Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Missing Star and Missiles in the Air

Palestinians Firing Missiles out of Their Population Centers

It’s in the air. That is the only explanation that I can find for the insanity that keeps knocking at my door. Maybe I’m just getting tired… I don’t know. The missiles just keep on raining, some getting by the Iron Domes, closer and closer to m
y particular claim-stake in the Promised Land, causing stress and unnecessary mayhem. Now a bus in Tel Aviv has been bombed too… The stress level just keeps going up. I'm starting to think more seriously about where my loved ones are. I'm worried about walking back and forth from work. It's even starting to feel a lot like it did when I lived in LA during the Rodney King riots. All we need now is a 6.0 earth quake to send me looking for another reality to inhabit…

Just the other day, after being verbally assaulted by an unhinged American woman, (it seems that Israelis seem better suited to this sort of stress factor) I was forced to blow off some steam by having a couple of watery Maccabee beers and working out the kinks in the wheels of my long-board. Now that the streets have been washed of a year’s worth of oil and goo, I can really push it, flying down the hill, leaning into my turns and carving into a year’s worth of terrain that had been stored within my mind’s eye. It's just about as powerful as Hitbodedut when it comes to getting back in touch with myself—of course, the beers didn’t hurt too much either.

My son tells me that if Goldstar, the other Israeli beer, is like camel urine, then Maccabee is like the urine from a camel that drank Goldstar, if you know what I mean; but, we love Israeli beer… anyways. It isn’t the best, but it’s ours—and that is how we feel about the land that we live on. We don’t have great surf breaks, snow-board runs, or high country backpacking trails; they are just OK, but what we do have is precious to us, like an almost forgotten jewel with a 3,000 year old patina.

When they stepped up the missiles that have been raining down on the south, Tel Aviv, and even Jerusalem, terrorizing civilian populations with repeated sirens of eminent annihilation, we really had no choice but to shut down the mouth that has been drooling hate and violence onto our tiny but precious populace. Conflict is a terrible thing, but when I see the near riots and slanted media spew, the world over, against Israel protecting itself and its citizens, I just have to wonder where all the incorrect information is coming from. Most people, I guess, think that there was a Palestine once, or that there is even one now, and that the Zionists just came in and kicked out the native inhabitants or something.

(Note: Judaism has stood on three legs for over two thousand years: (1) Zionism or the return as a people to the land of Israel, (2) Kashrut, meaning eating only permitted foods prepared in the proper way, and (3) both guarding and remembering the Sabbath, whatever that ‘really’ means.) 

I can understand the uneducated and the indoctrinated people, but the intelligent, educated people? That I just don’t get. Most people don’t even know that the word ‘Palestine’ comes from when the Romans almost completely wiped out the Jews in Israel, about 2,000 years ago, sending a record 10 garrisons of Roman soldiers in to quell the Great Revolt. They wanted to annihilate the Jews and sought to remove any memory of them, not only in the land of Israel, but in the world as well; so, they took a name from, by then, an extinct people called the Philistines. They renamed Jerusalem Capitolina (which didn’t stick) and Shechem became Neopolis (New City), now referred to as just Nablus by the Arabs that live there. It’s all just so frustrating! Why can’t these supposedly intelligent people get their facts straight…?

(HAMAS) Hiding Amongst Mosques And Schools
Maybe it’s time for another beer… Ahhh…. Carving, carving, down the slope, with my sights aimed at the Mediterranean. With the Red Hot Chili Peppers bouncing around my skull, there are mature olive trees gliding past, as I float down the hill on precision bearings… clouds, floating on the freshly washed asphalt, the earth, the land. Amud Anan… Pillar of Cloud… um… Oh yeah! The English translation: the Pillar of Defense, or, essentially, what us Israelis, us Jews, call the latest attempt at self-preservation in the face of evil—just like from the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt: that corrupt place of narrowness that (also) attempted to wipe the Jews from the planet about 3,500 years ago… ‘During the day, leading the Jewish people on their journey was a pillar of cloud, and at night there was a pillar of fire, giving them light.’

Sometimes it seems that the entire world has been trying to annihilate the Jews for centuries, so I was ‘so happy’ to receive so much support from family and friends in the US, Europe, and elsewhere when the news services started to ‘cha-ching’ their cash registers by slinging their propaganda of pompous, self-righteous fear mongering. I think that it must all come down to one thing: God-envy. The world—speaking metaphorically—hates the Jews because they agreed to the terms laid out to them by the Big Guy. The proto-pedophile Greeks, idol-buffet table Egyptians, and child-slaughtering Canaanites couldn't be bothered with it, so the Jews took on the burden... the Chosen People… oy.

