Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Y Gen and Strike Two! You’re out of the Promised Land

What is Generation Y anyways? I mean, when I say it to myself, it comes out like this: ‘Generation why…?’ and that is a really good question too; don’t you think? To try and understand this, we may need to back up in the Latin alphabet a little. Generation X was the term that applied to the generation born between 1964 and 1981, right after the Baby-boom Generation (1946-1964). I was born at the very end of that generation, which is popularly attributed to post-WWII rampant baby making practices of the previous generation. My kids were born in Generation X, which is considered (according to a series of books that I ‘didn’t’ read by William Strauss and Neil Howe) the “Awakening” generation, a time when spiritual rebellion ensues.

In this book series, the Baby Boom Generation (BB for short) is considered the “High Cycle” generation, in which a new order of human expansion is developed that replaces the older order. The BB Generation followed on the heels of the 2nd World War, which was considered the ‘Fourth Turning’ or the crisis generation. It is dominated by an era of extreme crisis’, which forces the world to redefine its essence, structure, goals, and purpose, giving birth to the “High Cycle” or in our case, the BB Generation.

And in other news... Today, I went to Gan Ha Shlosha or in Arabic, Sahne. I hadn’t been there before. I went with Adele and the kids for one final blast before summer camp and army service. It is an oasis in the desert that you would not believe. Everyone there was enjoying themselves immensely, but I couldn’t help but notice that the lifeguards were a little less concerned about the Arabs jumping off the cliffs then they were the Jews. It was strange, like they were afraid of saying anything. The same thing seems to happen here in my home town of Zichron Yaacov. We have a neighboring town called Faradis that was named by the Crusaders when they passed through about 1,000 years ago. They called it Paradise and since the Arabs can’t pronounce ‘P...’ Faradis is a scrabbling hillside community that just winds up the mountain. It has no real roads, but it is being built like you would not believe. The houses are beautiful and they have a giant mosque with a gold looking dome too. Money is being poured into this little town, just like here in Zichron.

The difference seems to be that the police don’t go into Faradis so much. The planning commission doesn’t seem to be approving any plans there either. Everyone seems petrified of creating an international incident, based on an illegal deck built onto the side of some Arab’s house. They are now even moving an entire highway, due to the illegal building of various storefronts into the road...

This whole crazy situation reminds me of another really crazy situation, the Freedom Flotilla... Da da da... I mentioned it while we swam together in the Mediterranean a couple of weeks ago: “This is the anniversary of the Mavi Marmara terrorist attack and the next illegal flotilla, inspired by President Barack Obama’s best-selling book (The Audacity of Hope) and supported by his long time friend from Chicago (Prof. Rashid Khalidi, director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs…), is coming as we speak...”

Do you remember that? This is absolutely insane — that the President of the United States of America could be even remotely connected to such misguided fools! This, my friends, is the ‘Y’ generation building to a Crisis Cycle.

OK, let me explain a little better. Going back a few years, here is an example of what I mean: In this week’s parsha, Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1), Moses hits the rock, not just once, but twice. So, just because the Israelites were tired and cranky, whining all the time about every little thing, does that give the most humble man that ever lived the right to get a little peeved and hit the rock that Hashem told him to speak to for water? The Rabbis teach us that Moses could have been forgiven if he were to have hit the rock only once; after all, he was only human. Hitting the rock twice, however, was his fault and he was punished for it. Moses hit the rock out of pure anger, not a mistake, because of the Israelites’ incessant complaining against God, but this is what Moses should have avoided at all costs. It ultimately cost him the ability to enter the Promised Land.

The Israelites have been complaining through the last 3 parshas: Shlach with the spies, Korach with Korach and his followers, and now all of the Israelites in one big loud WAAAAA! Sound a bit like the Y Generation to you? Remember ‘individualism’ and ‘fragmentation?’ We also know what happened next. The entire generation was doomed to die in the desert, never reaching the Promised Land themselves.

Their kids were born in the desert and watched as their parents died in the graves that they had dug themselves. This is the ‘Fourth Turning’ generation, the cataclysmic breakdown of society that only ends when the next generation, the “High Cycle” generation begins to prosper in the Holy Land, to make it all anew. According to the aforementioned series of books (but, not the Five Books of Moses…), each of these cycles has its archetypes: Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist. Take the “Unraveling” generation for instance. They grew up during the “Awakening Cycle.”

