Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pushing Buttons and the Big Brush-off

On the way out of the house the other morning, my son Josh asked me if God helps when you ask for it. The answer that I gave him, thinking back on it, seemed to come from somewhere else. I said, “If you make the effort in your task, God will help you do it; if you don’t make the effort, the only choice that ‘you’ have left God is to try and teach you from ‘your’ mistake of not making the effort in the first place.” Josh smiled... and so did I…

Relationships between people seem to make all the difference in the world, which is what I have been thinking about this week. Since I have been really busy with lots of things (and you know how it goes sometimes…), it has been really hard to find that quality time to spend with the people I love and care about. Sure, we ‘make’ time, but that, sadly, is exactly the point. We seem to put our creations in this world first; just think of it like this: ‘we MAKE time.’ You know, we are busy, multitasking people that have to get to work, finish that project, help the kids with their homework, care for our pets, and somewhere along the way find time to ‘MAKE’ time for our relationships.

It seems that we, as a species, believe that the goal is to create things, to address specific issues in order to further our creations, and to advance our knowledge and capabilities. In truth, the exact opposite is true. How so? Well, we learn from the ancient wisdom of the Rabbis that everything we create, everything we do, everything that comes to completion, whether making a peanut butter sandwich or closing the biggest deal we have ever made, is ‘only’ about the relationships that we grow along the way. Believe it or not, the only reason we have a project in the first place is so that we can be interrupted right in the middle of it in order to understand that the project is only the vehicle; the real ride in life is the relationship with the people that we have the opportunity to engage with and this, my friends, all starts with our personal relationship with God.

When I was teaching Life Drawing at the University of California, Irvine, I had this small, but really great experience with a student that could not draw. He was beyond frustrated about not being able to put the background lines in the background and the foreground lines in the foreground. In his drawings, everything was coming together at strange angles and creating these really awkward perspectives; he was extremely disturbed about it. This particular kid felt really bad about himself because of his inabilities in this area. He seemed to want me to give him some magic formula to make his creations alright, maybe making ‘him’ alright, but even though I tried many different tracts and tricks to teach him to draw, I perceived that both of us, at one point and only once, succeeded in understanding the real reason we were engaging together in the Life Drawing Class.

Being an artist, I have this philosophy about constructive criticism. For every person, there is a good button and a bad button. When we try to reach out to someone, maybe in an effort at teaching or in any relationship for that matter, the challenge is to find both of their buttons and work with them in the right proportions, based on the task at hand; not easy, but doable with some effort. So, since this kid was so overwhelmed, I had to be really careful not to push his bad button. If I were to confirm his opinions and (from his perspective) judge him by the quality of his creations, I would have caused his self worth to plummet and nothing but destruction of relationship would have resulted, which is often followed by depression, destruction of the creation, and the depleting of any future creation or relationship potential (tragic if you ask me).

Instead, I was genuinely amazed at his drawings! Looking for the good in them I found that they ‘were’ really wonderful and naïve. What resulted was a moment of pure connection between us. He didn’t really understand why I liked his drawings and I couldn’t really, at the time, explain it either. He just looked at me and smiled; then he looked at the others in the class, as did I, and they couldn’t understand it either, but many of them smiled too. To this day I remember that this kid’s contorted perspective, twisted objects of creation were amazing tools that built relationship between every one of us in that classroom. We didn’t understand why it was that way, just that it was right.

