Friday, August 19, 2005

The Sziget Festival


Ten minutes from the heart of Budapest, on the Danube River, floats the Sziget, the Obudai Island. Every year, in the beginning of August, the Island sees hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world coming together under the common sky for the largest open-air music festival in all of Europe.

On the Island: Dreadlocks are not dreaded; tie-dyes have not died; and to be a hippy is, once again, to be hip. Hygiene is looked upon as nuclear energy; mud is welcomed as a natural phenomenon; and normalcy is the natural enemy. Beer flows like the infinite watts of music; the drugs here do not come from any pharmacy; and sobriety is lying under a rock somewhere with a hangover.

Amidst all the chaos, and not thirty seconds from the main stage, there stands a little nucleus vibrating with energy. Young rabbis, their beards not so uncommon in this rowdy crowd of Beatnik wannabes but their reasons for being here very much so, have pitched tent.

They are here for only one reason: to cover their little corner of the universe with knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea. They encourage all Jewish men – not caring if tattooed or pierced – to come put on Teffilin. Their philosophy: no ink or needle can ever tattoo a Neshama and no stud or ring can ever pierce a soul.

The ways of covering the Island with knowledge of G-d are many, and the seven days with which to do it very few. The young kindred spirits exploit every means, and take advantage of every second, to spread that knowledge along the collective human body like an epidemic – an epidemic that cures. Indeed, people would pass along the contagious phenomena to their friends – “did you here about the Jewish Tent?” – and the next day the friends would pass it on to their friends – until the “Knowledge” was really getting into the know.

The question of “What exactly happened at this ‘Jewish Tent’?” must be tackled in two time periods – “When The Sun Was Up”, and, ”When The Sun Went Down” – because they are as different as, you guessed it, night and day.

When The Sun Was Up

At noon, when the “Islanders” peek out of their tents for the first time and squint at the glaring sun, they see four kippa-sporting young men weaving through the plethora of bodies, schlepping sound systems and tangled wires passed the main stage, along the many booths and tents that line the walkway, their Tzitzis flying in all directions, until they reach a tent with a sign reading Zsido Sator, or Jewish Tent.

After all is set up and Jewish music – from classical Chabad Niggunim to Hasidic reggae phenomenon Matisyahu – is blaring from the speakers, the people start showing up. The “Ask The Rabbi” stands, where one can do just that, start heating up. The Island is probably the most popular place to be a rabbi. Questions range from the intellectual to the emotional to the sexual, from the physical to the spiritual to the hypothetical, from the practical to the theoretical to the whimsical – and, yes, everything, and anything, in between. One man asks, “How do I curb my anti-Semitism”? One woman asks, “What’s the recipe for Charoseth (a Passover dish)?” “Is it expected of a rabbi to know the recipe for Charoseth?”

One person wonders, “How can you guys sit here at this festival all happy when your brothers and sisters are being pulled from their homes in Israel?” Wow. The reply: “We believe the only way to really achieve peace in Israel, and for that matter the world, is by spreading the knowledge of G-d, or whatever word you wish to use if you do not like the G word, throughout the world. And that is how we, here on the Island, are helping our brethren in Israel.”

“What exactly is this knowledge of G-d”? The questioner continues. “The knowledge that all things physical and, of course, spiritual, are G-dly, and that, at the root, we all come from the same place – G-d”, the young rabbinical student answers, and then continues, ”if we would all see the world that way, there would be true peace upon all humanity.”

And then there is the Teffilin, small leather boxes containing sacred passages from the Bible that Jewish men place against their hearts and on their minds every morning to bind them to G-d. Though Teffilin is not as popular as “Ask The Rabbi”, for the simple reason that only Jews can put on Teffilin and asking the rabbi is limited to no one, hundreds of Jewish men, many for the first time, connect their hearts and minds to G-d.

“Are you Jewish”? The answers vary: mostly “No’s”, very few “Yes’s”, and an occasional “Half” or “Quarter”. “Which quarter?” “My mother’s mother.” “So you are Jewish.” “Really?!” This exchange happened more than once.

