Tag Archives: spirituality

The Tainted Grain

20 Apr

There is a Rebbe Nachman story that has come to my mind many times in the past few years. This year, looking at the Pesach madness and feeling myself both drawn towards it and repelled by it at the same time, I think again about this story. It goes as follows:

The king’s star gazer saw that the grain harvested that year was tainted. Anyone who would eat from it would became insane. “What can we do?” said the king. “It is not possible to destroy the crop for we do not have enough grain stored to feed the entire population.”

“Perhaps,” said the star gazer, “we should set aside enough grain for ourselves. At least that way we could maintain our sanity.” The king replied, “If we do that, we’ll be considered crazy. If everyone behaves one way and we behave differently, we’ll be considered the not normal ones.

“Rather,” said the king, “I suggest that we too eat from the crop, like everyone else. However, to remind ourselves that we are not normal, we will make a mark on our foreheads. Even if we are insane, whenever we look at each other, we will remember that we are insane!”

We are limited by this world. We see our reality through the spectacles of time, place, emotion and the limitations of these concepts. We long for things we know will bring us no true happiness and satisfaction, we fear what we should embrace (death) and embrace what we should fear (disconnection from God). We are really part of this madness in some way or another and we’re helpless. We see the linear rather than the infinite and we constantly blind ourselves to God’s constant presence and messages. This crazy world is our madness that we will be afflicted with until the day we die.

Is there anything we can do to prevent the affliction? Not much. But those stickers on our brow, the reminder of what we once lost and what we ought to have may serve to gently prod us into questioning the reality we live in.

Yes, we’re mad too, in our own way. But at least we know it.




The Banality of Adjectives

22 Mar

Today I observed two interactions that disturbed me a lot. In one, a video of kids parading their Purim costumes  was shared with a colleague on whatsapp, to which she responded ‘incredible!’. In another, another Purim shot was shared, also on whatsapp with a family member of someone’s children dressed up in pretty ordinary looking costumes. The response was ‘fantastic!’.

These reactions were inappropriate, out of context and thoroughly exaggerated. So what, you say, why should I care? Well, if a plastic ninja outfit is ‘fantastic’, and teens dressed as butterflies are ‘incredible’, then what adjectives would you use to describe the warm orange glow of a sunset, the view while perched on a mountain in  the Himalayas, watching an egg hatch or a rare butterfly open its wings? Are these wonders of Creation simply ‘very fantastic’ or ‘extremely incredible’?

It might even be worse than that. It might be that language has ceased to serve its function. A person no longer has the lexicon by which to truly appreciate that which is appreciable.

You might say it’s me. So, what. Speech is free, it’s your problem.

Yes, I have a problem with inappropriate and banale adjectives. Is it simply because I love language and its precision? Partly yes but mostly not.

The ability to communicate ideas, stories, hopes and dreams is something that separates us from animals. Yes, animals communicate, but not in the way we do. Our distinctly human souls are embedded in the language we speak and I feel our language should express this.

Notice how I added the ‘I feel’. Perhaps that is the key to using and not abusing language, as I illustrated above. Rather than taking superlatives and sprinkling them at will, like chocolate chips and brown sugar, maybe we should start to personalize the way we perceive the world. Perhaps we should qualify our adjectives with ‘I feel’ or ‘This makes me think….’ or ‘In my opinion, this is….’ That actually might be quite interesting.

In the opinion of a  person, who doesn’t have experience to reference from, a bite of a fast food hamburger is ‘fantastic’. So he or she should state ‘This Mcd’s hamburger, in my opinion, tastes fantastic.’ That is OK by me. It’s your opinion and not mine. You’re not attempting to color the world with your superficial brush. You just wish to show me your interpretation of the world through your eyes. I can dig that.

How does this connect to Godliness. Well, God’s word is the word of silence. The highest ideal we can achieve  is  an intimate understanding of Him and His world, where no words, no adjectives or superlatives are necessary. When we stand at God’s feet and contemplate his glory, we cannot help but be filled with it…that feeling that no words can really justify….but where ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’ come to mind.

For God just ‘is’ and so too, is his  awesome and wonderful world. (And no adjectives are really necessary).

The One Size that Definitely Does Not Fit All

3 Jan

I recently was a the dentist having a temporary crown refitted as one had fallen out. I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that we’re all so different that even our teeth are different, even if they do precisely the same job as everyone else’s. 

Taking a bird’s eye view, a sociologist’s view or anyone else’s view we might all be remarkably similar in habits, looks, behaviour- you name it. Yet we are all so fundamentally different. Because God made us that way.

I ponder on my old friends who still remain in the religious world, whose children are rejecting the ‘beauty of orthodoxy’ or who themselves have internally rejected so many aspects of it, that they are literally clinging on to a life raft of appearing externally religious. It is simply a sham. So much pain in the name of something that was so fresh and promising at the beginning.

I think it’s like our teeth. There is no single prescription for our spiritual ills. If anyone things they can take that ‘one size fits all’ and stretch it or tighten it so it looks like it fits will soon be flailing in something which will inhibit them. Anything that offers itself to ‘everyone’ is distinctly suspicious.

We came in alone, we’ll go back to God alone. Let’s find our fit together with him, our individual, hand-molded fit from our Maker who made the mold itself.


the Spirit is in all sorts of places….

22 Apr

I was doing a facebook/internet wander and came across the name Ravi Shankar – we all know him but just not by name. Then I remembered the Indian-influenced Beatles songs I used to listen to when I was young (actually, my parents made me listen to them) and did another look-up on you tube to jog my memory.
The words are really what hit me:
Within You Without You

We were talking-about the space between us all
And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth-then it’s far too late-when they pass away.
We were talking about the love we all could share when we find it
To try our best to hold it there-with our love
With our love we could save the world if they only knew.
Try to realize it’s all within yourself
No-one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small,
And life flows ON within you and without you_____
We were talking-about the love that’s gone so cold and the people,
Who gain the world and lose their soul….
They don’t know they can’t see-are you one of them?
When you’ve seen beyond yourself-then you may find, peace of mind,
Is waiting there….
And the time will come when you see
we’re all one, and life flows on within you and without you.

I regret that God is not mentioned in this song. It’s close, but not quite. I would change the words to
‘When you’ve gone beyond yourself- you may find
that GOD, your real peace of mind
is waiting there……’