A photograph began to circulate this week of Benjamin Netanyahu and Barrack Obama from when they were in their twenties. I found myself staring at it, analyzing the minds behind these men at the helm of nations, great and small. This picture, of course, was accompanied by a clever little line referring to the diplomatic breakdown of communication that recently occurred between Israel and the USA over the 1967 Armistice Line that cuts Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, in half. Armistice means ‘peace’ or ‘settlement,’ which makes absolutely no sense to me, since before 1967, while Israel was restricted to the west side of that border with the Arab nations, every conceivable manifestation of war and terror was committed against Israel; and since Israel has controlled both sides of it... ?... not perfect, but like night and day. Anyways, back to the photograph; take a look again at these guys:

Notice the look on their faces. Notice the clothes they are wearing. Notice their posture. This is the perfect picture of the archetypical images of Jacob and Esau, of Genesis (not the band) fame. Jacob (Netanyahu) is lean, yet full of hope, and focused on the goal, with an evidently grim mission of pure survival at hand, while Esau (Obama) is relaxed, letting his hair down in comfort, with the very physical (world) gesture of a cigarette in-hand. So, who ‘are’ these characters that I so deftly inserted into the storyline here...?

A commentary that I read about this week’s parsha, ‘Bamidbar’ (or for Hebrew challenged individuals: ‘In the Desert’) (Numbers 1:1-4:20), reminded me of what ‘the desert’ means in spiritual terms. The desert is also referred to as ‘the wilderness,’ which is associated with power, might, and the spiritual emptiness that embodies the purely physical world. This metaphysical energy in the Universe is associated with the dark forces of evil, forces that are identified with Esau and his spiritual guardian angel, Sama’el, who, in some mystical sources say, was actually the Snake in the Garden of Eden.

As I wrote about last week, Evil isn’t necessarily a bad thing, having been created by God, by removing Himself from the corners of the world, for a reason; but, nevertheless, it is not necessarily a good thing either. We have a tendency to put Evil on one side and Good on the other, but really they are all in one (in a sense), ‘Good’ is completeness or fullness, and ‘Evil’ is the lack thereof or the shadow left behind. Ideas and philosophies of Dualism give God and Evil even parts to play, a kind of cosmic battle between light and dark; this is not what I am talking about. What I am trying to shape, to cast, and to render here is about ‘One Universe’ made up of material or substance and its respective absence as well, essential characters in ‘One’ cosmic play, like a kind of lost wax process of cosmic reality — without the ‘wax,’ there is no reality…

So, since we are starting to delve into the secret, hidden nature of the ‘One Universe and also that I missed writing about Lag’BaOmer this year,’ the celebration of when Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai received the final text of the Zohar and perished from this world in flames (click here for the full story in a previous blog entry), let’s just see some of what the Zohar has to say on the subject of Jacob, Esau, and the desert:

“...the two (Esau and Jacob) separated, each going off towards his own side, the one making his abode in the Holy Land, the other on Mount Seir, being as he was a cunning hunter, ‘a man of the field’ (Genesis 25:27). The latter (Esau) had his home in the desert, in regions of waste and desolation, while the former (Jacob) dwelt in tents, all being fitly ordained. Hence it is that there are two grades, ‘blessed’ and ‘cursed,’ each ranged on its own side. From the one issue all blessings in the upper and the lower worlds, all beneficence, all light, all deliverance, all redemption; whilst the other is the source of all curses, all wars and bloodshed, all desolation and evil, and all defilement. (Zohar Bresheet, 184b)”

Oy... that is heavy stuff... Just remember that we are talking about the Spiritual Realm versus the Physical Realm, and not specific people we might know, like certain politicians; speaking of which, I wonder what kind of a relationship Netanyahu and Obama might have had if they had known each other, way back when they were in their twenties? Probably, based on what their faces and posturing tell us in the picture, I think that it would have been a lot like it is today, accept just a bit more obvious, which is why this picture is so relevant to what is really going on.

I began to speak of ‘One Universe’ earlier. Did you know the gematria of the word ‘one’ (אחד) in Hebrew is 13? This is also the gematria of the word ‘love’ (אהבה). In Leviticus 19:18, God tells us, “You shall love your neighbor as you do yourself, I am Hashem.” right? Wrong. This is the usual translation; however, look at it from your neighbor’s perspective. Can you, or anyone for that matter, really have the same love for someone else as they have, ultimately, for themselves? Even though it seems like the ideal, it is really most likely pretty much impossible for us mortals.

