The secret Jewish Cannabis History and Wisdom teachings of all ages

Monday, January 17, 2005

Zion Streets is mighty sweet

So... after high school, I went to Israel, ostensibly to learn Torah, and experience the holiness of the land... but also to find

a) community wrestling with this same question. I could ask my shul rabbi for insight, and listen to him repeat a modern rabbinic prohibition based on lies and suck-up-to-the-man disinformation, but maybe there were people in Israel really struggling with these mysteries, and maybe they'd found something good, and

b)sources, written ones, dealing with Marijuana, in some way or another. Be it in the Pentateuch, the Prophets, Psalms, mishna, Talmud, Midrash, Old Kabbalah, Chassidus... Wherever I could and also

c) Organize a million marijuna march for Jerusalem. How could the international roster of cities hosting ganja day protests not include the very center of the universe.

I first went to Israel on a Young Judea year course program. Set for the first 3 months in Jerusalem, it seemed an easy enviroment from which to somehow be centered close to Jerusalem's strange living culture, while being slowly weaned into Israeli culture, the ultimate goal of Hadassah's young Judea.

Theoretically frustrating, we were, thanks to the newly born security threat of a fresh intifada just in time for the new year, forbidden from going to either the old city or most of JTown, with the exception of the Russian Compound.

Why the Russian Compound? Because that's where the bars were, and, as one adminstrator confirmed, the program wanted us to be able to drink our problems away.

Drug use was strictly forbidden on the program too, something which frustrated the hell out of most of the students on the year course, leading to a pretty fair amount of excess drinking and constant kvetchery. These were well educated hardcore party kids from across the U.S. and the British Isles, not used to obeying rules like that, and generally kind of irritated by the program.

I was at the time, just for the first time learning Kabbalah and Chassidus, by way of Areyeh Kaplan's translation and exhaustive commentary compilation on the Sepher Yetzirah, and some of the works of R'Nachman of Breslove. Smoking less grass than i did in the states (I-ditation maybe once or twice a week) I was getting much higher, on ancestral Bahkti and simple faith.
The program offered a decent day structure and some fun community, my main learning was from the books and from the streets.

It occured to me one night that Jerusalem was, like all cities, a woman. If she knew you were listening, she'd show you all her secrets.

I was walking in the streets one night after classes, past an ice cream cream shop right off Zion Square, the center of Town. Some crazy old drunken mystics would hang out there, talk shit about what was going on, in their lives, in their minds, in the country as a whole, in grandiose romantic apocalyptic ways. These particular drunks had a particularly ecxtatic relationship with nihlistic messianism, one that would marvel me with it's poetry and hope. The end of the world was going to come, and clarify how nice and kind nice and kind people are, and inspire everyone to want to just love each other. All the friends they'd watched die over the years, from overdoses and suicide bombs, car accidents and liver cirroci, would be ressurected and be able to hang out and hug again. And the mystery of why we've had to struggle and suffer over so much would be revealed.

I really believed in it all, ultimately. I think still do, whenever confronted with it. These are parts of the ultimate promise, that one day, all the stories will be clarified... clarified and appricated, so deeply. All my enemies will come and apologize, crying, "i'm so sorry... i didn't realize... I was hurting so much, i just couldn't see, i just couldn't-- couldn't"

And i'll cry, and say, I know, I'm the same way. One of the major ideas that was introduced to me at the time was the Simple Faith. Very popular in most orthodox christian sects, it's generally assumed to be eschewed by logic-convoluted rabbinic judaism. Not so, R' Nachman says.

"Truth and Faith are like day and night. The ancient Torah law is courts can only convene during the day, never at ngith, because Truth, revealed truth corresponds to the day, when the sun is shining and everything is clear. All the details and imperfections are clear, and there's no question of what reality is when it's "day." This is the aspect of the moment when God's presence is revealed and open, when everything is going "right" and the hand of Jah in synchronicty ("hashkachat pratit" lit. "specific maintanence") is openly visible and there are not questions. Miracles and so on.

This is not the highest revelation of the divine. A higher level is that of Faith, corresponding to night. Judgement is difficult at night, and not really as worthwhile, as it's hard enough to see anything. Demon can be confused with people and visa versa, but when do all the really great celbrations happen? When is your beloved most beautiful? When are children genrally concieved, and when do we dream? Only at night. In the sunlight, all our imperfections and mortalities become painfully clear. In the moonlight, they all fade away, and our true beauty is revealed.

So it is with God. Only when she's a bit hidden does she become most attractive. An overpowering, un avoidable presence gets overbearing, and makes us have to leave our home just to feel independant and free. But in the moonlight, in the faith that guides us through the things we can't see, does the desire for more divinity manifest. Faith is the aspect of prayer, of desire and grace. We only believe in things that we want to, and our realities can only follow after our expectations of what's possible, what's reality.

Simple faith, R' Nachman says, is the only way miricles can manifest and that the heart can be truly opened. A cynical, probing mind can useful theoretically, but will not let the heart be touched. A friend of mine recently compared it to a jealous boyfriend, that's only trying to help keep the heart safe by acting all tough, and needs to be silenced, gently, by the heart, told, sh, it's ok, don't worry about it.

