Muslim-Zionist Activist: ‘Antisemitism Is the Norm in the Islamic Community, But the World Will Come to Realize Its Mistake About Israel | Jewish & Israel News Algemeiner.com

https://www.algemeiner.com/2016/11/10/muslim-zionist-activist-antisemitism-is-the-norm-in-the-islamic-community-but-the-world-will-come-to-realize-its-mistake-about-israel/

This is an amazing article.  It lights a tiny spark of hope in my heart.

P is for Passover, and also Panic

There are a lot of aspects of Passover that people panic about.  It’s worse than Christmas.  Much worse.

First there are the elaborate preparations.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

There might be people who are not familiar with the Jewish holiday that draws relatives, and any Jewish (or non-Jewish, for that matter) friends, visitors in town, complete strangers….to one’s home and table, to participate in an elaborate ritual celebration of FREEDOM.

The ritual is prescribed by the Hebrew Bible, which commands us to gather at the full moon of the Month of Spring (Aviv), which is the Hebrew month of Nissan, which itself is a variant of the word “nissim,” which means “miracles.”

At this gathering, we are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, when, after ten dreadful plagues, Pharaoh begged Moses to get the Hebrews (whom Pharaoh had enslaved) the hell out of Egypt so they could have some respite from all the different kinds of badness that God was visiting upon the Egyptians.

The Hebrews jumped on this opportunity.  They had just mixed up a batch of bread for themselves, and since they were in such a hurry to leave Egypt before Pharaoh changed his mind, they just stuffed the unleavened dough into sacks, threw it across their backs, made sure it didn’t get wet crossing the Sea of Reeds (even though it split for them, you know how water tends to get into things), and we hear no more about that until we are commanded to sit and eat this stuff for eight days every year.

Since the words “mitzvah (commandment)” and “matzah” are spelled very similarly in Hebrew, Kabbalah teaches that eating matzah is the Number One mitzvah.

Actually, it’s the Number Two mitzvah, number one being “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus learned that in Hebrew School.

Anyway.

What does matzah teach us, to gain such high status in Mitzvah World?

Simple.

That’s it.  Be simple.

What could be more simple than flour and water?

Of course, Jews have a way of making even flour and water complicated, but that’s for another post.

Let me just say that in Orthodox Jewish circles, the object is to cram as much of the Sacred Crunchy Cracker down one’s gullet as possible.

Now, I love matzah.  I mean, I really LOVE matzah.  I could eat nothing but matzah for the rest of my life.

Matzah with butter thinly spread on it, which is a feat in itself because it breaks very easily.

Matzah with horseradish and a sweet kind of relish made of grated apples, walnuts, and wine.  Heaven.

Matzah with pickled herring.  Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

Yep, I can eat a whole box of matzah without even trying.  Munch, crunch!

In Israel, matzah is even yummier because it’s made by hand, very thin, and it’s round, and you can get it made from spelt, which is delicious.

No, there is no blood in matzah.  None.  That would spoil the whole thing.  Matzah that has any additive beside flour and water is disqualified.  So let’s get THAT blood libel off the table.  Literally.

Now, sometime between my becoming Jewishly observant and my second or third year in Israel, I became gluten intolerant.  I didn’t know what it was, at first.  All I knew was that on the Sabbath, we are commanded to eat at least three meals containing bread made from any of the five grains that grow naturally in the Land of Israel: wheat, spelt, rye, oats, and barley.  In my circle, spelt was the most common, and all women were to be found on Thursday night or Friday morning lovingly kneading their Sabbath bread.

Me too.  I often hosted 20 or more people on Friday nights, so lots of bread came out of my toaster oven.  No one has money for a “real” oven in Israel.  It’s amazing what a toaster oven and a hot plate can put out in a pinch….or every week!

Anyway.  I’m procrastinating.  P is for procrastination.

So I began to notice that every Sunday, which comes after our Sabbath, I was spending in the bathroom.  Since our Sunday, at least in Israel where there really isn’t such a thing as a weekend if you’re a religious woman..anyway, since Sunday is a weekday, and you go to work, I started having to cancel patients because I couldn’t get off the toilet.  Usually by Tuesday I’d be fine, but that really screwed everything up for both me and my patients.

But since eating bread on the Sabbath is the main thing, I ate it.  And if you eat a piece of bread the size of an olive (or an egg, depending on things too complicated to go into here), you become obligated to say a blessing that takes a minimum of fifteen minutes, possibly up to an hour if you make a meditation out of it (then you get extra Heaven points, for being extra holy).  It’s an obligation, and a privilege, to be done with concentration and love.

When Passover came around that year, I ordered my huge box of extra-holy matzah, and munched away for the first few days of the eight day holiday….then my munching came to an abrupt halt.  I was forced to realize the disastrous connection between the bread, leavened or unleavened, and the bathroom.

How could this be???  God commanded us to eat this stuff.  And commanded us to bless him for all the good things he does for us, and bread is the proof!

“Ve’ahalta ve’savata u’veirachta et Ha’Shem Elokeicha…”

“And you shall eat, and you shall be satisfied, and you shall bless the Name of Your God…”  The Blessing After Meals says this…so why couldn’t I say it?