They had more protection than the Awakening Generation did and ultimately they learned to work together, eventually becoming supreme at mitigating crisis’ as the Fourth Turning Generation is in full mayhem. As the Awakening Generation becomes mature, it mutates from the ‘Nomad’ and becomes the archetype of ‘Hero.’ This generation becomes Caleb and Joshua as they lead the Israelites to conquer the Promised Land from the Canaanites, eventually growing and maturing into the High Cycle Generation and they are once again criticized as the Awakening Generation spawns the Fourth Turning Generation, repeating the circle again…

I know you’re all confused... Let me explain it like this:

A Prophet is born during a High Cycle (BB Generation) and spends his/her adult years during an Awakening Cycle, midlife during an Unraveling Cycle, and spends old age in a Crisis Cycle.

A Nomad is born during an Awakening Cycle (Gen X) and spends his/her adult years during an Unraveling Cycle, spends midlife during a Crisis Cycle, and spends old age in a High Cycle.

A Hero is born during an Unraveling Cycle (Y Gen), spends his/her adult years during a Crisis Cycle, spends midlife during a High Cycle, and spends old age in an Awakening Cycle.

An Artist is born during a Crisis Cycle (Gen - ?), spends his/her adult years in a High Cycle, spends midlife in an Awakening Cycle, and spends old age in an Unraveling Cycle.

Now that we all understand completely, let’s look at our current situation in the world, just to fill out the idea. The so-called “Freedom Flotilla” is destined to attempt to break the maritime blockade of the terrorist enclave of Gaza. Public opinion appears to be harshly divided on how effective and/or how necessary this operation is. We have ample proof, for instance, that the millions of dollars in foreign aid that rolls into Gaza are being spent on the creation of a fairly nice middle class. Remember, this is money that the Palestinians there have earned with hard work. This burgeoning middle class seems to have utterly fooled a large percentage of the world into thinking that they are cutoff and live in war-torn tent towns. Foreign journalists are paraded through these shanty-town stage sets and given ample photo opportunities to further their political and seemingly unknown to them, anti-Semitic, anti-peace agendas. Boy... sounds quite insane to me...

Meanwhile, the Flotilla is still docked and keeps experiencing strange occurrences of sabotage, one ship at a time and the organizers are trying to say that the Israelis are the only ones that will benefit from these type of actions; duuuu... So, how does this all tie into the generational stratospheres that I described above? Honestly, I am racking my brain for some kind of connection. As I sit here and write this, the only thing that comes to mind is that we are heading into the Y Generation’s unraveling, leading ultimately to the crisis to come. All of this crazy stuff going on in the world now, things like Neo-Nazi’s wearing Palestinian kafias and the so-called Freedom Flotilla in route to bring unneeded supplies and unneeded freedom to the Gaza middle class, and the righteous individuals in the world, that have always been responsible for real positive change, who are buying in, hook, line, and sinker... makes you just wonder how things got so upside down, which is a great place to stop.


Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Measure for Measure and Our Gaping Abandon

Of blackened iron pots and high flying towers
Of rivers conniving for large yielding showers
With crude formal judgment of fine and of gross
Positioning our hind ends in front of the most

We’ve seen the bend coming as it wound fore and aft
But never once noticed the whole inner gap
Always too late while looking askance
And missing the hidden not taking a chance

We said in foresight as it laughed with the sand on
We’ll detach from the light with pure selfish abandon
Our perceptions we isolated from genuine reality
As the world stopped to be and peace was scurrility

Under the sound of our bones hardly crackling
We promptly forgot not to seek without hacking
The bones are still tinkling hung from wind-chimes
And the peace we forsook is still flipping show-times

The jealousy’s searching the snaking of rivers
The broad long and wide is cold and it quivers
The bird is now swirling with heated discard
And dodging the blows from haughty Canards

The blackened pot iron is full of roast beast
But lust that we reach with is deflected by teeth
The world is now balanced on a hymn and a rhyme
But we are none-the-wiser as we toddle through time

We learn from the bird to be flexible and light
Ready to combat the haughty and take flight
We learn from the river so calm and so coy
That beauty is clear but with jealousy destroys

Overcoming the lust with a pot and teeth blackened
Will teach us to learn with flames and then dampened
This is the formula to avoid getting buried
With all of our possessions and nothing to carry

When we seek in the circle and peace’s to be had
The pot-river-and bird will poise the world’s bad
The existing imbalance in me and you still
But whether to learn is the key to our ill

Like Korach in Numbers sixteen to eighteen
We find the whole story and read till we’re bursting
We see the ground open to swallow without glory
It’s no end to be haughty but finished is our story

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Inside the Outside and the Path to Enlightenment

Dull, wet, waxing and waning, my hearing isn’t what it once was. Swimming in the deep blue Mediterranean lagoon, called ‘Generation,’ playing with bubbles like imaginary dolphins that float next to the Leviathan’s island ridgeback, I am privy to stories from the ‘next’ generation, stories of stairways long since buried by turbulent sands with oversized rodents trapped within. The big blue Mikveh is waiting, calm serene, and crystal blue, for the summer to begin and my ears to fill with brine and glorious cloud canopies.

