Thursday, September 15, 2016

I had another dream about the Israelite Samaritans two weeks ago. I dreamed that I was in some kind of seaside resort complex, a very large, spread-out building on the sea, with outdoor decks, promenades, etc. only I was inside with all the families & people who were walking around. There was a kind of atrium on a lower level, with a deck running around it, ampitheatre-style. The Israelite Samaritans were there, holding a Hatam Torah ceremony in which a child reads Deuteronomy 33 & 34 before the community (the closest thing to a Jewish bar mitzvah). I wanted to go down to them but there was a (perfectly transparent) perspex/plexiglass barrier between the Samaritans & non-Samaritans. I was in a crowd of people most of whom were shuffling past them without paying them any attention. I wanted to go them but I couldn't. I saw the barrier and stopped. I thought it wouldn't be seemly to gape & gawk. The shuffling crowd shuffled me along, and away. That's when I woke up.

It being autumn I am thinking about going to Aargareezem again, before "Rosh Hashanah". What do I seek, and find, there (in the few hours that I will spend there)? For me, I am going to Umbilicus Mundi and tapping into the spiritual energy that flows into the world (and me) at that point. I recharge my spiritual batteries for another year (until my next visit). I get the strength to re-realize that God has a plan for me, that I must trust in Him that He knows what He is doing and that what He is doing is for my benefit, and that rather than seek immediate answers, I must wait and believe.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

This motzaei Shabbat & Sunday is the Jewish fast of the 9th of Av. I will be fasting for one reason only: My wife would be upset (very) if I did not. I think I will eat some Israelite Samaritan tehina as my last food before the fast starts & as my first food after it is over. This way I will either be remembering it or looking forward to it throughout the day, when my heart is not on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem but on Aargareezem.

I even wrote my own kinah to read on Sunday morning:

Today I weep for stillborn hopes
and dreams that withered while in bud.
An empty belly is soon filled
but an empty heart cries for bread.

See the grapes beyond my reach?
Would that I could have them!
They are sweetest nectar!
(Why can't I play the fox?)

The bird in hand makes a joyous chirp
for others; I cannot hear it
and would serve it up stuffed
except then I'd have nothing.

Better to have one's cake and gag on it
than stare at reflected grapes on an empty plate.
And the worst part?
Pretending that I like cake.

Aargareezem Bit El - Kal yaamee 'ayyeenoo!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Random thoughts

I had a thought about the Rabbinic notion of building fences around the Torah. I thought about Aabaah (Eve), in Genesis 3, in which she tells the snake that Shema had told her and Aadaam not to touch the Tree of Knowledge. We know, of course, that Shema said no such thing. Aabaah was, in effect, building a fence around the Tree and misrepresenting it as God's own words, just as Rabbinic Jews have been doing for centuries vis-a-vis the Torah. (And once the snake saw that Aabaah was prepared to misrepresent and, in effect, falsify Shema's words, the snake knew that he could persuade her to sin and defy Shema.) 

Last month my wife & I went to a wedding near Beit Shemesh. When they sang "If I forget you Jerusalem..." during the chupah, I said quietly to myself (and to Shema, of course!), "I acknowledge and testify that Aargareezem is the Holy Place chosen by God, not the Temple Mount in Jerusalem."

Also last month My wife & I went to the Old City of Jerusalem. My wife had to pay a shiva call & then we went to see the Light festival. While my wife was paying her shiva call, I sat with my laptop in a quiet corner in the Jewish Quarter and checked my email, did some work, etc. My wife had suggested that I could go down to the Western Wall but then dropped the idea when she realized, I think, that I have no desire to visit that place, certainly not to pray there. It really means nothing to me. Later we walked past the gigantic Hurva synagogue. What a monument and testimony it is to the Jewish penchant for grandiose buildings! Where did we ever get that idea? Certainly not from the Torah!

No plastered pomp can match the thrill
of a simple tent on a northern hill.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Been to the Mountain!

Let's see...

I left my office on Tuesday afternoon, March 29, at around 13:30. I picked up & dropped off hitchhikers along the way. I always make it a point to pick up hitchhikers & give people rides. I figure that if I do good with the car, then perhaps Shema will bless me as I drive it. Driving through Hawara was absolutely fine. We even got stuck in slow traffic; nobody even looked at us.

I drove up past Har Bracha & through Kiryat Luza to the gate at the national park. I saw men cleaning the area around the Pesach pits (it breaks my heart to see garbage & litter in that holy place!) & getting it ready for the great offering. I used my annual Parks and Nature Authority pass to enter. I couldn't go to the holy places right away as I had some work to do on the computer. I did that, put the laptop back in the car & walked out on the Mountain. It was windy & chill but I didn't mind. I was the only person there which was just as good. I looked down at Kiryat Luza and at Har Bracha, looking at both but actually in neither. I thought, how appropriate! As much as I try to learn about the Israelite Samaritans (including the IS version of the Torah) & talk to my IS friend, I know that I will, in all likelihood, never be one of them. I will always be the literal outsider looking in. And Har Bracha (which might as well be our entirely religious neighborhood)? I'm not at home there either. There I'm the figurative outsider looking out. I never felt so alone. I went to Givat Olam, took off my shoes and socks, opened the fence (how symbolic! I, the rabbinic Jew, opening the fence!) and walked out on the bare rock. I wanted to feel the rock with my feet. I lay down flat on Givat Olam (I wanted to feel the rock on my face and my hands) and prayed for the day when I can go to Aargareezem openly & not have to steal away on furtive visits. I also prayed that Shema should please, until that day comes, grant me some sort of equilibrium. 

