The secret Jewish Cannabis History and Wisdom teachings of all ages

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Know: Sugar is the drug

Eli Wiesel describes his introduction to kabbalah at age twelve or so through the writings of R' Nachman of Breslov, then difficult torah to come by. Breslov was pretty much illegal, it's furious critism of mainstream rabbinic leadership across the board rendered R'Nachman's writings taboo.

I met a real, old school, poverty stricken Breslov chassid in Mei Shearim last week. He hadn't eaten in like two weeks, in response to some internal hemorraging. He would not see a doctor, because that would only be more dangerous, and instead, was just seeing it through, not moving from his house, praying all the time forever. He had had his kids taken from him by either the state or the local chassidic leadership, he couldn't quite tell which, some years ago, and was living away from his wife, who had either left him, or somehow he was keeping some distance from, in an attempt towards higher purity.
He was being supported, sent fruits and whole grains, by a local anti-zionist chassidic Gvir, but nontheless refused to be specifically anti-zionist himself. "Of course the governement is evil, but it doesn't help to hate jews!"

He described the early days of R Yisrael Bar Odesser's ministry, a non-existant thing. R Yisrael, A.k.a. the Saba (grandpa) a.k.a. na nach nachma nachman me uman, was another poor fringed shlepper who was really into R' Nachman's torah, and suffered total alienation from the rest of the chassidic community because of it. His family was taken off the chassidic charity doll what takes care of everyone else who needs it in Mea Shearim, and his wife and kids promptly starved to death.
His saintly virtue is that he refused to stop being happy all through it, as radical an anti-consumerist a message as anyone could live, maybe.

This was the condition of Breslov historically, it's teachers totally booted out of chassidus in alot of the larger community, it's ideas totally avoided. Where did Eli Wiesel get access to these marginalized texts and teaching?

From Kotsker Chassidim, who didn't give a fuck.

People occasionally ask me what kind of chassid I am. I say different things at different times, but the lineage I think I have to claim closest relationship would have to be pshiche. Why?

Because it's nice to cleanse the parasites out of our guts sometimes

Sugar is the devil, is the excess that is killing most lately, and is the most socially acceptable, even for children, the most vulnerable and addictable amongst us.

Meod, excess is the building and definition of evil. Concetrated sweetener, once rare and requiring much effort to find sometimes, if honey wasn't in season or available... dates and figs ain't holy for nothing. Sweet potatoes, carrots, brown rice, millet, etc. are what our bodies are actually longing for, love in the form of whole sweetness, with Substance; sourness, bitterness, saltiness and/or charif fire cleansing your system from the toxic excesses that an insatiable psychological need to be comforted with sweetness... It's the deepest yearning, and cake, like many of the associative mistranslations of what the serpent is actually asking for.

This is true in religion also. Pietism is a rejection of the sweetness of the world, and chassidis appears to me an attempt to reclaim it. And the fear of chassidis and for that matter, sabbateanism and california, I percieve as a deeply rooted fear of sugar excess making us weak, which it does. Sweetness in moderation is very empowering, in excess, sweet, unavoidable excess, is crippling, makes you sleepy, gassy and complacent, terrified of discomfort.

Most of the early school of chassidis feel to me like an attempt just to get the sugar around. By pshiche, you have an attempt to burn away the excess, while somehow maintaining the good part of it. All pshiche torah, even the darker kotsk stuff, hints at a sweetness available somewhere.

Understand, all chassidic pietism is ultimatly for the sake of sensitizing to the sweetness. Elimelech of Lizhensk sets his arm on fire and feeds himself to ants, and in the songs about him, he's dancing so happily, smoking his pipe and leaping in the air. Later polish chassidis is an attempt to refine that. How much do we really have to hurt to feel the good? How can we do it safely?

(to be continued)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I saw a friend in the street esterday, he told me was learning at a local Yeshiva, and was impressed and even envious of the depth of the learning. What was the sheeta that was so impressive?

Start with the assumption that the people arguing in the gemara could not be arguing over what they appear to be, that the two machloketeers must not actually have very divergent ideas or viewpoints, only subtle distinctions on how best to come to what they both already agree on.

And all the darshaning around has to assume that, with the imagination only circulating around the conditions surrounding the conclusion, with no contact against the conclusion itself.
This is depth, apparently.


To clarify the previous post: the main thing Israel needs to justify it's current incarnations and the assorted evils implicit in it, to both it's own people and to the rest the world that depends on Israel for guidance and meaning, is to make Israel into a place at least moving towards an existence close to the dream of what Zion and Israel has meant, to the prophets and musicians, since it was first imagined.