While swimming within the womb of the Universe, I can only think of one thing. It is a question that tumbles in my mind — somersaulting. It goes like this:

Assuming that Mankind, the entire species both male and female, evolved from lower life forms, making their way up Darwin’s ladder, sliding along Occam’s razor, becoming human beings through a process of evolution of the physical and devolution of the spiritual, then how do we explain, within this paradigm of entropy, this dissertation on the measure of uncertainty associated with random variables, how do we explain ‘first cause’ or ‘the origin of life?’

Swirling in underwater circles, with waving arms and legs curling fetal… tucked in tight, I see the answer — floating. It goes something like this:

We can’t.

So, we are needlessly prodded, as we spin in the womb, kicking and twirling, with the next perplexing question breaking over the horizon, while the giant sea turtle’s back shakes, while supporting the ancient pillars that hold up the Earth:

If we cannot, with verifiable principals of scientifically acquired observation, define ‘first cause,’ how can we explain our existence without invoking the concept of a Creator or a First Being?

The answer, once again, goes something like this:

We can’t.

Now we need to question this most difficult of quandaries, we need to take a breath and plunge down to the root, to attempt to see with eyes-wide-open, the sandy bottom, past the edge of the spongy, soaked crust, all the way to the foundation stone that supports the truth of the world, but first:

We have broken the surface of the heavy water dilemma and have now come to the realization that we really ‘only’ have a choice between two options, one great and one small. In order to plunder the significance of our findings, to recognize the true nature of the Universe and to understand why we, each and every one of us, are here, we must chose which path to follow, i.e., either ‘God created the Universe’ or ‘we don’t know.’ We must ascertain whether a human being, one who seeks truth and enlightenment, really does, after all, have a choice to make in the first place...

The answer, while back-stroking by, bobs up. It appears to be this:

Since choosing ‘we don’t know’ does not lead to anything, much less truth or enlightenment, the most rational choice for a human being, one seeking truth and enlightenment, is to choose that God or a First Being created the Universe. We must also assume that we are all ‘enlightened human beings,’ since the un-enlightened human beings have stopped reading this from loss of interest, having become satiated with the possible answer to anything and everything of ‘I don’t know,’ or essentially, ‘I don’t care.’

Now that we have verified that we are all human beings on the path to enlightenment, we need to ask ourselves this critical and subtle question:

If enlightened human being #1 spends his or her time removed from the complexities of Humanity, communing with nature, and focusing on higher realms, while enlightened human being #2 spends his or her time living within the realm of Humanity and delving into the complexities and chaos that exist there, which enlightened human being is closer to the First Being — closer to the Creator of the Universe?
And the answer is:

It depends; if the world extends from the First Being, from God, with no real interest from Him about the workings of the world or of Humanity, then enlightened human being #1 is closer to God. In contrast to this, if the world is in a constant state of creation and comes from God in an absolutely deliberate way, in every moment, because God desires a relationship with the world, with Humanity, and with each and every human being, and we are interrelating to one another, essentially communing with the Creator at the same time, then enlightened human being #2 is closer to God.


If enlightened human being #1 (the ‘focusing on higher realms’ or ‘ascetic’ enlightened human being) is closer to God (which means that Humanity as a whole is just a sort of distraction or a byproduct of a hiccup from God), how is it possible to be enlightened in the first place? If we are essentially nothing, without meaning, with no recourse whatsoever, how can we possibly attempt to even try to understand anything as meaningful as God, the First Being, Who Created the first cause, Who created life?


We can’t.


So, if enlightened Human Being #1 is only irrationally enlightened, does he or she really belong in the enlightened human being category?



OK, so now that we established that the people that are still reading this are not ‘irrational’ beings that ‘just don’t know or care,’ we can, while holding our breath for just a little longer, ask this:

If God truly does run the world, infusing it with His energy at all times, then why do bad things happen to good people and good things to bad people?

The Midrash tells a story about how one day, as Moses was herding his father-in-law's sheep, he saw a soldier ride his horse down to a stream next to a meadow. The soldier dismounted to have a drink of water and then got back onto his horse and rode off. Moses noticed, because of the glinting reflection from the sun, that as the soldier rode away, he had accidentally dropped a sack filled with what looked like gold and silver coins.

As soon as the soldier rode over the hill top, a young shepherd boy came to the meadow next to the stream from the canyon below with his flock of sheep. As the boy was about to leave, he noticed the bag of coins laying there and opened it up. He happily gave thanks to God for sending him this treasure, saying, "Now I won't have to work for my mean and rotten boss anymore. There is enough here to support myself and even my mother for the rest of our lives!"

