28 December 2006

Snow and Fire

West Bank Covered in Snow - A Spiritual Fire Erupts
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18 December 2006


Been spending my evenings crying. Somehow the stoic disposition which I have spent years cultivating has not been the divestment of wild emotion that it was advertised to be, but really just a way of avoiding all of those things that were too messy to deal with. Well, they've delt with me, in the form of a chronic exhaustion, and I have to put myself through remedial school in how to be human. Mysterious tiredness upon examination reveals itself as a detachment of self from self, a running away.

Away I'll run no more!

Dragons beware!

I'm on the march!

16 December 2006


Amazing deep heartrending glorious light fantastic work to do
and here I am drawn in by chess and tastless cookies, biographies of madmen and internet wanderings.

19 November 2006

What we Carry

Often thought that the things in my bags and pockets shed n light on somehow my essence, or at least paint a staccato picture of my inner world.

Wallet with it's credit cards, string of IDs over time, frequent flyer cards, a few different currencies
Bags with siddurim, pain killers, lots of water.
Shlepping back from the States with - favors - a Fender '67 Strat, three boxes of Bran Buds, and two packages of corn holders.
Celebrate, from time to time, that my pockets are no longer the place of lighters and cigarettes, contraband, and the means of its administration.
A box of a house packed in with holy books, vinyl records, a guitar I don't play, and too many computers.

Looking for an empty bag now, Ignorance by far the more valuable than knowledge.

06 November 2006

Dynamic Tension at 90 kph

So out here in the Wild West Bank there's a culture of hitchhiking. A finger pointed down means local, a finger out means long distance. There's almost always someone on the road. Since I have a car, I usually stop. But something bothers me about it. Nothing in the culture; I think it's beautiful. It's not the danger of it either, not exactly. It's that as soon as I have a hitchhiker in my car, I'm tense. The best I can formulate is that I'm socially tense. I am keenly aware of the person in the car.

I picked up a young woman tonight (okay, so she was cute, that's mostly immaterial to the progression of our story.) I made a touch of small talk, and then the silence set in. I felt the tension, palpable. It has a similar flavor every time - nothing accidental, nothing really to do with who the other person is, clearly coming from me.

I decided to face it. I pulled out my psycho-spiritual tool bag. I acknowledged it, the tension, gave myself some sympathy, stepped outside it, then a new tool - sat in the tension in a light meditation of not knowing - active not knowing, real open ignorance, then consciousness of God's name, God's presence, in everything, in me, in the the young woman next to me, in this feeling, in this tension, all the time not knowing - not needing to know.

A realization - when someone gets in your car in the West Bank, for all of the assumed nonchalance of it, they are offering you a deep trust. It creates a bond, a deep bond, a trust of life. But really - they don't know you. You're just a guy driving a car. There's a connection and no connection, a bond and no bond, a trust and a strangeness. The conversations that happen in a car seldom get to the level of intimacy that has to be present for the person to step through the door and sit down. That's the tension.

I was so excited, I told the young woman.

Now that I'm writing about it, I think it might also be the weirdness in a lot of perfunctory relationships. The salespeople in stores, the guys handing out flyers in the street. They all have eyes, souls, and the flitting relationships are an ill-fitting mask for the deep currents that underlie all human contact. It's just more pronounced in a closed car in the Wild West Bank.

18 September 2006


I'm working it in. Can't not. Thank God. So so so so important.
Still struggling with the early morning wrestle.

17 September 2006

Set Adrift in Foreign Lands

Some people are set on fire by slichot (the penitential prayers leading up to Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur.) The best I usually do is slog through them. I'd be much more open to some sort of active exploration of how to improve myself and what I've done wrong in the past - almost any sort of searching. The heavy poetry and page after page of words words words doesn't do it for me. I've got to set aside time to do the real work of Tshuva, but with early morning slichot and a full schedule - how am I supposed to work it in?

Yours truly,
Searching in Jerusalem

29 August 2006

On Sexuality

After reading MCAryeh's incendiary post on homosexuality and orthodoxy, I felt the need to throw in my opinion. I agree with his support of the individuals involved as people. I admire his listening and his care.

However, just looking at the issue in itself...

Where do we find that a person has a god-given right to have sex with who they are attracted to?

For the past nine years, while I have been halachically observant, attracted to women, and unmarried - I haven't had any sexual relationships. This is not for any lack of desire, trust me. That's the way the law goes.

And there's reason to the law. Sexual contact has an enormous power to damage individuals, corrupt societies, and twist the world to fit its animalistic image.