To do this, we need the sacred union of the imagination and the will to manifest the imagined.
The problem with building paradise is it's never actually what you wanted it to be. That might be ok, but knowing it diminishes the will to even try. Herzl's dream was facilitated by it's shallowness: not utopia but normalopia, with jewish theives being tried by jewish judges, arrested by jewish cops, paid off by jewish mafiosos, with friends in the corrupt jewish government watching out for them. Easy, right?

Zev Jabotinsky longed for the new jew to be a people "powerful, loving and cruel." Hitler similarly described the "new man" of his visions: "I have seen the new man: he is intrepid and cruel. I am afraid of him." Cruelty is empowering for someone without vessels to imagine a better way of winning, or reason to belive in the futility of cruelty, having surrendered to it's power so often in our lives. And so, we have become chofshi in our collective minds, only through our willingness to be cruel, initially to our enemies, but also to our families, for the sake of keeping them safe... or something.

As long as our sense of safety and security depends on our employment of the cruel, we are not going to stop, and it will come back to us in the same form.

How can anyone be held accountable for murder, if people only die when they are decreed to, one gemara asks? Someone who kills his brother can theoretically come before the court with the perfectly reasonable argument: I just shot him in the face, officer, but he only died because it was his time, right?

So Chazal say, sure, maybe so, but you must have sinned somewhere to be the bearer of his death, and you're about to get punished for that, and so: justification for cruelty doesn't repel the onesh of having commited it, it simply accepts the repurcussion that may follow as being worth it.

I used to have this argument with police officers in Israel when ever they'd search me randomly.
Religious people, i'd be like, y'know, if you had found something on me, and screwed me because of it, G-d would punish you for it one day, right?

No, i'm just doing my job, i mean, following what i'm supposed to do.

That won't justify anything you do before the heavenly courts.

No, it will. I will say to the administering angels: "I am a police officer, just like you, I am doing my judge, and you must blame only the ones giving the order."

I held it's not so true, responsibility belongs to everyone involved, and justice will be had inevitably from those who run from it the most... so what?

I feel like the main function of torah study as it is now is to keep people out of trouble, shtieging instead of hunting. Supported by tzdeka, it makes every body involved feel good. And it doesn't get anyone's hands dirty, with the possible exception of fundraisers and purity defenders.

This is not where the torah of transcending old patterns can come from, I don't think. it never has been yet, Chassidis traditionally being Not That, but centered more around drinking parties and public meal celebrations, weddings and so on. The binding of Chassidic ideas to The Torah World redeemed the yeshiva from stagnancy, and continues to almost make it worthwhile, but where is the torah of transcending old dangerous limiting thinkings going to come from?

Which dangerous old limiting thinkings? The nature of language and "figuring things out" that we depend on to "deal with the problem" is part of the problem, the fight that is inherent in the process. It could be that this has been an inherent part of creation and being up until now, the war, MAYBE IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE ANYMORE? Almost? Soon?

mmm. MMM. I don't want to figure out more effecient structures, unless i'm sure that's the only thing I can do to help. And even then, it's such a betrayal to the ideal, and maybe I could find a justification one day that would convince me it was the only righest thing to do... but what could inspire the better torah to come into the world?

The innovation, according to Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, of Israel to religion, is the service of god out of love only, not need or effectiveness.

There's a problem with saying this: the main reason we serve god is actually for effectiveness: so that we will not be killed, destroyed, or otherwise displeasuresd. To love god because it's easier and more effective than fearing the master might make it a little better? But it's still not purely lshmah, and such a state might only be possible from not serving at all.

Let's say my mom asks me to do something for her... does her love depend on whether I do it or not? of course not!, I hope. How do I know for sure? Only if i'm obnoxious and refuse. And maybe get punished.

Knowing this, feeling this doesn't nessesarily make me a better son... doesn't help her live, theoretically, the rightest, nicest thing I can do is whatever she asks... but maybe, sometimes, disobeying now will make me be able and more willing, more free to really care later, and that's what lishma means.

There's been talk recently about what the chiluk between the Kotsker and the Ishbitzer was, What Shlomo was prioritizing and the confusion it causes in modern neo-chassidic culturre, and what it says about judaism now. It has to do with this subtle but far rammifying question, of when does honestly demand rebbelion, when is submission idolotry... Next time, on Cannabischassidis.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Jerusalem Syndrome: chatanu lefanecha

I just got home to Jerusalem last week. here's a quick summary of popular street Torahs, and how I've been responding to them.

