Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Since I don’t ‘even’ have any idea what the actual Torah Portion was last week, partially because I was sick all week long and didn’t go to Shul on Shabbat (like a bad boy) and partially because the whole Jewish thing is all new to me, I am going to skip the ‘actual’ parsha for this week, seeing as I wrote a nice little ditty last week on Kedoshim (Leviticus 19-20), and move right into something else that I have been thinking about; namely, ‘The Generation of the Desert.’

This is the generation of Israelites that, because of the spies that gave a false report when scouting the land, had to wander around and then die in the desert, never to set foot in Israel. Seems harsh, doesn’t it? I have been identifying with this idea recently from the struggle of just getting along here in the Promised Land. Now don’t get me wrong; it is absolutely amazing here on so many levels... It’s just that little things like language, culture, religion, work, schooling for the kids, and just plain communication on every level conceivable is sometimes so... impossible! We have had a few new incidents with the ‘oh so neighborly neighbor’ as of late, along with an assortment of other deal stopper kinds of things that just make me feel like an outsider. My kids will go into the army and that seems to solidify a real connection with the land, but for me and my generation, it sure feels like I am doomed to the desert...

The Midrash says that every new moon while the Israelites were wandering in the Sinai Desert, they would each dig a grave and spend the night in it. In the morning, the ones that climbed out of the holes in the ground would then just have to fill in the graves of those that didn’t wake up. They did this until one new moon when everyone got up out of their respective holes. At first they thought that they must have made a mistake and tried again the next night, but they all got up again the next day too. What had happened is the entire generation that had witnessed the unthinkable level of affliction with slavery in Egypt, the 10 Plagues that decimated Egypt, the cataclysmic, otherworldly splitting of the Red Sea, and witnessed God, the Creator of the Universe, first hand on Mount Sinai in the only group revelation that ever occurred in the history of mankind that was subsequently passed down from each living generation to future generations for 3,500 years... had all died.

This was the desert generation and I guess I just feel haunted by this idea a little nowadays. Our kids are doing great, our professional lives are progressing quite nicely, our spiritual life is deepening in leaps and bounds, but under it all, I just seem to be waiting to get up one morning dead to this world and alive in the ‘next.’ I emphasize the next for a reason here. It kind of correlates with the Israelites, I guess, and how they must have felt after witnessing God in the world just so ‘in your face.’ God for us is fairly removed as a general rule of thumb. We pray when we are supposed to or we need something, but really… this is kind of the Super Man version of God, isn’t it? You know, I have explained it before; when we need something we ask for a miracle, God then swoops in to save the day, and we promptly ask Him to go away and wait for us to call again, so that we can do all the things we are not supposed to do. Or, he doesn’t swoop in and we can blame all of our problems on Him.

I think that it all comes down to the inevitable obviousness of the physical world’s temporariness, shallowness, and unimportant...ness, and the spiritual world’s overwhelming sense of purpose, fullness, and ultimately the real reality. What am I talking about? What, are you not a believer? Well, if that is the case, you should ask yourself, ‘Am I really alive?’ You see, even though there is some ‘physical evidence’ of the Israelites leaving Egypt (things like the Ipuwer Papyrus that detail many of the plagues down to a river of blood and fiery hale destroying everything, the spiritual evidence is enough to bowl anyone over. Consider that the Jews are the only group of people in the world that are still doing the same thing in the same place after 4,000 years. The Greeks are now modern Greeks with a variety of ‘European’ characteristics, not Ancient democratic-inventor \ polito-philosophical Greeks, the Romans are members of a little metropolitan city in the middle of Italy and not an irresistible empire that rules the known world, and the Egyptians are something ‘entirely’ different altogether. Yet, the Jews just keep on ticking, still wearing phylacteries, still saying the same old prayers, still philosophizing about the nature of the Universe and purpose behind it all with the same ancient textbook, written exactly (and I mean exactly) the same way it has always been, the Torah that was received on Mount Sinai from God.

