shabba-nukah thoughts

We lit Hanukkah candles and listened to Arik Einstein. In spite of his surprised passing, we too have a few disks of his songs encompassing dozens records, cassettes, albums and disks he left. Especially in light of recent headlines, this can sadly be “compared and contrasted” with the (rightful) outrage around singer Eyal Golan – and his father – seducing 15 year old girls. The nice thing is that Arik Einstein was not flawless, not pretentious. He got involved in his share of shtuyot (nonsense). But when he sang about “seeing her on the way to the gimnasya (“The” Tel Aviv high school), you knew it was just that: a longing for an impossibility anyone could smile and identify with, rather than a pick-up at the curb. Arik Einstein sang about the good old Israel we knew and love, about how you and I can change the world, about funny characters. Couple relationships in his songs were complex, tender and insightful. Expressions from his songs, skits and movies made it into Israeli slang (like sa le’at – drive slowly, the name of one of his albums).

One of the “fires” he found himself in, involved the song “Yechezkel”, about the life of Ezekiel, the Biblical prophet. It included words (by Haim Hefer) that were considered controversial, how Ezekiel is a “hella prophet”, and the “chicks” that follow him (in Hebrew, chatichot, the slang for “good looking girls” and “pieces” is the same word, referring to the dry bones vision). Sadly, the song offended the religious sects and was banned for a number of years, symbolic of walls that went up between some of the Israeli Jews and Judaism, walls that are now being challenged from any sides: Charedim (Ultra-Orthodox) in the IDF, open batei midrash (Jewish learning centers) and more.

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Last night, driving back from a Thanksgiving-Hanukkah dinner, we got into a conversation about how parents (not me, of course) should not treat their all grown-up kids as kids. Well, the sad cycle of life is that as a parent, you can remember yourself being 16 or 23 and thinking just that; as a child, you have no idea yet that one day you’ll be a parent who does exactly that to your own kids… That is because parenting isn’t a job that can be compared to anything else, and the relationship is a one and only in one’s life. “But my friends treat me differently” they say, and you go dah. After all, when you as parent, offer a cookie to your friends, they don’t think you’re babying them, they just say ‘thank you’. “My friends trust my driving” explains your baby as he gets behind the wheel, tsaring in disbelief as you clutching the seat with white knuckles, and  praying more fervently than in any High holy Days service. Of course, these are imaginary examples, but one way or another, at the end of the day, while parents and their children can be friendly, and on occasion can behave as good friends, they are not friends. The problem is we’re like the Syrian-African rift: we’re missing each other by an average of 25-35 years. Is there really a way to explain that to each other? Express that in a PC manner?

This week’s Torah potion gently shares an example of this fragile and careful balance. The reading of Miketz (always on Hanukkah) begins with Joseph in Egypt, solving Pharaoh’s dreams. Soon he’s whisked from prison to becomes second to the ruler, managing the resources of the rich country in times of famine. Then the brothers come to buy food and they meet for the first time in 17 years. In a complicated plot, Joseph orchestrates a situation where the brothers can “lose” Benjamin, like they got rid of him. Or not. This is not revenge, but an opportunity for tshuva (repentance). It has to happen before they can move on.

Here’s what’s interesting to our drive last night: Up until chapter 43:6, every time Jacob is mentioned, he appears as Jacob, Yaakov. But all of a sudden his name Israel, Yisrael is used. Jacob is a the “lower” aspect (see older post), while Israel is the higher one. The first one feels more depressed (especially in this situation), doubts, drags along. The latter is “higher”, inspired, intuitive, courageous, faithful, determined to do what is right.

Each one has both aspects too, but when do we use one or the other? That’s the dance of life (which sometimes can be viewed more as a tight-rope walk over an abyss…). Jacob himself struggles with it. We shouldn’t feel too bad if we do too.

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Thanksgiv-ukah, Saint Pat-urim, Suk-lloween Same’ach and the rest of what we still come up with – maybe enough. As an opportunity to learn more about the Jewish calendar, it’s great. It’s also fun to look for parve suganiyot to go with the turkey, but that’s about it.

The very first thing that happened with creation is distinction: this here is one thing, and this there – another. The water below was separated from the sky above; man was separated from the earth; woman from man. They kept interacting through their core roles and tasks but each had enough trouble dealing with its unique essence and expressing that. It’s not about better and worse. It’s about each person, each entity, each “thing”, and that goes to each holiday as well, being who and what he/she/it is, without making them all into a mushy tchulent… which reminds me…it’s time for Shabbat prep.

Shabbat Shalom & Hanukkah Same’ach.

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