A while after the young shepherd left, a beggar came to the same meadow to eat and rest. He ate a few hard pieces of bread, drank from the stream, and fell asleep on the grass.

Then, as Moses watched, the soldier returned over the hill looking, no doubt, for his sack of money. He tore down the hill an searched for it, but not finding it, he woke the poor man and demanded that he give back the money if he valued his life. The poor man denied having his money until the soldier went into a rage and killed the poor beggar in a violent fit. After searching the beggar's bag and not finding his money, the soldier gave up and rode off.

Moshe, who saw all this, then turned to God and asked, "How could you let all this happen? Where is justice? Why did the soldier, who was probably taking his earnings home to his family, lose the money? Why did the young shepherd, who just wanted to have it easy and quit his job, find the money? And why was the poor beggar killed!? Where is the justice in all of this!?"

God answered Moses, "You only saw part of the picture. Now I will show you what happened before all of this and you will understand what really happened!" God showed Moses the following vision: A father was walking with his young son in the dead of night when all of a sudden he was attacked by a thief. The thief stabbed and killed the father, took his money and fled. A young man stood by and watched this happen but didn't come to aid the father or his son. As the thief frantically fled the scene, he unknowingly dropped the money and lost it. The young man that had been watching the whole time, offering no help, picked up the money sack and quickly stowed it his jacket, keeping it.

God told Moses, "The father who was killed was the parent of the young shepherd boy who found the sack of money. The poor beggar killed by the soldier at the stream was the thief who killed the father of the young shepherd in the dead of night. The soldier you saw that lost the money in the meadow near the stream is the young man who stood by, doing nothing, while the thief killed the young boy’s father and stole the money that he then dropped while fleeing."

God then said to Moses. "The poor man who murdered the boy's father was executed, the soldier that offered nothing but selfishness gained nothing but frustration and the young shepherd boy received his father’s money back, as it rightfully belonged to him!"

I look up, seeing the sun shimmer above the surface of the water far above, and realize the story began way before that night and it will go on long after. I begin my long swim back to the surface of the blue, sparkling water and I realize that, on the one hand, I am ultimately insignificant to the world, including any opinion I myself can come up with to explain my own existence; yet, on the other hand, I am everything to the Creator of the Universe and I know that the ‘entire’ Universe was created for just me. Looking at the sky, rippling way above me, after having attempted to commune with the Universe for just a short period of time, I know that, as I emerge from the womb of the Universe, I will be breaking through the surface of a significant understanding... that goes like this:

I have understood that without the Torah, without the law and the history, without the stories and secret levels, without the Five Books of Moses and the Oral Tradition that we were divinely given on Mount Sinai, we would be, today, without schools, without hospitals, and without justice systems. We would have an elite class that shared the spoils of war amongst themselves that would be about 1/10 of 1% of the overall population and because of the lack of a Sabbath, we would have no week at all, causing every day to blend into one long tedious existence (the likes of which can and does exist in China or India today).

Ultimately, peace between nations would be unheard of, since we know that the 3 top ‘human on human’ killers of human life ‘of all time’ were: # 3 - German Nazi Fascism WWII atrocities killing civilians and concentration camp victims (12 million people dead), # 2 -Stalin and the Communist Revolution in Russia (23 million people dead), and # 1 - Mao Ze-Dong and the Communist Revolution in China and subsequent genocide in Tibet (49-78 million dead). All three political movements were anti-religion in nature and all three espoused the elimination of God within the human experience.

What I have learned, in my short and pitiful attempt at becoming a newborn, at communing with the Universe in the last hour before Shabbat, swirling in the sea of Generation, is that when we eventually open our eyes and look for the real truth behind ‘human’ existence, the Torah will be there, waiting patiently for us. What I now know is that what our eyes and ears tell us isn’t reality. Our perceptions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are only perceptions… and they are entirely subjective. If we suspend judgment of others, good or bad, and turn our subjective judgments into objective realities, we are essentially giving up our illusion of control over our environment, of who we ‘think’ we are and at the same time, maintaining real, truthful control over our moral centers, we are cleaving to God.

This is the anniversary of the Mavi Marmara terrorist attack and the next illegal flotilla, inspired by President Barack Obama’s best-selling book (The Audacity of Hope) and supported by his long time friend from Chicago (Prof. Rashid Khalidi, director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs…), is coming as we speak. This week’s parsha is Shlach (Numbers 13-15) and it is about the Spies… If you want to know more about ‘all’ of the above, click here, (its short...) but breathe first! Remember, we have been communing with the ‘inside’ of ‘outside the Universe!’