I guess the bottom line is that when I was called to move to Israel, it felt like God Himself was sitting next to me for a year before I left the US and afterward for quite a long time. It was a kind of physiological revelation that drove me to make Aliyah (to Go Up), I guess kind of like the Israelites did 3,500 years ago. They left from the first Diaspora in Egypt and were forced to go up by God Himself. This effectively removed their free will to some extent, but I can’t get into that now. Let me just say that the Midrash says that when God spoke the first commandment to the Jews, they all died. So, God put them back and spoke the second commandment and they all died again. After that (and I can really relate right now), the Jews just said, ‘This is a little too rough for us. How about you just tell Moses and he can relay the rest to us…’

That feeling, I think, is kind of what I am talking about. I was a Goy, living the life with everything in the world of comfort that I could imagine. I had big plans with art, surfing, ceramics, and more. Then, without knowing what hit me, I stepped off of a cliff of spiritual depth that just keeps getting deeper and deeper. The further I fall, the less I feel connected to the ‘world’ and yet, the more I realize what the ‘world’ really is and how important it is to stay connected...

Ultimately, this seems to be a bitter-sweet story. It is definitely a story of wonder and amazement, but it is also a story of the inevitable collapse under the pressure of the truth of what life really is. Sometimes you climb out of the hole that you painstakingly dug for yourself and sometimes you just don’t.

At least Shabbat is coming; Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Birth in the Desert

On Friday morning last week, my son Zach called. He had been engaged in a weeklong battle to become the best of the best in the IDF. This is a powerful test in which a young man becomes more than a man, he becomes a leader of men, and to do this, he first needed to find himself. He tells us that it was a struggle that spanned the width and breadth of his entire being. He was tested to such limits that the inevitable opening occurred, a small beam of light penetrated from the keyhole of his inner being. He stood face to face with his soul. He had nobody but himself and his connection to the Creator to rely on. In that moment, when the walls of superficiality and false ego-driven fecundity were evaporated into dust and nothingness, Zach flipped a switch in his mind and briefly knew who he was, or more so, what he was capable of. This, my friends, is the perfect segue into not only this week’s parsha, Kedoshim (Leviticus 19-20), but Pesach (Passover) as well.

When Zach was born, I remember trying to help my beautiful wife bring a new life into the world, all the while knowing that I was just a second wheel desperately trailing a unicycle. All I could do was to hold her hand and be ‘there’ as much as I could muster. When we came home from the hospital, she had been in labor for an unusually long time and was absolutely glowing, but for all practical purposes a walking zombie. Baby Zach was kvetchy as ever and they both needed to sleep, so I took Zach into a different room and lay down on the floor with him resting on my belly, which seemed to calm him down. I decided to stay like that as long as I could, so that my wife could sleep, but I was afraid that I too would fall asleep and roll over onto Zach. I was able, in the end, to stay awake, but only from pure amazement of how miraculous, small, and absolutely helpless Zach was, lying there on my belly; he was absolutely dependant, for his very life, upon his parents to provide for him. Zach, on that first night of his life, just seemed totally unreal to me, but he grew up to be more real than I could ever have imagined.

Towards the beginning of this weeklong test that Zach endured, when he flipped that switch in his mind, he turned a corner that leads to greatness. This is not greatness on a human level, even though we see this in its after effects; this is greatness in the sense of being closer to the Creator, able to see a Divine truth in the Universe — the truth that we are, each and every one of us, a partner with God in the ongoing creation of the world.

This week’s parsha, Kedoshim, starts with God speaking to Moses and saying, “Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, your God.” So, what is ‘holy’ anyways? I think we can all agree that it is different from regular, even elevated towards a more spiritual realm, and we have all had moments that just felt like divine intervention or divine providence in the world. We often try to wave it off as pure coincidence, but when we let our deepest mind wander, it can go to a secret place deep down that shows us that there is true meaning connected to these events.

