on the shore of Rock Pile, my local surf spot.

Disaster (barely) averted: My ego shrunk back to its rightful place, I lost the battle with my Yetzer Hara, but this time, thankfully, I lived to fight it another day...

After a big storm like Hurricane Irene, you always hear about the deaths that occurred. The news agencies seem to count off, state-by-state, all the gruesome details. For instance: Paramedics said that a man was killed outside his home when he was hit by a falling tree limb, a motorist died after driving into standing water and then hitting a tree, a child died when a tree fell on an apartment building, and a man died, as well, when a tree fell on his car. All these stories have one thing in common (besides death of course) — they all involve trees, which (based on the next ‘logical’ step) makes me wonder: ‘Why wasn’t there a Tree of Death in the Garden of Eden?’ I mean, there was a Tree of Life, wasn’t there? There ‘was’ that pesky Tree of the Knowledge between Good and Evil, but that isn’t really ‘death,’ is it?

What is death anyways? We could probably all agree that, whatever it is, it is the end of something ‘finite.’ You know... finite, meaning final, the end, nada, zip, no more of whatever ‘it’ is. We are now finishing up the Jewish year of 5771 as, this week we celebrated the beginning of the last month of the year, Elul. This begins a time of introspection and personal accounting for how we have behaved with each other and with God over the past year. For the New Year (Rosh Hashanah), we celebrate Adam Ha’Rishon’s birthday in the Garden of Eden. Yes, and it is also when God and all His angels will assemble in the Spirit World, up on High, open the Book of Good Life, the book that records how we will be challenged and rewarded in the year to come, and ‘wait for Mankind’ to announce that it is actually Rosh Hashanah in the first place. Yes, this whole ‘life’ business is a partnership between Mankind and God. ‘We’ get to say if it is Rosh Hashanah or not; now, granted, we have a window to work within, but if we declare the new moon did not rise for the beginning of the new month, God has to pack up the whole kit-n-kabutal and return with the angels the following day.

So, since the last year is now coming to an end, a kind of ‘death’ if you will… OK, so you don’t necessarily get it… Let’s just say that it is possible for ‘death’ to be construed to be the ‘end,’ like the ‘end of the year,’ what we are really saying is that there can’t be an ‘end’ without a beginning (or a middle for that matter). Death, therefore, can really ‘only’ be defined by life! I mean, you may be able to have life without death (i.e., the afterlife), but in order to be dead, you have to have life first, no?

Speaking of death… and of trees too, in this week’s parsha, Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9), we learn that, "When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it and to seize it, do not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them, for from it you will eat and you shall not cut it down...” We can derive from this that God is giving us an opportunity to abide by our mutually beneficial contract, our contract of ‘living.’ The sages interpreted this law, called Bal Tashchit, to bring down to us that, ‘We should not waste a resource if we can find a way of accomplishing the same task, but without anything wasted, squandered, or misused. Since God made us partners in His world, we can deduce that He wants us to take responsibility for our end of the deal. God could easily grow the slashed and burned rainforests back, put the depleted ozone back into the air, or replenish the overfished oceans with fish, but He won’t. Part of our task in this world is to respect and appreciate His creation, caring for it along the way, in order that we grow (like children) in a moral and ethically responsible direction.

I have to say that: Advice from God, interpreted into law over 2,000 years ago by our Sages, to care for our world and respect it, is much more reliable that what our slide-show-award-winning-pseudo-scientist-ex-V.P., Al Gore has been saying. I mean, he may have good intensions, but come on... Just go to the source already! There is no need to defend a pseudo-scientific method for political correctness against the principle of tried and true independent peer testing. I mean, without getting too deep into the compost pile here... in his 2006 film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” 15 of his major points have already been shown (by independent peer testing) to be outright false, misleading, or distorted.

What am I trying to say here? Well… it seems that from both sides, we just don’t need all the opinion pandering; it doesn’t help us on any level. We don’t need it anymore than we need the pantheon of environmental extremists, who were lining the streets with their soapboxes before Hurricane Irene, saying that the catastrophic storm was caused by global warming and that it is all (their now deposed hero) President Obama’s fault. All kinds of editorials have floated from the wreckage after the storm blaming everyone else for everything — Republicans, Democrats, big business, big government, economic doomsayers, and climate alarmists, one-and-all. This is way beyond bipartisanship in the buff. This is pure chaos. But, what I am having difficulty understanding is, “Why all the fuss?!” We already know what we are supposed to be doing. Just look it up in the world’s number one best seller already!