The problem is that with responsibility… comes a price. I learned that the Chafetz Chaim was able to predict the exact date of the fall of the Soviet Union. He did so by understanding that for every generation, a star goes out of alignment, causing each individual, and in turn the whole of society, to veer off course in some way. The Communists were essentially Jews, to the extent that jokes flew around the governmental think-tanks about needing one more Jew to form a minyan—and the jokes were in Yiddish… The star that had gone out of alignment for that generation wasn’t a conflict of being Jewish or not, it was whether or not to believe in God.

The Chafetz Chaim knew when the specific star of that generation rose and could, therefore, predict that the fall would come about 70 years later, and it did. When asked what the star for the current generation was, he stated that the Jewish people, by and large, would believe in the One True God, but that they would forget what being a Jew was. Essentially, what he said was that the Jews would forget the difference between a Jew and a non-Jew. This would in turn resonate out, creating a major disturbance in the world and causing mankind to forget the difference between all kinds of really important things, like the different and individual, unique qualities that separate mankind and womankind, or even an inconceivable confusion between mankind and mere animals.

This we have taught to the world in our confusion over a missing star, and now it appears to be returning upon Israel. Even though we have forgotten, by and large, what it means to be a Jew in the world, everyone else seems to have remembered. The most unlikely combination of a Left-wing inteligencia and radical militant Islam have joined forces to remind the Jews that they are Jews… and what better place to do that than to rain that hate down on (in their minds: disputed territory) the only Jewish homeland that has ever been or ever will be.
Missile Trails over Ashdod, Israel

In Psalms 147:8 we read, "God covers the heavens with clouds and prepares rain for the earth…"
Peace will come one day, but not from the vain, egocentric attempts of mankind (not even from the missile ducking Ban Ki Moon or the cold, floppy handshake of Hilary Clinton). The ‘only’ way peace in the Middle East will ensue will be for the Jews to remember who they are. The only way to do that is to have faith that the star that is currently out of place is actually there. The only way to do that… is to believe that we are One, the Jewish people, and that the rest of the world is full of our brothers and sisters, the Human race. The only way for peace to ensue is to love each other and respect each individual, man, woman, or child for who they truly are: amazing, unique to the world, human beings… 

Yeah, I know; that is a pretty large leap. But, think about it. In the meantime, you’ll find me on my long-board with a weak bottle of Israeli beer, taking a break once in a while to write one of these weird little blog-posts.

Blog on baby!

And Shabbat Shalom!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Speak, Pray, and the Art of Aiming

You are what you speak, or at least that is what the world seems to deflect in my direction, as I ponder its pathways and back alleys. We learn that commanding an audience is all about charisma, but what exactly is charisma, anyways?  Now that we have begun the next four years, I just need to comment on how those two guys in suits spoke. It was impressive to get a sense of each by the way they handled themselves in front of a crowd, in their cases, millions… oy. But, in this day and age, it is not only about standing in front of others, speaking with authority and miming the proper hand gestures, indicating ‘power positions’ with flare and candor, it is also about the communication that enables the entire world to operate as one: digital communication.

We spend hours with emails, social networking, blogging, and just general dialog on the Internet. How ‘do’ we personify a charismatic presence with our digital persona? How ‘do’ we market ourselves in the digital age? Many just choose to ignore this and attempt not to design their persona at all. And even more seem to just look at the bottom line and let that indicate the path to take, instead of looking to the 'potential' bottom line and then… aiming.

I'm still trying to hit the bullseye... but, I learned to speak Hebrew this way—I aimed. I learned to draw this way (excuse the pun…)—I aimed. I learned to paint this way—I aimed. I learned to woodwork this way, yeah—I aimed. And I learned to write this way—I aimed. Just look at some of my old blog posts (or don't…) and you will get a visceral sense of the kind of Robocop retargeting exercises that I attempted. The art of aiming takes loads of concentration, dedication, and patience. It’s just like the long exhale before a perfect shot, or the Zen that one arrives at while floating in the sea, meditating on nirvana, or praying. It's all about the aim…

Charismatically speaking, we all know that charisma is a combination of voice, appearance, body movement, and content, but what about those people that exude charisma without saying a word or indicating a gesture? We have all met people like that and it is usually a mysterious and thought provoking experience. Back in the 90's, when I first saw John Travolta in my apartment building elevator in Los Angeles, we met eyes, but didn’t say a word. I remember thinking to myself, “Do I know this person?” He looked familiar, but I just couldn’t place him until the ride ended and we parted ways. Then I remembered… feeling foolish that I kept staring at the guy. He must have thought I was just a hapless tourist debating asking for an autograph, instead of a neighbor who unknown to himself had recognized a movie star and was plumbing the depths of his mind for a forgotten memory, maybe past-life, maybe just a result of very early onset senility. I was responding to an unspoken energy, an energy that rode on a cosmic wavelength that ended with my ability/inability to tune, aim, and then perceive its vibrations.