When The Sun Went Down
Things may have seemed pretty orderly when the sun was up, but once the sun departed so did all pretense of order. In the shadows of the moon, chaos reigned. The young rabbis, who in daylight were “mind & soul doctors”, with dusk turned into “rock & roll doctors”. And that is exactly what they did – rock n’ rolled.

A rabbinical student plugs in his electric guitar and – “Jimmy move over, let Mendy take over”. Near him, another young Hassid has his fingers caressing the keyboard as if it were a geshmaker sugya in Gemara, a delicious portion of the Talmud. The rest of the “free wheelin’ yeedin” are dancing in front of the tent with more energy then should be legal. A semi circle of about 200 wide-eyed people forms; they have never seen anything like it. Before long, the spectators become participants and the dance floor, dirt and beer caps, is soon beaten by hundreds of feet. Of course the men and woman dance separately – its all part of the novelty.

Close to midnight, the beat turns into a Hip-Hop slash reggae progression and one of the rabbinical students starts improvising a reggae rap. After the crowd gets over the initial shock of seeing a Hasid with a beard, Tzitzit, and Kippa, doing a Jamaican accent and an inner city ghetto rhyme, they start bouncing – and it gets crazy from there. You had to see it to believe it: hundreds of deadlocked, tattooed, pierced, stoned, drunk, half-naked people screaming after the rapper words like “We are all created in the image of G-d” and “We want Moshiach now”. Just wild.

When the music, dancing and rapping comes to a rap, around one in the morning, the crowd wants more; but the rabbis, after a full day of spreading the knowledge, wish to spread out on a bed and recharge for tomorrow.

After seven days of this type of chaos, we can only hope that this epidemic of knowledge has spread passed the Island and into the Mainland. And as one of the Hungarian newspapers quipped: “If you haven’t seen the joy at the Jewish Tent you haven’t seen true joy” – a line which, knowingly or not, comes from the Talmud’s description of the joy that was in the Holy Temple.

Before the sun has once again come up, may we, with our physical eyes, see the true joy of the third and eternal temple, and may we dance, with our physical feet, to the beat of the Levites.

21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

jaki
this article describes the festival real well, nice job!

8/20/2005 4:01 PM  
Anonymous sempem said...

BH

Mendel! chaval! well done. psot some more pictures!

8/20/2005 11:57 PM  
Blogger Dovid said...

That's a cool picture.

8/21/2005 1:09 AM  
Blogger jakeyology said...

semp, whats the chaval for?

8/21/2005 9:16 AM  
Anonymous mendy w budapest said...

very very nice !!!
i guess a writer it is !!!
mendy w
budapest

8/21/2005 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi jakey,
so, its the shreiber at work..wow !! what a great piece of work..
it sure sounds like you guys realy brought some positive energy..
kol~hakovod.
its so wonderfull to see,how you guys give up your summer, to go and inspire jews all over the world...

8/21/2005 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow!! jakey,waaazzzzupp!
so is it the rapper, or the writter??...
anyways keep up the good work.
adiou.

8/21/2005 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so jakey!!
whats next???...ever thought of starting a yid~stock in the shchunah???...im sure you will attract a massive crowd..(and consider that you can get the real reggea dude~mattisyahu to liven the spirit..and besides we have amongst the guys aton of talent)....
just some tasty food for thought....
hoping to hear from you.
now on the serious side...yasher~koach, and kol~hakovod.
good~luck.

8/21/2005 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey guys,
wow! seems like you all are having a great time, while doin all that work.
keep it up....

8/21/2005 8:26 PM  
Blogger Dovid said...

Jakey, I found a link to a blug with a bunch of pics of you guys at the festival. Seems WILD! How long does this party last?

8/22/2005 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After the crowd gets over the initial shock of seeing a Hasid with a beard, Tzitzit, and Kippa, doing a Jamaican accent and an inner city ghetto rhyme, they start bouncing – and it gets crazy from there. You had to see it to believe it: hundreds of deadlocked, tattooed, pierced, stoned, drunk, half-naked people screaming after the rapper words like “We are all created in the image of G-d” and “We want Moshiach now”. Just wild.