I saw the world it created as I grew up a sexually active teenager in a sexually driven society.

The law aims to contain a volatile force - allow its positive expression, but keep it from finding its full, and damaging, expression.

Is the attraction to people of the same sex natural? Sure. Is a strong sexual attraction normal? I don't think it's terribly rare. Is the expression of that sexual attraction helpful in any way to the individuals involved or society? I strongly doubt it.

I think that for a Torah Jew, the homosexual act is like any other act of conscious breaking with halacha. Generally, it serves immediate desires and does long term damage.

Am I dooming the person who can't bear to think of heterosexual sex to live a sexless life? Uhh, yeah. I've been there. It's liberating.

It's part of the damage that rampant sexuality has done that we think this is a fate worse than death.

20 August 2006

Me' Bookish Lad

Tagged by MCAryeh w/ the book meme that's floating around. (I still haven't made good on the four meme that he tagged me with. Do memes have a shelf life? I hope so.) Throughout, I take 'one' to mean 'one or more.'

1. One book that changed your life?
Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, Gershom Scholem
It's a long story, but in short - 3am inspired by the Chassidei Ashkenaz gave up smoking for good and found the passageway out of rock-bottom.

2. One book you have read more than once?
I haven't read it cover to cover, but I often reference and re-reference
A Treasury of Chassidic Tales, Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin
R. Zevin (who is best known for the still-in-production Encyclopedia Talmudit) put together this collection of Chassidic tales. He wrote that he only included stories for which he had a reputable line of transmission. The included indexes are a priceless help. Every single character that appears in any story has a capsule biography in the back and a complete list of every story he appears in. Great for getting to know somebody. This was originally written in Hebrew, but was blessed with a great translation to English. The indexes are also translated (and if memory serves, the English indexes may be even more informative than the Hebrew.)

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
A Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander, et al.
Christopher Alexander and his gang of cohorts explore patterns of building, from countries to cities to cobblestones to corners. If I'm going to be on a desert island, I might as well start to develop the place, no?

4. One book that made you laugh?
* Nearly every book from Mark Helprin. If you're the type of person who tunes in on his frequency, he's a god-send.
* Nearly every poem from Hafiz - how can any soul not collapse in joy?

5. One book that made you cry?
Errr. Movies can make me cry. Stories. Maybe Songs. I can't remember a book that made me cry.

6. One book you wish had been written?
Thoughts On The Novel I've Been Working On Forever And Have Now Finished - MCAryeh

7. One book you wish had never been written?
We get to a theological knot with this one. I can't wish non-existence on anything that exists without violating my belief in the unity of God.
That being said, as a teenager, I disliked Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry with a passion.
We spent ages with this book in high school. I made all sorts of plans on how to destroy it in creative ways. I don't remember what foul fate my copy met with in the end.
It could be that the book is fine, but just became the embodiment of my visceral teenage dislike of the French language.

8. One book you are currently reading?
* Generation to Generation, Avraham Yehoshua Twerski
* Kaddish, Leon Wieseltier

9. One book you've been meaning to read?
Ok, I'm going to spin this off into the Wish List Meme - Scrape your wish list from Amazon, and post it up. No censoring. My list has some entries on it that have to be at least 5 years old. It's not so much what I want to read as what I have wanted to read in the past (and never read.)

* The History of Love: A Novel, Nicole Krauss
* The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov, Yitzak Buxbaum
* Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants: Timeless Wisdom on Being a Man, Elliott Katz
* Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande
* The Systems Bible: The Beginner's Guide to Systems Large and Small, John Gall
* Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern, Douglas R. Hofstadter
* Striving Towards Being: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Czeslaw Milosz

So that's that!

I'm turning around and taggin MCAryeh with the wishlist meme, and I'll trust him to make it into the biggesting thing since root beer.
I'd like to see what sort of literary treats Wanderin' Stu serves up as well.

18 August 2006

Radio America

Driving from Westborough to Connecticut scanning the radio constantly - classic rock, country, hollow-pop, rear-view-vibrating-drum-and-bass. Realizing that I don't like most of what's on the radio, and thinking about what sort of music I do like.

I like soul music, and when I say soul, I mean music that comes up out of a place so deep that the player is amazed, at wonder, and full of thanks that he was given the opportunity to be the channel for this God-stuff - music that comes up from the depths, comes down like rain, or rips you open and leaves you breathless, crying.

I like exploration music - wondering what would hey happen if we jammed a little violin over this synth track, beat-box-harmonic, fusion, fantasy, tone-poems.