Most popular street torah/dope, heard alot from different folks is the classic "gam zu l'tovah"
It's a bad sign when this is the most useful thing we can think of to say. It's true of course, and helpful at letting you be utterly defeated in good concience.

First thing I find myself giving over alot, picked up shortly once I got off the plane, from Yaakov Sack:

What the difference between Emunas Chachamim and faith in Jesus?

One could say alot of things, but both are predicated on trusting someone else with your decisions, on the basis of their relative infallibility and superior awareness of What God Wants.

One main difference is the freedom we have to decide who are the chachamim, but really, it's pretty much the same. I am encouraged to surrender my judgement in exchange for freedom from the yoke of personal responsibility.

If you can't trust your friends your leaders your gods, who can you trust?

Israel is a tad frustrating, because even more than usual, you can't trust the government. It's authority was predicated on it's betrayal of it's people, tricking away money from trapped German Jews, funding a cash starved Nazi Germany in exchange for resoures, selling Yemenite children, abusing any non-wealthy immigrant group that ever came in, and now just screwing over anyone without protectzia in almost any agency that is available. There's a temptation to differentiate between the Bad Israel authority and the Good Israel Fantasy, except that the good seems so personal and individualized.

So why am I here?

There was a strong tendancy, the shabbos after Katrina and Katif to connect the two situations, nicely parodied by dov bear on his blog, and reflecting the mysterium tremendum: What the hell is Israel about, anyway?

The synchronities seem to encourage some kind of relationshipship, if not the one we might jump to make, that the U.S.'s "sins" in supporting the disengagement was why "They" were punished. More profound, I heard from Josh Lauffer, traditionally, in Tanach/gemara/jewish tradition, when someone is expelled from a place, it's because they were so reprehensible to G-d, that he tolerated them for a while thanks to some memory of their forefathers, but just got so annoyed by something in the way they were conduting themselves, that he saw fit to remove them. What did Gush Katif do so worng that Hashem saw fit to disengage his presence from there?

Israel, to most of the western religious world, including all christianity, all Islam, a sizeable chunk of humanity to be sure, associates Israel with some divine dream of a better future, either beyond This World, or at least a seriously modified version of it, where all people can live in peace after the evil has been clarified from all our hearts. All Christians and Muslims understand this as being God's promise to Abraham, to Moses, etc.

Jews in Israel appear to be accepting and naming a place called Israel, that does not mean to do that, has no intentions in that direction, and, for the world and to it's own citizens, means the opposite of that: A tightly controlled, racially and economically divided and defined society, who main tools and cultural tendancys are violence, yelling, power used to dominate Others, threats of torture and so on to accomplish, suceed and score respect. This is what we heretics have consented to call Israel, to be Israel.

It's not anyone's fault, of course, sure enough, we were/are afraid of dying, and as Douglas Rushkoff points out, drowning people will fight against anyone trying to help them, out of pure physical instinct. Right? Excuses...

So, meanwhile, half a world away, there is an administration that is waiting on Israel for cues. Anti-semites are right to blame Israel for America's forign policy, The U.S. attitude towards "terror" imitates Israel's much the way Christianity kinda imitates biblical morality: Because the bible emphasises war and killing "idoloters" so much, so have Christians. and the mystery of how to understand G-d will is understood through Jewry.

Israel the country has not had any kind of utopian aspiration in quite some time. Instead, a kind of practical capitalism has become The Way, and politicians and rabbis alike have generally refused to demand much more of ourselves than our opposition for terror. Govt. after Govt. have defined themselves almost exclusively in response to "the enemy" almost none have ever described a social policy for making a more equitable Israel, where teachers and civil servant make a living wage, where the main industries aren't overseas corporations, where the poor can get jobs that let them support themselves effectively, where corruption and the abuses of homeowners against renters can be dealt with AT ALL. Not even part of the discourse, because of our war on terror.

Say whatever you want about Palestinians, it doesn't take away any of the official culpability to it's own citizens, it doesn't jutify how much of Israeli wealth is based on things, lands and moneys stolen from both jews and gentiles.

What's the faliure of Gush Katif and the religious culture in Israel? That it makes no effort to adress these things either, instead nitpicking over petty tsniout or not-enough-daf-yomi issues to blame for the divine wrath. No better dream of how to make Israel more like Israel, no active, practical way of ensuring justice except by encouraging you to say tehilim.

