.בחלומי, והנה-גפן לפני
I'm at tish. It is quiet - this is what they mean when they say “dead quiet”. You can hear the knife cutting into the big challah that the Rebbe just blessed. It is being cut in many pieces then distributed to the congregants standing on the bleachers all around. Everyone gets to eat a little piece, a leftover, shereim, from the Rebbe. Sitting at the head of the table the Rebbe starts to sing a slow Chasidic song. The words escape meaning but the tune is full of lust and want – nothing earthly - spiritual, inexplicable, at least by me. I sway along with the crowd. It is hot, sweaty, and not very comfortable leaning on the guy in front of me while the guy in the back leans on me. But who cares. My eyes are closed. I love this part.
The Rebbe gets up, claps his hand together with his head cocked sideways and upwards a motion usually retained for the depressed. He may very well be depressed, but no one cares. I certainly don't care. The religious high, the ecstasy, is real.
The dance stops abruptly – the Rebbe sat down. It is time to bentch. With bated breath the whole congregation waits to see who the Rebbe will give the silver goblet to make the required blessing. Will it be the old semi-rival Rebbe that came to show his respect to the younger but more influential counterpart or will he give it to the brother in-law that has finally broken to come pay his dues. Although these games nauseate me, when I think rationally, now I am one of them. Now I care.
.בחלומי, והנה שלשה סלי חרי
His hair is coming down for the first time in his life. We are all excited, the older sisters, the little aunts and uncles, my wife and I. Everyone but the three year old whose hair we are cutting today. He is happy with his new tiny tzitzis we got him, he adores the alef beis puzzle set that the married uncles got him as a gift and he is quite enamored with the attention bestowed upon him. He is ambivalent about the felt kapel that has to remain on his head now, forever.
Avrumi was excited when we first bought the kapel with his name written on the side, he begged to wear it every now and then, but today he threw it off. “Maybe the clip’s bothering him” the grandmother helpfully suggested, referring to the clip that keeps the kapel from sliding down the long combed set of hair.
But as much as the kapel bothered him the shaver petrified him. And that was even before the machine was switched on and the noise started. The neighbor from upstairs who is the designated barber in our building, puts little Avrumi on the table and forms his peyos to be out of his hair. The child hates it, while he doesn’t cry, yet. The tears are already forming, and the frown is heart wrenching. But, it is for his own good. It’s the pain of growing. He is getting closer to adulthood. Now, since he turned three he gets to wear the distinct Jewish symbolic look.
For a moment I think that the first celebrations in the life of a boy is cutting, genitalia first, then the hair. The boy doth protest but the parents celebrate. Such is life. I had to go through this, so did my father, his father, and so on. I can't complain too much, it is, after all, nachas.
.בחלומי, הנני עומד על
Check out was at 11am. The suitcase I entrusted with the receptionist and was left with 13 hours to kill until the flight. There was one place I hadn’t visited this time in Jerusalem, underhandedly I was trying to avoid it all along, not even wanting to think about it.
There’s no point in going there, I rationalized, it’s not that I’m going to pray by the Wall, and there isn’t much else to do there. On the other hand, the previous time I had been there, back when I was in Yeshiva, this place symbolized everything that I believed in. while some in my family seem this place as the antithesis to consecration of God’s name I knew that this place talked to me – this is where I felt God’s presence. I really did. But now, things have changed. As I walked in the huge plaza after passing the relatively newly installed security station I felt naked. I wasn’t used to walking these holy stones without the full regalia on. The lack of a hat and long overcoat made me consciously aware of my change. I walked slowly, taking it in. nothing has changed.
It was still the same wall, the same people, the same prayers books and the same mendicants hunting for the next big meal. I stood a few hundred feet away from the kosel, the great white wall adorned with green shrub lazily imitating the body movement of the people below and decorated with cracks filled with paper in all colors and sizes, and searched for my inner Jewish soul.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
“You can’t discard feelings” the rebbe told me last night. “What you call feelings, or instinct, is in other words your ‘soul’!”
That place still kept pulling me to itself. The power of dead myths. It may have died in my brain but I wanted to see it dead. Or Not.
“Your brain”, the rebbe explained, “is constantly looking to compartmentalize any new information it gets to make it fit what it already knows. That is why so many times you process information you get wrongly to make it fit your weltanschauung”.
“Maybe. Maybe your brain is the culprit here.” I didn't say it.
Around me a group of fevering young man dancing in circle, asserting their allegiance to the king of kings. A group of Breslovers paired with young hippies, probably Americans, dancing. I looked on, numb. What I felt, I now realize, was the same thing other people feel just a few hundred feet away in the Al Aqsa mosque, or thousands of miles away in churches, museums, burial sites and stadiums across the globe.
.ויוסיפו עוד שנוא אותו, על-חלומותיו
And I have a dream too. In this dream all of the above is gone.
Without the above and much more I am not me and I'm not entirely sure that I would like the alternative me, but it would not bother me in the least bit if all of it is gone. Gone by choice, not by force. If people, my people, start realizing that they are immersing themselves in silliness first class, utter rubbish and shit loads of nothing. If only. Then those that do get the revelation if they would only be a little more daring, dare tell others how they feel, think and act. Dare make a change. Dare to start with their own families, their own kids.
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us.
I dream of walking the great Shul where the Rebbe had his headquarters and bemoaning its emptiness. I want to feel a tinge of regret at the loss of the little good and hope it gave to the congregants and then rejoice in the loss, in the gain of normalcy, education, happiness, morality and livelihood. The gain of truth, the sad, stark TRUTH.
.ונראה, מה-יהיו חלומותיו