Pasach is a time when the world is going though a cyclical wave of divine influenced faith. It is a time of elevation from the lowest of lows, slavery in Egypt, out through the birth canal of Yam Suf (the Red Sea) and into the midbar (desert). The desert is a place of pure reliance on God. There is no food or water, no shade or cover from the hot sun and freezing nights. When the Israelites left Egypt or Mitzraim (‘a place of narrowness’ in Hebrew), they had to suspend everything that evolved from themselves. Anyone still clinging to a shred of ego was left behind. Only 1/5 of the Jews in Mitzraim left into the desert with Moses; the rest stayed, assimilated, and then promptly disappeared.

I don’t blame them. It must have been the hardest thing in the world to drop everything and run into the desert with nothing but an overwhelming desire to grow spiritually. Faith is all that they had. Each and every one of the Israelites must have reached deep down inside and found that place, that switch, flipped it, and directed their lives from that place. They were helpless on every level and the only thing that helped them survive, to this day, was their faith. They had faith that God would feed them, cloth them, and protect them, Just like baby Zach must have felt while sleeping on my belly the first night of his life. All he could do was to have faith that I was there for him, on every level.

So, when Zach was standing there, face to face with his soul, during this weeklong test, I think that he must have tapped into that place the Israelites did 3,500 years ago. Zach was face to face with himself and could see the light of the Creator through the keyhole. All he had to do was to flip that switch of faith, put one foot in front of the other, and give everything he had and more over to the as yet un-perceived. He had to have faith in himself, his abilities, and his connection with the Creator to succeed.

This moment in life, regardless if it is that last burst of energy at the end of a running race or sublime intuition about something dear to you, is in essence that keyhole of light shining out and telling us that there is something else, maybe on the other side of the door, that we cannot necessarily see, but that we can feel deep down in our genetic knowledge. When we can tap into that spiritually driven place and ride it a little higher, propelling ourselves and our immediate environment just a little more, a little harder, when we finally see the invisible effervescence of the jet-wash as we travel by, it could be understood that we are approaching what holiness is supposed to be for us and then, and only then, can we know that faith is only difficult to comprehend before it has come to life within us.

Thank God for Zach’s amazing success,

Chag sumeach ve Pesach kasher!

And Shabbat Shalom!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Technical Difficulties and Flying Hairy Goats

Last week, when I was struggling to get the latest blog entry posted, I tried everything I could think of to get the stupid paragraph breaks to happen. I copied the thing over and over from the Word document that I had been steadily adding to over the week, first the whole thing, then just each paragraph, then editing it in Blogspot, then doing it all over again… oy!

In general, I try to get each blog entry out onto the ‘net-waves’ by Thursday evening (here in Israel), so that the latest and greatest blog-entry will arrive before Shabbat, even as far away as Japan, which by the way (and inexplicably so), has the third highest Brave New Land enthusiasts statistics behind the US and Israel. They are even pretty far out in front of Canada and Germany, who also hold a high place in the stats. Anyways, it was so frustrating that in the end, I just posted it along with a ‘disclaimer’ (through certain venues) stating that I was experiencing technical difficulties. That, my friends, was a total copout and that is exactly where the flying hairy goats come in…

In Jerusalem on Mount Mariah, where both Holy Temples were built and stood for a combined 950 years — which happens to be at least 150 years longer than the Roman Empire existed before it fell to dust and ruin — there is 'now' what we call the Temple Mount platform that was created over 2000 years ago by King Herod. It is the largest manmade platform in the world, to this day. There are two valleys on either side of the Temple Mount. To the north-east is the Kidron Valley or the Valley of Souls, where a specially designed (not to trap elevating death energies) bridge once spanned as a causeway for the Kohenim (Priests) from the Temple to Har haZeitim (Mount of Olives), now a paved-over grave yard. The bridge is now gone, but the spirit of the place still remains and from personal experience I can attest that on very still mornings, ancient spirituality and mystical history seem to be hiding right under the surface of the air.