(לא תקם ולא תטר את בני עמך ואהבת לרעך כמוך אני יה")

According to Rabbi Abraham Twerski, the phrase written above (If your computer is Hebrew enabled), when read in the original Hebrew, tells us that the definition of ‘love’ is Ve’ahavta and the sensation or experience of that love is ‘lerei’acha kamocha’ (to wish for another what you would wish for yourself). So, in other words, the phrase is saying to be ‘selfless’ with your love. It then follows at the end with, “Ani (I Am) Hashem.” This is the unpronounceable name of God.

So, if a person loves his neighbor selflessly, ultimately giving over all that he/she is, and that neighbor returns that love in the exact same way, they will be united as ‘One.’ Yes, number 13. Now, if Hashem experiences this giant sort of selfless relationship in our little world of generally small and selfish relationships, the coalescing of separate and small beings into complete and total relationship and Oneness, He also joins the ‘Oneness’ party going on down below. Sooo..., the unpronounceable name of God is equal to 26, which is equal to 13 + 13, which is equal to the ‘selfless love’ that we share in a relationship, which is equal to, you guessed it, ‘One!’

All I can say now is: if we can just get Esau and Jacob to share like that. If we could get that to happen, get each one of them to ‘love’ each other selflessly, to get the ‘spiritual’ energy in the world to stop pretending it is the ‘physical’ and to get the ‘physical’ energy in the world to pay attention to the ‘spiritual,’ then we would have something to truly rejoice about, not just some cockamamie ‘land-for-(supposed)-peace’ deal designed to sooth the comfort of semi-reclining politicians.

May the Mashiach come soon to the reality nearest you!

Shabbat Shalom!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Non Attempts Know Bigger Ails (NAKBA)