And this is the core, the heart, of Jewish ritual observance…because Judaism isn’t something you THINK, it’s something you DO.  Our observance is centered around what the Children of Israel said at Mount Sinai when we received the Torah: “We will DO, and we will HEAR.”  This means that even if we do not understand on an intellectual level what the commandments are about, we do them anyway.

So for me, the paradox of being commanded to eat bread, but the bread making me sick, was incomprehensible.  Why would God command me to do something that made me sick?  Nonsense.  So I kept eating the bread, and got progressively sicker, lost thirty pounds, became anemic, ended up in the hospital bleeding from my ravaged guts and crying out unto the Lord who led us out from Egypt “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm….”  And when I got out of the hospital I realized that my God had either failed me or cursed me or both.

But there was one grain that didn’t contain gluten: oats!

Listen, bread made out of pure oats with nothing added is disgusting.  I did manage to develop a recipe for oat pita for the Sabbath that was edible when washed down with copious amounts of dry red wine.  Fortunately, Israel has a rich and ancient tradition of wine making, and therefore some rich and ancient vineyards that produce gorgeous vintages.  (A friend and I used to make pilgrimages to ancient wine presses, 3000 years ancient!  We always brought a bottle from that region to enjoy…and he brought bread, so he could make the after-blessing…)

Then I learned to make oat matzah, which is super easy, and my Passover blues were gone.

A lot has happened in the meantime, and we’re going to skip over it and fast forward to this year, and this night, which is the third night of Passover, in the year 5776 from Creation.

I wanted to celebrate Passover, so I looked around for a community Seder (the word “Seder” literally means “order,” and connotes the order of the fifteen steps of the Passover ritual celebration, and not just the meal that most people associate with the word).  There was one, so I signed up for it, and got my plans together for making my oat matzah on the grill.  No problem!

But then God got in the way again, by causing someone to steal my camp furniture, and me to ask the management what might have become of it, and them to put me out on the street, quite literally, on the night before the day I had planned to make my matzah, which was the day of the night of the Seder.  I guess I could have made it in the parking lot of the truck stop where I slept that night, but to be honest I was so rattled I didn’t think of it….

That is, until I walked into the huge hall filled with Jews from all over the world who had gathered in tiny Flagstaff, drawn from places like Sedona and Las Vegas, to eat matzah, drink wine, and do the annual spiritual pilgrimage to Egypt and back to Freedom of the Mind and Soul.

I was decked out in a muted version of my Passover finery, minus the outrageous headgear, shoes, scarves, jewelry…since I have lead my family’s Seder for the past ten years, my rule is “I’m running this show, so I get to wear what I want.”

It probably wouldn’t have helped.

The “ikar,” the MAIN THING, the WHOLE POINT, of the Seder, is to eat the matzah and drink four cups of wine.  If you do nothing else, eat the matzah and drink the wine.  And I had no matzah.

And suddenly, with that realization, I became aware of the noise…the smell…the presence….of all these people, all these Jewish people who were all going on a spiritual journey through the medium of BREAD AND WINE, and I was there, but I was not going…the train was leaving without me.

“DAH LEHEM OHNI…this is the Bread of Affliction that my Foremothers brought out from Egypt…” the leader intones while holding up a piece of matzah.

Ohni…an Aramaic word meaning “of affliction…”  but in Hebrew, it translates, “MY affliction.”

MY affliction.  The bread of MY affliction.

Suddenly I knew that if I didn’t get out of there, and NOW, I was going to throw up in my fancy fake silver plastic plate.  I took advantage of it being a point in the ritual where everyone is lined up to wash their hands from special lavers, and I snaked my way through the crowd and out the door to my van, which the rabbi had graciously given me permission to park in the Jewish Community Center parking lot for the weekend.

I am sorry to say that I wasn’t able to make myself go to the rabbi’s home for dinner the following night, either.  I felt terrible, because being invited to the rabbi’s home is a huge honor.  But the thought of dealing with people–ANY people–terrified me.  And especially–ESPECIALLY–the black-and-white Orthodox mode of dress, the segregation of the sexes, the hordes of properly dressed children charging around in a frenzied pack (Orthodox children are rarely disciplined, yet somehow morph into polite and kind young people at the age of 12 for girls, 13 for boys.  This is a mystery).

And, of course, I would have to answer thousands of questions.  No, no, and no.  I just couldn’t face it.

So I stayed one more night in the JCC parking lot, grateful for the stand of young trees in the landscaping, since the incoming cold front brought with it a roaring wind.

Now I’m back on the Coconino Plateau, feeling uncomfortably unwashed, since I didn’t have a chance to fill my fresh water tank before being ejected from the KOA.  I’ll be here another night, since there’s a high wind advisory for tomorrow too.  When that’s over, I hope to go Somewhere Else…hopefully to Canyon de Chelly, where I can talk to the Ancient Ones who built the cliff dwellings there….maybe they can tell me why my journey to my roots has brought me so much Bread of Affliction.

Iran Launches Long-Range Missiles Emblazoned With Slogan: ‘Israel Should Be Wiped Off The Face Of The Earth’

http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/9078.htm

Please click on the link, read, and watch the video.  You don’t need to read Farsi or Arabic or Hebrew, since it’s translated, but I’m a fan of original language since things do get left out in translation.

Many of the larger Grad (Russian) and other Iranian built missiles that have been launched out of Gaza since 2008 have had “love letters” from Iran stamped all over them.  Literally, stamped, so you can read them on the bodies of the exploded missiles.

