Thursday, July 18, 2013

Can't Let Go

They cruised down Highway 65 with the windows down and the music turned up. In high school, they had pledged to meet up annually to take a road trip to a little lake in Branson, Missouri. Though they had both thought they had moved on since, the lake in Branson was where they had shared their first and only kiss. 

They kept in touch after high school, further developing their friendship into one of immense closeness. They went to each other for everything that meant anything.

But times were changing. 

This was likely the last trip to Branson they’d share together. He was getting married in October, and, though they were strictly friends, his fiancĂ© would surely not appreciate their trips spent in seclusion. They were well aware that the tradition was coming to an end, that their lives were likely headed in different directions. So they were determined. They were determined to make their final trip together their most memorable. 

Upon arrival, they held true to the schedule they’d always followed. But they decided to make one revision. They decided that there was no time to waste, that sleep would do nothing but bar them from spending what was likely their final true alone time together. They ventured out to the nearest gas station, bought a twelve pack of beer, found the perfect plot of land for a bonfire, and prepared to stay up until the sun rose over the lake they’d come to love. 

She was beautiful. At least he’d always thought so. She had curly blonde hair and blue eyes. He had scruffy brown hair with green eyes. She was a musician struggling to make it big. He was an accountant confined to a career of endless monotony. Despite their polar opposite personalities, they had managed to forge a friendship that once seemed unbreakable. 

The two of them spoke of fond memories from the adolescence they had spent in unison. They remembered the sneaking out. They remembered stealing their parents’ alcohol. They remembered the late night talks. They reminisced about all of the typical-of-adolescents activities they did in high school. 

Though they wouldn’t dare to openly declare it, it was quite clear that the two were in love. If they had simply dug deep and yanked their repressed emotions to the surface, a deep, passionate, mutual love would have revealed itself. But they never told each other. Even in high school, the feelings were there but they were too afraid of losing each other to take the plunge into a relationship. They struggled throughout high school, dating other people in an attempt to let go of one another. They were desperate to move on. But they couldn’t. Something perpetually drew them together. They were never quite ready to separate. 

Here they were, in what was possibly their final hoora before their worlds parted. Here they had a chance to end their friendship on the highest of notes. They had a chance to leave everything out there just one last time. 

The fire crackled under the star filled sky. They talked about their careers, their pasts, their dreams, and their futures. They talked about short lived crushes and disappointing loves. It seemed as though they had spoken about everything. But, just as they had always done, they left out the fact that they were still, and likely always would be, madly in love with each other. 

They both felt it. They still felt the butterflies whenever they’d reunite. He was never able to fight his nerves around her. She had this funny little quirk where her feet would tingle when with him. Their bodies tried to tell them what their minds refused to say. 

Just as the night began to become day, as the sun rose over the lake, he finally found the courage to speak. 

“I roll over every morning and see the woman who is set to one day be the mother of my children. She is perfect in every conceivable way. She will be the most caring wife and loving mother. But, even having said all of that, I can’t stop myself from wishing I was waking up next to you.” His heart raced as he uttered every word of his proclamation of love. He felt as though the largest weight had been lifted off of his shoulders. The truth had finally made its way to the surface. 

She was thrilled and, frankly, flattered. She took a moment, recognizing just how important her reply was. She opened her mouth to speak, but for some reason the words didn’t come out. She struggled for a few moments, trying to organize her thoughts into cohesive sentences. But she was too taken aback by the long awaited truth. She decided no words could sum up exactly how she felt. 

They stared into each other’s eyes with the fire burning behind them. They felt just as they did when they’d had their first kiss. They felt their worlds slowly moving apart, but they weren’t ready to let go. Their faces slowly inched toward each other. His nose met hers. She closed her eyes. He closed his. When their lips met, they felt as though they were fulfilling their destiny. They felt right. They first kissed with hesitation, but soon after uncovered the intimate passion that had long been buried underneath. 

As they felt their kiss coming to an end, he rubbed her neck. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pinch and a rush of pain. He looked down and saw blood dripping down his index finger. He looked at her neck and saw a necklace. It was a rose with a thorn on it. When he wiped the blood, he noticed it had made its way to a scar on his wrist. 

They spent much of their remaining time together in silence. They were both clearly overwhelmed by what had happened. They were elated knowing that there was a passionate, mutual love between them, but they recognized that there was a reality they were both expected to return to. He to his fiancĂ© and bland life. She to being alone. 

They spoke not of their kiss on the car ride home. Though they didn’t establish it, they both knew that they were sworn to secrecy. They thought they’d shared one final moment of passion, a moment they were never to speak of again. They had done something so minute, but it was something that had the ability to bring his world crashing to the ground. 

They shared a long, emotional goodbye and went their separate ways. They expected a friendship of occasional calls and, perhaps, coincidental run ins. They felt as if the passion they’d surfaced was consuming them. They were scared. They were afraid of losing each other, losing their connection. They weren’t ready to let go. 


Three months passed and his wedding day arrived. His friends and family had come from all over the world to see him enter the next stage of his life. They were elated. He appeared to be. But he knew that there was something more out there for him. He knew she was out there. He had trouble bearing the thought of living in a world without her. But he had made a commitment. He had excited his friends, his family, and everyone in his life. He knew he couldn’t leave. 

The ceremony began. It was a lush ceremony, full of luxurious ornaments and beautiful flowers. The flower girls made their way down the aisle dressed in angelic white dresses. They arrived at him and his best man, handing each a magnificent red rose. It was a family tradition to solidify a life of happiness with the symbolic flower. It represented the beautiful love that was to protect the sanctity of their marriage until death did them part. 

