Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Brief Response

The following was a reaction to another old post of Nemo's. I suggest everyone go read it, even though my links don't work, because aside from the issues I raised, it was really a very well written and meaningful post. Here is another futile attempt at linking, which is really just my way of citing the source, since my links don't work:

It's the post entitled "The Bitter Old Man," dated, I believe December 22, 2006.

My commenting on this post is silly for several reasons. But I had to. Several of the things you said elicited a visceral reaction, and I couldn't let this go.

"He then presses you for your answer and no matter how deep you dig to give a palatable answer, he spits it back at you. He’s not looking for answers; he doesn’t even care, it’s all part of his little ploy."

This is the thing about the people who have never truly doubted. The people who have never truly doubted, never REALLY asked the questions, will not understand that the answers are not the point - in Torah, Judaism, life. Answers are not the goal, they aren't the source, they aren't the reason or the purpose. WHEN they exist, in whatever form they exist, their purpose is either 1)to pacify those who are satisfied enough not to probe deeper or 2)to further the inquiry and the depth of the search for those people who really ARE asking the questions. The ones who truly ask know there is no end, and that is why there are no real answers. Answers aren't truth. They aren't even answers. They are pieces of a larger and even more troubling question. That is Torah, Judaism, existence, and G-d.

"I don’t speak to him because I think he speaks truth. While he certainly is a man that could rightfully argue with G-d, I don’t need his thoughts to feed my doubts."

I'm not going to get into a silly semantic debate about what truth is or isn't. I'm too tired, and I get tireder just thinking about it. But those who do not see truth in everything will never get the full picture, bc: truth=everything=full picture. Did you get the bit about the everythingness? We only get bits of truth at a time, and never the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us, G-d. It's physically impossible, that is why the whole truth thing never ends, and why there are no real answers. Honestly, I think the concept of "the answer" is a purely artificial human construct.

(The bit about the arguing with G-d I will have to rant about on my own time.)

I suppose some people might find this idea depressing. Personally, I don't know how I could go on if this weren't the case. It's the only way to grasp a slice of eternity within this limited and organized human existence.

This only touches on my feelings about people's very limited ideas about truth and G-d and lots of other stuff, but it will have to be a starting point.



1) "When your faith crosses your aspirations you are cast dejected to the wayside. There is nothing more dismal than when your desires are quelled by everything that you feel know to be true. You cannot have your dreams because you’ve placed you’ve placed all of your values in certain ideals. That is the risk of faith though, and if we truly have it, it will impinge on our life." -Nemo (

2) The Dead Faith

She made a little shadow-hidden grave,
The day Faith died;
Therein she laid it, heard the clod's sick fall,
And smiled aside-
"If less I ask," tear-blind, she mocked, "I may
Be less denied."

She set a rose to blossom in her hair,
The day Faith died-
"Now glad," she said, "And free at last, I go,
And life is wide."
But through long nights she stared into the dark,
And she knew she lied.

- Fannie Heaslip Lea

I know I keep going on and on about this, but I sort of had to. The above poem I found over Pesach in the front of one of my sister's vampire books. Source aside (mind you I know nothing of the poetess) I found the imagery stark, bare, and powerful, and I wanted to share it; but I forgot until it was just recently called to mind by this post on Nemo's blog. (I really hope this attempt at linking works; I'm still just very bad at the linking thing.) Anyway, I thought the two quotes presented an interesting contrast in perspective, and I wondered what others might have to say about it...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dancing With Flags

Yom Yerushalayim. Most people in Jerusalem are wearing blue and white; bnei akiva shirts, or school t-shirts, or something vaguely patriotic. Most people are not walking around in an ACDC t-shirt with a naked devil on it. Ah well. So much for tradition. And not offending people.

Jerusalem is in her full glory on these days, the days when her people flood the streets with singing and madness. The traditional form it takes on this particular day is in the Rikud Digalim -Dance of the Flags. People turn out from all over the country, and of all nationalities, shapes, sizes, etc. but mostly young people; the majority of the crowd is probably between 12 and 28ish. Girls and boys gather at two seperate starting points and people give out free Israeli flags. Then everyone marches through the city, down Yaffo, and to the Kotel, with bands performing on vans and trucks and music blasting from loudspeakers and lots of dancing and singing and people doing chorus line dances on the roofs of bus stops. It finishes with mincha at the Kotel and a free concert.