I had a dream the other night that Gilad Shalit was released from terrorist captivity and not a soul even knew about it. Do you know who Gilad is? Well, if you don’t live in Israel, it is quite possible that you don’t, considering the weight the Western Media puts on pro-Hamas-Palestinian / anti-Israel-Semitism propaganda. About 5 years ago, just to fill in any gaps, two weeks after I moved halfway around the planet to start my life again for the third time, the Second Lebanon War broke out. It started when an ambush from the Palestinian terrorist organization that controls Gaza, Hamas, and a virtually simultaneous ambush from the Palestinian terrorist organization, Hezbollah, who control the Lebanese border, captured Israelis, including Gilad, by crossing the border into Israel. He is still believed to be alive, but we don’t know how well he is doing, since he has been refused any medical care from any outside institution. What I ‘do’ know is that as long as I have lived in Israel, he has lived somewhere in a prison cell, buried under the ground, in a terrorist war zone for the crime of being a Jew in his homeland.
I remember when the war broke out. We all quickly tuned into the news and since all the local news was in Hebrew, we found ourselves watching CNN. The more we watched, the more our jaws dropped... Not because of the shock of the war, about a two hour drive away, but from the horrifying one-sidedness of the reporting. Virtually every story from CNN that was told about the conflict depicted Israel as not only the aggressor and the oppressor that started the war in the first place, but that it was doing so with all-out abandon. So, we tuned to Fox News, which being a longtime Democrat that lived in Boulder, Colorado 15 years prior to my move to Israel, I wouldn’t have believed it in a million years. They actually reported from a fairly nonbiased platform… just reported the news and let us make up our minds what was really going on. I still cringe at anything bearing the Fox News emblem and this is precisely the problem that I want to delve into today — selective listening.
I guess, after 5 years in Israel, I have pretty much gotten used to the news that is reported around the world about Israel getting twisted from every media source you can imagine. When it comes to the world reporting on Israel, the Right shifts to the Center, the Center shifts to the Left, and the Left shifts to Extremism, which is why I believe that when dealing with Israel, the Left and Muslim Extremists fit quite nicely together, but I am getting ahead of myself.
In my dream about Gilad and the overwhelming sense that the Media had gone quite insane, my subconscious dreaming mind seemed to be saying that the knowledge of the release of Gilad needed to be kept a secret. We weren’t instructed, but we all knew not to say anything about it from the fear of international reprisals from the World Media Army. Yes, there seems to be such a thing in the world. The Media controls so much of what and how we think, whatever side of the spectrum we tend to align with.
I remember when I was about to move to Israel and an artist friend of mine from graduate school asked me if I was going to be ‘one of those Settlers.’ I had to explain a little history and geography to him in order to come to a mutually agreed upon ‘peace of a distant proximity.’ Then during the war, while ducking Hezbollah missiles, I began sending out emails to try and give people an on the ground perspective. He sent me a reply to one of my emails stating that he had worked really hard, for many years, cultivating the kinds of media information he was willing to even receive into his general vicinity. This, I realized, was another way of saying that he would only listen to what he wanted to hear — that’s it. He had effectively put blinders up to shield himself from a version of the truth that didn’t align with his own world view…
The media coverage during the latest ‘Nakba’ conflict earlier this week was no different. Did you know that Nakba means catastrophe in Arabic? That makes sense if you think about it. The Muslim world view, as written in the Muslim holy book, the Quran, incorporates the idea that, eventually, the whole world will be under one rule, the Caliphate — a Muslim Empire. The entire world will be forced, one way or another, to bow to the Caliphate or die. So, how does one react when he (not necessarily she) sees his world view crumbling? I mean, the Muslim Empire is supposed to expand throughout the ages with only minor fluctuations on the borders, not be inflicted by the recoil from having a gaping hole, however small, smack in the center, obnoxiously removed. It sounds like a catastrophe on an individual and a collective level to me. I can’t imagine what I would feel like if, for my entire life, I had been brainwashed into thinking one specific way, only to have it dashed in front of my eyes. Definitely a catastrophe — or maybe it would be an opportunity to grow and see the truth in the world? Naw… I must be reading into it now, I guess…
Syria (or I should say the Dictator of Syria, Bashar al-Assad ) has given its indignant disapproval of the death by the IDF (Israel ‘Defense’ Force) of mad border runners, among hundreds, that claimed to be Palestinian, right before being secretly transported by the Syrian Government by bus to the border, sneaking across the border, running into a wall of warnings, and finally running into a bullet. Maybe it had something to do with the 801 ‘known’ civil protesters that Assad had slaughtered just a week or two ago... hmmm.