In fact, more than one container ship has been stopped in the Suez Canal, full of Iranian “home missile kits” which, when fully assembled, make nice big missiles with warheads full of ball bearings, to do the most damage to whoever gets in the way.  Fortunately, there aren’t many habitable areas in Israel, so most of the missiles land in inhabited areas, or on the poor Bedouins who are really the ones who got screwed when they were forced out of their nomadic life in North Africa.  Like so many others, they took refuge in Israel, but since Israel is the size of Delaware, there’s not much space for them to wander.  So they get hit with missiles meant for Jews.

The concept of getting rid of Jews is not new to the world.  What is disturbing to the Jewish soul is that the Muslim world seems not to care that if they blow up Israel, millions of their Muslim brethren will also perish.  Is that the way to solve the bickering over who “owns” the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean?  Wipe it out?  Clean the slate?  Ridiculous, doesn’t it sound that way?  Could never happen?

Well, history shows otherwise.  Even modern history, going on right now.  The wars in the Middle East have been raging on for decades, and I am not talking about Israel/Palestine/Jordan/Lebanon/Egypt.  I am talking much, much bigger players and bigger numbers: Iran/Iraq/Afghanistan/Syria, of which Serbia/Kosovo is an extension.

The reality on the ground in terms of weapons supply chain is:

Russia>>Iran>>Syria>>Hezballah, Iran>>Hamas/Fatah.

Now there is the new factor of the “Islamic State,” which is turning the ideals of Shari’a law on its head by doing things that are theoretically permitted but never done, at least not since the 7th century, specifically, capturing, using, and selling sex slaves from “enemy/infidel tribes,” specifically the Yazidis.

I’ll explain the Yazidi situation in another post, since I don’t want to get too much farther off track here.

The point I want to make is that in getting rid of Israel, Iran will happily take out millions of Muslims, not only in the West Bank and Gaza, but also in Egypt, Lebanon, and, of course, whatever’s left of Syria.

We Hebrews have our own beliefs about this process of extermination of our own people, which has been going on for thousands of years.

But for the Jewish mind, there is no way to understand a people who are willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of their own brothers and sisters all over the world, just to get rid of everybody else. 

Dying On The Low Road

bs”d

When I walked into Dad’s room at the nursing home, he was writhing in agony and moaning.  He had succeeded in getting his hospital gown off, and was working on the rest of his attire–his diaper–and had the bedclothes tightly twisted around his legs so they stuck out at an unnatural angle.

I threw off my backpack and ran to him.

“Hi Dad, what’s wrong?”  I unravelled the sheets and put his top back on him.  He grabbed my hand and smiled, kissed my hand over and over, then a pain struck him and he rolled from side to side, moaning.

“Where does it hurt, Dad?”

He managed to get his good hand up to his head.

“You have a headache?”

Nods.  He has a hell of a concussion after his horrid fall a month or so ago.  I can relate, having had several bad concussions.  They give you a headache for a long time.

“OK, let me get the nurse to give you some Tylenol (Acetaminophen, Acamol, Paracetamol, etc.).  That will help your headache.

He looked at me skeptically, but assented with his eyes.

Since his last fall, Dad, who had been having difficulty speaking after a number of small strokes in the speech area of the brain, is now “locked in.”  He can understand a lot of what is said around him, but he is unable to produce meaningful speech.  It’s a horrible state to be in.

The nurse was very busy passing pre-dinner meds, but she knows my dad, and if he says he is in pain, he is.  She crushed up the tablets in applesauce and I fed it to him.  It tasted vile, and he gagged on it.  At least I was able to get some water into him, in the form of big mouthfuls to wash the taste of the nasty medicine out of his mouth.

The Tylenol did take his headache away, but it didn’t fix whatever was causing him to writhe and groan.

I called his nurse, and we made the joint decision to give him his morphine, which he has on order every 4 hours if needed, and it was clearly needed.

Thankfully, the morphine was just a few drops from a tiny syringe.  It seemed to help for half an hour or so, then the writhing and groaning began again.

I searched my mind and looked at the picture with soft vision.  I saw it.  He had to go to the bathroom!

I asked him.  “Maybe,” he says.

I called the Nurse Assistants, and the put him on the commode.  I stepped out for modesty’s sake.  Jewish children are forbidden to look upon their parents’ nudity, as we learn very early in the Torah where Noah gets drunk and takes off all his clothes.  One of his sons looks into his father’s tent, sees him lying there drunk and naked, and laughing, tells his two brothers.  The brothers get a blanket and, throwing it over their shoulders, back into their father’s tent and, not looking at him, drop the blanket on top of him, to cover his nakedness.  So I do not stay in the room whenever the nurses are doing anything that normally we consider private.

Now that we have opened the Jewish Thing, I want to talk about a concept that has been Jewish and Vedic and I don’t know what else, for 5,000 years more or less, that has recently been backed up by medical specialists in the art of assisting dying people.  Yes, there are such physicians.  They minister to hospice patients, for the most part.

The Jewish tradition, backed up by medical observation, is that there are two roads to death: the High Road, or easy death, like people who simply up and die in their sleep, just go to bed like normal and don’t wake up.  We call that “mavet be’neshikah,” or death by a kiss.  Whose kiss?  The kiss of the Master of the Universe, who says, “it’s time to come home now,” and that’s that.  Aharon ha’Kohen and Moshe Rabbeinu both went that way.  I pray that all of us go that way.

