The secret Jewish Cannabis History and Wisdom teachings of all ages

Monday, June 27, 2005

Still not there

poison my will with responsibilities
accept, unwillingly, not true
I concented
to give of my time
of my life
to the cause
I was compelled
Not because it was so good
but because I didn't want to be bad

There's two drugs that Torah is
The Zohar says
The Kohanim are the life drug
And the Leviim are the death drug.

The leviim take care of the kohanim
keep the people in line
The kohanim keep us educated, pure

The leviim avenge violations of law
and sing
and wash the shamen's hands for them

My father
needs help
My mother
sends me
I have no excuse
And selfishly ignore whatever I was doing
to go and be a good kid

And it feels good
low in my kidney
makes me feel stronger
who is called warrior?
he that conquers his own will.
Isn't that terrible?

If anyone out in the NY area wants to make some cash in the next few days, e-mail me at ASAP. We could really use some help.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

good rebbe vs. bad rabbi

"Why do they call us Rabbi?
because we're "Ra" (evil,) but we get by."
Shlomo, paraphrased, heard from Moish

Connected to the previous piece, the mystery of Lishma Vs. Lo Lishma brings up the question: what makes one Rabbi (master, or teacher) good, and another bad?

I've heard, it's directly related to the question of what makes one Rabbi succesful, and another not.

To be successful, and by this, we mean not poor, you have to lie. Just a little bit. Just enough to be popular, to be beloved, to be trust worthy. All fortune begins with a crime, and the original sin of rabbinical success is that we found a loophole for getting paid for it.

Quite the phenomenon of modern Judaica, going back quite awhile. Technically, it's forbidden to make any profit from Torah, but if there's no money in it, who will do it? It's the Anti-filesharing argument, the anti-bootleg thing. If the artists aren't making money, they won't make music.

Or maybe they'll only make good music, because they care, or something.

But no, we need Rabbis, to answer the questions of the community, to tell us if our chickens our kosher, because we didn't have time or care to learn to do it ourselves. We wanted someone we could go to to arbitrate our spiritual and terrestrial responsibilities, so we made a loophole: If the poor guy is being kept from getting an actual job by his function as a rabbi, or scholar in training, then, well, a stipend to recompense him for that can't be bad, right?

And so, if THAT's ok, then, you know, if we need him to come and visit our synagouge, and speak on the sabbath, or organize a big singles weekend, then paying him for that, under some properly phrased contractual condition, that should be cool too... as long as we do it kosher-style.

So it's become, that rabbis, of most every denomination, excluding none that I can think of, except for maybe some of the most pious chassidic and sephardi individuals, make most of their money from work done on the sabbath, because it's not "really" work, and they're technically being paid for the ten minutes they put in friday afternoon.

Is this corrupt? No criticsm, we all gotta eat... but maybe that's why so few of these figures, across the board, have anything very groundshaking to say. Even to the degree that positive ideas get spread, about loving your neighbor, and seeking god, and forgiving yourself, and getting to work, and actualizing potential, even as important and compelling as these themes, at their best, can be, not much is ever done that shocks or threatens.

It would be "foolish" for a Rabbi to do this. He might lose his job, he probably will, if he offends the congregants. And so, he is their spiritual slave, subject to their moralities, and functioning only to help them do what they have already become willing to do.

Which can be great. And nothing of true inspiration can come out of that, unless the people have drafted it upon themselves already. So maybe, it's no wonder the kids get alienated.

So what's a failed rabbi? One who spends the money immediately, and does what he does whether you support him or not. How does he survive? Sometimes, people are drawn to him, seeing a rare religious phenomenon: an honest spiritual authority.

It's very dangerous to do this, and you generally can't get away with it unless you have some external form of income. Chabad, Aish HaTorah, and hillel houses across the U.S. may not want you to know that Shlomo Carlebach was officially forbidden from playing at their institutions from most of the eighties on down, once it was clear that he was his own denomination, and that his torah was not for the sake of their institutions. As opposed to other contemporaries of his who went on to various degrees of "success" in finding the niches where their styles were sought after, and their torahs acceptable and even comforting, Shlomo pretty much burned himself out, his most quoted Torahs nowadays being the ones that re-enforce everything from the settler movements to how good shabbos is, the biting criticsm of the jewish establishments conveniently ignored.

And of course, to the degree that he said things that were paletable and comforting, and made you feel like Judaism was a good religion, practiced by good people, he was successful. And still is. Please note that his Torahs were often darker and more confrontational, especially in his last year or so, when he'd say stuff like "people who scream at their kids are killing them, mamish killing them, like the nazis never could" and "The rabbis in Israel, i'm sure they're doing their best, but I wish they'd all just fly off to bermuda and let the kids figure it out for themselves; they have a better handle on what it's all about than their parents ever could."

What else can't I say because of who my friends are and where my support is coming from?

In hebrew, the word for drugs (SaM) is etymylogically related to the word for blind (SooMA), because they blind you to one reality, so that another can be seen. Also connected to bothe words is the word "SoMeCh" meaning "support" or "hold up." Our lies that keep us together save us from seeing all the little terrible things we do, and hold us up so we can continue to ignore them in the name of getting on with our lives. Blessed is he who releases captives from their own enslaveries.

When a Rabbi is ordained, what's it called? SMiCha, from the same root. Mamish, from the same root.

Why is it so important to keep things how they are?
Because i'm so afraid to die.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I was talking with a friend about where some ideas come from, the first conversation I had this Shavous night, he said, sarcastically, something about them coming from Mars.