Here is a news headline from an admittedly ‘right’ leaning news outlet (Israel National News), dealing with the Nakba conflicts, that particularly grabbed my attention: “According to unofficial reports, six Arabs were killed in clashes with Israeli forces on the Lebanese border Sunday. Four others were killed in an incident on the Syrian border, and one in Gaza, as Arabs protested the consequences of their failure to annihilate Israel in 1948.“
Now here is a quote from CNN that appears at first glance to be trying to report in a ‘fair and unbiased’ way about the recent conflict: “The conflicts broke out on "Nakba Day." Nakba — Arabic for "catastrophe" — marks the period when more than 700,000 Arabs were displaced from their homes during fighting that followed the creation of Israel in 1948.”
And, still another headline from a ‘left leaning’ news outlet, Ha’aretz, in Israel: “Friends, Family Remember Man Killed in Suspected Tel Aviv Terror Attack.”
So, the truth seems to be somewhere in-between all of this unseen soapbox preaching. When the Israel National News says, “… the consequences of their failure to annihilate Israel in 1948,” it is the truth, but bent for the reader’s perception of events. This is why most people that consider themselves ‘right wing’ are so incensed that others can’t see the obvious truth. The version of events that they hear is bent just for them. In the CNN piece, when they explain Nakba, “… when more than 700,000 Arabs were displaced from their homes during fighting that followed the creation of Israel in 1948,” this is also the truth, but clearly lays the blame at the foot of an oppressor army. The real truth is much more complicated and involves a majority segment of Arabs fleeing at the request of the surrounding Arab nations, not fleeing from violence. It doesn’t even mention the Arabs that stayed in Israel (a newly sanctioned country by the United Nations) and are still living in Israel today, even serving in the government. Where did the number they gave come from anyway?
And last, the recent terror attack in Tel Aviv is called “suspected” in the left leaning paper. We know and have on record, that as the Israeli Arab truck driver ploughed into cars and pedestrians, he was shouting, “Allah Akbar” and “Death to the Jews!” This is how we can see that we are ‘all’ brainwashed by the different factions out there; with pieces of truth mixed in with a ridiculous amount of opinion that is stated as truth and as fact.
In this week’s parsha, Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34), we learn about keeping the commandments and in doing so, receiving blessings from Hashem. Rashi states that the greatest blessing is one of peace, which is referred to in this parsha: “And I will give peace in the Land and you will lie down and no one will make you tremble; and I will rid every evil beast out of the Land; neither shall a sword pass through your Land."
With the overwhelming and irrational condemnation of Israel in the media, I have to wonder why the Israeli government even cares what the world thinks. All Israel really has to do, based on what God said directly to the Nation of Israel, is to follow the commandments. It seems obvious to me that Israel can’t win trying to play the political game; just look how the United Nations ‘Peace’ Keeping Forces looked the other way when the recognized international borders of the modern nation of Israel were breeched by unruly mobs seeking death and chaos. And look at how the World Media Army reacted…
I think Nakba must be an acronym in English for a kind of catastrophe. Look at it this way: N = No or none whatsoever, A = Attempt or effort, K = Knowledge of history, the present, and any future potential, B = Bigger, as in ever-expanding if unchecked, A = Ails, ills, sickness, pain, death, and ultimately nothingness!
Without making any effort to learn from who we are, our history as a race of Human Beings on our planet, our history of conflicts and resolutions, our historical and cultural prerogatives, and our intellectual / spiritual foundations, the collective woe and distress that we experience as a species will grow at an ever expanding rate, until one day we may wake up to find that we, and the world, no longer exist… catastrophe…
I believe, my friends, that ultimately this is the reason that we have not attained peace in the world, much less peace in the Middle East — it is not that the latest round of proximity-talks failed or that certain over developed egos flared. It is not from building on the other side of an imaginary ‘green’ line in the desert or even a war of subjectivity in the Media. So, what is peace, pray tell? Peace is the opposite of evil. I think Isaiah the Prophet said it best when he stated the following: "He (God) fashioned light and He (God) created darkness; He (God) fashioned peace and He (God) made evil." (Isaiah 45:7). There is a cosmic system at play here and the sooner we start to pay attention to the writing on the wall, the sooner the lion will lay down with the lamb… so to speak.
May Gilad Shalit and his family have peace soon with his speedy return and on this Shabbat, may you and your family enjoy peace as well. Or in other words: Shabbat Shalom!!!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dung Beatle’s Rhapsody

