29 September 2005

On to Uman

Rebbe Nachman made it clear that he wanted people to come to his grave in Uman for Rosh Hashannah. During his life, he once expressed great surprise that any one of his students could fail to be with him for Rosh Hashannah, "Rosh Hashannah is what I'm all about!"

Rebbe Nachman said that anyone who comes to him and says the tikkun clali (literally, "The Comprehensive Fixing", a set of 10 particular Psalms) and gives a little money to charity, has his promise that he will do anything within his power to help him. Rebbe Nachman continued - "I'll pull him out of Gehenum by his payos!" (A holy friend in the neighborhood, remarked - "Is that all you're living for? To get out of Gehenum?")

There is no room to doubt that our holy sages work from beyond the curtain that separates this world from the next. Some people are considered dead even when they are alive (we've all been that person once or twice), and our holy sages are considered alive even when they are dead.

My rational side has little to cling to as I plan and pack and make my way to the Ukraine. I can't give a good explanation of why I am going. Am I such a Breslover Chassid? I can't claim that I am. Do I have some great love for north-eastern Europe in early winter? I can't claim that I do. Perhaps part of the reason I'm going (a good friend suggested this) is that I don't know why I'm going.

There is one thing that I've noticed. I poke my nose into a lot of holy books. It's always a beautiful thing in learning when the topic you open to speaks directly to your life, directly to the situation you are in right now. I have not seen a book that does this so often - almost predictably - as Rebbe Nachman's Likutei Moharan. Maybe I am a Breslover Chassid after all?

I'm expecting there to be blocks on the way - maybe external, maybe internal, likely both. We know that when you try and do something of great worth, like going to see a holy master, there are blocks along the way. Daven for me. I'll daven for you. If you want me to put a word in for you, or say a tikkun clali in your name, let me know before I leave tonight.

I'm expecting to be out of radio contact for about a week.

A beautiful year!

May we all have the vision and strength to become ourselves, to tends the gardens of our souls and feed ourselves, our families, our friends, and the world with the bounty that only we can produce.

My God answer all the prayers of your heart for the good!

26 September 2005

So much motion.

Someone here has a book of poems from Hafiz, the holy Sufi poet. Where are all the Hebrew poets who were drunk on love with God?

Waking up at 5:30am to say Slichot, the pre-Rosh Hashannah what-a-mess-am-I prayers. All I want to do is know, know, that I'm standing in front of God and the rest will all pour forth, but I'm stuck saying a bunch of words at 5:30 in the morning. Tough Stuff.

Maybe I should be a Hebrew poet drunk on Love for God.

Just to be in the
presence of the beloved -
to feel his gaze,
and I am overcome.
But he hides himself,
and I am left,

I think I'll have to have a little bit more experience of Love in this world before I can really fill the position.

King Solomon was drunk on love for God.

Maybe my mistake is that I'm searching - that I still haven't really figured out that he's right here.

16 September 2005

The word from the field

Each one of these could be, and may be, an in depth exploration, but Shabbos is coming, and you can't keep the Queen waiting.

Breakthrough in learning - Thursday night, went back to look over a piece about saying 'malchiot' (verses about God's Kingship) on Rosh Hashannah. I was struck by something strange - for some reason it comes from a seamingly loosely related passage - the trumpets in the desert.
In this place you have the space (culturally) to pace the floor muttering (or yelling) "I don't get it! Why?", so that's what I did. It took a faith that God doesn't do anything randomly, that our sages didn't write anything randomly, more, that they wrote to show us deep patterns in reality, and they wrote in such a way that we have to work to draw them out. The faith (and the pacing and muttering and the help of friends) is beginning to pay off...

Midnight went into the woods to talk to God, flail around, jump up and down, dance, sing, scream, cry, beg, question, thank, wonder... It's a practice know as 'hitbodedut', one of the many forms of Jewish Meditation. Felt great.

Busy working on another meditative practice. Mezuzah. The Ramabam writes down at the end of his discussion of mezuzah what the mezezah means, on a simple level. This simple level amounts to an encounter with God at every doorway, a wake up call from the empty flow of time. A group of us have taken on the discipline of engaging in this awareness, this encounter, at every doorway.
There are a lot of doors here.

The question of when, how, and if I'm going to leave this place after the holidays is cooking away on the back burner. I'm stirring it, tasting it, letting it keep cooking.

Thank God, I'm deeply lonely for my holy wife, wheresoever she may be.

Heading to Uman for Rosh Hashannah. Why am I spending a week in the middle of the Ukraine with thousands of other Jews? I'm not sure.

Let no one say that I have failed to provide an update.

13 September 2005

To the Chief Musician - a Song

"Everything was created according to its own will"
(Rashi on Genesis 1:25, Hulin 60a, etc.)

The rocks, the trees, the grasses, even the cows, the lions, and the people were asked how they wanted to be created. Each thing we see is singing its song - not a song it was told to sing, but the song it asked to sing, the song it asks to sing. Each person we see is singing the song they ask to sing. Everything and every person is in a constant conversation with God, telling him how they want to be created, singing their song - a great symphony.

10 September 2005


If it was a play, it would be off, off, off, off Broadway, but it's nice anyway.
My piece on heading out to Bat Ayin was published in the Bat Ayin Daff.

Coming in...

I walked past the blue fence at the entrance to Bat Ayin Yeshiva this past Friday and realized that it was the first time I had left the yeshiva since I had arrived on Sunday morning. I want to give you a taste of what it's like out here, just a small sweet taste.

The yeshiva is a beautiful place. It's situated on the western edge of the range of hills that Jerusalem sits on, and commands a view over the foothills and plain of Israel. At night, you can see the lights of Tel Aviv. When the sun sets, it sets into the blue band of the Mediterranean, providing one of the only ways to tell sea from sky.

The yeshiva consists of a collection of prefab housing units that we on this side of the world call 'caravans.' In between the caravans are dirt paths, stone steps, grape vines, and fruit trees offering figs, pomegranates, and apples. I commented about the environs of the yeshiva that, 'It doesn't hurt that it's beautiful out here.' Barya responded, 'you can eat breakfast off of the trees.' And we do.

I wasn't expecting a whole lot from my living quarters, and I didn't get a whole lot. I'm not complaining at all; I just want to paint the picture. When I walked in to the caravan where my room was supposed to be, I mistook the door to my room for a couple pieces of broken wood leaning against the wall. I think my room used to be a bathroom or a kitchen, because there are pipes coming out of the floor. There are a small handful of holes in the ceiling, and the walls are makeshift leanings of boards at strange angles. I love it. Avi commented that my room is something that Reb Zusia would be happy to live in.

What happens in this place doesn't depend on luxurious surroundings at all. It could be that the lack of luxury filters out those who haven't quite figured out the correct priorities in such matters.

Every yeshiva has classes in Talmud, some have classes in Bible, Jewish Thought, Prayer. Bat Ayin doesn't differ dramatically in this regard, but it is different. I'm trying to put my finger on what the difference is. Is it the passion that the students have? Is it the way prayer here can jump and spark like a flame? Is it the way that some of the Rabbis faces are always on fire with joy? Is it that the yeshiva gets together for a Thursday night shmooze, and someone mentions that they have some wood, and 10 minutes later we're all around a camp fire? Is it the way the honest search for meaning, for joy, for God, is respected and encouraged?

What it comes down to is a feeling of life - real, honest, painful, searching, joyous, life. I'm diggin' it.

It's been one week, and I only have a few weeks left.

Stay tuned.

Grand Entrance