Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Circumcising the Giant and the Moral Minority

Well, last week I ended on a bit of a downer with what most of the news outlets around the world referred to as, “What the Israelis ‘called’ a terrorist attack,” intimating that it was somehow a… what?... maybe an errant m-80 packed with ball bearings that some hoodlum kid blew up, killing and maiming civilians at a bus stop, just for kicks? So, when I was trying to finish the blog, right before I left for the weekend to Jerusalem (of all places), I couldn’t really finish it properly. I just had to go with the flow a bit. Actually, looking back at it, the flow that I had to go with ‘was’ really what the blog was about after all. You know... the difficulty in understanding the idea that if God controlled everything, down to the minutia of time and matter, how could things like this (or God forbid even worse) happen? Maybe more on that later; but, that was last week and this is not, so…

For Shabbat, as I indicated previously, we were in Jerusalem. We were, as usual, so ridiculously fortunate to stay with family in the Old City and, as usual, it was absolutely amazing. We met some incredible people, danced at the Kotel with at least 50 soldiers and 100’s of others, and heard amazing stories at the Shabbat table. One of these stories came from an amazingly well spoken American lawyer that happened to be blind. His work revolved around legislating with governments around the world for disabled rights. He had worked in South America, Europe, the States, and other places and he had just recently started working for the Israeli government, in particular the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). He said that he was blind-sided with the IDF when he got here, since according to him; it is the ‘only’ army in the world that allows soldiers with disabilities to enlist and serve. When I heard this, I really was shocked. I thought, ‘For sure the US and other armies, especially left leaning socialist armies from Europe, would have similar stances, but no… he said that there are no other armies in the world that allow a disabled person to enlist and to serve. In every other army in the world, people go in able-bodied and can, God forbid, come out disabled. In the IDF a person can go in disabled and as is quite often the case (if you have read the book ‘Start-up Nation’ by Saul Singer you might understand), come out able-bodied through being even more able-minded than when you went in! More on that later too…

So, in this weeks parsha, Tazria (Leviticus 12: 1), we learn about leprosy (Tzaraas) and circumcision of the foreskin (Brit Milah). Tzaraas is a spiritual affliction, not the leprosy that we know of today, and is in essence, a disease of the shell or skin. We learn out that to avoid this most noxious of spiritually caused afflictions of our shells, we need to circumcise our tongues. No, it is not a piercing and yes, it does sound painful, I know, but let’s just try to understand it a little better. First we need to look closer at the word Brit, which is either slang for someone from Britain (ha ha) or in Hebrew, a covenant or agreement, and according to the 2nd century cabalist and mystic, Nachmanides, Brit is derived from the word Briah, which means ‘creation.’ So, what this means is that, every word we utter is a creation in the world, bringing something that was previously not-finite and making it finite, within time and space. In the case of circumcision of the tongue, we are instructed not to speak about each other, either bad things or good things. This is Lashon Ha’Ra or evil speak. Gossip falls into this category, as well as judgment of any kind; including, according to the absolute authority on the subject the Chofetz Chaim, against yourself. The idea of controlling your speech protects us amongst each other. It prevents baseless hatred to enter our lives and gets us to live on a deeper level, not on the surface.

This same idea is represented by the Brit Milah, only this time it is a creation of a connection or agreement between God and a Jew. This is a reflection in the physical of the private and personal, spiritual connection and commitment between a Jew and God. I should know, since I found it necessary to endure three separate circumcisions before I finally got it right! The interesting thing about this process was that the first one, when I was a newborn child in the hospital, was ‘physically’ perfect. 24 years later, the second circumcision that I had when I converted to Reform Judaism was a kind of social/spiritual intention and addition to the physical version. I lived with that one for another 20 years and then decided to upgrade, once again. My third circumcision is what I consider now, a real Brit Milah. It catapulted me into a real relationship with the Creator, a real connection with God. It was a spiritual connection or agreement that I had not achieved in my prior attempts. Three strikes and you’re out, three times a charm, one-two-three-go…OK, OK, please no whittling away jokes... even though it is quite funny!

