30 July 2005

Of Joy and Blindness

Chasidim are sitting together, passing around vodka, saying l’chaim. Today there is no joy. We each are sure that there is joy, but we can’t find it, we can’t find our way to it. Even in this time of year - when we are more in touch with breaking, more in touch with death, more in touch with exile – even in this time of year, Shabbos is usually an exception. On Shabbos, we don’t have permission to mourn. But this Shabbos is different.

On this Shabbos, somehow, it hit me. I had been holding out hope, thinking that it couldn’t really happen. Today it hit me. True, there are still scenarios: this week’s demonstrations may be a success; Vendyl Jones may find the Holy Ark; the men of the army may en masse find themselves unable to uproot their brothers. But somehow today it really hit me. Today it hit me, when the chasidim could barely even sing.

I slept in the afternoon. For two and a half hours I lay sweating on my bed, dreaming of being robbed of my home, dreaming of deceit, dreaming of empty drawers that had been full and the convoluted and nebulous treachery that had emptied them. I woke up feeling like I hadn’t slept, like I had been robbed of sleep, robbed of rest.

In the morning, one of the Chassidim had said that the main thing – the main thing – is not to despair, never to despair. In the afternoon we are talking. We know – we know – that everything is for the good. We know that God is holding us in his hand.

Everything is for the good, God is holding us in his hand, and I know that I am blind to his plan.

28 July 2005

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero

This Shabbos is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero.

Deep appreciation to anyone who can tell me a story about him.

Most of the info I have is from an antiseptic Artscroll half-page biography (which reminds us that he is called the "RaMaK" after his initials, that he wrote tens of books - including "Or Yakar" on the Zohar, "Pardes Rimonim", and "Tomer Devorah" - and that he was the leading kabbalist in Safed when the Arizal arrived.)

One interesting thing - he passed away soon after the Arizal arrived in Safed. The Arizal called him "My Master and Teacher" and testified that he saw a pillar of fire preceding his coffin.

Quote of the Day

There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.
- Marshall McLuhan

18 July 2005

Impressions of Amsterdam

Casual people. Not studied casual, but straight ahead 'I think I'll go without shoes today' casual.

Language sounds like German being spoken underwater, woman at the ticket counter doesn't really want to help me with language lessons.

'Netherlands' sounds like something out of a fantasy novel.

Crafted - everything - staircases, water glasses, window shade pulleys, laptop stands - crafted, and crafted well.

Central Station crowded and hot and looking out for thieves and was-this-the-station-where? and out on the streets with water everywhere but everywhere and two streets away and you-call-this-a-red-light-district? nothing wrong with a little run down but a little further and dildos in the windows and this-is-what-I-call-a-red-light-district and a little further and look-right dirty-trick! she was in her underwear! can't look right! can't look left! look ahead! safe to look ahead - but can sense women on every side. Another block and naked-in-the-streets! help! too-much-for-me! get-me-out-of-this-place!

Pot everywhere some of it smelling better than any Grateful Dead show pot and some of it the nastiest dirt weed smell and some people on the streets staring at a car like it was the mother-connection-dynamo and passing a mushroom shop looked in and someone caught me by the psychic mane and gave me a calling-out like I haven't felt since the family at the Dead show gave me the old back-of-the-head cerebralellum once over.

Flower market full of bulbs and bulbs and grow-your-own-dope kits.

Street sellers selling art and - one women - beautiful - but beautiful - etchings. So precise - and deep. Each movement of each root - the texture on every leaf - a forest.

And water and water and more pot smells and water and kosher food.
How can you be a Jew in a place like this?

But! The most beautiful synagogue. Dark wood. Stone columns like redwood trees. Fifty feet straight up. The deepest holiest echo. A thousand candles.

The story is told that when they would pray
Friday night in the Spanish-Portuguese Shul,
the non-Jewish caretaker would begin to light
the candles at the beginning of the service,
as the sun was just beginning to set.
As the sun continued to set and the Jews
continued to pray, he would continue to
light the candles.
The light from outside would slowly wane,
and the light from inside would slowly rise,
until when the congregation finished the service
- and the heaven and the earth were finished -
he would finish lighting the candles,
and the world would be filled with light.

And back on the street, back to kosher food - a decent pita, and onward. More canals and more dope smells quit smelling like that! and an amstel beer by a canal as people on bicycles ride by, and more bicycles and bicycles built for two and hitching a ride on a bicycle, and a man playing accordion while people ride through the canals on little sputtering motor boats carrying bicycles.

Ann Frank's statue half a block form the Homo monument. Both outside a church, but no different from the naked women in windows who stand and deliver right across from an old stone church and a bazaar filled with the bizarre and shops providing the ways to get away from your unaltered consciousness.

Is spirituality a motion that runs against reality, or is it an intense experience of reality?

Outside of Amsterdam by train and it's suburban Europe - housing blocks, office buildings stained a dull grey, and train tracks. Farther out it's cows and sheep and more water and somehow there are no prostitutes on the streets of suburbia and it's quiet and nowhere is there that smell that smell that smell, and no one looks like they have subscribed to a reality that's entirely different. It's just suburban Europe - with carefully designed everything and fountains like football fields and trains that run on time.

17 July 2005

Ha'aretz Sympathetic to Gush Katif?

A rarity - a beautiful article in Ha'aretz sympathetic to the farmers of Gush Katif (in the Gaza Strip.)

06 July 2005

Digging Bat Ayin Music

Incredible jewels are being given away at the Bat Ayin Music Page. Holy music of all shapes and sizes, from the arabesque to the frightening with some great stops in between.

04 July 2005

Must be something in the water

The new world record for memorization of PI, amazingly, is 83,431 decimal places.

To put this in perspective, it's said that someone once asked Einstein for his phone number. He had to look it up in a phone book.

03 July 2005

Into the Woods

When the Seer of Lublin was a child - 4 or 5 - his teacher had trouble with him in school. He was always running off into the woods. His teacher would try and discipline him - but it didn't do any good.
One time his teacher followed him deep into the woods, and saw him sit down on the forest floor and, trembling, scream out "Shma Yisrael...!"
His teacher didn't give him a hard time after that.

His father once asked him, though, "Why are you going out into the woods all the time?"
"To find God," he responded.
"Don't you know that God is the same everywhere?", his father pressed.
"God's the same everywhere," he said, "but I'm not."