King Solomon put it nicely in his book of Proverbs (3:18), when he wrote, “It (the Torah) is a tree of life unto those who grasp hold of it.” OK, so how do you grasp hold of the Tree of Life? This is the real question, as even Adam Ha’Rishon couldn’t manage it, way back in the Garden. The Sages tell us that, after Adam was born on Friday afternoon (yes, Rosh Hashanah), if he were to have waited until the evening of Shabbat, and then partook of the Tree of Life before he partook of the Tree of the Knowledge between Good and Evil, he would have lived forever, communing with God in the Garden, in Paradise. So, why did he do it? Another quote from Proverbs (14:8) may help to explain it: “A clever wise person will understand his way.” This quote relates back to the Yetzer Hara, which has just one mission within finite reality; to guide a person’s hand over the self-destruct button and either to encourage each of us to push it or to stick out a friendly foot for us to trip on. So, it is not enough to be ‘wise,’ but one needs to be clever as well. We have to see beyond the normal or expected. We have to see beyond the obvious and the hidden as well. We have to know that the Yetzer Hara will tempt us with what ‘exactly’ matches ‘our’ specific weakness.

Adam Ha’Rishon wanted to be closer to God. He wanted to do it of his own free accord, not with the 50/50 chance of success that God thought Adam could handle. Adam wanted to tip the scale, to start behind the designated start-line, to be the first Ba’al Tchuva, the first to return to the Creator; but, this action, we can see, was driven by pure ego and the Yetzer Hara saw its opportunity and struck.

As the world gets more churned and the edges begin to blur, we can see that it will become more and more difficult to find our way through the muck and confusion. Opinions will become so righteous, that there will be little possibility to listen, much less hear the other side. We can plainly see this phenomenon in politics (as per the Left / Right schism that is driving us all into the ground between them), but we can also see it spilling over into other human endeavors; endeavors such as science (as per the Al Gore’isms above), art (this one will need another blog or two to explain the ‘Pre Mashiach Post Modernist’ movement we are experiencing throughout our collective cultures), sport (as per our story of the unfortunate surfer above and his struggle with the Yetzer Hara – and by the way, also the lunatic ranting and violence that has been pervading the world’s sports arenas), and philosophy (as per the asymmetrical, irrational, intelligent and ‘not-so intelligent’ ranting of the likes of everyone ‘Intelligentsia’ from Richard Dawkins to Steven Hawking. As we plot our course through it all, influencing the fallout and being influenced by it, let’s make sure we pay attention to the inner voices that are with us always and remember what drives them.

Maybe some 3-D logic is in order here:

“Each of us has deficiencies, but as a whole we are complete. Each one is perfected by his fellow, until we make a perfect whole.” ~ Chabbad Rabbi, Tzvi Freeman

Our deficiency is ‘Distraction.’

“The main thing is not learning, but action.” ~ Ethics or the Fathers (1:17)

Our inability to do something, without ‘knowing’ the outcome is our ‘Distrust…’

"God said to Cain, 'Why are you so furious? Why are you depressed? If you do good, will there not be special privilege? And if you don’t do good, sin is crouching at the door. It lusts after you, but you can dominate it.'" ~ Genesis (4: 6-7)

Our inevitable succumbing, to one extent or another, to the Yetzer Hara is our ‘Disaster…’

May we all beware the Yetzer Hara, as it attempts to distract us from our (Elul) soul searching, with distrust and egoism, only to invite disaster and mayhem, as we argue amongst ourselves about which road to take before we slam into the wall of finite reality and the ‘end’ of our ability to choose, to act, or to move at all...

May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Good Life!