The valley on the south-west side has a less palatable reputation and history. It is referred to as ‘Gai Ben’Hennom’ (גיא בן הינום) or the ‘Valley of the Son of Hennom.’ In the pre-Israelite phase of Jerusalem, the Canaanites that lived there practiced a kind of child sacrifice to the pagan god Moloch in this valley. Their is debate, but they were either burned alive, or made to run over hot coals in order to deny the true Creator, or some such nonsense... What’s more, throughout the ages the valley is said to have served as a large dump for trash and corpses for conquering hoards from Egypt, tribes within Canaan, the Philistines, Babylonians, Assyrians, Ancient Grecians, and eventually Rome, who all pitched the fallen like refuse into the Valley of the Son of Hennom. Fires were said to have been burning at all times in order to consume them with the smell and the garbage. Gehenom is a word that some of you may be aware of. It comes from the Hebrew Bible as Gai Ben’Hennom and later translated in the Talmud as just Gehenom (גהנום) Valley of Hennom.

I have no idea who Hennom was (or his son either for that matter), but their little valley sure did work its way deep into the psyche of mankind. You see, in Hebrew, Gehenom is Purgatory, the cosmic washing machine that cleanses a soul of the muck and misdeeds that a person coated it with by following the Yetzer Ha’Ra (intent for evil creation), instead of the Yetzer Ha’Tov (intent for good creation). Before a soul can move into the spiritual realm, becoming that much closer to Hashem, it needs to, you know, get dry cleaned and pressed in order to be presentable before the King of the Universe.

We have a skewed understanding of what the idea of Purgatory is all about. Maybe it is because of translation errors in the Christian Bible and in Islam’s Qur’an, in which ‘Gehenom’ is translated as ‘Hell,’ not ‘Purgatory.’ Hell is then gone on to be described as a place of unending pain and suffering. In the Hebrew Bible, Gehenom is a place that only the extremely rare and totally righteous souls are able to bypass. The rest of us can’t help but get splattered with the mud of this world and anyway, it all comes down to how much time a soul spends in Purgatory (11 months is the max since that's how long we say kaddish for [another time I'll tell you about how saying this can propel further towards the Creator those that have already passed]). Granted, there are some souls that can never climb back out of the pit that they sunk themselves into and those souls just cease to exist (something that I consider the most painful possibility of all).

Somewhere, early in the Five Books of Moses (I remember reading it once, but I forgot where exactly), the word for Hell (Sheol) is used, which means the abode of the dead. I don’t know how it got skewed and translated into a fiery furnace, designed to torment for all of time the sinners in the world. Oy, that is so NOT what Hashem is about! Maybe it has to do with the legend that says there is a secret hidden gate of some sort within the Valley of Hennom that leads down a winding rickety path and ends at some kind of a molten lake of fire… I don’t know.

Anyways, I got sidetracked with ‘what, in Hell, is really going on,’ so on to this week’s parsha, Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16-18), where we learn about the laws of Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement for the Jewish People. It begins with a discussion of a really strange and intriguing ceremony to purge the Jews of their mistakes from the previous year. In this ceremony, there is a goat called the Azazel, which if we decipher the word a little more, becomes Azaz, meaning rugged and El, meaning powerful, strong, and of God, “Azazel was the strongest of mountains,” (Yoma 67b)... a powerful beast. Nowadays, we just call this beast the scapegoat...

OK, so, we have a goat now but what about the hairy part and why is the hairy goat flying anyways? OK, patience, we’ll get there! Let’s start with the Hebrew words sair (שעיר) for goat and soir (שעיר) for hairy, which, depending on whether your computer is Hebrew enabled or not, you should see that the two words in Hebrew are spelled exactly the same. What do we make of this? The Midrash explains it like this: (First, however, I need to make a disclaimer. Please keep in mind that I am only paraphrasing ideas from modern rabbis, who have learned from the writings of ancient rabbis, who learned from the oral tradition handed down for generations before that, which came to Moses on Mount Sinai from the Mouth of Hashem, so this is not coming from me, per se.)