So how does this relate to the IDF allowing the disabled to serve? Well, I can maybe bring in some personal experience to explain it. I have a friend that lives up the street that is a paraplegic. He fell while rock climbing and now has lost the use of both legs completely and his arms and hands have decreased motor skills. Whenever I see him, it is palpable how totally excited he is to be part of the IDF. He gets into his specially transformed ‘hands only’ van and heads off to the base, wheelchair and all, just absolutely beaming. I always thought that this was really normal; that, of course the army is letting him serve. I never knew that this was such a unique thing in the world. Back at the Shabbat table in the Old City of Jerusalem, the American lawyer went on to say that after working with the IDF and Israel, the other work he had been doing around the world was sharply curtailed. He said that he had been quite busy with the UN and that every time he mentioned that Israel and the IDF had amazing disabled rights programs in place, they didn’t want to talk to him. He believed that this bizarre behavior was due to the fact that he was showing them how human the IDF was in comparison with other armies around the world and it conflicted with their world views, a view that prescribed that it is impossible for, what they evidently consider, an entity that was oppressive and fundamentally immoral to have adopted such a pro human being stance and to have been doing it for years. They just couldn’t work it into their world views, so instead… they just changed the channel and shut him out.

The bomb that blew up in Jerusalem, killing 1 woman and maiming 50 other civilians, mostly students, was preceded by a terrible act of murder and evil. In a small village called Itamar, heinous murders of five members of the Fogel family, an infant, two small children, and their mother and father took place, in which they were slashed and stabbed in their sleep. After the fact, the Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank celebrated in the streets, just like after the 911 tragedy, handing out candy and sweets to the children. Various Islamic terror cells claimed responsibility, once again, and then on Friday morning, when my son Zach, who has been in the IDF for about 2 1/2 weeks now, was at his base, another terror attempt was diverted at a checkpoint in the West Bank nearby. An Arab tried to grab a soldier’s gun and in the scuffle, the Palestinian hit the Israeli soldier on the head with a rock that he had picked up off of the ground. Miraculously, the terrorist was shot by a policeman that happened to be driving by at the time and an international incident was narrowly averted, saving lives in the process. As soon as it happened, Zach was instructed, as were all the soldiers on his base, to call his mom and dad to let them know that he was OK, another fairly ‘human’ thing to do in my opinion.

And through all this terror, international media misdirection, and belligerent journalistic moral ineptitude, even Facebook continued to turn a blind eye to the ‘Third Intifada’ hate page calling for more death and mayhem against Jews around the planet. The Western world, for the most part, blamed all this mayhem, death, and terror on Israel or said nothing at all. They said nothing at all about an infant with her throat slashed in her sleep, or blamed it on her murdered parents… I just recently heard a comparison between the evil depicted in this horrific event and the Manson Cult murders in California during the 1960s... and in the meantime... most people haven’t even heard a word about the massacre in Itamar, at least not a true word. Here I have gone and descended into depression once again. Let’s just move on to how this is all connected. It all comes down to, what I would call, circumcision envy… Why else would the Western world be trying to medically circumcise its members (excuse the pun) of society when it is only possible to have a spiritual circumcision, a Brit Milah?

The Jews have been keeping their relationship with the Creator alive for 3,800 years, ever since Abraham walked the Earth, and during this entire time, every major civilization has tried to annihilate the Jewish People, one way or another. It is not hard to see that this blood feud is not about religion or politics; it is not about culture or characteristics. It is only about one thing. It is about envy… you know… a ‘killing the messenger’ kind of thinking. Hitler said it best when he said, “I hate the Jews, because they invented the conscience.” This, I believe, speaks for generations of want-to-be usurpers of God in the world. It was never about the Jews… It was always about the ego of mankind, as it struggles to conceptualize its true position in the universe. Mankind was made from the ‘dust of the earth,’ not just dirt like mere animals were. Mankind is special in its ability to be godlike. This is the nature of mankind