I wonder if the Lubavitcher Rebbe would approve such "shlichus", a disgrace in my opinion. But i guess this is a part of the new "Matisyahu chabad". A prolific writer non-the less.
And the Golus continues...

8/22/2005 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok

8/22/2005 12:18 PM  
Blogger The Bearded One said...

first of all jake tefilin are plural so it would be
"And then there are (not is) the Teffilin"
2nd i wonder who was doing the rapping...
3rd an answer to the second to last anonymous: the only problem we had with shlomo carlebach was the bringing of the torah to the people instead of vice versa. i.e. touching and mixed concerts. if there arejews that express themselves through a certain type of music and now they express jewish concepts through that same medium, what's wrong with that? it's non-conventional yes, but so is the whole concept of shlichus.
and these "deadlocked, tattooed, pierced, stoned, drunk, half-naked people" are jewish just like anyone else. why deprive them? and that slight diss to mattisyahu: he asks his mashpia before he does anything. who do you ask?

8/22/2005 12:34 PM  
Blogger The Bearded One said...

o i forgot. ur mom says u need a haircut

8/22/2005 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Yossi! said...

Hey Jakey greta stuff! totaly out of the normal!!came along way since we did the early morning firestation gospel thing (cgi)
by the way you got any more pics??

8/22/2005 6:26 PM  
Blogger jakeyology said...

First to The Beard: from the perspective of an Innocents, Tefilin is a thing - not things – but you were always a perfectionist.

Now to the anonymous critic: yes u r entitled to your opinion; however your opinion seems to suggest that only "black & whites" can be influenced by our shlichus - after all, the "tattooed, pierced..." would have a bad influence on we, the shluchim. I too am entitled to "my" opinion (hence this blog), and i think the rebbe instituted shlichus to reach those who would otherwise never be reached - a la the tattooed - and gives us the energy to stay connected while even in such "foreign" environments. As the famous chassidic adage goes, "when you are connected above, you do not fall below". A step further: when you are connected above, not only won’t you fall below, you will actually connect everything around you to the “above”. And when that happens – when we do not criticize, but we do – the Galus will NOT continue.

8/22/2005 7:39 PM  
Blogger Dovid said...

gut gezogt!

8/23/2005 7:03 AM  
Anonymous sruli said...

what about the night after the night after (thursday)??
haha

8/23/2005 8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its elating and inspiring just reading this. you must have really touched some lucky jewish souls. keep keeping it real!

8/24/2005 11:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi this is anonymous again.
Firstly, well it was the half naked aspect I was most offended by, there is nothing wrong with people with tattoos and piercing, indeed the algemainar journal agrees with my assessment and left it out of their publication.

Secondly, the stoned and drunk people, however much you are connected up to they aren’t coming up with you, they are up on their own planes. And the half naked ones, well there are halachik issues.

Of course it is our shlichus to go to every area and inspire everyone, in what ever means we can, just make sure that you are in the right state of mind, and according to halacha.

(It isn’t for nothing that Shluchim don’t like bochurim on campuses.)

Finally, I understand that you were offended by my opinion especially on your blog, but blogs also allow for comments, and that’s there down side.
(socks and normal clothes would have been a nice addition… veday lemavin…)

8/25/2005 6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very impressive indeed! But most riveting of all is to see/hear what the Rebbe accomplished, not only with the Jews of all statures around the globe, but with the young, spirited, energetic and talented children. Where alse in the world do you find young Yeshiva students who are ready, willing and able to give their own free time to connect with souls in every nook and cranny of this planet?
How about stopping the nitpicking-petty-finger-pointing at particular choices of words and/or comments, and harping on the love and good will personified by these young Shluchim!
A Yasher Koach many times over!
May your parents and teachers continue to have much Yiddishe and Chassidishe nachas now and always.
I have no doubt that you make them all proud and that you guys are certainly hastening the coming of Mashiach!!
Kol Tuv and Besuros Tovos!

8/25/2005 6:30 PM  

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