People who die like that have finished their soul’s purpose on Earth and will not reincarnate, usually, unless it is into a body that just needs a bit of  touch-up.  These are the babies who die very young, or in the womb after 4 months gestation.

Death on the low road is another thing entirely.  It is a slow and painful death, one that makes the sufferer long for the relief of suffering that death brings.  It seems as if the soul is having a struggle with the Malach ha’mavet–the Angel of Death.  They beat themselves up dying, like a moth beats itself to death on a lightbulb.  It’s not that they don’t want to die, although some of them struggled against Death out of fear of what awaits them on the Other Side.

My father is one of these.  He is a World War II Veteran, and saw and did some horrific things.  He is terrified that he will be held accountable for these actions, which he deeply regrets and spends each night living them over (he has classic PTSD), such that sometimes my mother would have to go sleep in the guest room in order to avoid being a partner in hand-to-hand combat.

The unfortunates who get Death on the Low Road suffer and suffer, and experience all of the unpleasantness and pain of slow death, even to the end, where they have the agonies of air hunger, hallucinations, thick secretions, and even seizures.

What does this mean?

In the Jewish mystical tradition, Death by the Low Road means that the apparently unfortunate sufferer is actually engaged in a process that completes and cleanses the soul from the difficult life it’s been through, and the suffering atones for misdeeds done in life, even if they had a good outcome.

For instance, my father once walked up a small hillock that happened to be on the battlefield of Alsace-Lorraine, and on reaching the top, found himself looking straight into the eyes of a German SS soldier.  For a brief moment, the two teenagers looked into each other’s eyes and saw…themselves.  They saw normal young men who liked to drink beer and chase skirts.  In other circumstances, they might have been buddies.  Then the German pulled his duty pistol, and my father ran him through with his bayonet before the other teenager could fire a shot.

To this day my father regrets that action.  He really, really regrets it.  And by taking the Low Road out, that necessary transgression will be cleansed and forgiven, so that his next incarnation will not be dealt with as that soldier was dealt.  We are held accountable for our deeds, for better or worse, and the blemishes in our pure original souls that these deeds cause must be repaired in one way or another.  This kind of Death is one way of doing it, and in the end it is a much more pleasant way of repairing one’s Godly soul.

But we can’t know.  Take me, for instance.  I did some pretty unsavory things as a young person, and even as an older person.  None of these were intentional or premeditated, and most of it was due to my undiagnosed, untreated Bipolar Disorder.  Yet according to our tradition, these blemishes must be cleansed in some way.

With the Days of Awe, from Rosh ha’Shanah  (the Jewish New Year, the Day of Judgement) through Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement, almost upon us, I am trying to make a Heshbon Nefesh, a close examination of my character and deeds, so that I may, through the Days of Awe repent of my misdeeds, whether intentional, whether accidental, whether hidden or revealed, please my G-d look into my heart and find it clean.

And please, please, Master of the Universe, grant me a judgement for a Death on the High Road, b’neshikah.

As it turned out, Dad’s pain was indeed caused by stomach cramps.  After relieving his intestines of their burden, he fell into an exhausted sleep.

I took my leave then, fiercely warning all of his nursing staff NOT to wake him for vital signs or anything else until the next time they had to turn him in the bed, another two hours.  Whether they did that is anyone’s guess, because Dad can’t tell me.  God help us all.

Jewish Geneology

The lovely Gimpet of Repressed Expressions has been encouraging me to write something Jewish.  It hadn’t crossed my mind, really, because it’s so much a part of who I am that I don’t think about sharing it with others unless somebody asks me specifically.  I have no qualms about sending people translations of Psalms and parts of the Torah (Hebrew Bible) though, so I guess that constitutes sharing.

That’s enough of an introduction, so let’s dive into the meat of this material.  My goal in this post is to show you how the Hebrews came to be a people, and how the different Abrahamic faiths split off from a common root.

That root was Abraham, whose original name was Abram.  Actually it was Avram, but the “v” is changed for a “b” in translated Christian Bibles because in the first translations into Greek and then Latin, the translators didn’t know that the little dot inside the Hebrew letter for “b” makes it “v” and not “b”.

Avram lived in Ur Kasdim, which is thought to have been somewhere in Iraq.  At that time, everybody worshiped idols, including his father Terakh.  (In Hebrew there is a gutteral sound like the “ch” in “Bach.”  I’m going to spell it “kh” because in Middle Eastern Hebrew it’s a softer sound.)  At the age of three Avram received a message from Above enlightening him that there is only one God, whose name is Y-H-V-H and is forbidden to pronounce.  We don’t know how to pronounce it anyway.  That knowledge was lost thousands of years later when the Hebrews were exiled to Babylon.  There are people who think it’s pronounced Yahweh on the basis of how it’s spelled in Hebrew, but that is not correct.

Avram married his cousin Sarai, whose name was later changed to Sarah.  Note that the change in both of their names involves the addition of an “h.”  That is because God gave them a part of His name as a reward for their efforts and valor.