I stood up, walked around some more, then knelt & lay flat and prayed some more. I left Givat Olam (closing the gate, I won't say "fence"!) and walked out to the wooden deck overlooking Mt. Eval & Nablus down below. Before leaving I went to the Altar of Yesaahq & walked down & around & stood in front of it for a good while, awestruck, trying to imagine Yesaahq stretched out on there with Abraahm ready to do Shema's bidding. But then it was time to go & I went back to the car. I know that there are the other holy places on the Mountain and one day I will ask my IS friend to show them to me but for now it is Givat Olam & the Altar of Yesaahq that draw me.

The drive back through Hawara was equally uneventful. I picked up & dropped off more hitchhikers on the way home.

I wrote the following verse:

Furtive visits, snatched on the sly;
time too short, til the next visit good-bye.
Until then the Holy Mountain I see
must remain hidden deep within me.

I thought/think about receiving the High Priest's blessing, which is very comforting, and a great source of strength, to me.

Our youngest son (15) once expressed an interest in coming to see the Pesach offering. He wants to see the shechita and preparation of the lambs & lowering them into the blazing pits. He hasn't brought up the idea lately. I hope he has forgotten about it. I really would prefer not to see the ceremony again, once was enough. To see it again as an observer, a spectator, and not experience it as a participant, would be heart-rending. I also see that the Israel Nature and Parks Authority will be having the usual activities but I that isn't how I want to come to the Mountain. All the visitors might think it odd to see me praying at the various holy sites.

I see that the Israelite Samaritan and Jewish counting of the Omer will coincide this year. We will both start on Saturday evening April 23/Sunday April 24. I can count with my Jewish friends & neighbors and none of them will realize that I'm really counting according to the Israelite Samaritan understanding of "from the morrow of the Sabbath". Where better to hide than in plain sight?

On another note. On the Shabbat before Purim, the rabbi at our shul spoke as he usually does & mentioned Haman in the course of his remarks and added that Haman was an Amalekite. His adorable four year old son piped up & said that the King of Arad was an Amalekite. I looked up the King of Arad (Numbers 21:1-3 and saw that Rashi says that he was indeed an Amalekite even though the actual text says nothing of the kind and describes him as a "Canaanite" who "lived in the South." Rashi cites various midrashic sources to the effect that these descriptions don't mean what they say and that the King of Arad really was an Amalekite. I think this is another example of the rabbis playing around with the plain and simple meaning of the actual text to make it say what they want it to say. What if the text actually means what it says & not what rabbinic sophistry says it says? There's a thought.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

End of February news

Up until this past Friday, my main point-of-contact with the Israelite Samaritans has been reading the weekly Torah portion in my translated English Torah & following the Hebrew commentary that I download from the IS website. The IS readings are now about the 11 Plagues & the exodus from Egypt. The IS count 11 plagues in Egypt, not, 10. They count the incident with the staves & the crocodiles ("serpent" is a mistranslation of the Hebrew t'nin, which means crocodile) in Exodus 7 as a plague. (FYI, in Exodus 4, the word nahash, snake or serpent is used.) This is my contact; this is what I must make do with at present. But this past Friday, my wife & I went to a family-owned pharmacy in our community. The pharmacy also stocks natural herbs & extracts & stuff. We went in & I noticed on a shelf IS tehina (tahini), from the factory in Kiryat Luza, on Aargareezem. I was delighted; naturally we had to buy some. The wife pharmacist (they're a couple) said that they had recently visited Kiryat Luza & the national park, saw the tehina & decided to buy some for the pharmacy. Seeing & buying that tehina, this token from Aargareezem, inspired me. When I was in synagogue Friday evening & I faced Aargareezem (see my previous post) to beg Shema to bless me and grant that I might serve Him one day on the Mountain, I felt the wind carry me all the way past Har Bracha, through Kiryat Luza, past the Passover pits and deposit me down on Givat Olam. I felt the wind at my back as I stood there, I actually leaned backward into this spiritual wind as I stood there, on the Mountain, before the wind picked me up and brought me back to our snagogue. How exhilarating! I thanked Shema as profoundly as I could.

The other bit of news is that just before Purim, my wife will travel abroad to help her mother (a wonderful woman) move into the local Jewish assisted living facility. She will be abroad for almost three weeks. I would love to visit the Mountain if I could. We shall see.