Fun is also good, time to time, switching up the rhythms, tapping on the lines of connection, breaking the fourth wall, playing with the medium, goin' into a little self-ironic brainspace.

And we can't forget beauty - masterworks, craftsmanship, those echoes of eternity somehow woven into metered measures by angels come in the form of men.

So that's it - it's gotta be real, or beautiful, or groundbreaking, or playful. Otherwise, why should I tune in just to be manipulated, drained, pandered to, or marketed?

Maybe it all comes down to one thing - it's gotta be alive.

13 August 2006

Shaken Loose and Reforming

About two months ago by landlord called me up and let me know that he needed me to leave my apartment. I'm happy to say that from the first moment, thank God, I looked at it as an opportunity.

I had such a great apartment...

that it would have taken a whole lot for me to shake myself out of there; this gave me the nudge that I apparently needed.

A lot of folks have passed through the old place. It had a great location, and a lot of space for people to crash out when they needed to. When I first looked at it, more than 3 years back, the sweet old woman who owns the place told me to go up and see if it 'found grace in my eyes.' It found grace in my eyes.

But there I was, out on the tiles. I started tossing around a couple of ideas. Rent again in the neighborhood? Look into buying a place in Jerusalem? Maybe move out to Bat Ayin. Hey, yeah - maybe move out to Bat Ayin.

I gave Rav Yehoshua a call and we started throwing around ideas of how I could make my way out to Bat Ayin. Turns out there's a rule on the books that says a single person can't live in the community, but the yeshiva has a sort of exemption to that policy. Barring major effort, I'd have to find a place in the Yeshiva. Probably best that way, anyway.

Now the problem is, the normal dorm rooms aren't exactly designed for guys like me who have taken on the roles of amateur scholar, geek, and housewife and come fully loaded with things like ovens, computers, and a whole world full of books. The place I crashed in last year wasn't quite going to do it.

So we started looking at the caravans out there, thinking maybe I could fix one of them up, and move myself and all of my craziness in there.

This one just screams out "potential", no? It did for me.

We lined up a contractor, and I started taking measurements. I have a love for all things design, and I stared having fun.

We got to work.

I was really fixated on a window. The above picture is of the wall that faces the view you see two pictures back. It's one of the best views in the world...but there's no window.

So I got down to business.

Worrying about small panes, low sills, the golden ratio, structural support, opening, air, etc. etc. etc.

I ended up with this window.

And then a big hole in the wall

When it came to the final decisions, worrying about price and timing, I had to scale back the fancy plan, a bit.

Meanwhile I'm packing everything into boxes. The first wave of boxes, everything was well organized, books boxed by theme, clothes by season, etc. By the end of it, I'm packing boxes like these:

Every few days I schelp'd out another carload of boxes and stuck 'em in a room I grabbed for the purpose, all the while scheming how all of this stuff would fit.

We went over schedule a bit, and had to do work during the nine days, the period leading up to Tisha B'Av, when the first and second temples were both destroyed. During this time, we don't generally look for projects to do. Since I was going to be out on the streets, and this was not a superfluous dwelling, we had reason enough to continue. I made sure to leave a spot unpainted...

After about a month's worth of work, the caravan's starting to look good.

And I'm on the move.

We moved the last load from Jerusalem last Monday, and I've been spending the week unpacking and sorting, forming and reforming. Digging the view and the sun and the small group of great folks holding down the fort out here for the summer.

The place is starting to come together.

Right now there are three rooms - living room/kitchen, bedroom, and dumping-ground-for-everything-else-room. I'm hoping to improve on that last one.

I'm really exited about the opportunity to be out here, in God Country, investing and encountering and experiencing and, with God's help, shaking some more assumptions loose to be able to grow beyond the boundaries of my current conceptions.

11 August 2006

Great Titles

The Book of Knowledge
The Book of Love
The Book of Time
The Book of Women
The Book of Holiness
The Book of Vows
The Book of Seeds
The Book of Service
The Book of Encounters
The Book of Purity
The Book of Damage
The Book of Aquiring
The Book of Judgement
The Book of Judges

Great titles, no?

So what do you think these are?

03 August 2006

Seven Alphabets of Why

It's about having a vision of what should be, and mourning that reality falls so far short of the vision. Tisha B'Av is about being in love with Zion and dying that she's still, in some ways, in ruins. It's mourning the people we should be, but aren't.