Lots of things happened, and time went by, and Sarah was childless.  This was a great sadness to her, and other women made fun of her.  Avraham and Sarah had recently returned to Canaan from a trip to Egypt, where Pharaoh had given Sarah one of his princesses as a handmaiden, to make amends for a serious faux pas on his part.  Her name was Hagar.

Out of frustration (and lack of faith in God, for which she was sorely punished), Sarah begged Avraham to take Hagar as a second wife and father a child with her.  Since Hagar was Sarah’s slave, any child that Hagar gave birth to, fathered by Avraham, would belong to Sarah, and thus she would “have a child.”  That child was Ishmael.

When Hagar got pregnant with Ishmael, she started feeling superior to Sarah, who was already burning with shame because of what she had done.   Sarah banished Hagar to the desert, but some angels showed up and sent her back to camp to give birth.  Everything was OK until Ishmael got to be 13, when he started making fun of Sarah and things were very uncool, so Sarah banished both of them to the desert.

They almost died from thirst, but God showed up in the nick of time, showed them a spring of water that they hadn’t seen before, and assured Hagar that Ishmael would become a great nation and would live by the sword.  Thus the Arab nations, fathered by Avraham, split off and became their own people.

By this time Sarah was 90 and Avraham was 100.  God commanded all males to be circumcised (Ishmael got circumcised too, at the age of 13, but the Torah does not explain the mechanics of that).  Avraham circumcised himself (ouch!) and all the males in the camp.  On the third day after his circumcision, Avraham was sitting in the doorway of his tent in pain, when three Arabs showed up.  Avraham ran to wash their feet and make a feast for them.  Turns out they were actually angels (those angels!  You never know.), and in merit of his hospitality they gifted Sarah with a child.  That child was Isaac, but his name is really Yitzchak.  The Greeks weren’t such good translators.

Lots of things happened, and Yitzchak married Rebecca, whose name is really Rivka (you could easily make that mistake of pronunciation if you didn’t know about Hebrew vowels, which do not exist on parchment.  They are an oral tradition.  Modern Hebrew doesn’t use vowels either.  You just have to know them.)  Anyway, her name was Rivka.

Rikva was also childless for many years, but she was very bold and went to talk to God one on one and demanded children.  God liked her chutzpah and gave her twins: Jacob, whose name was really Yaakov, and Esau, whose name was really Esav (pronounced AY-sahv).  Yaacov became the heir to Yitzchak and Esav became the father of all of the other 70 Nations of the world.  If you are not an Arab or a Hebrew, then you are a descendant of Esav.

Just a word on my use of the word “Hebrew” instead of “Jew” or “Jewish”: the first usage of the word “Hebrew” (which is actually pronounced “Ivri” (pronounced EE-vree) was in reference to Avraham.  It is thought that the reason for this is two-fold: first, Avraham had to cross several rivers to get to Canaan, and Ivri comes from the Hebrew word “to cross.”  The other reason is that Avraham “crossed over” from idolatry to monotheism.   The descriptive term “Ivri” was also used when the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, beginning with the capture of Joseph, whose name was really Yosef.

The words “Jew” and “Jewish” comes from the name “Yehudah,” who was one of the twelve sons of Yaacov, whose other name was Israel, which is pronounced Yisrael (Yis-rah-El).  Sound familiar?  Modern Hebrews living in Israel call themselves either Yehudim or Yisraelim.  So unless you come from the tribe of Yehudah, you really are something else.  But since the rest of the Tribes got scattered over the earth, everybody took the name Yehudah because it means “to give praise” and “to thank,” because we give praise and thank God all the time.

There is one Tribe that still knows who we are.  I say “we” because I am of that Tribe.  We are the Levites.  The Levites have two branches:  plain ol’ Levites, who are the musicians and teachers (that would be me), and the Kohanim, who are the Priests.  Bet you didn’t know Hebrews have priests, hey?  We do.  And they are traceable by a gene, the Kohen gene, that has come down through history in an unbroken chain.  The Levites don’t have such clear genetic evidence, but we have also come down the years, father to son, passing the tradition.

The reason for this difference is that Kohanim have very strict restrictions on who they can marry, and Levites don’t.

OK, that’s enough for today.  By now you’re probably good and confused.  That’s OK.  God willing I’ll continue tomorrow.

Abraham

Why Do I Get So Angry?

It’s happened again.  Someone said something that pissed me off so badly that I never want to see him again.  Not that I’ve seen so much of him over the last seven or eight years.  It was someone who I dated years ago, and broke off amiably because, well, because we weren’t right for each other.

Now he shows up in my life again, suddenly, without invitation, and wants to strike up a relationship again.  All well and good: I’m open to new relationships now.

So we Skype for a few hours–he lives far away–and that was nice.  We talk about mutual passions passionately–nice too.  And then he drops the bomb.

You see, I am Jewish, and so is he.  He is much more Orthodox-ly observant than I am.  I’m basically, well, just a Jew.  I’m skeptical about a lot of the Orthodox beliefs and customs.  I used to be very, very Orthodox, and I kind of got over that.  A lot of it has to do with the second-class citizen status of Orthodox women.  Most Orthodox people, men and women alike, would object to that statement, saying that men and women respectively have different roles, and that both of those roles are necessary to make up the whole.  I agree with that, except that the roles that are relegated to women are mainly domestic.  That’s all I will say about that.

