It feels like it’s been weeks since I’ve blogged and shared my thoughts with the huge public out there, and I just realized why. Because it’s been weeks since I’ve blogged and shared my thoughts.
I can’t say exactly why that’s been, except to recall a nightmare that author Rodger Kamenetz once had in a dream. In an article he wrote about his book A History of Last Night’s Dream, Baltimore-born Kamenetz speaks of a vivid and scary vision in which he enters a lecture hall filled with students, not uncommon for this award-winning professor and writer. What unnerves him in this dream, is that he cannot open his mouth. Here he is, someone paid to talk and lecture, and he can’t say a word. Like the dream of a Rabbi who forgets his Yom Kippur sermon at home, the pressure and predicament is unbearable and he wakes up to an incredible and life-changing insight. Maybe he wasn’t in a room filled with people in order to speak; perhaps he was there in order to listen.
I’ve been listening and observing more than talking and pontificating during these past few weeks. I love listening to other people’s thoughts and opinions about things, for the same reason Washington Post commentator William Raspberry reads and listens to ideas he firmly disagrees with.
“Do you read stuff you don’t like?” he was once asked by a young student in a journalism class he was visiting. Absolutely, he said, because after reading something he knew he wouldn’t like from the beginning, he knew twice as much as before- he knew what HE knew, and now he knows what THEY know.
Listening and observing gives me great pleasure, as I learn so much when my mouth is shut. So here are some observations for what they’re worth (I know what you’re thinking…)
With one dot you can’t make a line, but with two, you can. When something happens and it catches your attention, it’s hard to predict a pattern, but when it happens again, you have to ask, is something going on? For example, months ago Glenn Beck announced he will be holding a massive rally here in Jerusalem, in August, at the southern excavation wall of the Kotel (revered Western Wall). Similar to the August 28, 2010 event in Washington called “Restoring Honor,” Mr. Beck wishes to rally unequivocal support for Israel at an event called “Restoring Courage.”
Now, this courageous rally has announced a retreat, and fearing 40,000 Muslims on the Temple Mount (where Arabs roam, picnic, play kickball and pray freely and openly but Jews can only walk with a guide and are forbidden to utter even a word of prayer), the security challenges will be too great and a new location will be announced. What happened to the Courage part? But it’s only one dot.
There is a large group of people that meets in Jerusalem on the first day of every Hebrew month in order to march around the gates of the Old City. This has been going on for the past 10 years, and the crowd swells to as many as 5,000 marchers on the first day of Av. As the Hebrew month of Av begins an intense Jewish mourning period for 9 days, recalling the destruction of both Holy Temples and havoc wreaked on Jerusalem through the millennia, the magnetic draw to encircle the gates of the Old City and comfort them and be touched by their resilience is quite understandable. But not this year, because the first of Av coincides with the beginning of Ramadan, and there may be a clash between Jews and Muslims. Another dot, now we can make a line. In Israel, it’s Muslims 2, Jews 0. What’s going on? What’s next?
Now on to more serious business, where innocent lives have been mercilessly snuffed out. Just a few weeks ago, 9-year old Leiby Kletzky was reported missing in Boro Park, Brooklyn, apparently lost on his way home from camp. Thousands of volunteers spent all hours of day and night searching for this young hassidic boy, angelic in features. It turns out that their search was in vain, because they didn’t look in the right refrigerator-freezer and suitcase in a trash bin to find the dismembered parts of Leiby Kletzky. Who could have done such a heinous crime, such a monstrous deed, exhibiting a callous indifference to a child? The details are not fully known, but one aspect of the suspect’s bio caused the aftershock: he is a Jew, Levi Aron, who has been arrested in the nightmare murder of a Jewish boy. But it’s only one dot.
This past Thursday night, while sitting in his Be’er Sheva yeshiva apparently dispensing blessings and advice to visitors, Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira was stabbed to death sometime after midnight by a frequent guest. He was in his early 60’s and a grandson of the famed and venerated Baba Sali, and was noted for his effective blessings and Kabbalistic teachings. It seems that one of the visitors was unhappy that a specific blessing of the Rabbi did not materialize, and began stabbing the Rabbi. While it’s not clear to me why those present did not intervene more quickly, the terrible and gruesome deed was done, and the Rabbi passed away on the way to the hospital. There are so many unanswered questions about this horrific incident, but one aspect seems sure, as the onlookers tackled the assailant to the ground until police arrived on the scene. The attacker, Asher Dahan, is a Jew. Another dot, now we can make a line. Jewish victims 2, non-Jewish perpetrators 0. What’s going on? What’s next?
Now the Israeli police and army are afraid of confronting Muslims, even when the events that need the protection are non-violent and pro-Israel. Now, we have two high profile murders of Jews by Jews. I’m only looking at a couple of dots and lines here and there, but surely there must be a bigger spiritual picture that is emerging.what is it?
It’s like watching the legendary Morris Katz who is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most prolific painter in the world. Most of his work was done for audiences in the Catskill mountains of New York, as he would take a blank canvas and create a…well….not exactly a masterpiece, but something you would be proud to hang in your home…in under a couple of minutes. I so remember him one time at the Concord Hotel, as he put a canvas on his easel, splotched a couple of colors on the white background, and wryly declared, “I’m almost done now!”
That’s the feeling I get now, as I see dots and lines, not sure of exactly what will emerge once the painting is done. I don’t think “dots” is all there is.