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?