Now all we need to do is to try and figure out how to circumcise the giant, the heavily breathing and easily distracted Western world. The word Brit is equal in Hebrew to the number 612, which is only one short of 613, the number of commandments that, since my third circumcision, I am responsible for as a Jew. Of all those commandments, one that is taught to us in Deuteronomy 30:6 is still unattainable. Hashem tells us, “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, to love the Lord your God, with all your heart and with all your soul that you may live.” This is a circumcision (or covenant) that will not come to pass until the Messiah comes, at the end of days. The idea is that humanities inclination for evil will disappear in the time of the Messiah. Our free will to make moral and ethical decisions will no longer exist in the world. This is the true, inner depth. Only when we stop living in the shell, on the surface, only skin deep, will the shadows created by the Creator, so we can play being godlike, and the true light of God be known in the world. If only we could see the depth of the truth, the absolute depth of it — we should all merit seeing the Messiah in our times... to truly be one with the Creator!

My heart goes out to the Fogel family’s remaining children and to all of the victims of the terrorist bombing in Jerusalem. Don’t worry about Zach; he is doing OK and learning about himself in leaps and bounds in the IDF. I also pray that the uncircumcised giant awakes, finally, from the sharp, sweet pain of the inevitable death of humanity's collective ego, as the knife descends and creates a (more than skin deep) connection or Brit with our Creator and Sustainer, with Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Reason for Everything and the ‘Piece’ Process

Based on our extensive reading and pondering of the pervasive mass of pixilated light that is contained within this blog (alone), the universe (great and small) from the Big Bang onward has pretty much zero, that is ‘efes in Hebrew,’ chance to have begun without a, for lack of a more PC term, Creator. From this blog alone, we also know, without a doubt that based on the MIT physicist Dr. Gerald Schroeder’s collective works, such as ‘Genesis and the Big Bang’ and ‘The Science of God,’ the Bible (the original or nowadays, the ‘Classic Hebrew Edition’) mirrors the absolute facts of the known universe and its nefarious beginnings to the way any known and respected science (especially physics and I don’t mean meta…) describe them; and I might add, in a way that is so uncannily matched that it will send chills (for better or worse) up and down the collective spine of humanity; that is, when we finally get down off of our oh-so-righteous and ego-driven high-horses and pay attention finally to the writing on the wall.

OK, so philosophically, if everything was actually ‘created,’ as opposed to spontaneously coming into existence from a random occurrence, then do you think that it is possible that any of ‘it’ was created without a purpose, without an intension to culminate in a kind of fruition, if you will? That is the subject of this week’s blog entry, so without further ado and getting right down to business... let’s start with what we already know.

So, my son Zach just went into the army. When he got back home for Shabbat last week, he told me that he spent most of his first week learning how to button his shirt and tie his shoes, how to stand at attention in the hot desert sun, and how to fall-in with all the proper pomp and pageantry that is expected from a young soldier (and I would add: a soldier that needs to represent his physically very tiny, but with spiritually extremely large boots to fill country and to do so while under duress in the most unnatural predicaments that a person could imagine, much less endure).

I use the word natural to illustrate a point. Nature is often understood to be the source of our pain and of our joy. You know, when the rain comes and you really want it to and are so excited, but it rains too much and washes out the road leading to your house... or... even better or worse as the case may be, the madness that occurred in Japan last week and is still ongoing. I am not sure what the good side of that is, but let’s just get a little deeper into the subject and see what sprouts.

You remember what the subject was, don’t you? OK, the subject was, “Do you think that it is possible that any of ‘it’ (the universe) was created without a purpose?” Well, my first thought is that if any of it at all was created without a purpose, and we are talking now about chopping things down to their atomic structure situated within microseconds of time, the world would cease to exist. Think about it. If there was one tiny particle of nothingness that was not under the direct supervision of the ‘Creator,’ it would represent something that existed outside of the nature of the universe and outside of the Creator for that matter. Now, I am not talking about things that we don’t understand about the universe, like dark matter or black holes or something equally as theoretical, and I am not talking about things that we cannot conceptualize, like what the Infinite is; no, I am talking about outside the actual ‘possibility’ of existence on any level or at any state, be it conceptual or otherwise.