It can go the other way too: I once sat at a table with a famous rabbi. He has written many books and if you are Jewish, you most likely have one or more of them on a shelf somewhere. This man was short, with a long gray beard of course, but he didn’t need to say anything to exude that presence that I am referring to.  When he did speak, I was expecting so much that I almost felt let down that I wasn’t elevating off the floor or something. My unrealistic and over-exacerbated expectations had jaded my ability to tune, aim, and perceive. That must be the drawback to having your reputation precede you—expectations soar and the expectees hit the floor…

In this week's parsha, Chayei Sarah(Genesis 23:1-25:18)… um, naagh, I was going to write about how Eliezer, the servant of Abraham,  broke the curse of Canaan by getting over his selfish desires to have his son paired with the daughter of Isaac, essentially mastering his sense of aim, his charisma, but I gotta move on to other (related) stuff.

I prayed the other day. Praying is a strange and beautiful thing. Sometimes it is so flat that it feels like brushing your teeth or something; but, other times… it just pulls you off your feet, where you don't even notice the treetops and clouds meandering by below you and your mind and heart fill with the Universe. In those times, when our sense of time and self-awareness just stops and the paradox of our chaotically blessed existence makes perfect sense, we are given a divine gift, a responsibility to… just be. It can come in many ways, this chaotically blessed awareness of existence, in my case skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding, mountain biking, and yes, praying. I can also see it entering via the sudden realization of a well-placed investment, the look on the face of a hungry child that has just been given a meal, or the sublime awareness of love… waiting in the wings.

Sometimes we live life and sometimes we just ride it. Both paths are amazing and 'way' worth it. We get old, fast, doing either one, but with the awareness of age comes a youth of spirit, a kind of giddy wisdom that tickles our centers, our souls. Ultimately, it all comes down to our intensions. The more we practice, the closer we get; so, speak what you think, think what you believe, pray deeply about it, and aim, baby, aim!

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Halloween, Noach, and My 50th Birthday

Boo, my Black Cat, Came to Me in a Jack-o-lantern
I've come a long way baby… it's my 50th birthday this week; well, that is according to the Jewish calendar. In the States, I was always a Halloween baby, born the day before, but here in the land, I am a Noah baby! Yeah, it is Parshat Noach again, after a whole year of riding this seemingly God-forsaken planet around the Sun, with all of its trials and tribulations, tests, failures, and accomplishments, I have arrived at the crossroads of 'me,' once again. It kind of makes me wonder what "me" is, doesn't it for you? I have been pondering that, as of late, and the other day, on Simchat Torah, when we Jews celebrate completing the reading of the entire last years' worth of Torah and then beginning again, I found myself in a heated debate with the Creator of the Universe while I walked through the woods near my house. I have been vacillating with the whole idea of wearing a yarmulke every day and point blank, once and for all, asked God if I should go the way of Matisyahu (the singer, not the Maccabee) and engage in the 'me' that I spent about 45 years building before I arrived at the center of the vortex I live in now, the Middle East, the Jewish world view, and the Cradle of Civilization.

I know that this is off topic, but you have to wonder what the big deal is, don't you? I mean, why do they call it the Cradle of Civilization anyways? Yeah, we know that the archeological records show that the first cities, agriculture, animal domestication, music, literature, art, science, math, written language, and so on and so forth exploded between Mesopotamia and Egypt about 6,000 years ago from virtually nothing, but… OK, answered my own question… So, I guess I need to ask, what caused it? If you look around the Middle East today, civilization is about as far away from reality as you can find. In Syria, 30,000 people (at last count) have been slaughtered by their government, in Egypt, anti-Semitic vitriol is being vomited from the newly elected Islamic extremist leaning government, in Turkey, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, and everywhere else ‘Middle East,’ the rabble has risen, like spring in a Hieronymus Bosch painting, to declare their collective intention to rule the world, while in Israel, the Jewish people is still cowering at the foot of its own ego, ignoring its own 3,000 year old history on the spot it currently resides. Civilization seems about as far away from ‘civilized’ as it can get… here in the Middle East.