Shabbat Shalom!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Cone of Silence and other Spiritual Security Measures

Did you ever feel like you made the most perfect plan and implemented it to a tee, only to find that nothing, if not the exact opposite, actually occurred? Remember the Cone of Silence from Get Smart where Maxwell Smart, the goofy secret agent that fought the international organization of evil, Chaos, would insist with his superior, the Chief, to use the Cone of Silence? Then, do you remember when it was lowered over their heads, in order to hear each other they had to yell so that ‘we,’ on the outside, could hear everything that was said? I remember this being one of the most frustrating and at the same time hilarious things to watch. I sat there, maybe 13 or 14 years old, wanted to yell out at them that we could hear everything that they were saying, but even if I wasn’t on the other side of the TV screen, they wouldn’t have been able to hear anyways, because the Cone of Silence didn’t let any sound in!

This is one of those things that, even though is quite ridiculous, has deep ramifications in terms of philosophy and self awareness. How, pre tell? Well, there seems to be some kind of a social, psychological, environmental sliding scale of everything at work around us. I mean, there are ramifications to every action we make or don’t and those ramifications ripple out into the universe, creating all kinds of diluted havoc. I began to think about this idea recently, as I felt the sting of missing out on fostering and developing a relationship with my father when I had the chance to. He died when my kids were still babies and I still think about him almost every day. He came to visit me when I lived in Colorado a couple of times and as rare as that was, prior to that, when I lived in the same state of California, I saw him even less. The problem, looking back on it now, seems to be that I was so bent on making my ‘own’ way in the world that I couldn’t see what I was leaving behind. I guess that is a natural thing; you know, the young bull and the old bull duking it out for the attention of the women folk… Actually, it is really a lot more than that. Having been a young bull at one time, I remember how I felt like I was prevented from doing what ‘I’ wanted. Then, when I grew into an old bull, I began to remember all of the times that I was made to think that I actually did something, when it was the old bull, my dad, all along, just trying to teach me.

One of my earliest memories is when I learned to ride a bike. I had to start on a giant bike frame, many sizes too tall, and I couldn’t touch the ground when straddling the cross-bar. I needed a helping hand to get on and to get off of the bike. My dad held it up for me to get on and then pushed it along about as fast as he could run as I learned to balance on it. I could always just hit the brakes and he would slow down with me and support the bike while I climbed back down. I trusted that he would always be there. It was a given and I didn’t think a second about it until I found myself gliding one day, way faster than he could run. My dad had let go of me, allowing me to soar on my own. It was both thrilling and one of the scariest things that I can remember. I was really happy that I was finally doing it all by myself, but I was going to have to crash land as well. As my adrenaline soaked thought process rolled over the good and the bad of the situation, I started looking for a soft patch of grass away from the asphalt of the street in front of my childhood home in El Toro, California. I careened up a driveway toward my eventual bail-out location, thinking the whole time, “How could he just let me go like that?”

This week, Dude the dog had a similar setback. He began to itch at his tail and ripped the skin off it in one spot. I took him to the vet and now he has to wear one of those clown collars, much to his apparent chagrin… He even doesn’t seem to want to go for a walk anymore, maybe from the possibility that the neighbor dogs will catch a glimpse of his embarrassing predicament. Bongo, our other dog, was freaked out at the site of him when I brought Dude, with his special attire, home from the vet. It is a good thing that dogs don’t understand English, as we are all calling him horrible names like Cone Head, Astro-dog, and Queeney, while he bounces around the house… Poor guy! He also, just to rub it in even more, has a regimen of ointment and antibiotics that he needs to succumb to multiple times a day for a week... Oy...

I often think about how a dog must be feeling, in order to understand my own perplexing situations. For instance: I had a really hard time trying to understand something that was said at work last week. I was giving my condolences to a work-mate, since his father, a really special man, died. He said to me that his father was now in a “better place.” I tried to process that a little at the time, but it seemed that his world view wouldn’t allow for it, so I desisted out of respect. He is one of the German, Christian implants to Israel and I, in that moment, had another realization that Judaism and Christianity have very different world views about the afterlife. It seems that in Christianity, at least the type that my work-mate ascribes to, looks at the world like there is a cosmic battle between two equal forces of good and of evil. They battle in this world and once a soul leaves this world, it goes on to either Heaven or Hell.