After a very late night that began in town and ended in the Old City (and the early morning hours- I had gone to daven maariv,) I started out the day in Katamon, dressed reasonably traditionally in a long denim skirt and beigish shirt. I wasn't sure what time the parade was supposed to start, so I went back into town in the early afternoon to meet some friends who were there. Now see, at this time of year, post-Pesach, when we're already saying "morid hatal" and everything, Israel isn't really supposed to get rain. So the fact that I hadn't brought an umbrella or jacket with me, even though the morning was gray and lowering, was not unusual. And the ridiculously intense rain that began the minute I got off the bus and continued until something like 3:30 in the afternoon was completely uncalled for. Nevertheless, the situation being what it was, I was completely and thoroughly drenched after walking for about seven minutes unprotected in the rain down Ben Yehuda street to find my friend. Which, I mean, was fun, because playing in the rain is always fun, but because it was Jerusalem rain it was also flipping freezing cold.

The parade clearly wasn't happening in that weather so my friend and I made our way to another friend's apartment, where I was lent various pajama-like clothing to change into. We spent the next couple of hours indoors reading "On the Road" and playing Blokus. However the rain did eventually stop, and the parade was about to start, and I needed clothing to appear publicly in. So my friend and I went out and found one of those cheap stores in the Ben yehuda area where I bought a short wrap around skirt and the aforementioned ACDC shirt. Here's what I was thinking when I bought the shirt, which was one on a crowded rack of black t-shirts with band names on them. It needed to be a band I actually listened to and liked; and it had to be big enough so that the sleeves would cover most of my arm. The ACDC t-shirt was the first one in the rack that was both large and a band I liked, so since we were in a rush and everything, I just grabbed it without looking a the picture too closely and went to pay for it. I didn't actually see the whole thing until I put it on in our friend's apartment a little while later. At which point, I didn't really have too much of a choice. So this is what I was wearing at the Rikud Hadigalim: A shortish wrap around skirt in a red-black-and-tan print, over baggy orange pants, the ACDC shirt, and birkenstocks. Later augmented by a zip-up white sweater that I stole off another friend of ours because I was cold.

And so we descended into the glorious chaos of the streets, dodging and weaving like the expert crowd navigators that we are, ducking under people and around slowpokes and looking over our shoulders every other minute to make sure we were still together. The jubilation of a people reclaiming her city was pretty intense. Nothing like the madness of a jubilee after all.

It's a pretty awesome event, this parade. I'd gone to it when I was in my first year of midrasha, two years ago. But here's the thing. The first time I went, so I was with my seminary, in blue and white with my seminary friends and madrichot, and doing the whole dancing and singing like crazy thing. And the second time, I was just with two friends, and I didn't...let's say, I didn't look the part quite as much. And it was an interesting dichotomy. Because on the one hand, I don't believe in doing the whole wearing clothing just to fit in and defining yourself in tiny little boxes, and I really feel it's important that everyone should be included in things like these. What better way to prove my point than to live it? But at the same time, I was very concious of the dissonance; and while I did enjoy my t-shirt and the random very confused and surprised expressions that I got from complete strangers (not to mention the teenage boys taking pictures of me with their cell phones) I still wasn't completely comfortable. Walking to the Kotel through the Arab shuk, a married Israeli woman walking with her husband and baby stopped me and started quizzing me about my musical interests. She was apparently also an ACDC fan, and wanted to know what my feelings were on Guns n Roses and Judas Priest. ("You shouldn't think I'm such a dossit because of how I dress!") (dossit=frummy=really religous female; vaguely derogatory, usually taken with a sense of humour.) That was kind of fun, and I felt better about the shirt afterwards, especially since no one was really giving me any flack for it. However I couldn't in good conscience daven facing the Kotel with a naked devil on my shirt, so I turned it inside out before I davened and then left it that way the rest of the night.

The other highlight of the evening came when a group of us were hanging out by the plaza behind the kotel, and the music had already started, and people were dancing and singing all about. We made our own little circle with our arms around each others shoulders and then I started jumping up and down to the beat, and then everyone started jumping up and down to the beat, and then we were all doing it going around in a circle, which got a little tricky because of the incline and the ridiculous amounts of people per square inch. Which was fun, and more fun because some Israelis, including a soldier, came and joined us; and also because that got us spotted by a film crew doing a documentary, something about a film maker's six months in Israel, and one of the girls in our group was filmed talking about Yerushalayim and Moshiach and world peace. It was a pretty cool moment.

After that it was pretty much just wandering around, moonwalking in the streets of Jerusalem, exhaustion, hunger, thirst, and more exhaustion,with some measure of exhileration. I am now incredibly tired and absolutely filthy, which is always the earmark of a really good time; so I guess it was a fairly chag sameach for me.