Tuesday, December 27, 2005


I just pulled this out of the vaults: 'twas buried under the weight of many a Greek Idol; but I think it remains pure.

In the vicinity of a candle,
There lurks a shadow.
He looks on,
From a cold, dark viewpoint,
With jealous eyes.

He doesn’t know he’s jealous –
But he is.
He doesn’t even know there’s a candle –
But there is.

How do you know? You may ask.
I may tell:
When the darkness of night reigns,
Shadows haven’t a place;
But when the sun rises
And the sky turns a soft blue,
The Shadow is born.

It has no entity its own:
Without the candle it doesn’t exist.
The greater the light –
The greater the shadow.

Then why isn’t it warm and true,
Like its source?
For if it was to be so…
It would have no power its “own”;
And, wherein would lie the challenge?
Certainly not in the shadows!

Who am I writing to?
Doubtfully the Shadow,
For he can’t read!
I only write to the candle,
As only he alone can teach;
Only he alone can create.

Teach whom?
Teach what?
Teach the shadow –
How to read.

Create what?
From whom?
Create a Light –
From, The Shadow.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Raindrops streak across the window, leaving a trail of watery fragileness. Menacing gray clouds, with big bushy eyebrows, growl at the earth. Gathering winds, demonstrating maybe, crowd the cracked squares and stoned streets. Temperatures are falling to a certain degree and temperaments are rising to a certain chill. Cheeks are beginning to rose; noses are beginning to run. Gloves are being handled; scarves are being necked. Bodies are being coated; hats are being headed. Ears are getting muffed; lips are getting chapped. Breath becoming visible in a foggy way; fog becoming invisible in a breathy way. Daylight now much shorter; shorts now much longer. Beaded sweat replaced by knitted sweater; ice coffees replaced by steamy espressos. The outdoor heaters join the outdoor diners for dinner. The security guards bounce from foot to foot. The passengers enter the bus with a gust of frigidness. Vents blowing artificial heat into rooms; heat, then, is being artificially vented. Less humanity outdoors: maybe because it is too fresh. Fewer people hanging out: maybe they are just trying to hang in. Hands rub together, trying to imitate flint stones; stones are stone cold. The trucks exhaust exuding exhausted excuses shaped like steam smelling of chemical. Shivering skins looking for a pocket; pocketed shivers looking for some skin. Feet cold on the bathroom floor; toes colder in open sandals. Fingers holding the cigarette are uncomfortably numb; as are some minds. Umbrellas are pulled inside out, they look like giant funnels; everybody is pulled together, trying to bring their limbs outside in – and I just stand there bundled in my fur coat, amused –

Yes, it is winter in Jerusalem, but it is also winter in my heart.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Black & White

It is dark, both in its street and its heart. Maybe moonshine will reflect once in a while, and stars might even blink, but street and heart remain black.

We – who have come from the white stone – can see the (b)lack of light as it reflects off shadow onto sidewalk; and if you listen closely you can hear it speak dirty, and dark, words.

Between crumbling cement walls tattooed in graffiti, we wait on line (though offline) for our tickets. It is strange, (maybe Jewdicious?) knowing everyone around you is Jewish: kind of feels like the splitting of the Sea – except here there is no Moses and no sea; all that seems to be left here is the split.

Now we secure ourselves past the security, and bounce ourselves past the bouncers. As we make our way along posters advertising bands mundane in letters holy, the shivering darkness seems to crawl along with us, intensifying with our heart beat – boom, boom.

Things are shaking in and out of rhythm – boom, bam. Smoke swirling in lights very colorful, flash, flesh. Quiet, the cover band has ended. Only stagehands moving about, tuning gilded guitars, fastening symbolic symbols, slapping basic basses, maneuvering speechless speakers, wiring ample amplifiers. And all is dark – and silent.

Some nervous whispering, maybe a catcall, but that’s it. It is really quiet and dark.

Then a piercing note is heard, like an alarm not at all alarming, and darkness starts turning to light. A tall man, dressed in the customary suit and hat, black and white, is using reggae as a tool – a craftsman expertly transforming Barby, a Tel Aviv nightclub, into a Jewish experience.

He places his right hand over his eyes and, with somewhat of a Jamaican tanginess, says Shema Yisrael. Dreadlocks listen intently, and sway insatiably, as he sings of light coming out of darkness – lyrical not only in words, but as this once dark club and cold city can attest, in action as well.