Think of it this way. Imagine a little boy that is playing with a pretty blue ball. Imagine this scene with all the luster of reality, as if you were standing there watching him roll and kick the blue ball down the street, laughing and smiling with every conceivable emotional twitch and gesture; just build out the picture in your imagination. Really concentrate on the whole scene. Look around and notice the streetlights shimmering and blinking as twilight enters the day and how the buildings are painted, some peeling and neglected. Notice the cars parked on the side of the road down to the smallest details, like the license plate numbers and broken taillights. Notice every little detail of the scene, the special sounds and reflections in windows that are all displayed before you and concentrate on its wholeness, (don’t forget about the little boy with the ball either); concentrate on the whole scene’s utter uniqueness in the world.

Now, while holding that vision in your mind, ask yourself a question. Ask yourself, “Does the little boy exist?”

Your answer is going to most likely be, “As long as I am holding him in my mind, he exists…” So, my point is that if the Creator doesn’t hold something, no matter how small or insignificant, in His mind, that would nullify the entire vision and the world would then crumble into smoke and mirrors and then utterly cease to exist, just like the little boy did when you went on reading what I wrote here.

I know this is exciting stuff, but don’t go all Nadav and Avihu on me now… You know, the sons of Aaron that were a little too zealous and worshipped the Creator with strange fire and drunk to boot? (Shmini, Leviticus 9 – 11) Now we have come full circle to the oh-so-righteous and ego-driven high-horse guys again and what happens when we get that way? We cease to exist, just like Nadav and Avihu did! Why did they cease to exist? It wasn’t because they didn’t deserve to exist; they were, after all, the sons of Aaron the High Priest. The Rabbis bring down to us that Nadav and Avihu became self-consumed and that is why they were consumed from the inside out. They broke just about every rule in the book when it comes to egoism and in the end, their lack of humility before God and their Rabbi, Moses, caused the fire to leap from the Ark inside the Holy of Holies and consume them.

So, it would seem that the more egotistical we get with each other, the harder we are tested by the Creator and the more egotistical we are with the Creator, the less we actually exist. Did you follow? Well, I might have jumped a few steps, as well as a few stories, so, maybe we will have to pick this one up another time. Besides, the so-called Middle East ‘Piece’ Process is starting to fall apart as...

This just in: Islamic terrorist organizations from Gaza and the West Bank claim responsibility for a bomb blowing up innocent civilians in Jerusalem. One 58 year old woman dead and 39 people injured. "I heard a loud blast. I looked out the window and saw smoke rising up, and a yeshiva student running around with his legs on fire. People were trying to help him put out the fire," said one witness...

I gotta go now... Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Purim and the Difference between Truth and Reality

First of all, while writing this I became feverish and am now spinning out words that may be truth or may be just reality; so, here we go... While thinking about life in this week of undoing, I could not find the path to tie together the parsha of the week, Tzav (Leviticus 6-8), but Purim, whose energy is written throughout the land from a time long ago, was whizzing around inside my head. With some trepidation, I found, that there’s just too much confusion to choose from, to much to process, and too much to organize and end with the total of a sum. You see, returning from Rome, I was gripped with a melancholy that wouldn’t subside, no matter how hard I tried. It may have begun, while there, in the land of Esau, when we had a night to remember with Yafet and the Irish, whom did not want us to go, but to stay and to slip to the dark side of seventy, a place where the chaos of Purim dwells. We were so tired from the day of uncircumcised giants in plaster and stone, from the painted ceiling gods of the hammer-fist mortals that we just about left from the red pub of Yafet, the pub of Irish, the pub of Rome. But, alas, it was not to be.