In Judaism, it is much more complicated than that and, in my opinion, makes a lot more rational sense. Hell comes from the word ‘Sheol’ in the Bible. The word ‘Sheol’ comes from the word for fox or burrower in Hebrew. It also relates to the idea of She’elah or Question to return to the question of, ‘who actually does run the world?” Sheol is considered the Abode or Realm of the Dead. Heaven is called Olam Ha Neshimote or the Soul World. It is essentially a spiritual waiting room for each of our Neshamas (the soul that God blew into us) to wait in until Olam Haba, the World to Come, is manifest. This is the world that recombines our Nefesh or Animal Soul (The soul that God formed from the dust of the Earth), which is released from Sheol, since this soul essentially dies, becoming dust once again, when the Neshama goes to the waiting room. Olam Haba is the Next World where we are whole again, body and soul, so to speak. There is no permanent place of suffering in Jewish Philosophy and there is only a very few souls (Neshamas) that are discontinued due to their inability to wash off the muck of bad decisions in this world, which is called Ha Aretz (related to the word LaRutz – to run in Hebrew), the land of action. The vast majority of Neshamas spend some time in Gehenom or Purgatory in order to rid themselves of that muck, before continuing on to the Soul World to wait for Olam Haba (may it be soon in our times).

This is only the tip of the iceberg but I did bring up the idea of suffering, which is one of the most difficult things to understand. Suffice it to say that it is explained thoroughly and extremely rationally in a book called Derach Hashem (The Way of God) by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, who lived in the 1700's. I don’t have time to get into it here, but essentially we can understand suffering as spending a little of our sum total of profits from good deeds and ‘kept’ commandments here in this world.

So, what do I see when I see Dude suffering all kinds of humiliation at, what must seem to him, my hand? Of course I want him to be able to understand and to know that it is for his own good, so that he can heal and we can take that stupid looking cone off of his head. We pet him, give him lots of good attention, and in general, try to have compassion for him (except, of course, when we are calling him Astro-dog or Cone Head...). I guess that it is kind of like when I was riding my bike and my father let me go. I was mad at him and afraid, but I knew at the same time that this was the only thing that would allow me to soar on that old bike. We had to work together to know our own abilities and limitations, father to son and teacher to student. He had to have just the right amount of compassion and caring, as well as just the right amount of ability to shove me over the edge, to push me out of the nest, in order for me to grow and walk the line that I needed to walk (or bike ride as the case may be).

In this week’s parsha, Be'halot'cha (Numbers 8-12), Moses gets really pissed at God and starts to complain... "Moses said to God: Why have you done evil to Your servant; why have I not found favor in Your eyes, that you place the burden of this entire people upon me? Did I conceive this entire people or did I give birth to it, that You say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a suckling, to the land that You swore to its forefathers'? Where shall I get meat to give to this entire people when they weep to me, saying, 'Give us meat that we may eat? (“Wa, wa, waaaa…”)' I alone cannot carry this entire nation, for it is too heavy for me! (“Wa, wa, waaa…”) And if this is how You deal with me, then kill me now, if I have found favor in Your eyes, and let me not see my (own) evil!" Sheesh! That sure sounds like a lot of whining for the most humble man that ever existed in the history of the planet…

What do we make of this? Well, the rabbis made a lot of it, but more than I can relate here. Let’s just say that in every relationship, there is a push and pull, a give and take, even with God. We can think about it like this, if God is making us wear one of those cones yoked around our necks, it is probably for a good reason, even though we can’t figure out what it is. If I was Dude the dog, I would be wondering, right about now, if the big boss man that put the dreaded thing around my neck in the first place might have done it on purpose, just to embarrass me in front of my friends and family. This is the same image as a vengeful god that smites out of petty frustration and allows a realm to exist with the only purpose being to punish, for all of eternity, those that could not rise up above pettiness themselves. This is the image of a god, the likes of Zeus, Neptune, or Apollo, with a magnifying glass, burning human beings like ants, just for kicks. The One True God could never hand over any of his children to pure evil for all time. It would be as absurd as my dad, while assuring me that it will all be OK, pushing me as hard as he is capable on that old bike down a steep hill with no real option for success at the bottom, causing me to careen into oncoming traffic and a brick wall.

Each and every one of us is capable of just our individual relationship with the Creator and as well, with each other. All we can really do is to attempt to grow each day, to become closer to each other and to develop an even deeper understanding of God’s actions in the world and the reason we exist in the first place. In the end, if I had it to do over again, I would have spent as much time as I could have with my dad. When I finally had the insight to want a relationship with him, he got sick and died. I have been suffering the consequences of my poor decisions for almost half of my life now and, based on my experience, I can tell you this: Suffering seems to be a result of not getting it right the first time around; logically, punishment can only be about rectification and healing; and ultimately, life itself can only be about one thing — it can only be about meaning!