Warmth permeates through the wires and out the speakers, into hearts once cold. “If you are already there, there is no where to go”, he sings; “If your cup’s already full, then it’s bound to overflow” – and here the cup really does run over, but with a message of Truth.

Of course there are those that say a club is not the place for a Hasidic man – but then neither is the body a place for the soul, nor earth a home for heaven. Unfortunately we live in a dark environment, where anything pure is concealed; but if not we, than who will reveal the light within the darkness, who will turn a club into a sanctuary, who will transform the earth into a home of G-d?

Yes, we live in a world of challenges – but do you wish to be the challenged or do you wish to be the challenger? Do you wish to listen or do you wish to speak? Do you wish to be a spectator or do you wish to be a player? Life is a challenge, yes, but (therefore) life is challengeable no less – either you challenge it, or it will challenge you.

Now we step out of the club. Everything is lighter, both in its street and its (and our) heart. The moon still reflects, but now off our faces; the stars still blink, but now it’s more of a wink.

I guess it really is kind of like the splitting of the Sea: there is a sea of knowledge, and though we seem to be split, there is a Moses within every one of us – as a bearded reggae Hasid just proved – that can inspire a club, a people, a world, into turning black into white, darkness into light, Tel Aviv into Jerusalem.

“In the spiritual desert things are not what they seem – you just got to chop ‘em down.”

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Breakfast @ Dovid’s

Aluminum tables glint in the breakfast rays. A half-full ashtray lies near a half-empty red Coca Cola napkin dispenser. A mug with coffee-line marks and lipstick on the rim sits abandoned between butted ashtray and napping dispenser. A backpack with a worn out orange strip dangling in resignation rests against the leg of a chair. A man and woman are sipping on muddy espressos and nibbling on flaky pastries. Busses are dropping-off those that have reached the end of the road and picking-up those who have only just begun their journey.

In front of this morning backdrop, a bunch of guys sit around waiting for their food. Some have ordered omelets, some sandwiches, some French toast. While my stomach grumbles for the chaotic Shakshukah (don’t even ask), I invite the lonely newspaper at a neighboring table to come and join me. He is more than happy to unfold his creases.

He tells me about a bombing in Netanya. Five people killed. But all he really gives me are the cold facts. He doesn’t get emotional. Maybe for him to exist, to see people blown apart day in and day out, he must resort to numbness. In fear of falling apart, he does not cry; not one tear falls from his black and white eyes. But he must be affected: no one can ignore such pain.

Then, when he starts opening up to me, I start to see a whole different story – something about Kadima and Likud – and realize that maybe the murder of innocent people can be ignored.

Ah, but my steaming Shakshukah has arrived; and, as we insensitive human beings tend to do when faced with an escape from an awkward position, Mr. Newspaper is once again left all alone, yellowing into yesterdays news.

After Shakshukah has gone the way of Newspaper, we here breakfasting at Dovid’s, as is custom, have a ten-minute “discussion” on the day’s Torah and Tanya portion. The Torah relates the story of Jacob: before he left the Holy Land for Choron he had a dream about a ladder; the Tanya speaks about the different energies we create and inspire through our learning, through our prayer, and through our actions.

Interestingly, the Torah says that angels went up and down the ladder. However, as angels are heavenly creatures, the wording of the Torah seems to be disordered: first the angels should have descended (from heaven) and only after ascended (from earth) – how can a heavenly angel ascend from earth without first descending from heaven?

We all have our personal “leaving the pure for the mundane”. But before we go, we have our own personal ladder as well, with angels going up and down. The story is telling us: no matter where you may be, no matter in what situation or circumstance, no matter how purely impure you life seems to be, there is that angel climbing up the ladder, following us to the border of the Holy Land, to the edge of purity; and when we cross over the border, there is another angel climbing down the ladder, watching us, giving us the energy to “make here [this mundane earth] the Holy Land”.

And the Tanya goes on to explain what, and which, energies we create through our learning, through our prayer, through our actions, our tools for turning the “here” into a Holy Land.

When we climb this ladder, bridging both worlds (Be’er Sheva and Choron), I think the headlines of the breakfast newspaper will read a little differently.

May tomorrows headline read, “Here has been made into the Holy Land”.