I went to the funeral, today, of Michael Levin. It was terrible and heart breaking and beautiful and tragic. His unit was there with the paratrooper's red berets, eyes of battle, some in casts, many probably headed back to battle. His family was there in a strange nightmare coming off of the plane to their dead son and men in uniform commending him in a language they couldn't understand. A lot of us came out not because we knew him, but because somehow, on a deeper level, we needed to know him. We were there for him? We were there for ourselves?

A friend of his from kibbutz said that the two of them had been talking a month ago, asking why it is that the good ones, the real strong ones, always seem to be the ones who die. Michael said, "Maybe the real war is up there, and God needs 'em"

God Speed, Michael. God Speed.

24 July 2006

Sparks of Return

Ahhh. Familiar shoes.
[Interesting world familiar. It looks like it's a cousin of 'family'. What could be more familiar than family?]

Sitting in Jerusalem, feeling not very threatened at all by the war up north. Have to keep in mind what's a-brewin' so as to keep myself praying for our soldiers and our nation. Spent last week in the States, amazed by how much coverage our tussle gets. I wonder if they know why they pay so much attention to what goes on here. They probably think it's the oil. I think that there's a collective awareness, usually subconscious, that Israel is extra-historic. It's beyond history, beyond reason. People sense that what's happening here is the most important thing that could possibly be happening; they intuitively know that this is the center of the world.

So here I am returning to writing on these pages. What drew me back? A drive to write. I haven't been writing at all. Somehow this here blank screen gives me a push of motivation. It would be better if I wrote without the drive of people seeing what I write, but I don't think I'm there right now. I need something to write on up against.

Got a call about two months back that I have to leave my apartment, and with all the strings cut loose and the options open turned around and around and decided to head on out to Bat Ayin, this time for a longer stint. I'm refurbishing an old caravan there. The whole project called out my latent love for design, and I've been rolling around loving the sketching and measuring and plotting and getting re-acquainted with a pattern language and all this for a little caravan. I may have gone overboard. It's two more weeks to moving day and today I was out there watching all of the spackling and painting and drilling and admiring the new big hole that's been knocked in the wall for the window.

I'm looking forward to being out in nature, and I'm looking forward to being ten feet from the Beit Midrash, and I'm hoping that we'll be able to put together a fire burning presence of God group of wily holy geniuses out there to set the place alight.

God Speed and Good Grace to all the readers. Stay strong.

14 June 2006

The Graveyard

Interesting that old blogs don't get buried, it seems. They lay neglected in their latest forms as monuments to the life they once had. Sad, really. I bounce back to blogs that used to be alive periodically, just to see if anyone has posted a last waltz...another last waltz.

I've had ideas for writing here, but it feels like the age has past.

Strange this thing.

I'm not sure why I came in, and I'm not sure why I'm leaving.

17 April 2006

Who Knows Ten?

Ten years ago this Pesach - the first time I'm away from home for Pesach. In school. A cute red-head who has an Israeli flag on her ceiling arranges places for the two of us for seder at the Hillel house. She bails out; I wander in to the Chabad house, thinking it must be the right place - cuz' that's where the Jews are at. As we get up to wash our hands, one of the fellows in black asks my name and on the spot tells me that my name has numerical value 32, and there are 32 paths of wisdom in Jewish mysticism.

Jewish Mysticism?

Next semester I'm in a course titled 'Jewish Mysticism.' Fear and trembling in the student union. Hooked in by a midrash. Learning about the Chassidei Ashkenaz in the tender pre-dawn hours of morning and putting away my cigarettes, for good.

Nine years ago Pesach is the last time I made seder at my parent's house.

Eight years ago Pesach - having given up a host of other vices, cleaning for Pesach, clean out the treif along with chametz.

Seven years ago Pesach - in a kosher apartment. Cleaning for Pesach almost cleans me out - exhausted. Make seder for my family (and friends).

Six years ago, before Pesach - in the holy land. I'm asking whether I should be keeping one day or two. "You have to make the decision - where are you? Are you a Ben Eretz Yisrael, or a Ben Hu"L?" I wrestle. I visit Florida. It's clear. I keep one day.

Five years ago Pesach - still in Yeshiva.

Four years ago Pesach - I'm in Israel, working for a living, staying in Israel in spite of it all. I hear a bomb explode on the second day.

Three years ago Pesach - I'm in my own apartment. The holy rolling MCA is there. Friends crash out on the couches. We pray sunrise at the Kotel.

Two years ago Pesach - in my apartment in Israel. My parents come to stay. We clean, make Pesach together, eat off of plastic plates.

One year ago Pesach - we drink the fifth cup.