We met up with friends from the far off Promised Land and while we traded the goat skins, feeling the fur and caressing its bristles, we strutted like Esau to impress Rome and the Irish as well. We were there, so we stayed and we drank. We told ourselves that we were trying to meet Esau on the hill, bringing gifts of wisdom and compassion, but the inclinations of Esau seemed to be hitting the highway on the road paved with good intentions. We, as well, went into the shadows and the reply to our weakness was to emerge with red mud spattered across our vision and then our self perceptions, turning us into Golems with clover leaf eyes. Reality, it seemed, was biting at the truth and birthing opinion into the garden.

Israel was on the mind of Esau and instead of sleeping to wrestle, Jacob tried to step dance to a foreign tune, a tune that shook the truth in order to make the fruit fall into the mouths of the waiting step shoes with tongues flapping in the dry sand. We left with wallets dragging and consciousnesses calculating the exchange rate of purpose. With cartoon spirals, spinning and whirling, our eyes went on autopilot, spiraling with the monotone voice of the GPS buried within our heads... into the darkness. The Irish we met had reared and disturbed the revelry with words whose emanation spittled like tar dribbles popped out of whimpers of hate with a small ‘h.’

In the real world, the ground is solid, only inches below the bottoms of our floating feet. In the real world, we are grounded on the hot air that we sucked from the whimpers of popping spittle, where we float on our individual egos, comparing size and debating form. In the real world, there is right and wrong, black and white, and this side and the other side. In the real world, we don’t have to worry about the surreal world, the world that lives inside reality’s underbelly, floating amongst the bitten pieces of discarded fruit. In the real world, with our artificially magnified everyday variety of perception, we never ‘really’ have to look deeper into the true world, the world that we lie to with our dry floating step dance shoes, the world that protects itself from the poisonous bite of reality that is always circling beneath the tree in the garden.

My particular process of confusion began as a Maelstrom with floating ships spinning and puttering in slow motion fear. It developed into You Tube office building vibration with corporate-capitalization-smelling-the-green. It sloughed into slip-and-slide houses that were washed downtown on Poseidon’s Carnival. Then the crack began to steam and to smoke a carton-a-day of green glowing skeleton chopsticks. The sons of Kithara, with all of their worldly magic, began to melt and to run from the giant TV monster, clinging to a tower that we all made. The smoke is still rising and somewhere in the middle of all this, on the other side of the little blue ball, more than just one little life was brutally extinguished by Ishmael. Esau only wanted to help, or so we were informed by the same corporate-capitalization-smelling-the-green institutions of propaganda. Jacob tried to yell to Esau, to let him know that Ishmael was trying to usurp his position in the world, but Esau seemed to only have eyes for his grandson, Amalek...

All of this is true, part and parcel of the ‘true world’, not the ‘real world.’ But, as happens in real life, the real world is still nipping at the toes of Jacob too. Jacob is running from Israel and wants to be Esau, just as Esau wants to be Amalek, just as Ishmael wants to be first Esau and then Amalek, just as the sons of Kithara, who just want to be left alone, but are plagued with the water world shadows of Poseidon’s Carnival. And at the root of it all, Amalek wants to be God. Now you all know, with absolute abandon, that the saying, “The grass is greener...,” is a bit more than a clever rhyme — even if the poetry is chaotic and the story has been forgotten, the true world carries on, waiting patiently to win Purim’s lottery.

Cast of Characters:
Yafet - King Ahashvarosh
The Irish - Queen Vashti
Esau - The Townspeople
Jacob - Mordechi
Israel - Ester
Sons of Kithara - The Guards in the Garden
Ishmael - The Sons of Haman
Amalek - Haman
God - Uncasted and unseen in ‘the real world,’ from Purim until this very day...