There's a principle in a Kurt Vonnegut book, Breakfast of Champions, that human have clearly demonstrated by their mad passion for trivialities like gold and teenage girl's undearwear, that we as humans can program ourselves to believe anything, so we might as well believe in the best things possible, the things that help us help the most.

And the other trick, with believing impossible things, is to know that they're essence is true, even if the language of how the hope is expressed is not nessesarily. There's an old Judean legend that heaven is basically a great house of learning, full of all the ideas you studied while alive, and allt he greatest teachers there to clarify for you, what they really mean... and apparantly what they really mean grows with every generation, as the secrets are revealed from the collective unconcious into what we as human can become open to.

One night in Jerusalem, I was sitting by the Ice Cream Shop, where the holy drunkards sit and scream and laugh and cry... some guy came up and we started talking about the messianic process. He was a relatively recent Ba'al Teshuva, "master of repentance" the religious jewish equivelent of a Born Again... We started arguing, gently, using proof texts from scripture, both ancient, medieval and relatively modern, over whether or not the King Messiah was and individual (his position) or a generation (mine.)

Any individual messiah can just be killed, thus ending the movement everytime it get's too close to revolution, as has been the traditional way of maintaining structure and consistant authority. Only once it's everyone can it really take hold, i maintained.

No, it's one guy, who just has the power to really impress everyone, so much so that there is no opposition that can stop him, said he. We met up with some other street mystics, and asked them what they thought. One of them, and older, long bearded Briton, invited us back to his flat to smoke some herb and ponder the question. We arrived at his house, a small second floor walk up decorated in kabbalistic art work, much of which was painted by his roomate, who lifted out from his Hebrew letter meditative practice to join us, and offer us use of his plastic bottle bong.

The Older man had studied in some of the finest Yeshivas in Gateshead, the son of one of the major Rabbis there, before rebelling off to Israel, tripping very hard for years and years, and blowing his mind into shattered yet coherent pieces. We all talked for hours as the bong went around, I just overwhelmed by the majesty of the moments and how mch I'd been longing to share with friends this way.

All the dope smoking I had done in high school had never been under jewish or devotional circumstances, except when I was alone. All my friends in high school were gentiles, and not very spiritually curious ones at that, generally. All i'd wanted for so long was to have my dream of elevated community Torah interactions realized... It was a very deeply touching moment for me.

The conversation floated around the messianic tip, sometimes it feels like that's the only thing we dare talk about in this generation, i thought. I brought down obscure legends I hadn't even thought about in years, which were too obscure and heretical sounding to be believed until our older friedns, named Max btw, confirmed and cite the sources for them. I felt like all the beautiful things i'd learned my whole life finally found a community/context where they'd be appreciated, and where all my ideas could finally be properly sown and sprouted. Hahaha... sigh

Ah, Jerusalem... where the madness and the fantasy is not only tolerated, but encouraged, presumeably because to try to hold it back would only invite condescention and distrust. Don't you know that the visible reality is pure illusion, and only God is true!? City of sacred dreams and devoted fools.. Oh Jerusalem...

I shuffled home to the year course program. A week later i would be expelled, as they would find marijuana in my urine after someone reported me to the school authorities. I was inspired and illuminated by faith and confidence in my willingness to do the right as would be revealed to me, and my trust that the God who could make water into dry land could make my urine sample come out clean, if it was what i was needed for.

Shlomo Carlebach says, why do people go crazy and think they're the messiah when they come to Jerusalem? Becasue G-d's presence is sooo close there, that they see the secret truth: They really are the messiah, and really are responsible to save the world.

The tragedy is, they're usually so disconnected from other people, that they think they're the only one. I was spared that particular delusion, at least, thanks to some essencial educational priciples:

Kabbalstic Principle #1:
It's much deeper than you think, or can imagine. And once you think you've understood a Truth, is when you've stopped being able to learn it any deeper. Any true statement will tell you something new everytime you look at it.

Kabbalistic Principle #2:
Don't ever give up trying to grasp it, longing for more of it, because these ever-revelations are the purpose of creation. and the main thing God is hoping to talk to you through. She is like the girlfriend, waiting for you to understand better all the time. And righteousness mixed with coolness turns her on.

I blew the money my parents spent on the year course program, felt pretty bad about that, and vowed not to put myself into a situation where I would have to be dishonest about who i was, what i was doing, and what i was living for from then on. It would be my first time free, away from my parent's house, and i would live it honestly and as truthfully as possible.

And i still had to find teachers who could give me real insight onto the mystery of marijuana in the messianic process. What new Aeon was this strange grass harbringing? Why did it relate so closely to all the many subcultures of the world? What did it mean?

Soon enough, i started to get answers.
Not as good as questions, but they'll help you feel alright sometimes.


next: The Yeshiva. Marijuna in the bible, zohar, and roots of hasidic theolgy, revealed!
Plus, the secret name of harmony is green.

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