Shabbat Shalom!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Man, Woman, and the Arab Spring-board

The Middle East is getting hot. No, really, the air around here must be full of electric Kool-Aid or something. I mean, from the local hardware store, to the parliamentary building, and all the way downstream to my little family, we have been struggling to get along with each other for days now. For the last two weeks, the energy has gone up and down with rapidly decelerating acceleration, creating all kinds of interpersonal mayhem and sociological eddy current-crevasses. Even the dogs ran away and, for the first time since they have been our four-legged family additions, they had to spend the night in doggy-jail at the pound (at 300 Shekels apiece!). They just took off for a day on the town; I guess until the evil dog catcher snatched them from their revelry. Maybe it has something to do with the changing weather here in the Middle East, with sticky, sweaty, sloth-slug inclinations taking shape in our sub-consciousnesses. Or it could be the changing political climate that always involves buffoonery and shadow puppets going head to head in the perceived world championship for a really big belt buckle... with a ‘star’ and everything smack in the middle. Maybe, on the other hand, it is all just written ‘in the stars…’

Dogs have a sort of 6th sense about things. We learn that there is still a reduced form of prophesy in the world. Of course, it is not the same version of prophesy that was removed by God about 2500…+ years ago, but nevertheless, it still exists as a kind of Ruach ha’Kodesh or Spirit of Holiness. Kids have a sense of it until they grow out of it about the same time they learn to speak, forgetting the Torah that they were taught in the womb by a patient, but insistent angel. Crazy people are also said to possess it to some degree, however contorted and difficult to follow for us undeveloped types. And yes, dogs also are said to possess this knowledge of the hidden worlds, this energy that flows from our physical reality to another, unseen, reality. With this kind of 6th sense, it seems that Dude and Bongo, my black and white pound-puppies, got caught up in something deeper than we could see or feel, something hidden in the air we breathe, something secret and, under the surface, driving the reality that we think is real.

OK, OK, I jumped right into the depths there… didn’t I? Let’s just back up to the changing weather. Or, maybe even better yet, how about the political climate in the region? Now these are things we can relate to and talk about. These types of things are safe things that everyone can chime in with. One might ask me why people have more to say about these things and I would have to say that it is more comfortable for people to talk about what they ‘think’ they know. Yup, then... one might say, “That is an uncomfortable subject” and... in the end, I would have to agree, just to make peace…

‘Peace’ is a strange and awful bird, isn’t it? We seem to think that peace is something that in order to achieve, both sides need to compromise their positions and come together, somewhere in the middle. The problem is that this doesn’t necessarily create peace; this, for all practical purposes, creates pent-up frustration, eventually becoming all out war. Look at what has happened across the Arab world with this whole Arab Spring deal. One could argue that it all goes back to a particular speech, given by a particular world leader, a tall, dark king among kings, who prodded the Arab masses, unwittingly so, to revolt. Just think about it like this: If the warden of a prison walks into a really crowded jail cell and while wearing his designer suit and tie, delivers a stirring, inspirational speech about freedom and the American way, what do you think is going to happen? Now we can see that the warden’s intensions are good. He wants the inmates to embrace law and order, to embrace what freedom is all about, to inspire them to live lives that they will be proud of. The problem is that good intensions can pave the way to Hell and the inmates are…? Yes, in jail.

The Arab world was primed and ready for some really well-meaning leader to give them a light, a flicker of a flame on a cold, long, dark night... and to subsequently blow the lid off of the dictator soup. Democracy is never easy to attain and historically this has been shown over and over again. Muslims, as well, are taught from a very young age that ‘their’ people with ‘their’ faith will one day rule the planet, a kind of ‘Muslim Democracy,’ per se. We know that whether they are moderate or extreme, the core is the same. So, a Muslim revolution looks a lot like what we see today. They are calling it the ‘Arab Spring’ in the news, but what is the Arab Spring going to grow, what will sprout from the tree that sucks from the garden that has been dormant and waiting, the garden that has now been watered with fresh, innocent intention and fertilized with massive levels of self-inflicted ignorance and totally unparalleled fervor? That is the real question…

Speaking of the garden, I recently read a book called: “The Garden of Peace” by Rav Shalom Arush. It is accompanied by another book that I, as a male, am forbidden to read called: “The Garden of Emunah (Faith). The way the whole story falls out is that essentially to create an enlightened state of being, similar to what was once present in the Garden of Eden, a man is responsible for Shalom Bayit or Peace in the Home and a woman is responsible for, I am told since I can’t read the book, emunah or faith in the idea that the man will accomplish what he is supposed to accomplish, i.e., connect with the Creator above, while holding the hand of the woman, who is already embracing the Shchinah (kind of a… Famale Aspect of God). By mixing peace and faith in this way, the human experience is connecting to Hashem, bringing together all of creation and carrying our part of the agreement to co-create the world. You see, mixing peace with faith is actually one of the most normal things that we can accomplish, which ultimately leads to the unity of everything — making all One.

Why does it seem so difficult then? Let me put it this way: Making peace is not compromising; making peace is giving over to the adversary what they desire, to the point that there is no ‘adversary.’ Having faith is to know, on a deep level, that what is and what will be is what is meant to be. The more faith we have, the more we are in control of our world. By having ultimate faith, I am at ultimate peace. Being in total peace, I don’t have to struggle with anything — I just do what I do, one step at a time, and keep the faith.