Shabbat Shalom!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Missiles, Schmaltz, and Mashiach

Well, this has been a doosie of a week, hasn’t it? Technically, of course, this week began on Friday with last week’s blog post; so, I’ll start there. When we woke on Friday morning, right up to our arrival in Beersheva two hours later to visit our son at the base, we weren’t sure that we would be able to even see him due to the terror that was afoot – well, unless you ask the United Nations, which will ‘not’ condemn the entire episode as ‘terrorism,’ after Lebanon's representative rejected the measure. He said that Lebanon would endorse a condemnation of the (terrorist) attacks if the council condemns Israel, as well, for killing the ‘terrorists’ who planned the attack. Um... isn’t that circular logic? Actually, I have no comment on that idiocy... But, no surprise there, really, since it is no coincidence that Lebanon – the only member of the Council that blocked the measure – is ‘itself’ controlled by Hezbollah, a Palestinian terrorist organization. By the beginning of the week, Hamas (the terrorist rulers of Gaza) declared a ‘cease fire’ from the violent terror that had claimed at least 8 innocent people (including woman and children shot at point blank range), at least 30 innocent injured people, and over a million innocent people in the south, who were traumatized to one degree or another, my entire family included...

So, what do you suppose all of ‘this’ hubbub is about, anyways? Maybe if we employ the Jerome Glenn (a recognized expert and speaker on Future Studies) Futures Wheel, we can work backwards to predict the cause. You see, to every ‘change’ there are ‘consequences,’ second, third, fourth, and so on. We can often see the consequences, (like waves that have travelled far and wide) but it is sometimes difficult to track backwards to the initial changes. This entire approach is intended to ‘see’ the future, but we are going to try to use it to ‘see’ the past instead. Let’s look at this current wave of ‘consequences’ and see if we can find the ‘cause.’

The consequence, within this case study, is the terror that is plaguing all of mankind, with the focus on the world’s hotspot, the middle of the Middle East, Israel. Let’s try and see if it is something intrinsic to Arabs in general; you know... the death and mayhem that has followed their existence throughout the last 12 centuries of Islam?

Maybe it has something to do with the beginning of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Ramadan began only a couple of weeks ago. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and having sex during the daytime. This abstinence from physical pursuits is intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility, and submissiveness to God... Well, considering that we should be seeing a heightened sense of social responsibility, this must not be the initial cause.

Here is another possibility though: Maybe the cause is related to the events that led to the latest Zogby poll (Arab Attitudes in 2011), which has revealed that President Obama’s ongoing appeal to the Muslim world has utterly failed. His speeches promised to restore America’s international reputation, but now the Arab world hates America more than it did under George W. Bush, who was dropping bombs on them. Now, since Israel is the first stepping stone to the West and happens to be located in the center of the Islamic Empire... you get my drift.

No, as annoying and stupid as this is, this last scenario is probably just another level of ‘consequence.’ I think we need to look further back. Actually, I learned that the cause could actually be a sort of Arab anniversary celebration of the Jerusalem and Hebron Massacres, which began on Friday night in 1929 (83 years to the day), before Thursday afternoon’s terrorist attacks in the south. The story goes that after the Arab neighbors went on a rampage, inspired by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem – Hajj Amin El Husseini – and Hitler’s genocidal Palestinian partner, the bodies of the murdered Jews were laid out in a Jerusalem morgue for Shabbat. On an interesting side-note, upon entering the morgue to begin the mass burial at the conclusion of Shabbat, a small cry was heard. Shmuel, a one year old, had only been unconscious after having his eye gouged out by the frenzied Arab neighbors that had rampaged through the town, killing his mother and killing and maiming scores of others. The following day the madness continued in Hebron, while the British police stood by doing nothing, until the slaughter began to overflow to threaten ‘them’ and was stopped with ‘one’ bullet fired into the air...

Somehow, as plausible as this story is in explaining the cause of the current terrorist mad-dogs prairie-dogging their ugly heads up, I think it must be deeper than this as well. Let’s look into this week’s parsha, Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17), which means the command, ‘to see,’ and let’s just ‘see’ if we can shed some light on these shadows. Here, Deut. 13:2 - 4 warns the Israelites against becoming fryers (suckers) to ‘miracles’ performed by false prophets, "If there should rise up among you a prophet or dreamer of dreams and offer a sign or a miracle. And that sign or miracle should then occur of which he has told you, and he says to you, 'Let us go after other gods whom you do not know and worship them,' do not listen to the words of this prophet or dreamer of dreams because it is God who is testing you to know if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul."