So this new hopeful is going along giving me tons of advice about Kabbalistic ways of healing PTSD.  It all looked great to me, except that it required the unrestricted use of a mikveh, which is a Jewish ritual bath.  Religious Jewish men use one nearly every day, for Jewish religious men’s reasons.  Jewish women are restricted to using a mikveh only once a month, after their menstrual period has ended; and sometimes before Yom Kippure, the Day of Atonement, as part of the purifying process of the day.

So we entered a discussion regarding the prohibition on women’s free use of the mikveh, which has to do with the rabbinical courts’ rulings that allowing women to immerse in the mikveh at any time would lead to promiscuity, since a woman who has immersed is now in a pure state for sexual relations.  I know, it’s complicated.  So he sends me all these articles that support women’s free access to the mikveh.

That’s where the trouble started.  I pointed out that one of the articles came from a Conservative rabbi (there are three main branches of Judaism:  Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform, and none of them agree with each other), which would make it more lenient than the Orthodox opinions.

He wrote me back saying that Rabbi so-and-so says that Conservative and Reform Jews are heretics, and he doesn’t associate with them.

That pulled my chain really, really bad.  I flared up like gasoline on a campfire.  You can argue all the theory you want, but don’t call other Jews heretics.  That’s like damning them to Hell, even though we don’t believe in Hell.  It’s completely erasing them as valid human beings.

So he realizes what he’s done, begs me not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, backpeddles, and does everything he can think of to get himself out of the tight place he’s stuck his own *ss in.  I won’t have it.  What’s said is said, and I have no obligation to suck it up, because we really don’t have any kind of relationship yet.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have such a tendency to get angry when I feel that someone has been wronged–even myself.  I think it would be nice to just coast along, unaffected by the words and actions of others.  I’ve tried, believe me I’ve tried all kinds of ways to stay unattached.  It doesn’t work.

I think it’s all the anger that I didn’t allow myself to feel when I was “scramblin’ down in the streets” (Joni Mitchell) and couldn’t afford to get angry, and during the times that my mother’s wrath kept my mouth firmly closed, lest I get it slapped.

Searching For the Missing Me

I am sitting in the kitchen of my beloved friend R_, who was on the same flight with me when we made Aliyah (emigrated) to Israel in 2007.  We didn’t meet on the plane because he was in such ecstasy at moving to our real home country that he didn’t notice anything around him.  He was in a haze of love and joy.  I met him about four months after our arrival.  He was hanging out laundry on his mirpesset (balcony), and I recognized him from the flight.  His place turned out to be exactly one block from mine, and my seat-mate on that flight happened to live exactly one block from him!  The three of us became the best of friends.  R_ has become my support system and champion in my struggle to free myself from the toxic, strangulating tentacles that have torn me from my real home country and dragged me back to America, which otherwise holds no attraction to me.

IMG_0001

R_’s living room

I had to take a break from my parents and America, because I found myself consumed with rage, which is a very unhealthy emotion.  I developed high blood pressure and heart palpitations, and was having terrible heart pains that woke me out of sleep.  They were so intense that I could not even move to call an ambulance, even had I wanted to, which I didn’t.  I would have been just as happy if a heart attack carried me off, out of the misery of my life there.

So I suddenly announced that I was going to Israel for three weeks, for a break, causing immense consternation on the maternal side of things, and resignation from the Dad side.  I needed a breathing spell, and specifically to breathe the air of the Holy Land, just to be here, even if all I did was to hang out with my friend R_ and walk around the shuk, inhaling and imbibing the sights, sounds, smells, and spirit of the place.

Bride and groom playing in the shuk

Bride and groom playing in the shuk

Practically as soon as I got off the plane my Israeli cell phone started ringing:  “We’re so glad you’re back: now everything feels normal again.”  I have a place, and my place is here.    My family of choice lives here.  I feel surrounded by love here.

R_ and I went yesterday to visit the tomb of the Baba Sali, a holy man who was said to have brought about many miracles in his time.  Here it is customary to visit the tombs of great and wise people (like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Leah, Samuel, etc.) to bathe in their energy and pray for whatever needs prayed for.  We don’t pray to the person, for that is idol worship, but instead we pray for the spirit of that holy person to intercede for us in Heaven so that our prayers will be heard.  I had, and still have, a lot to pray for, so we went to the Baba Sali, because I have a special connection with him.

Baba Sali lived in our times, and came from Damascus to Morocco to Israel, where he settled in a tiny village called Netivot, which is located in the Negev desert right on the border with Gaza, just south of Sderot, which is a town that has been rained on with so many thousands of missiles from Gaza that every bus stop has its own bomb shelter.

Why do I feel safe here?  Right now, at this very moment, Russia is funneling terrible weapons into Syria, which in turn is passing them on to Hezbollah (the terrorist arm in Lebanon), Iran is arming Hamas in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, and all of them are fighting among themselves.  It’s a virtual certainty that they will attack Israel at some point.  On Monday and Tuesday this week the air raid sirens went off in every town in the Land, and everyone was supposed to drill taking shelter.  Nobody did, because Israelis are used to being the objects of the aggression of our neighbors, and we realize that only G-d can save us, since we are a country the size of Delaware, so we go on with our lives and our prayers, and of course we hope that rockets won’t fall on our houses or our children, but we rely on G-d to be our shelter.  No Westerner can understand that.