And this year? And this year?

May it be a redemption for us all.

06 April 2006

What is your Passion?

When my father counsels people about their career choices, he asks them, "What's your Passion?"

It's a deep, deep question.

I'm busy wrestling with the distinct feeling that I'm compromising on my life. That I am not shooting for the great, but settling for what is merely good. The ironic, and terrible, part of it all is - I have no idea what the great is. I don't really know what I want to do.

So I'm chewing on this. What is my passion? How is it that a person can not even know what their passion is, what it is they care about, enjoy? But I'll give myself a little bit of forebearence as I admit that I really don't know.

I'm praying that God breathes some life and vision into this soul, and puts some real flesh on these dry bones.

Hey now Momma, I got no idea, but that won't stop from rollin' along and prayin' for light and life and lessons in love, love and dancing and drumming on the walls of the heart, land, country! God!

So what is your passion?

30 March 2006

Passing Over

Passover cometh, what with all of us in need of freedom - freedom of soul, freedom of body - freedom from thinking that we are already free.

The Ba'al Shem Tov talks about darkness within darkness, where it's so dark, you don't even know it's dark - you think it's broad daylight.

Awareness that we get trapped by our situations, our preconceptions, our very framework of understanding - this awareness arouses the taste for freedom, the desire for freedom.

It's all about wanting it.

If you don't want it, you can at least WANT to want it, and if that fails (R' Simcha Bunem tells us) you can WANT to WANT to want it.

May we all be blessed to come on out of slavery - to WANT freedom - to hang on to the life line that God throws us this month and get pulled on out of all of our traps and masters - physical, mental and emotional.

May it be his will...

11 March 2006

Walking with the Maggid

A childhood acquaintance of Rav Dov Ber, the Great Maggid of Mezeritch, once approached him with a question.

"Dov Ber", he began, with no honorific, "why do you daven for so long? I mean, you take forever to daven. I also daven with the mystical intentions of the Arizal. Does it take me that long to daven? No. You daven forever! What's going on?"

The Maggid responded, "You're a businessman, right?"


"And you go to the yearly fair in Leipzig, right?"


"So let me tell you what to do. This year, when the time for the fair comes, close your eyes, picture yourself loading up the wagon, picture yourself rolling along the roads, coming into the fair, selling what you need to sell and buying what you need to buy, and then picture yourself going home."

"What, are you crazy? I need the merchandise!"

"Ahhh", says the Maggid, "So do I...I need the merchandise."

I've been walking with that story for the past few weeks.

It can be easy for me to let the lessons I learn stay in my head, but never really integrate them. The Maggid says it flat out - your lip service is cute. Are you getting the merchandise?

I declare at least three times a day "God is One!", but do I act like God is one? Do I really believe it? When something doesn't fit my little world, do I get my fool self out of the way and make space for God's reality? Do I have space for God in my life, or do I just have space for the little plastic god that I've carved out for myself, that fits so neatly into its little plastic place?

May we all be blessed to learn the holy teachings with our whole beings, not just with our heads. May we be blessed to walk with the teachings, integrating them into our lives, and may our insides and our outsides be unified.

07 March 2006

A Little Bit about Dreams

Here we are, many days since last post. My little cluster of blog brothers have been slowing down lately. Seasonal affective disorder? Better things to do? Dunno.

I've been happily busy. Working, learning, trying to organize a non-profit, davening to dream and dance and hope and love and give and grow, reading about Benjamin Franklin in the bathroom (that's where I read about him, not the topic I read about.)

But what, you may ask, is really on your mind? Well, I'll tell ya'. I'm thinking about how under God's blue sky I'm going to find my wife. What is it that I have to fix or do or understand or pray for or hope for?

I'm thinking about how the whole process of dating has completely changed the way I view relationships, women, the world, and myself.

I'm thinking about how I've always thought myself to be an intellectual person, and now I'm realizing I can be quite emotional, and then I'm remembering how I used to write love poems before the scary social realities of adolescence squashed all of that out of me, and now it's coming back to blossom.

I'm thinking about those scary social realities, and how they taught me about cruelty, and how only now am I realizing that women can be caring and open and honest and loving and playful and all that, and that the cruelty I met was the cruelty of adolescent girls and not of women (of the cruelty of women, let us not speak.)

I'm thinking of hope - of dreams - of connecting with potential realities and talking to God about it and having God smile and nod and get a little bit of joy every time there's a little bit more light and sweetness in your dreams for the future.

Dream on.