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Art of Rome and the Hijacking of God

When in Rome, do it your own way. I know; it is supposed to be ‘do like the Romans’ but, let me take a second to explain. It all goes back a few thousand years when Jacob was encouraged by his mother, Rebecca (who was given certain information by God in a dream), to dress up like Esau and step into his slightly older brothers long red hairdo in order to receive the proper blessing. Now, I say the proper blessing, because, in the end, he did receive the proper blessing. Jacob’s was the spiritual, intellectual blessing. Esau received, in the end, the proper blessing as well. He received the blessing for wealth and for power in the world. It was Isaac that seemed to be confused and wanted to reward cunning, prowess, and just general manliness, with the wrong blessing. Rebecca knew, as do pretty much all females (sorry guys...), the right thing to do in this situation. Esau went on to become Edom, then became Rome through Antipater (King Herod’s dad) and King Herod himself, who invited the Romans in, which eventually caused the calamitous destruction of the Second Temple and the disaster of the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem 2,000 years ago to slavery in Rome and eventually the Diaspora of Jews around the planet. Pheew... Jewish History 101 in two sentences doesn’t seem to give it enough credit, considering the massive impact it has had on our planet; but, I digress...

The reason I am dwelling on this idea now is because I just got back from Florence and Rome on a whirlwind trip of art, world history, and inner philosophical prodding (as well as a romantic getaway with my wife of 25 years!) and while touring around the sites, I came to the conclusion that God, within our tiny conceptual understanding of the world, seems to have been hijacked... What do I mean? Well, we have to continue with our history lesson to try and understand this one. Rome, in the year 312 CE, became Christian through the Roman Emperor Constantine. I know, there is a difference between Christian and Catholic, but that is not really the point. I have good friends that are Catholic, I have close family that consider themselves ‘First Christians,’ and I work for a Mennonite ‘like’ institution here in Israel.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a Jew and I have spent a good amount of time trying to figure out what that is for the last few years and have found that in doing so, I needed to figure out who my oldest nemesis was. This is none other than Esau, my spiritual ancestor Jacob’s brother, and based on history as we know it, he has spread out into the western world on the coattails of Christianity; first into Europe, then to the Americas and beyond. I am talking about the energetic element of Esau, the power in the world, not the specific ideas or religious and spiritual concepts (although, there is some connection there as well, but for another time).

So, now that we understand that Esau is the wealth/power energy in the world and that Jacob is the spiritual/intellectual energy in the world, we can get a better idea of why God has been hijacked. I think we can all agree that God is everything, everyplace, all the time, essentially the Infinite. Each one of us, on the other hand, are essentially finite souls (bound by time) that have been encased in a finite shell or physical body that operates within time and space. This being the case, when I saw the Arch of Tito, which depicts the fiendish, despicable, and the catastrophic to the known universe, event of the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, I just wanted to cry. Now we have God sitting on a cloud with a long beard squishing people like ants when he feels like it. Esau hijacked God and made him a man that lives in the physical, finite world, bound by time and by space. That is power in the world...

How does this affect us today? Well, now we have Atheists, Agnostics, and Egoists that have every right to purport their belief systems or lack thereof. The whole point of life as we know it is to develop a relationship with the Creator, growing ourselves and reaching out to each other and to God. This idea has been almost completely lost to us. Each and every one of us has a unique relationship with the Creator, just like with each other, and we all ‘now’ have the option of choosing not to relate at all. This week’s parsha, Vayikra (Leviticus 1-5) is all about learning from the humility of Moses and making the ‘sacrifices’ that we should be making in order to connect to the creator. The problem is that, now in our world, it is almost impossible for anything attached to the real truth to ‘feel’ real anymore. We hoist famous people up onto pedestals and revere them as demigods, we gossip about each other to try to tear down our world instead of growing ourselves up to meet it, and we undervalue the real, inner truth of the world because it has been cheapened into a trinket of a bygone day, utterly unimportant for our modern, technologically sophisticated, sense of ourselves. We now have the choice to yank down the world in order to meet our needs, be it comfort or cake...

Seeing Rome, I came back home to feel both enlightened and depressed. Maybe it is just that familiar to everyone feeling of coming down off of a vacation and back into the so-called real world, but I think it goes a little deeper than that.

Thanks for listening. I think I am going to go paint some art now. Maybe that will pick up my spirits...

Oh yeah, Shabbat Shalom!