This sounds like the schmaltz to me... Yep, we are finally getting to that one. Schmaltz is made from chicken or goose fat, to keep ‘kosher’ laws by replacing butter or pork lard, which was the common method in Germany and Europe for cooking. Traditionally, Jewish cooking oils were always olive oil and sesame oil, but that was when Jews lived primarily in the Middle East and the Mediterranean basin, thousands of years earlier. Anyways, ‘the schmaltz’ is a good way of describing how the Jews stayed together for thousands of years as one people, keeping one set of laws, and adapting to their varied situations and locals, while still connecting to God every day in a tangible and meaningful way. If anyone started to follow a false prophet, the entire people could become fractured and fall into oblivion.

God (via Moses) even told us, in this very same parsha (Devarim 14:1-2): “Do not slash yourselves nor make a bald patch between your eyes for the dead. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God...” How does this relate to fracturing as a people? Yes, we should understand from this verse that we should not mutilate ourselves because of a loss, but the Sages see something else. In Yevamos 13b, it is written, “Do not slash yourselves — do not form factions.” And, not so coincidentally, this is exactly what happens when a false prophet begins to convince people to ‘see’ the miracle and ignore the ‘truth,’ ignore the Torah or change it in any way. This is why, way back in the 7th century C.E, when Mohamed was strafing the land seeking converts or killing everyone within striking distance, the Jews died by the thousands. Ultimately, the Moslems let the Jews live in a lowered status called Dhimmi. The Jews were strong as a people and held to their convictions, something that the Arabs respected.

There is an old Arab proverb that says: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse. This ‘strong-horse’ view of power is dominant in the Islamic world, which relates back to Obama. He is considered a weak horse for bowing down and apologizing for American power. This is an affront to the Arab ‘strong-horse’ view of power and we are seeing the ramifications of this attitude all around us today. This, however, is still only a ‘consequence,’ not the source or the ‘cause’ of it all, but it is getting closer, don’t you think?

OK, so, let’s go back to the schmaltz. We already learned a bit about it, but now we need to sink down into the fat of it all; we need to learn how it is made… Step number one is to cut the chicken or goose fat into small pieces. Then you melt it inside a sauce pan over low to moderate heat. Oh, and one more thing; don’t forget to add the onions! Now, after the majority of the fat has been extracted from the goo-yummy concoction, you need to strain the glistening, melted fat through cheesecloth into a container to store it for all your later cooking fantasies. Now, the stuff remaining, wadded unceremoniously into the cheesecloth — the stuff you may be tempted, (because of its powerful odor) to throw immediately into the garbage outside of your house — is all the leftover brown, crispy bits of skin, onion, and whatever and this, my friends, is the gribenes…

The gribenes is the result of the cause — to create kosher cooking oil in a non-kosher world — and we can make interesting parallels with this to our dichotomous world of the physical and the spiritual. The spiritual is definitely the schmaltz, the stuff that goes on to live another day. The gribenes is, well... to put it plainly, both loved ‘and’ despised.

This brings us back to the feeling we get when learning a certain Midrash. It says that, as we approach the ‘End of Days,’ initially religions other than Judaism will be answered by God. Other faiths will prosper and seem to be on the path to the One, the Creator of the Universe. It will appear in the world as if the Jews had it all wrong, all along...

This reality will cause the ultimate fear in the hearts and minds of the Jews. It will be an awesome fear that burrows to the core of everything, becoming an ultimate test of faith in the Torah. In the end, Judaism will be vindicated, but this will be the true turning point for all of mankind. We will ‘all’ see, once and for all, Who runs the world.

There is another Arab proverb that says, “A falling camel attracts many knives.” Weakness, it seems, makes Arabs want to stab the falling camel. That means that bowing down, apologizing, or just being indecisive in their eyes is, essentially, a death wish. They are not going to stop and as we can see from the Midrash, it may appear to very intelligent people that they are correct when all they are really seeing is the leftover gribenes. The true ‘cause’ is our own ineptitude. The true ‘cause’ is our inability to stand together, as one race of Human Beings, and know Who runs the world. The schmaltz of it all is, we are all on the same boat, riding the same ride, living the same reality. Maybe if we just start to work together, we could actually accomplish something good, something right, something real. All I can say is, ‘If you want to ‘see’ the future, all you need to do is to ‘listen’ to the past and then DO something about it!

May Mashiach come in our time and during our days!

Shabbat Shalom!