But that’s not what this blog entry is about.

It’s about the terrible conflict that tears me apart, and keeps me from living the life I love, the life the holds out the possibility of real spiritual redemption.  It’s about the conflict between kibud av v’aim, respect for father and mother, which is one of the Ten Commandments.  The letter of  halacha, Jewish Law, interprets this to mean that one is obligated at minimum to provide shelter, food, and clothing sufficient for one’s parents’ needs, but I have a hard time with leaving it at that.

Although my mother severely abused me emotionally, psychologically, verbally, and at times physically, and my father was a codependent facilitator, I still have difficulty separating from them completely, because I continually hope that they will magically become the parents I have always desperately wanted and needed:  loving, caring, nurturing, and deserving of my love and respect.

In fact, in my adolescent confrontational phase, before I picked up and left home at age 16, my mother would scream at me, “You have to love and respect me because I am your parent.”  And I would scream back, “If you want me to love and respect you, you have to earn it,” to which the dear mother would generally reply with a stream of obscenities and a smack across the face, if she could reach me.

So why, after four years of blissful content in Israel, did I rush to their side when their time of need arrived in their old age?  And what has kept me there, in total isolation and spiritual desolation, for two and a half years?  Unconditional love,  blind even to ongoing abuse?  Kibud av v’aim?   Or that desperate primal hope that one day I would awaken to find them magically transformed into my real parents, the ones who dropped me off here on this alien planet 59 years ago?

I just don’t know.

alien woman head

My Mother and Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish

Some non-Jewish people know what Kaddish is.  Some Jewish people also know what Kaddish is.  I would guess that more Jewish people don’t than do, because of the secularization of the Jewish people due to the Holocaust and subsequent rush to blend in with whatever dominant culture we found ourselves washed ashore in, those who escaped the ovens.

Kaddish, for those who don’t know, is a Jewish prayer that is an integral part of observant Jewish life.  It is best known as the “prayer for the dead,” although death is never mentioned in the prayer itself.  It is, in fact, a joyous song of praise, enumerating the awesome powers and grace of the Almighty.  It is indeed said at Jewish funerals and at each of the three daily communal prayers, on behalf of the departed, for eleven months.  But it is also said many times during each prayer service, as a marker that divides the different segments of the service.  There are wonderful mystical reasons for this, having to do with elevating the congregation up through the layers of world upon world that lead to complete unification with God.  Most religious Jews don’t know these things, but say the prayers by rote.   Much knowledge has been lost in the years of our physical and spiritual exile.

My parents are among the first-generation children of immigrant parents from Russia and Poland who escaped the Holocaust as children, and had no religious background whatsoever.  Correction: my father’s father was the child of a Hassidic rabbi from Prussia, and his mother was the daughter of a rabbi in the Ukraine.  Both were sent out of their respective countries as children, experiencing exploitation and multitudinous horrors on their way to New York City, where they met and became members of the Communist Party, rejecting their religion out of bitterness; so my father was brought up without religion, to endure antisemitism on a strictly genetic/racial basis.

My mother was raised in a mildly religious environment, but it never really rubbed off on her.  She came away with a few legends and fears, but quickly learned how to cook pork ounce she was out of her culturally kosher home, throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

My mother likes to throw things out.  She threw out her rudimentary Judaism once she was free of the parental home.  She likes to keep a tidy house, so she throws out anything that seems out of place.  She has thrown me out many times.  I have kept coming back, out of a childish wish that she would all of a sudden become the Good Fairy Mother, but that has not happened yet and as she is 86 and I am nearing 60, I don’t think it is likely to happen.

My mother has two sides: childlike, and childish.  Her childlike side is quite charming.  She is filled with wonder at a pair of redbirds on a bush, deer in the yard, a squirrel sitting on a railing eating corn she has put out for it.  She adores her cat with something approaching sexual love.

On the other hand, when tired or vexed she will burst into childish tantrums, cursing and belittling, mocking, slamming doors and kicking the dog.  And throwing things out.

The other day she was in a childish mood, a mild one, and concentrating on throwing things out.  She can’t throw me out at the moment, because she needs my help with my invalid father, but she can throw his things out, and that’s what she was up to.  I happened along just as Allen Ginsberg’s volume of poetry Kaddish was hitting the dust bin.

“Why are you throwing that out?” I asked.  I noted that their once voluminous library seemed to have shrunken, and wondered how many old friends of my youth had gone the way that Kaddish seemed destined.

Kaddish,” she shuddered, twisting her face in horror.  I got it.  Kaddish, the “prayer for the dead.”  Death is lingering around our house now.  In a way it is a marvel: every new day a gift, if my father is still living.  Nevertheless it is a spectre hovering, palpable to all.  I understand: Kaddish is an unwelcome resident here.  I fished it out of the waste basket and dusted it off.

“I’ve never read this,” I remarked.

“Take it,” she said. “Get it out of this house.”

I did.  I took it to The Studio, my father’s old studio where I now reside.  And began to read.  On the first page, Ginsberg is mourning his mother’s death, pacing his living room and saying Kaddish aloud, alone, which is something one is never supposed to do because the prayer is so powerful it could be damaging without the power of ten people to say it.  But there he is, the power of his grief holding him safe in his living room, crying out loud the poem of God’s greatness to the Universe.