Monday, January 25, 2016

January miscellany

So, I was reading my Israelite Samaritan commentary on the Aalaak ("parsha") "And Yaaqob dwelt" in synagogue last Shabbat (I had read the Aalaak itself in my translated Torah at home the night before; unfortunately, the book is too big to take to synagogue) when something struck me about the phrase "And it came about at that time, that Ye'ooda departed from his brothers..." This is (also) a metaphor for the fact that we, Israelite Jews, the descendants of Ye'ooda, have departed from our Israelite Samaritan brothers and from the one true Torah and the one true Holy Place, Aargaareezem! Truly we have departed from our brothers. Well, this Ye'oodi has come seeking his Israelite Samaritan brothers (and the one true Torah and the one true Holy Place, Aargaareezem!

On Friday nights in synagogue it is our custom to sing the hymn "Lecha Dodi" and then turn to face the door of the synagogue as we "welcome the Shabbat Bride". I always turn back around to face the Mountain and implore Shema to bless me and grant that I might serve Him one day on the Mountain. I imagine myself racing up the hill from Maskit junction, passing the entrance to the Jewish community of Har Bracha, entering Kiryat Luza, passing the pits for the Passover offerings on the right, entering the national park and coming to a stop at Givat Olam where I stand before Shema with my hands outspread at my side. The Friday night before last, as I stood there in synagogue with my hands outspread at my side, I could really feel myself standing at Givat Olam with the wind blowing around me. It was as close as I've ever felt to the Holy Place without actually being there. I tried to recapture this last Friday night in synagogue but couldn't other than for a second or so.

I had an early morning dream one day last week in which I was hiking cross-country through a field. I could tell that there was a valley before me. I went forward to see how steep it was and where there might be a way down to it. All of a sudden it turned very steep and I found myself on a *tiny* ledge in the rocks. I could not go forward and I could not go back (no way back up). It looked way too high to jump. I was afraid, I had no idea what to do. As I felt panic setting in, I lost my balance and pitched headlong into the valley. But to my delight, I floated (on my back) all the way down to the bottom. That's when I woke up.

Right now I'm still stuck on the tiny rocky ledge. I cannot go back to orthodox Judaism (in my mind/heart) and the way forward to becoming an Israelite Samaritan is too steep, i.e. dangerous. Would that it was/could be as easy as it was in my dream! 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Reading the Torah & the Talmud


I am reading (in Hebrew) an Israelite Samaritan commentary on the[ir] weekly Torah readings and enjoying it immensely. The IS understanding of the Torah is so different from ours. I noted previously hat they do not vilify Esau/Ishaab the way our rabbis do. Neither (as I've learned) do they vilify Laban.There is a tendency, I think, in o'dox Judaism, to put the great men & women of the Torah on a pedestal and treat them as wholly pure, almost other-worldly saints whom it does not behoove us mere mortals to criticize. They are thus made into cardboard, monochrome characters who are more caricature than real character. Any tendency to see them otherwise is derided as *gova einayim* or viewing the great men and women of the Tanakh as being ordinary human beings, a kind of Biblical lese-majeste. It's a nice way to stifle debate and any questioning of the rabbis' pronouncements. While the ISs hold the great men & women of the Torah to be extraordinary human beings, they do hold them to be human beings, replete with human drives, passions and failings. Such an approach does NOT rob them of heir holiness, rather it adds to it. The rabbinc approach, rather, robs them of their humanity and leaves us not with real people we can learn from but monochrome, made-from-cardboard (and thoroughly unbelievable) saints. I must say that I find the IS approach refreshing, very.

I saw this article on the Tablet website & posted the following reply on Tablet's Facebook page:


I have a whopping problem with this from the penultimate paragraph:

"...we have also seen, in Tractate Berachot, that God Himself prays and wears tefillin. Now, in Gittin 6b, we see that God also engages in Torah study..."

It is concepts such as these that have helped turn me off Rabbinic Judaism altogether. Whether literally or as metaphors, I can no longer accept statements such as these from Berachot and Gittin which depict God as engaging in all-too-human activities. Isn't this warmed-over paganism with a monotheistic veneer? God wears tefillin (as it were); Zeus wears a laurel wreath. And the difference is? If one takes such statements literally, then one crosses the line into actual paganism. To Whom does He pray? To Himself? If you believe that God has arms to put His tefillin on (is He right-handed or left-handed?) and that He has curly black hair (as per Anim Zemirot), then why can't He father children? By declaring that God does these things (wear tefillin, learn Torah, etc.), the Rabbis are casting Him in our image.

"...But God cherished both Evyatar’s and Yonatan’s insights, saying, 'These and these are the words of the living God'—the famous formula applied to the disagreements of Hillel and Shammai..."

I'm not trying to be smart-alecky and I really mean no disrespect. By putting words in God's mouth to the effect that 'These and these are the words of the living God' the rabbis are engaged in sheerest chutzpah. 'These and these' are the words of two flesh-and-blood rabbis who ought not to presume that their utterances, however sincere, are those of God Himself.

Until next time...