I'm so thankful for this progress and process. I can see how I am the person that I am, and have the dreams and depth and potential for love that I do, because of all this effort. Don't let me get away without admitting that I have more work to do - in being present, in caring, in sacrificing, and in ways I've yet to concieve.

But let me tell you the truth - I'm scared that it's just going to shlep on forever. I don't want to be alone. I don't want to be cooking for myself for the rest of my life (I'd rather cook for someone else.) I want to be there for somebody. I want someone who cares about me. I want to raise a whole mess of kids.

So this is clarifying my dreams.

Good deal.

Are they clear enough yet?


Are they clear enough?

26 February 2006

118 in an 80

...but the cop was nice enough to only ticket me for 113 in an 80 (that's kilometers per hour, not miles.)

Rolled all around this holy land the past few days.
First, down from Jerusalem through the desert to views of the dead sea, left at Jericho and up the Jordan Valley (hitting top speeds above what I was ticketed for, to be sure.) Got turned around in Tiberias, ended up westing, then northing up to Meron. Picked up a couple bearded hitchhikers on the way up. Prayed at the grave of R. Shimon Bar Yohai, stopped at the dried fruit store, and dipped across the valley for Shabbos in
Tzfat -
which is a
for the

Caught up with my two hitchhikers on the way back home. I've got a bug in my head that I want to see the stars, so we take the longer route back home through the desert. Elisha's in front and Shneur's in back. Somewhere around Beit Sha'an, Elisha and I figure out that we were in Mehzbehz and Uman together (note the mention of Israeli Hippy Chassidim.)

Opposite Jericho, we turn off and drive into the wild, looking for stars, but there's still too much light pollution, and all I get is a

which is well worth the price of admission.

Miles Davis rolls us back up to Jerusalem, and here I am standing and typing, not yet unpacked, looking forward to a rest...

21 February 2006

Wondering about in Wanderment

Being in quite a funky frame, as is evinced by the previous post, and possessed with a chunk of free time, I took a trip out to the forest.

Thank God.

The hills are on fire with wildflowers - Fields of pink rakafot, red kolaniot, purple tormusim and wild mustard, along with daffy-dills and dandy-lions. I walked and climbed and got-caught-in-prickers. I said hello to great-grandfather olive trees and oaks that drop acorns that look like little hassidim in their streimels. I had a chance to dance around and talk to God and punch at the air and air out my thoughts and feelings and meditate a touch on how every little thing is from God.

I walked in with trouble and walked out with song.

Thank God.

Thank God.

20 February 2006

Dating Sucks

I'm full-on-sick of being alone and full-on-sick of dating.

It sucks.

I want to be done with it.

I'm reading in Tanya that everything is for the good - that the things that SUCK are actually a higher level of good, so good that they're hidden away from us and all we get is this sense of something BUGGIN' us.

I can see how my years (and years) of dating have carved out the person I am, but it's been a carving and it hurts and I want to be through it already. I know it's for the good, but right now my world is small enough that I just feel like it SUCKS.

That's that.


13 February 2006

The Joy of Light

I made a call to Jew-D to apologize to her that I neglected to pick up laundry detergent for her when I was in the States. (Most of us immigrants are in some way tied back to the countries we came from - laundry detergent, Lactaid pills, Dockers, wool socks...) I gave her the whole rigmarole of how I managed to miss the ball on this one. Turns out she got laundry detergent yesterday anyway, and then she mentions to me (it's Tu B'Shvat) that Meir Abehsera is speaking in the old city.
"Who's Meir Abehsera?"
Shock on the other side of the phone. "You don't know who Meir Abehsera is? Have you lived!?"
So how can I not go? I wash my dishes and put on some presentable clothes and walk through the Jerusalem night to the old city...and Meir Abehsera.

Let me tell you...oh, if only I could tell you.

There's a story about the Karliner Rebbe, where he turns over heaven and earth to stand in front of one old man who saw the Ba'al Shem Tov, who could tell him a story about the Ba'al Shem Tov.

Meir Abehsera, oh!

Meir Abehsera was the Rebbe's Badhan, the Rebbe's jester, his comic, his whistler. He's simple. He's crazy. He gives over the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He doesn't give over his Torah. He gives over the Rebbe. He sets the room on fire and calls out each soul, and lights us all up with love and holy madness and longing and...oh!

I caught a glimpse of the Rebbe tonight. A glimpse like I have never seen.

How can I keep from smiling?