The word ‘hair’ (שעיר) in Hebrew refers to a passage in Genesis 27:11. It states that Jacob said, “But, my brother Esau is a ‘hairy’ man.” The Midrash tells us that there are further clues to follow when it is written in Leviticus: 16:22, "The ‘goat’ (שעיר) will bear upon itself all their inequities” (in Hebrew, the word for ‘their inequities’ is ‘avonotam’). If the word avonotam is divided into ‘avonot’ and ‘tam,’ it now means, ‘the inequities of the innocent.’ The word ‘tam’ can mean taste, innocent, or wholesome in Hebrew. This relates to Jacob, since he is considered a wholesome man (Genesis 25:27). Since the Jews are all descendants of Jacob, all the Jew’s sins can be traced back to him (this is tricky to understand in our world of ‘evolution’ ideology, but a way to approach this idea is to compare the case of Adam and Eve living in Paradise and then eating from the tree, bringing gray into the world where there was once only clearly defined black and white and really… if you look around, are we better off now for all of our technological / psychotropic / phantasmagorical innovations?).

So, we understand that Jacob represents the wholesome intellect and spiritual innocence in the world and his twin brother Esau represents the earthy physical and mighty power in the world. When Esau said, "Look, I am going to die" (Genesis 25:32), he was defining himself as a creature bound with the physical world. What does this have to do with Yom Kipper and the scapegoat? That, my friends, is where goat-flight comes in!

Yom Kipper is all about reaching out to the Creator and shedding the trappings of the physical world, just for a day. The rest of the year, we are constantly trying to bring the spiritual down and nest it into the physical to try and elevate the physical, to make it Holy. Esau is the energy of power in the world, the pure physical might in the world and based on the lesson above in surface value, true inner depth of understanding, and additionally the inevitable need for code breaking, we now understand that Esau is the scapegoat for Jacob, so that while on Yom Kipper when the energy of Jacob is shedding its earthly shell, reaching out to the Creator, the earthy energy of Esau is being pushed off a cliff into the Valley of Hennom...

Speaking of code breaking, when I was struggling with the paragraph breaks last week (you already forgot about that, didn’t you?), I realized at some point that I was just thinking about it all wrong. I was trying to analyze the problem from the surface, from the physical. Finally I remembered that what I do every day at work could be helpful… (duh…) I just needed to figure out how to break the code! Of course, as soon as I thought of it, I found a little button that shows me the html coding for the whole blog... All I had to do then was to type in the right code and out popped the real picture, not the contorted, confusing, conglomeration of mental gymnastic warp-ware that had mercilessly pounded my sensibilities as I tried to unravel the idiotic conundrum by beating my head against the wall... dang.

So, my friends, the moral of the story is that when you are trying to get answers (and that is what we all should be doing all of the time), never stop at what you perceive is the obvious, which I think we can all agree is just about the farthest thing away from the truth!

Shabbat Shalom!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


In the Hebrew language and in Judaism itself, the number 13 is quite significant, as opposed to what seems like the rest of the world, which considers it unlucky at best. When I was a wee tot, way back on the 2nd of the Jewish month of Cheshvan, somewhere around the month of October in the Jewish year of 5736, I would have been barmitzvahed on the week of my 13th birthday… if I had actually been born Jewish. I can’t remember what I was doing then, but most likely I was in my home town of Laguna Beach, California shredding a 13 foot home grown half-pipe on my skateboard. I was definitely not reciting my barmitzvah parsha, Noah (Genesis 6:9-11:32), on the bema in front of my entire community. Maybe one of these days I will try to make up for lost time and try to spill out the parsha on the bema here in Israel. I don’t know... It is a really big commitment.

In Judaism, when a boy turns 13, he is responsible for himself spiritually. My son Zach’s birthday was this week and I can still remember listening to him recite ‘this’ week’s parsha, Metzora (Leviticus 14:1-15:33), at the Kotel in Jerusalem, exactly one year before we made aliyah to Israel. Actually, Zach’s barmitzvah trip to Israel was the inspiration for us all to pull up stakes and move halfway around the world to the Promised Land. We were living in Boulder, Colorado at the time and as my wife, Adele, has been known to say on occasion, “We moved from Paradise to the Promised Land!”