“Lenny!” said Stanley, “What was that rumble?”

“Um,” answered Lenny, “I think it must have been another one of those unexplained phenomenon...s. Phenomenon has an ‘S’ at the end, doesn’t it?”

“Lenny! Nu, watch what you’re doing! Hey! Look out! The treasure is rolling by itself! Catch it!”

“Stanley, you are such a nudge... Why can’t you just let things be? You know, there are things in the world that can’t be explained; things like the ball of hot god-light and the dark cold sniffers, things like the water upside down and the village-people in the sky.”

“Lenny! There it is again! What ‘was’ that?!”

“OK, OK... I felt it that time too. Quick, get under the front of the treasure and I will stay at the back. We can stay like this for awhile, but don’t move! Yeah, like that. And Stanley, try to stay out of the brightness from the ball of hot god-light.”

Meanwhile, 20 minutes have gone by in the world of the biggies. Stanley and Lenny are still motionless, hiding under their ball of dung, thinking that the biggies don’t see them.

“Um... Stanley, do you think we can get back to work now?”

“Yup, good call Lenny. I think the coast is clear. Let me just try and flip around to support the treasure with my hind appendage thingies. You know? I just gotta say, Rosalie is gonna love this when we get it back to the hole in the ground! Look how round it is, just sitting there, waiting to become a play-fort or a soup-kitchen or whatever! I just think this is great! We are gonna be rich too! Did you see how many more treasure balls there were up there?!”

“Wait a second Stanley... You think ‘Rosalie’ is going to be happy? You should see the look on your face! I think that you, Stanley, are the one that is going to be happy... not Rosalie! Why are you still trying to pin your feelings on others Stanley? Don’t you remember what we worked out in therapy?

“Listen to the little treasure hunter,” chided Stanley, “all big and macho, telling me how to be, even bringing up that good-for-nothing ‘therapy’ thing again... I’ll have you know that I was rolling treasure balls around for practice when you were still a pimple on the mind of your progenitor’s excrement cavity!”

“Stanley! Look out!! It’s something else this time! It’s bigger too! Look out... Stanley!”

Meanwhile, the park ranger had driven his biggie truck up the winding dirt road, which had been traveled upon for centuries, and was almost finished emptying the daily collection of throwaways. With a screech and a crunch, the truck ground on by all the bushes and weeds that the cows hadn’t eaten yet and the gravel and dirt shot this way and that. It was almost Shabbat and the park was closing soon. He didn’t celebrate Shabbat, since he was from a different faith, but his whole world operated from the concept of a 6 day week and 1 day off. The ranger waved at a nice couple sitting on a bench. “I really love this spot too,” thought the park ranger. “Those folks really know how to live.” The park ranger emptied the cans and bottles into their respective containers and then drove off down the dirt road. The gravel shot out, this way and that, and it was quiet once again.

The view was pristine and the old couple enjoyed the silence, while they looked out over the hills of Samaria through the ancient olive grove. Shabbat was coming, so they decided to get going, walking hand-in-hand, up the hill to the abode that they referred to as home. Really, if you ask the layer above, home was really the connection that lay between them. Home was really just a feeling, an intuition, and home was more real than any house could ever be.

“Did you sense that?” said Metatron, but Gavriel wasn’t paying attention...

“Hey... Stanley!” said Lenny, “I think we are still alive! Look! We were protected by the treasure ball!!! Hail to the treasure ball! There must be some kind of extra special power in this treasure ball; that was a hurricane, a tornado of death, and we are still here! How many lives do you think we have left Stanley? That was totally insane!!!”

“Lenny… What are you talking about?” said Stanley, “You live in a fantasy world. There is just unexplained phenomenon in the real world, not fantastical inventions of your subconscious mind and want-ta-be realities based on the layers of air between your brain cells … Someday we will possess the knowledge and the equipment to understand it all, but now we just have to be ‘OK to not know.’ Based on that, we know that nothing that we have not explained actually exists at all! Whatever our most brilliant, scientific thinkers tell us… that is what I am going to believe.”

“But Stanley, I understand the brilliant part, but what about the scientific part? Doesn’t science ultimately rely on faith anyways? I mean, just like they used to say that the world was only a hole surrounded by the vast unknown, science is based on what you believe as well. And anyways, if our faith was only based on what ‘they’ tell us, we would still think that the world was a hole surrounded by the vast unknown — we would never have found the treasure balls that ‘you’ so dearly love!”

“Did you hear that?” said the old woman, as she walked slowly up the hill, hand in hand with her husband. “I heard something small down there. Watch where you are stepping; I don’t think we are alone.”

The old man looked down at his feet, looked up into the wide blue sky, and then looked into the glistening familiarity of his wife’s round eyes. He smiled an old worn and wrinkled smile, knowing that his connection with her was deeper than he could ever fathom. “Life is an amazing thing,” he said, and winked at her. “Let me tell you about what I learned about the parsha of the week, Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2). You see, it is all about trust and faith. The Ramban begins to explain it like this: ‘The process of creation is a deep mystery not to be understood from the verses. It cannot truly be known, except through the tradition going back to Moses, our teacher, who received it from the mouth of the Almighty. As well, those who know it are also obligated to conceal it.’”