08 February 2006

Passing Through and Falling Over

Back from a 10 or 11 day trip: Jerusalem -> New York/NJ -> Long Island -> Sharon -> Boston -> Connecticut -> Zoetermeer, Holland -> Amsterdam -> Jerusalem. The last 7 days, I've slept in seven different places. I'm standing at my computer now, fit to fall over.

When I get really tired, I have a desire to curl up on an imaginary shelf that sits somewhere around my right shoulder - just to climb up and curl up there.

The trip was for business, at least on the surface. The most interesting parts are what happened around the edges of business, of course. Met up with a whole holy host of old friends, and got to chase a woman who came to Israel to tempt me, and heard some fine, fine, jazz. The weekend was a road trip with MCAryeh, who has already posted an account of the experience. The one part he left out is what a joy it was for me to spend time with him.

I passed through Amsterdam last night, on the way home. I was already running on reserves, so I kept my adventures to a plate of wine-roasted lamb and a walk through the evening streets, so somehow poised and beautiful, amidst even the anarchy for which they are famous.

Now I've returned - to a different sort of busy-ness...

5L and his holy wife fed me dinner even before I unpacked, and now I'm well fed and falling over...signing off...

01 February 2006

The Night Frenetic

New York City blots out the stars with massive banks of gaseous glowing lights.
It puts people on stages and stages and stages and calls them stars.
In the morning it spits out a full bus every 5 seconds from Port Authority.
Every moment of the day the streets are teaming with life.
There are thousands of thousands of people in this massive city,
and the whole thing is but a dust mote on the edge of the galaxy,
a tiny spec in the brain-numbing vastness of the universe.

Everything before the Infinite is as naught.

Moments of beauty here stand out in sharp relief -
An understated and dignified building,
A sleeping child's hand hanging outside the stroller,
Patterns of light and smoke against the night sky,
The first touch of the sun, in winter, on stone.

21 January 2006

A Strange Joint

The last time I was in Amsterdam, it was a question. Should I slide into a coffee house, order a joint, and lean on back into a different head space?

It had been about eight years since I had my last dance with marijuana. I had stopped soon after I quit smoking cigarettes. Everytime I smoked pot, I just wanted to smoke a cigarette, so why bother? When I started listening to a higher law, soon after, I was persuaded that I had to respect the law of the land (nothing had persuaded me of such a thing before.) Marijuana went more or less off the radar. I would think about it periodically, in passing, but never thought to act on it.

In truth, when I was smoking, I didn't enjoy it all that much. It held out an initial promise that was never delivered. It could be that I was too much of a teenage emotional mess to properly appreciate it, it could be that all of us had too many agendas and desires that we were unable to let go of, or it could be that the stuff just ain't all that special. Having left it behind, however, I imaged that there were still some jewels buried there. Some jewels that I just hadn't had the tools to find.

So there I was in Amsterdam. Every time I passed a coffee shop, my heart was drawn in, but I stayed outside. I walked into one place - dark, green, acrid, slow, suspicious, sick - and walked out. There were other places - brighter, with air, deck chairs, chess boards, canal views, and chill tunes - that drew me in a bit more.

I could make a legal case to permit, and there was a serious draw - curiosity, maybe a fixing, maybe an opening, a treasure hunt - yes dangerous, but what isn't? But it was Tammuz, the anti-disengagement protests were happening, my people were torn, and I didn't have a good friend to stand by my side in a holy exploration.

I was in Holland for a handful of days, wavering back and forth. The last day, I had a realization. I wanted to walk into a coffee shop, go up to the bar, look at the menu, order something, pay for it, sit down, roll up a joint, spark it up, smoke it - but I had no interest in being high. It didn't really pull me. I wanted to do all those things that I had always done in hiding, with fear, but in an open way - clean and clear.

In the end, I didn't do it, and I don't regret that choice. It wasn't a time for celebration or exploration. I had the desire, but I don't have to act on my desires. Still, I don't consider the matter closed. It wasn't right then, but it may be right in the future.

I was told last week that I'm likely being sent to Holland again. This time, it looks like Shvat. If it was Adar, it would be pretty straight forward, Shvat's a borderline case. We'll see what happens...

19 January 2006

Just a Taste!

Turned off of blogging a bit by the JIBs. Renergized a bit by MCAryeh's kind nod, which sowed such good vibes back into the this little corner of the blogweb. Thank you.

Was thinking to myself today that it can be such a different experience to be a traveler in a place than to live in a place. I want to be able to write about Jerusalem the way I can sometimes write about a place I pass through, but my relationship to Jerusalem is so much different. In some ways it's so near that I often can't see it. Oftentimes I'm moving so fast I move through it but not in it.

