Choosing Your Lot


Purim, Oct. 7, and Our Next Generation -  

I grew up in a world where I could be anything I wanted, back in Southern California, in the 70s and 80s. I had the freedom to explore what life might offer, and my parents encouraged me to play and to learn. I needed a foundation and chores, mind you, but a musical instrument was essential to grow up in the human world. I was encouraged to dress for success, too. My parents tried anything they could to give me the tools they thought I would need in life. I liked art, they noticed, so my parents introduced me to a commercial artist to learn the ropes. After a year of piano lessons with Mr. Stytska playing “On Top of Spaghetti,” I quit. From a lack of social graces, I was forced to dance with a broom at cotillion (etiquette classes for middle-school aged children), so I quit. I had my own plans, you see, which needed forming ASAP if I was to prove my worthiness to my own ego first, then others around me, and only then to my parents. It was the wrong order, it was backwards from the beginning and it was a bizarre attempt, and a very strange offering.

I had had plans formed since the third grade, and nothing would get in MY way. I had already decided to be an artist, so I could never wrap my mind around the various introductions by my parents of a wide variety of potential pastimes and professions. I had a charmed life, growing up in Southern California, filled with possibilities and potential; my parents being the ultimate conduit of growth, both potential and actual. But, I thought that my way was better. I was a child born into a society enamored with manifest destiny, for Heaven’s sake, and I was going to manifest it all my way. How could I have known that my way would be a strange offering, indeed.

Sometimes I see the same attitude in my students at the high school where I teach English and Diplomacy. It’s a very western thought process, to manifest your own separate destiny. Other cultures do it in private, but in the west we do it for vindication, out in the open. It was particularly obvious last year while Israel was going through a constriction of soul with regards to our political reality. Our leaders were trying their best to follow their egos into battle with each other, leaving the people who relied on them to their own devices in order to express their needs. The streets erupted into unrest, into chaos. Our leaders paid no attention, and actually bent down even lower to their egos’ wills; they sunk deeper into themselves, doubling down, curling in on themselves continuously, like a snail retracting into its shell … unquestionably a strange offering.

Last year, in 2023, for Purim, an event beloved by all, my students lost their souls briefly and fought against each other, exactly like the adults did on every corner. I stood at one point, arms out in either direction, keeping loud and muscle-flexing youths from contacting one another, just trying to calm them down, to get them to think deeper into their souls. I only realized later that they were just expressing the will of the people. They were seeking to make their destiny-manifest subservient to their individual wills, instead of placing themselves in the service of humanity, and accepting the yoke of the Universe. Our leaders were doing the same exact thing, pummeling each other, and us, with spittle flying epithets and drool. Their egos were colliding against the brick wall of reality, offering very strange things as a result, and it took the fiery force of Heaven to finally tear it all down.  

On Simkhat Torah, 2023, on Shabbat, the seventh day of the week, a day of rest and of awareness, of awe and a day of sublime integration into our soul, as a people … a fiery hell smote down upon us. We understand only now that we had been behaving with arrogance, our leaders, and the people, one and all. This arrogance of will, our egos spiraling in, and suffering our eternal attention, caused us to fail. In this week’s Torah reading, Shemini, in Sefer Vayikra, we read about a similar fate having fallen upon the sons of Aharon. We read that they had acted on their own, without advice from others, including their father and his brother, Moshe, our leader. They felt, we can understand now, that they were under NO obligation to seek awareness from anyone else; they took it upon themselves to offer something strange, something manifested of just them, alone, a desired destiny and a strange offering, which then brought down a fiery hell upon their heads.

On October seventh, the year twenty-one-twenty-three, hell came down through humanity’s enemies. Darkness awoke and decided to pounce, killing, murdering, raping, and all in a sick joy, a terrible laughter, with death and suffering filling the egos of each tiny mind, inside each tiny ego as it dreamt up torture, acted on it, and then ran away. Our leaders understood immediately the impact it would have on their futures, and most (but not all) succumbed to the reality that they were all doomed to clean up the mess they had created, sealing their egos’ legacy, having opened the door for a plan which had been in motion for decades, from the dark shadows of humanity’s OWN ego. Amalek lives, we all know, but it’s so easy to forget as we tow our own personal desires through life with us all. We want to have what others have, we want respect, we want to have power and money; yeah … we just want it all, and strangely we want it now.

Purim this year, twenty-twenty four, has turned a corner in the history of humankind. I saw it directly, with each of my classes, and the students in them, as we all grew together through the darkness that humanity has been forced to pilot through. I asked some of my students to write an essay, others a poem, about a thing that they struggle with, a thing that they wanted to change. With young people it’s often quite difficult to understand the truth going on behind the eyes. We see them interacting, asking for help when we think they should, or operating on their own when we assume they have other desires, and separating themselves from us, even when we ask for connection. We assume it is ego that drives the young minds in our realm, and that it is in the same sense that it drives our own. However, ego is only a spark of living, the ruakh of soul being pulled unnaturally, strangely, to one side or another, either up … or possibly, horribly even down. This year, however, I read what my students shared of their inner worlds with me. And, I saw the next generation of leaders turn a corner in a very strange Universe.

We are now entering a time, in Jewish thought and practice, where we slowly order our lives and our society. We are leaving the chaos of the masked world of Purim, a world where our masks only hint at the secrets hidden behind our faces and the light of our soul; our masks slowly fading away, and the real world becoming increasingly perceptible. Our world begins to appear, one day at a time, one small portion awakening and becoming revealed as the perfection it was meant to be from its beginning; the order of our world is now slowly separating itself from the mask that it once wore, 2023 becoming 2024. When I grew up, the ego that drove me was only my will searching for truth, a mask that hinted towards the face underneath. Now, looking back at my life, I see that my ego is only an after-thought. I understand that my will is the thing that drives me into the future. I also understand that my will can be subjected to strange influences, in every moment, even while in hell, but to succumb is my decision only, and ultimately MY will. With the help of the memory of our ancestors and the Almighty, we should all be destined to get happily lost somewhere inside the chaos of living, together. We should all merit a life fulfilled, and a destiny manifest with the desires of our youth, and of the blessings we deserve having fully lived. There should be nothing strange about it.

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