The other night Adele said something else that was quite intuitive. We were in the middle of cleaning up the mess from a little mabul (a great flood almost like in the parsha Noah) of our own that washed from the much prayed for rain, off of our roof, onto the little merpeset (porch) outside Zach’s room, under the door to his room, and down the stairs into the living room. Zach was away at the base and the rest of us schleppers waded through the ankle deep water with giant hand held squeegees, just waiting for the deluge to subside. When we had a chance to catch our breath Adele asked me, “Why do you think we have been flooded out in just about every place we have ever lived?” I hadn’t thought about it before, but she was right!

Come to think of it, even way back on our first honeymoon, when we went camping in Northern California, we spent most of our time in laundromats and diners waiting for everything to dry out from the torrential rains. We even tried to dig little trenches around our tent to drain the water, but with no great effect… Then there was that little kitchen drawer back in our apartment in Laguna Beach that would spill water over its edge, like a perfect little water fall, speedily filling up the entire kitchen. We had to stack piles of newspaper across the doorway to try and contain it until we could catch our breaths enough to laugh and practice being intuitive. We had a bit of a break on the flood front for a few years when only those few incidents occurred, where my pickup truck would stall going through a puddle and I had to get out and kick it until I heard the stuck fuel pump start with a ‘Bdbdbebdbdbd.....’ and then, in Boulder, we had the mother of all floods. Our entire finished basement filled with water. We had to schlep things for days and eventually pulled up and propped the wall-to-wall carpet up on cans and wooden blocks with fans running around the clock to dry it out.

Israel was no different. I already wrote about one or two of those floods at our old house here in Zichron Ya’akov, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to find a water fall flowing down the stairs again. Actually, it kind of reminded me of my would-be barmitzvah parsha, Noah. We all know that the parsha about Noah in the Bible is all about the mabul or great flood that swamped the planet, killing off all the ruffians and hoodlums that were too dumb to get on the big love boat. Yep, that was a segue... I use the word ‘love’ for a reason. You see in Hebrew, the word for love is ahava (אהבה), spelled aleph, hey, bet, hey. The numerical value or gematria of this word is actually 13! And we have come full circle back to the number 13, but this still does not explain why the western world seems to have shunned the number 13 as being a bad number or just an unlucky one, resulting in all kinds of shtuyote (nonsense), like buildings without a 13th floor and streets without a number 13 house on it.

First of all, the idea of ‘luck’ in the world is something that we already understand is an unfortunate fabrication by the collective ego of mankind. What, you didn’t know that already? Well, I am tempted to explain, but that is another story... maybe. So, what is the deal with the western world and their fear of the number 13? There is even a word for ‘fear of 13.’ It is ‘Triskaidekaphobia’ (I can’t even say it), which is made up of the Greek words: Tris, Kai, Deka, and Phobia (Tris = 3, Kai = +, Deka = 10, and Phobia you already know). There is also a word for ‘fear of Friday the thirteenth, paraskavedekatriaphobia... bla bla bla..., which is too convoluted for me to go into the Greek gematria; however, suffice it to say that it all goes back to the idea that Friday the 13th can only occur in months that start with Sunday on the Gregorian calendar; you know, the one established by Pope Gregory the 13th who happened to begin his papacy on May 13, 1572.

So, this could be the reason that the western world believes that the number 13 is bad luck, or since we are on the topic of Christianity, it could be related to the whole Last Supper deal, which had 13 people sitting at the table for a Passover Seder, when one of the participants at the Jewish Passover meal (a meal that commemorates the freedom from slavery in Egypt by being totally dependent upon God for everything) evidently betrayed another participant at the table. There are even restaurants, like the Savoy Hotel in London, that don’t seat 13 people at a table because of this very superstition about bad luck. Maybe fear of 13 isn’t related to Christianity at all. I mean, the name Sunday was originally named after the Greek god of the sun, Apollo, not a saint or something, and there is that incident with the Apollo 13 spacecraft, the 3rd spacecraft that was intended to land on the moon. It launched into space on April 11, 1970 at exactly 13:13 CST. Then on April 13th an onboard explosion caused Ground Control to scrap the mission. The crew did finally make it back to Earth, despite extreme danger and difficulty, but it makes you wonder whether Ground Control had a bit of triskaidekaphobia going on.