I smiled and said, Isn't there a whole thing about the Torah being received from the mouth of Gevurah (restrain/strength, in many cosmologies the the sephira associated with Mars)?

And he said, only when it's Lo Lishma, not for the sake of the name. Whatever that means. What does it mean?

Recall, the mystery of whether Torah is medicine or poison depends on whether or not it is done "lishma" literally "for the sake of her name" or not. Some say, done in the name of God, or not. But what does that ever mean? Lot's of toxic things go on in the name of God, even earnestly. Generally, I have related to the "lishma" concept as meaning "for it's own sake" like, if you're learning for any reason, it's killing you, and if you're doing it just because there's nothing you'd rather do, well alright!

There's much debate over this concept, namely in terms of justifying a torah studious lifestyle, where that is what you do professionally, pretty much all day, in exchange for a stipend from the community, and/or, in Israel, usually from the state. If you're getting paid to do it, how can it be lishma?

There is, on the books, a prohibition against ever studying or teaching Torah for money, as "bribes blind the eyes of a judge," (Exodus 23, 8) And this is the major problem with Torah study nowadays according to some thinkers in modern Jerusalem, that there is no content in any torah being said nowadays, as, we really don't want to insult those providing for us, and all institutional torah study depends on Somebody Else.

And this is why most of the torah you hear is so toothless and non-threatening.
Because we saw how dangerous it was to step on the wrong toes, and just didn't want to risk our lives, or the lives of those depending on us, like that ever again. Apparently, it wasn't worth it.

Why do we drink so much on Simchas Torah, the Joy of torah holiday? I've heard mi pi Rabbeinu, it's for the same reason native Americans became alcoholics: otherwise, they would have had to die, over whelmed by anger, as many of their brothers did, fighting an unbeatable enemy. So, instead of dying, we sacramentize the drink, and the first new holiday of Exile (before Purim even!) becomes the one where we celebrate how good what our little tribe has is, and we drinks ourselves into passivity, thus saving our lives.

A little death can save you from a bigger one. Sometimes, it might be better to get fucked up than to BE fucked up. Some hold it's not true, it's better to see it through with a sober mind, and deal honestly with all conflicts. I try to hold than way, thanks G-d almighty, I've never had to deal with anything so bad, and I've been very priviledged with tools and support to see traumas through, bli ayin hara. But I dare not judge the oblitrati who couldn't handle it: chassidic stories are rife with holy drunkards who save the world somehow, are terribly righteous, and just destroyed by some of the pressure of living. Lord have mercy on us all.

So, any how, I asked my friend shavuos night, in a fit of "what the fuck are you gonna say" What does lishma mean? What is the Torah that is only received from Gevura?

And he said, well one opinion, is torah that's learned for the sake of Kavod, honor. Increasing your own honor by showing yourself of as learned.

I kinda scoffed for a moment, and said, yeah, Kavod means clothing, Lo Lishma means you're doing it to support yourself. Which is, chas v shalom, why many of us go to learn in Kollel, or Yeshiva, or university. It's known in Brisk and Lakewood that the best scholars get set up with the rich men's daughters, and never have to worry about money again. Lord, have mercy, that sounds so nice to me sometimes. But it can't be fun once you have to do it, that might be part of the trade off.

In fact, King Solomon seems to think that things are much funner, only once they're forbidden, hence, "stolen waters are sweeter" (proverbs 9, 17) and there's opinions that that's why all the least important things are permitted easily, while the most important are strongly controlled. If they weren't, if you could eat while walking around, and fuck just anybody anytime, how much fun is that?

Maybe this is why the deepest thoughts and revelations have to be forbidden. So, that way, only those who really care will bother.

Anyhow, my friends smiles, brushes off my remark, and says, "one opinion, I think it's Rabbeinu Nachman (mibreslev ) says, Lo Lishma, is some one who learns Torah, so that he can be called a rebbe"

That one hit me hard. I don't want any hand in authority, only because I do so much. I am so afraid of leading, for fear of all the terrible things that rulership does, to the self and to the others, and yet, really, really, would love to be able to "make" "good things" happen.

I had moments, by the kotel at dawn, the next morning, kind of wanting to be leading the davening, guiding the prayers... and it's clear to me that those are the moments when I'm most trapped. It's only a slave who longs to be a king.

R' Nachman, a strange case of someone who seemingly resented authority, and at the same time became willing to take the role of spiritual commander and "rebbe" for his chassidim, once wrote:

All evil comes from the desire to rule, and everyone has this desire, and everyone has some rulership. Over himself, over his family, over his community, over his country.

And, commensurate to the extent of his authority, is his responsibility to spread awareness of Godliness in the world.

To ignore that responsibility is to allow famine to go on. What's a king?, R' Shlomo asks: Some one who says "I'll do it for you"

Lawbreaking is the priviledge only of royalty. It's a statement of sovernity, I rule my own life, thank you. This was the claim made by Rashi, as to why Achan did not feel bound by Joshua's authority (yehoshua 17), and why the brothers felt threatened enough by Joseph to try to kill him. If you are not bound by my authority, you might well be a threat to my authority, and worse, your authority might replace mine with a more popular one. Oh no!

Lord! give us, please, all the world, hearts of true security, to trust each other boundaries and personal paths-- to not need to fear, and to not fear, the rules each of us set for ourselves, nor to be bound in servitude to anything we revile, instead, put us all in service of things we love, works that heal us all together, and make more and better appreciation possible! So please be your will.