Speaking of civilization, what is Halloween all about anyway?  I always heard that it is remembrance of a time when the locals in some European backwoods town would dress up in scary costumes to scare away evil spirits and lingering ghosts to keep them from inhabiting the physical. OK, so, 'spirit' in Hebrew means Ruach. This is the level of soul that is created when a Neshama (the soul that God opens the womb with) and a Nefesh (the soul that is formed from the dust of the earth) are combined and interact. The Ruach, or Spirit, wants to live, to have substance, and to be free in the world; but, sadly, it is usually very confused, as it is also the center of our free will. When a person dies, his/her spirit can become trapped in this confusion and remain as a ghost. So, Halloween, regardless of being connected to a strange, linear calendar, is the process of trying to get those spirits back to the realm that they should inhabit. That sounds like a noble cause, don't you think?

So, getting back to me, when I try to understand what ‘me’ is, I have to really wonder what drove me to the place that I currently reside within. What caused me to move through so many spiritual pursuits, extreme sports, varied professions, and philosophical leanings? Having grown up with an absentee father and a mentally ill mother, I have to wonder whether or not I was destined by Hashem to be a searcher, ad infinitum… That is probably why, when I conduct these heated debates with the Creator of the Universe, I tend to listen a little deeper, a little stronger, and I tend to give emphasis to it a little bit more than to the civilized world. All in all, I have come to the conclusion that I have lost faith, but not in God… in Humanity. I just can’t expect, much less assume, that human beings will do the right thing anymore. I have to move on and that is what I was arguing with Hashem about on Simchat Torah. It kind of felt like the story of Noach, where he struggles with faith in Humanity, hoping that they will come around and listen to the truth. We all know how that story turns out, don’t we? Down to the last day, Noach had hope, but in the end he had to go it alone, pining on a boat out at sea, without civilization to keep him company on the storm surf that came into existence from the tears of Hashem.

So, when I asked Hashem, point blank, should I stop wearing my yarmulke for everyday use, I shouldn’t have been so surprised to be answered with rain. The day was overcast, slightly, but with very few clouds blowing by. As soon as I opened my mouth, uttering the words, “Hashem! What do you think about it? What do you think I should do? What should I do?” the heavens opened and the rain began to fall. I looked up at the clouds that had seemingly veered off course to answer my question and I raised my hands, asking louder this time, “So, I should take it off then, right?” and the clouds answered immediately by turning up the downpour’s volume. Still, I wasn’t sure that this answer was a ‘yes’ answer, so I asked again, not quite as loud, but deeper into the depths of my soul, just the same. The bushes and trees began to vibrate and grow in luminosity as I asked, just like the day that I got back from the mikveh after my orthodox conversion, and then the heavens began to dump bathtubs of water from the sky, hitting me over the head, literally, with the answer to my question.

Yeah, you have all heard me pontificate till I’m blue in the face about the spiritual dimensions and how they intersect the physical plane, but I just have to share this one thing again. It turns out that God, Himself, does only 3 things in the world, but before we get to those things, we need to understand how the rest of the world operates. Besides those 3 things that God does directly, there are 2 other ways that God interacts with the world. When He created everything known and unknown, He created Kachot (forces) and He created Malachim (angels). A force is the nature of things, like an apple tree growing only apples, not bananas and an angel is the being that encourages the apples to grow when God commands it. So, back to the 3 deeds that God Himself does… 1: He is responsible for opening the womb to bring a soul into the world, 2: He opens the grave when the Mashiach comes, and 3: He, alone, opens the heavens to cause rain to fall. So, that would make sense that the answers came exactly on queue then; God must have even known that I would ask the question before I did, since the rain had to have time to fall before it reached me, while I stood in the woods, and then dumped on my head...

This year, I think I am going to become reacquainted with me. 49 was a traumatic year, with the death of my mother, the theft of my father's legacy, and the culmination of the last 6 years spent in the Cradle of Civilization, reshaping my spiritual / emotional center. I think that I am going to wait for one more good rain, so that the streets are nice and clean, and then pull out my skateboard for a spin or two down the hill. I have two more weeks until my English birthday, so , yeah, that sounds like a great 50th birthday present to me, carving it up, baby… carving it up…

Shabbat Shalom!!