His mother died of insanity.  It struck her like a brick to the head when Ginsberg was a young child, and he spent his childhood accompanying her on trains and buses from one institution to another, until she finally ended up in Bellevue, the end of the line, and when countless shock treatments failed, the lobotomy.  She quickly grew old, and died at the age of 60.  My age.

He never gave up on his mother, and he never stopped loving her.  His family spiralled into collective dysfunction around her.  But it seemed to me that somehow he was able to extract, and treasure, the remnants of the delightful, dignified woman his mother once was, and carry that in his heart always.  It made me smile and cry.

I have never been able to feel that way about my mother.  Perhaps it has something to do with the stories she likes to tell about how I was such an idiot as a baby to climb out of my crib and fall onto a radiator, necessitating a trip to the emergency room; or another time, when, at seven months of age I disrupted dinner by climbing into a cupboard and getting hold of a bottle of Tabasco Sauce, which I somehow got all over me, burning my skin and prompting another visit to the emergency room.

These things, and more, might explain why I recoil at her touch, and why I break into a cold sweat at the sound of her voice.

Reading Ginsberg caused me to go inside and feel what I would feel when at last my mother dies (which is not likely to be for a very long time, given the longevity of her branch of the family, who often live to be 100 or more).

What did I feel then, when I went inside?

Relief, yes.  And grief: for the mother I never had.

Daily Post Challenge: Reincarnation

I’ve journeyed through all kinds of religions.  As a teenager I hung out with Mescalero Apache shamans in New Mexico, and got to go to a peyote meeting where the group energy was channeled to help somebody in trouble.  When I finally went to college, I took courses in Anthropology with a professor who had learned witchcraft in Africa, and proved it by murdering chickens and divining the future from their guts on the floor of the classroom.  As a graduate student in Anthropology, I learned about lots and lots of religions that believed in reincarnation.

But it wasn’t until the year 2000 that I began to look into my own native religion: Judaism.  Jews are famous for being Buddhists, Hindus, anything but Jews.  And I was no different.

My motivation for exploring the religious beliefs behind my genetic heritage was simple.  Because of a confluence of influences, I lost everything I owned.  My health took a dive.  My 16 year old son was living on the streets, eating out of dumpsters, just as I had done when I was his age.  Life sucked.

A friend turned me on to a book of the Apocrypha: Christian mystical writings that didn’t make it into the Bible.  I started wondering, wow, if the New Testament is this cool, what is the Old Testament like?  So I started reading it, and came up with not much knowledge but loads of questions.  Naturally, I turned to the Internet, and typed this into Google:  “What is the meaning of life?”

The top of the search results lead me to the Meaningful Life Center, run by Rabbi Simon Jacobsen.  It would take more words than I have here to explain what is contained in there.  It’s everything Jewish, both traditional and mystical.  I went straight to the mystical.  There I discovered that Judaism teaches that we are sent into this life, these bodies, in order to fix things.  These things can be blemishes on our souls because of misdeeds in previous lives, or they can be blemishes on the collective soul (which is another topic), or they can be fixings of specific events that are destined to happen in this life, or in the world at large.

I have spent the past 13 years in further study of Jewish mysticism and concepts of reincarnation, and how I can personally work on fixing myself and my little part of the world.

Then I went to India, as a result of an event that I do not believe was random.  It was 2010, and I was very ill with something that was eluding the diagnostic prowess of Western physicians.  I have a passing familiarity and great respect for Ayurvedic medicine, so I researched the most reputable Ayurvedic hospitals in India, and one of them happened to fit my time frame and pocket book, so off I went to Tamil Nadu.

On the day that I arrived, the physician in charge was out on maternity leave, or paternity leave, I guess, since his wife had just had a baby.  The doctor who was filling in was Dr. Sundar Raman.  The moment I saw him I burst into tears.  I knew that he was somehow related to me, from a previous life.  Unlike a Western doctor, he jumped up and ran around to my side of the desk and held me while I cried.

I stayed at the Ayurvedic hospital for ten weeks, undergoing intensive treatments.  And every day, Dr. Sundar came to my cottage and we studied together for three hours.  He is a Brahmin priest.  We studied the correspondences between the Hindu Vedas (the scholarly tracts behind the religion) and the mystical backbone of the Torah, which is the parallel system of the Hebrews.  We drew diagrams and studied passages from both disciplines.

I learned that in Hinduism, the understanding of reincarnation is that we are engaged in a process of purification of the soul.  With every incarnation, we should strive to live as clean and true a life as possible, with the aim of ascending through the layers of unreality and misdeeds that are inherent in the human condition, and eventually reaching a pure state, finally merging with the Cosmic Consciousness.

And what about illness?  Where does that fit in?  Illness, says Dr. Sundar, is a pathway to salvation.  If we pay true attention to the message of illness, and realize that it is a process of cleansing from sins committed in previous lives, we can use it as a springboard to ascending in consciousness and leaving the Karmic Wheel.

I was shocked at this, and very excited, because this is exactly what Judaism says about the purification process, and the ability of illness and misfortune to cleanse and actually benefit us, even though the process can be very unpleasant.

On difficult days, I try to remember what Dr. Sundar says: Illness is the key to salvation.  And I fervently hope that in the merit of my suffering and the good deeds that I try to do, I don’t have to have a next life; and that if I do, it could be easier than this one.