What are we describing here? This is definitely not a human ‘brokered’ type of peace. I mean, humans are the ones that always seem to attempt to blur the borders between each other’s separate domains. Humans are the ones that are unwittingly destroying the world with territorial bet hedging and the erasure of historical, concrete fact.

The one place in life that we can most see this edge and its intricacies clearly, yeah it is hard to fathom, is the blurring line between a man and a woman. This seems to be the crux of it and you will find that by the end of this blog, you may know just a little more about this, oh so horrible, dichotomy of self. Just in this week’s parsha, Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89), we are told of an unusual ceremony that always brings up heated debate and discussion ‘between’ the sexes.

This ceremony, Sota, requires a woman that has been accused of adultery by her husband to drink ‘bitter waters’ into which the personal name of Hashem has been dissolved, a problem in itself... (*see note below) If she refuses, the husband can divorce her; if she accepts (and is guilty), she dies a horrible, instantaneous death. It is hard to understand this strange text with only the written Torah, but in the oral tradition it is explained much more thoroughly. We discover via these intricacies, believe it or not, that the man in this situation is ‘truly’ at the woman's mercy.

*Note: One of the really perplexing elements of this ‘Sota’ ceremony is that in Deuteronomy 12:3, we learn that we shouldn’t deface or erase the name of God. The people were commanded that when they inherit the Promised Land, as God promised Abraham they would, all idolatrous objects relating to the indigenous religions of the region should be utterly destroyed, including the names of the local deities. Immediately afterwards, the people are commanded not to do the same to the One True God. From this, the rabbis inferred that we are commanded not to destroy any holy thing, and not to erase or deface any Name of God, especially this Name no doubt...

OK, so, if you want a ‘real’ education on the complexities of the Sota ceremony, click here. If you are beyond that and just want to explore some more about the divine nature of the Universe and our role in it from a fundamentally cosmic yet archetypical standpoint, just keep reading; but remember, I warned you!

When the world was created, both solid and ethereal, the Infinite Light did so with two Forces or Consciousnesses. One Consciousness always was, is, and always will be aware from above. The other Consciousness always was, is, and always will be aware from below. This Eternal Light, this Infinite and Eternal One Being, knew the world’s entirety from everyplace, above, below, before, and after, which makes anything and all things totally nonexistent for all eternity. The place where these two separate paradoxical (yet One) Forces meet is the Essence, the Center of the Infinite Light and the Paradox of Adam ha’Rishon in Gan Eden.

Adam ha’Rishon, the original proto-human, lived in the Garden at this exact crux, at this paradox of Infinite Light and nonexistence. The split of the proto-human was manifest from the Compassion of the Infinite Light and the first, aforementioned Force, the One from above, thereupon ‘descended’ into man. The second, aforementioned Force, the One from below, likewise ‘descended’ into woman. The Proto-Adam, the single spiritual unit, became Ish (the word for male) and Isha (the word for female). Ish is spelled, aleph, yud, shin. Isha is spelled aleph, shin, heh. The yud and the hey, the letters that male and female do not share, spell the Name of God, Yah. This is the name with which God created the world, both solid and ethereal.

We learn from the Torah that the letter heh, the letter that the woman possesses, but the man does not, was used to create this world, the solid world. The letter yud, the letter that the man possesses, but the woman does not, was used to create a kind of next world, the ethereal world. When these two letters are put together, creating the Name of God, they add up to the entirety of creation and form one single Image or Reflection of God. If you take these letters out of the words for male (Ish) and female (Isha), you are left with the word ‘aish’ (aleph, shin). This is the word for fire and when all alone in the vast universe, it means complete consumption without any purpose whatsoever…

So, from this, we can understand that the purpose of man, his job in the world, is to make shalom or peace, while the purpose of woman, her job in the world, is to embrace emunah or faith. This is because the man is anchored to the ethereal world, with his head in the clouds, while the woman is anchored to the solid world, with her feet on the ground. When we put peace and faith together, we arrive at completion, we arrive at Yah-ere-Shaliem (God ‘will’ see completion or... the center, the essence, of the world: Jerusalem). We arrive at the true likeness of the Creator and live, once again, in the Garden communing with the One, with the Originator of Everything, communing with God at the paradoxical crux of the Forces of Eternal Light — with the only thing that we are capable of perceiving, the Will of God.

I for one would like to see the Arab Spring, with all its pent-up energy and perceived potential, grow to manifest something beautiful, something awesome, something utterly magnificent, kind of like that, but I just, somehow, don’t see it happening…

Shabbat Shalom!