When I daven for Jerusalem I see Jerusalem stone, that rose'd white limestone, building.

Oh! How can I ever do Jerusalem justice? Here I am in her presence these seven years and I don't know her at all! I'm crying. I've ignored her all of this time!

Today walking into the market and it's in pre-Shabbos energy with what the people after work not quite pushing but moving amongst and against each other and a pair of children carrying plastic bags to capacity filled with the best food for Shabbos. People I've known and seen and will know and there are some people who, being here, are not just in Jerusalem, not just in the market, but become Jerusalem, become the market. I feel my way along the alleys, having prayed already, not needing to buy all that much but wanting to walk slowly and to be here, wanting to pray the market. It's changing, becoming just a touch gentrified; vegtables and spices and pita, now clothing and Indian food. On another axis is Uzi the juice man who I pop into having not spoken to in months and present myself a bit to shake his hand and ask him what I should drink and he comes around to serve me a small cup (for just 5 shekel) and tells me it's as good as dinner and I take a little sip and it's a wonder of hot cider clove date sweet sharpness with something that I discover later is mildly psychoactive (and am only now coming off of.) To the natural bakery and an old landlord is there. We discuss the merits of whole wheat and spelt in chocolate chip cookies and I pick up a few and some sprouted wheat bread and a couple sambusaks to turn into dinner. Then the health food store and a few bottles of the Golan apple juice for Shabbos where you can taste the different apples as the seasons turn; the man in the health food store is very much part of the shuk. Rolling along and on the phone figuring out where o' where can we pray together this Friday night. Trying to start a holy fire in all of our hearts to pray in Jerusalem, pray as Jerusalem.


Would that I could give you just a taste!

09 January 2006

The Goods

By what grace was I nominated for a JIB award? Must be I have a friend who favors me. If you've come here, I might as well show you what's worth seeing...

I seem to write best when I'm moving.

Missives from Eastern Europe:
Visiting the Holy Baal Shem
From Mehzbehz to Uman
Uman Uman Rosh Hashannah

Impressions of Amsterdam

and the hills of the Holy Land:
Going out to Country

What else is worth seeing?
Maybe some of the Hasidic stories and portraits:
For The Love Of...
Into The Woods
The Karliner Chassid and The Rich Man
one towards the bottom of a Grab Bag of Light

...and some note on storytelling itself.

That's that... Enjoy yourself!

07 January 2006

Praying for Sharon

I've been wrestling and developing in this. When Sharon went back under the knife Friday afternoon, it hit me - he's just a man. He's just a man fighting for his life.

Also, it's like Mordechai tells Esther - don't think that if you don't do what needs to be done, it won't get done. It'll get done, don't you worry about it. It's about you - are you going to be the one to do it.

So too here. I shouldn't think that God's plan hinges on Sharon living or dying. God's not short on cards to play. Sharon's just a man.

I started to pray for him Friday afternoon - Ariel ben Devorah.

This evening a friend made a beautiful point. When the residents of Gush Katif in Gaza were being dragged out of their homes, even many of those who were pro-evacuation found a place for sympathy, found a place for care, cried with those farmers who were torn away from the land that they sweat and bled into for thirty years. So too here, those who disagree with Sharon's policies can find a place to care, find a place to pray for the man.

06 January 2006

Praying for Sharon?

A few people have asked me if I'm praying for Sharon.
Not a simple question.

Am I praying for Sharon?

I can not sit in judgment on the life of any man.
God heals the sick.
Everything is in his hands.
The sickness of a man,
the rise and fall of a ruler,
the rise and fall of a government,
the enacting or failure of a plan.
Here a man who fought wars,
established communities
and uprooted them
who has been cast in the role of Mordechai
and Haman.
Here a country divided and broken
would he unite it
or drive it to ruin?

Am I praying for Sharon?

I pray that God's will be done,
that all sickness be healed
(sickness of body,
sickness of soul,
sickness of the individual,
sickness of society)
and that we know peace.

And you?

04 January 2006

Dangerous Ideas

Hot on the heels of Chanukkah, where we once again wrestle with the difference between the worldview of Israel (writ-large) and the worldview of Greece, here's a whole holy host of dangerous ideas.

Top scientists where asked -


The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?

117 responded with essays. From what I've seen, they are sometimes scary, often challenging, always interesting.

For those with time on their hands, 2005's question may also be intriguing.


Great minds can sometimes guess the truth before they have either the evidence or arguments for it (Diderot called it having the "esprit de divination"). What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?