Yeah, there is a ‘great flood’ more to think about... things like the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, which are superstitiously missing 13 days each on their calendars, things like the Iranians having a holiday called Sizdah Bedar (the 13th of the month of Bedar), which is kind of like April Fool’s Day and considered a day of bad luck… and there are other things; things like the entire Aztec calendar being based on the number 13 and for Hindus, Maha Shivaratri is the Great Night of Shiva the Destroyer, which commences the thirteenth night of the waning moon in the month of Maagha. And then there is the Thai New Year, Songkran, which is celebrated on April the13th, in which people are splashed incessantly with water to wash away the... the only translation available is ‘bad stuff.’ Let’s just speed through this: The Tarot card of death is 13, the French Templars were tortured and burned at the stake on Friday the 13th in the thirteen hundreds, and a whole mess of stuff about the American flag and the dollar bill having to do with the number 13 is just too much to even think about for this blog... and the list goes on…

So, we can see from this brief expose that the number 13 is considered ‘bad’ or ‘unlucky’ by more than just the western world, but the entire world; all accept for a little people from the heart of the Middle East called the Jews… What is the deal with that?

Well, we have started to decipher the ‘barmitzvah’ and ‘love’ pieces of the puzzle, but let’s just open it up a bit more and see what we can see... There was a famous cabalist and mystic, Rabbi Chaim Vital, born in Italy in the year 1620, who wrote down much of the teachings of his rabbi, Rabbi Isaac Luria or better known as the Arizal. Rabbi Vital tells us that the first 13 days of the Jewish month of Nissan (yes… that is this month) hint at the first 13 years of one's life. When the 13th year ends and the 14th year is just about to begin, something pivotal happens to a person — the yetzer ha’tov (impulse to create good) in a person finally catches up to the yetzer ha’ra (impulse to create bad) and that is when a person is able to begin a long and hopefully fulfilling life of intense introspection. So, we all have a reprieve now from the coming struggle it seems, when the yetzer ha’tov begins to tamp down the ego leavening that our yetzer ha’ra has been fermenting with, and then it is chumetz-free for Passover week!

Yeah, there is a lot there that I did not go into, but I got a schedule to keep here! Let me just finish with the opening line from George Orwell's brilliant, yet harsh novel, 1984, "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." OK, that is depressing… How about this instead: My son, Zach, was going to take a train to a meeting that he needed to go to for the Army. He is in a unit now that is a bit sketchy, working with anti-terror or something like that, and he is about to go to another really hard week long test to get into one of the highest ranking units in the IDF (his mother and I are quite pleased!!!).

He decided at the last minute, on the way to this pivotal meeting, to take the next train, since he thought it would get him to his destination much too early. The train he almost boarded, while traveling somewhere around Netanya, had a head on collision with another train that was, at the time, inexplicably traveling in the other direction on the same tracks! The last I heard, at least 60 people were injured quite badly...

My question to you is this: Do you think that it was just blind ‘luck’ that Zach did not get on that train or do you think it might have been an angel or two protecting Zach (and his parents too)?

When you make your decision, please keep in mind that Metatron’s cube (you know, the angel that is called the Great Scribe, just like Moses is in the Torah) is also 13 sided and if you double 13 (this is the real gematria) you get 26, the gematria of the same exact number as the unpronounceable Tetragrammaton, the personal, incomprehensible, utterly private name of God, the name that we refer to as ‘The-Name’ or in Hebrew, ‘Ha-Shem...’ So, you can choose ‘luck,’ in which everything in the universe comes down to each of our little egos, individually, up against the great big universe, or you can choose ‘love,’ where everything in the entire Universe is created and maintained exactly and permanently just for you!

As you probably figured out by now, I think luck is way overrated and all you (really) need is 13!

Shabbat Shalom!