“What this seems to mean to me is that we need to trust or have faith in God in order to, ultimately, understand, on a deep level, what we are doing here in the first place. Faith is how we have the ability to grow ourselves, our souls. We can have faith in all sorts of things, things like assuming we will be able to walk up this hill again, for example. It is a bit complicated, but it can also be traced back through biology, astronomy, geology, language, and on and on… all the way to even anatomy’s 248 bones that we have inside our bodies, which represent the 248 positive commandments for us to accomplish while in this world of action. On a side note, observing Shabbat is an extremely powerful act in this world and doing it properly is worth all of the 248 positive commandments put together.”

“Another way to understand this is based on writings from the Rebbe. Basically he stated that: ‘The scientist's understanding begins from the outside and attempts to work in — from the bottom up. He begins with subjective empiricism and attempts to deduce an objective model. The wisdom of Torah begins from the inside and works its way out — from the top down. In this approach you meditate upon the Creator's own objective model and apply it to discover the truth behind this world.’ The Rebbe then adds, ‘The prudent scientist will realize that he can benefit most through a combination of both approaches.’”

“Honey,” said the old man’s wife, “I am happy that you are reaching out to the Creator, but I already understand all that ‘faith’ stuff, without all of the analysis...”

“OK, OK, Dear... I get it. Come on, let’s hurry, but watch your step. Shabbat is coming soon!”

“I love you Honey.”

“I love you too Sweetie.”

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Big Ride and the Running Mouth

How strange it is to sit at the kitchen table, after lighting one little, tiny memorial candle, and cry. I don’t have any relatives that perished in the Holocaust. I do know people that had relatives that perished and I have friends that are one generation removed from those that escaped, barely. But... I was born a Goy that, somewhere along the way, joined the Jewish People and moved to Israel. I have cried about my dad’s death; I have cried about my mom’s illness; but, I didn’t think about those things at all while sitting at the kitchen table, sobbing with hesitant breaths. I think that I might have thought briefly about some level of pain and suffering... that I just could not even begin to fathom, and just stopped dead in my mind’s tracks. When I looked at the candle that I had lit, as it flickered in a tiny little way, I was instantly overwhelmed. There was no thought that drove the plunge. There was no signal that something had occurred to induce my spasms. I (as in me, my soul) just had no place to go, I had lost the road, so after I released whatever was evidently stored deep under my knowledge, I rode my body up the stairs and went to sleep.

That night was a fitful one, but I awoke refreshed and ready to be alive. I prayed with additional fervor for the day and then I talked to God. As usual, He answered me, and this time I heard what seemed at the time like a question. “What is death,” He said. I went about making my breakfast and then sat down to check my emails. In front of me, my computer said, “Osama Bin Laden is Dead.” At first, I felt a surge of adrenaline, which gave way to introspection quickly. I started asking questions like, “What now?” and “Why?” and “Why now?” Meanwhile, it was reported that massive riots, the like of a winning sports team celebration, swept across places in the United States. In Israel, that morning, there were a few knowing winks here and there, but it was just business as usual for most people. Even the Arabs seemed to pay little attention to it. Before I left the house, I wrote, “Dead…” on my Facebook page and went to work where at 10:00 that morning we all stood for one minute in silent meditation (across the entire country) and considered the Holocaust and fairly recent slaughter of 9 ‘million’ people, including 6 million Jews.

They (whoever ‘they’ are) have now released pictures of the dead Osama Bin Laden. The picture I saw didn’t look real to me; I mean… didn’t he have gray facial hair? Do you think he was using hair dye while hiding in his mansion-compound in the mountains of Pakistan? It made me think that maybe there was some kind of conspiracy going on, like many were saying, but then I realized that the unrealistic quality of the photograph could also have been from the ‘life’ having ‘left’ the body. I have been in the presence of dead bodies before and they really look like a shell, like the one-time resident has just gone somewhere else, leaving rumpled remains behind as a passing indication that they, at one time, may have actually been home.