I heard Dan Sieradski say, Gush Katif is proof that god doesn't care about people's heartfelt prayers and tears if they're not connected with anything else.

And the U.S. military arrogance, the one that all the news feeds criticizing President Bush's response to Katrina in New Orleans conspiuously refused to mention, was that why isn't the U.S. Govt. paying attention to poor people? Because Israel taught them that the trik is to focus on the fight, and everyone else, from pastor to peasant, will praise you and vote for you for it.

So yes, Katrina is a consequence of Katif. And that's not something to be proud of, but something to really worry about.

To be consistant with this site's purpose, i'll tie it back to psyhedelic drugs and torah: Imagine something better, talk to your neighbors and enemies, listen to their struggles and specific grievances, and try something new. Trip, at once, with serious focus and intention, asking your G-d to please, shine on you, some new torah and posiibility that aking sober life wouldn't let you consider. The way to be a more helpful, involved human being, is all i'm ever apologizing most for not being, having given up on. Most of world Jewry is in about to be in Israel, and we need prophesy back more than ever, that is, if we aren't willing to say "gam zu li tovah" at our children's funerals, chas v'shalom, lo aleinu, lord have mercy on us all.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Not yours to sell

This translation is from They say it's megillah page 72

"It will not be lawful to buy books of the Prophets," etc. The schoolmen propounded a question: May old Holy Scrolls be sold, to purchase with the money new ones? Shall we assume that as the new ones have no preference over the old ones, they may not be sold; or that if the old ones are not sold, the new ones cannot be had, therefore it may be done?

Of course, what we're talking about is ideas, beliefs. Can I replace an old Torah that I lived by, but has become worn out with one that is as good, as effective, but fresher?

Come and hear:

Rabba bar bar Hana said in the name of R. Johanan, quoting R. Simeon b. Gamaliel:

One must not sell old scrolls for the purpose of buying new ones.
Ah!, But there it is different:
It is a precautionary measure
lest he sell the old ones without buying new ones;
but here the question is about such as are already written,
and he ready
for us
to be obtained when the money is had.
How is the law? Come and hear:
R. Johanan said in the name of R. Meir:

What is the money through which Torah is scored? Whatever we give up for it. Whatever work we did to earn it.
Schar, everyone know, the hebrew term for wages and money, also refers to karma. Every belief you have to guide you is costing you something precious, some part of yourself, and so, it had better be worth it.

In any case the Holy Scrolls must not be sold,
except for the purpose of using the money
for study,
or for marriage.
From this we see that to exchange the Law for study,
one may;
so to exchange old scrolls for new ones,
one may also.

But perhaps it is different,
because from studying
he will know how to act;
and marrying?
because it is written [Is. xlv. 18]:

"Not for naught did he create it; to be inhabited did he form it."

That is, the study is not only for it's own sake. Marriage is whenever you find something so good, you want to tie yourself to it forever. Torah, secretly, is for the sake of being able to acquire the great creative good, to keep the world Alive, and inspire something wonderful between people. All good Torah is on the level of marriage.

Anyone care to translate "inhabited" better for us? I'll race y'all...

So of course, it's a mystery. When to let go of an old Torah in order to pick up a new one? How could anyone ever?
Only once the old one is totally and utterly useless, destroyed, or illegible. It still must be buried righteously.

There's a problem with Am Yisrael all the time. On Sinai and since, we could only ever hear as much as we wanted to, could only understand as much as we were willing to. Am toei lavuv heim, a wrong-hearted nation, as we confess every friday night. We try, and try to hear it better all the time, and we are only ever defeated in Torah when we give up listening, and assume we understood. Or worse, we let someone else understand for us, and hide ourselves under their skirts.

Which is what we're encouraged to do all too often, surrender to someone else's "torah." Every king is required by law to write his own, and maybe it's time we all agreed to make each other Kings.

It was interesting watching new theologies form out of the disengagement. We couldn't ever be made to leave, so when we were, to say that we were wrong feels so dishonest. Just because i lost the fight means i'm wrong? How could it be? So the new theology becomes that we're eventually going back, ha ha. Nothing learned, nothing changed.

What is The Land of Israel is something other than what we've been willing to understand it as?

What if the whole reason we're allowed back into the land is to learn that it couldn't be all the land Is?

I find myself wondering this alot. How else could we let go of a wrong idea unless we lived it? How else could we stop yearning to be a dumb nation like every other unless we tasted the experience of it?

Lord! clarify my faith. What shall I hold by? What dare i believe in?