Once, when I was a kid, I found myself skateboarding down this hill to avoid waiting in the car. My family got trapped in a traffic jam somewhere in the back-woods near my house and I wanted to see if I could figure out what the holdup was; so, I grabbed my skateboard and headed down the hill to see what I could see. I wove in and out, in long slalom turns, around the parked cars that were strewn all over the street and at the end of the long line of cars, what I saw was fairly gruesome and has stuck with me for many years. Just as I arrived at the scene of an accident and the reason for the traffic jam, the rescue squad hauled up over the edge of a cliff, the dead floppy body of a motorcyclist that had flown off sometime earlier. He was whiter than snow, like he had just come out of a freezer.

This, of course, makes me think of Tzaraas, the ‘leprosy type’ of disease that the Torah talks about, which turns the skin deathly white. The disease is translated as leprosy into English, however it really has nothing to do with leprosy. Tzaraas is a spiritual affliction that manifests physically. It is caused by what we call Le’Shon Hara or Evil-Speak. What is that? Well, it is kind of like gossip. Essentially it is wasted words in the world. You see, every word we speak is a creation into the finite of something that may have once been an infinite concept or awareness, like an idea. An idea has no boundaries until you speak it out into the world and give it some type of form. I have covered this before, so I am not going to dwell on it now; however, what is important to grasp here is that when we waste words, we are essentially imprisoning our spirits, killing their potential. Earlier, when I wrote about riding my body up the stairs, I meant it. I am not my body, I am my soul. I inhabit my body. If I allow my body to do the talking, the reason for my existence becomes mute and my soul retracts and eventually I become a prisoner, trapped until I am released upon the death of my body.

The Rabbis call this process, “putting the mouth before the eye” and it is backed up with lots of source material throughout the Torah, writings on the Garden of Eden, Miriam criticizing Moses, the Spies when Scouting the Land, and an immense amount of Cabalistic ideas. In this week’s parsha, Emor (Leviticus 21-24), mostly what is discussed is different laws, but near the end, it switches voices, seemingly, and speaks of a man ‘using God’s Name in vain’ in a very strange juxtaposition to the rest of the laws that are listed around it. I don’t have time to get into it now, but if you are interested, here is a link to a great read:


This man had used the ineffable, private, and personal name of God to speak nothingness into the world. By doing so, he trapped his soul, his true self, and lost his chance to live in the world of action — this world. By wasting words, especially at the level that he did, there was no way to preserve his ability to grow himself in this world of action; so, after Moses asked and God confirmed that this was actually the case, his body was stoned to death in order to free him (his soul) from its grasp.

Well, seeing as I have ‘lost the road,’ so to speak, and have no possible way of making any sense what-so-ever out of the beyond tragic, unreal, and horrifying Holocaust of 9 million people, and I don’t think that, ultimately, we are ever going to be able to make any sense out of the whole Osama Bin Laden death thing, our reaction as a human race (positive or negative), and the bizarre need by some to feel vindicated and others (Hamas in Gaza and various Imams preaching to the Muslim masses around the world) to seek revenge, I think that the bottom line to this blog must be this:

We ‘can,’ ultimately, make some sense out of our understanding of how we fit into this world and how absolutely important we are, each and every one of us. Everything we do and say, for the duration of our entire lives, is either an act of creation or an act of destruction and our actions are being placed on one side of the scale or the other, tipping the balance of how effective we are being at this process called ‘living.’ We know from history and literature, from secular sources as well as Torah sources, that one of the worst things that we can do to ourselves is to take life for granted and just let our mouths lead us around. Life is precious and so is every moment that we have, both to us and to our bodies.

So, think first, speak after... but only if you have something wonderful to create!

Shabbat Shalom!!