He nervously rubbed up and down the stem of the flower. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pinch and a rush of pain. He looked down and saw blood dripping down his index finger.  The blood slid down his finger and into his palm. He didn’t stop the stream. He stared at it as it made its way down to the scar on his wrist. 

He gazed at the scar with his mouth hanging open.

His mind traveled off far away from the chapel to the day he’d gotten the scar. He was at the lake in Branson with her. They’d just graduated from high school, so, as a means of celebration, they’d decided to rent a canoe. During their exploration of their favorite lake, she’d fallen out into the water. When his seemingly uncontrollable laughter came to an end, he reached down to help pull her back into the canoe. Once she made her way back in safely, he looked down and saw blood rolling down his index finger. He had cut his wrist on a rock in the water, but was too consumed by her adorable laugh to notice the pain. 

He stared down at the blood. The lake began to shake. She started to fade away. He looked down and saw the canoe turn into an alter. He was trembling, beginning to grow terrified. He felt his world crashing down. He felt he was being pulled out of the world in which he belonged. 

He looked over at his best man and saw that he was yanking his shoulder in an effort to regain his attention. He was back in his bland reality. He looked down at the blood on his wrist and knew exactly what he needed to do. 


When the cleaning crew came to clear the chapel, they noticed that it was unusually clean, almost as if it hadn’t been used. The workers began to take down the ornaments and throw out the flowers. One man made his way up the aisle to clear the alter. He began to pick up the flowers when he noticed a red rose among the white pedals. He saw that the stem of the rose had been stained by blood. Beside it was a gold wedding band. 


Nine months later they cruised down Highway 65 with the windows down and the music turned up, just as they had done every year since high school. They weren’t quite ready to let go. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What's Out There For Us?

I look on Yahoo and hear that the George Zimmerman trial has resulted in violent rioting in Los Angeles. I watch YouTube videos of thugs ruthlessly attacking each other. I see a government constantly losing control of its people. I see so many things that make me question the very country we have the displeasure of living in. Every country in the world has its own problems, that’s for damn sure. But for America, a country that is supposed to be the greatest in the world, we sure have a hell of a lot of problems. 

Racial tensions, educational stagnancy, politically driven paranoia. Our country is so in debt that we live each day essentially under the control of other countries. What does that make us? Puppets? Is China our puppet master? Now, I’m not going to sit here and claim to know everything about politics and the economy. But there are such blatant issues that nobody, even the least receptive person alive, could miss. 

I was speaking to my brother today and he brought up an interesting point. He said that the Constitution may as well be thrown out because, to us, it’s archaic and essentially useless. He told me that the Patriot Act is all the proof one needs to conclude that the Constitution is not an integral part of the modern American society. Ironic that the Patriot Act is named that. A patriot would defend freedom of speech, he/she would defend the fundamental liberties that the Constitution initially ensured. A patriot wouldn’t snoop around, essentially spying on Americans. 

Isn’t it disgusting that these kind of riots happen? That people have such little fear of the government that they actually try to take law into their own hands? Even beyond that, they hurt other people, innocent people, because everyone is rioting, so why not break into department stores and steal whatever we can grab? And what does our president, someone who is intended to be the most powerful and feared figure in the government, do? He politely asks the rioters to disperse peacefully. Where is the power? Where is the force? Where is the sense of nationalism? 

When something goes wrong, it’s quite rare that neighbors turn to each other with a helping hand. If there is a sense of American nationalism alive today, I certainly haven’t seen it around recently. What’s strange is that, sitting here on a train in Israel, I look around at these people and I know they all gladly served in the army. I know soldiers in my friends’ units were ready to go in during Operation Pillar of Defense. They didn’t hesitate when asked to defend, and possibly die for, their country. They were upset when we didn’t go in. Because they love their homeland, a land we have been bound to for thousands of years. 

America is so diverse, I’ll give it that. But diversity certainly does not mean harmonious intermingling. I hail from East Memphis, Tennessee. My neighborhood is predominately white. How sick is it that people are uneasy when a black family moves into the neighborhood? Memphis is essentially segregated. The blacks go to black schools and the whites go to white schools. And we wonder why there is tension. Whereas here, there are so many reasons to hate each other. And some people do hate each other. But, for the most part, you look in front of you on Ben Yehuda and you see Arabs, Ethiopians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Asians. You see so many different people constantly interacting. You see a culture that is the direct antithesis of apartheid. You see tension, but you also see an unbelievable amount of harmony. 

And damn it, the people here are happy and satisfied in their own skin. Most aren’t caught up in the materialistic world. Most are concerned with being themselves. Orthodox Jews go to Shul in shorts and a tshirt. It’s not about the brand of the shirt on your back and the pants on your ass. It’s about the content of your character. It’s about loving God in your own way. It’s about being yourself. If I walked into my Shul in shorts and a tshirt, people would look at me like I’m a disrespectful jerk. But here, here nobody cares about that so long as they see that you are seriously trying to connect with God in your own way. 

How do you expect to find a connection in Memphis, Tennessee? Or anywhere in America? It’s funny, the second I got here I felt like I was connected to the land. I felt like I came straight from the dirt. I see Israeli flags flying all around me and I could not be happier. Being here has so strengthened my spiritual connection to God, as well as my Zionist connection to the land of my forefathers. 

I’m walking where they walked. I’m looking at the land God promised us, the land we worked so long to attain. I’m looking at Moshe’s dream. I’m looking out at the Hills of Judea and I see a nation that has refused to die. I see a nation that has overcome persecutions, Pogroms, Crusades, and the Holocaust. Throughout history, we’ve been the scapegoat. We’ve been the ones who get slaughtered. But somehow we’ve overcome all of that. We’ve outlasted the great empires of the ancient world. We’ve become one of the most technologically advanced countries in the entire world. We’re still here and we have no intention of going away. We are very much in control of our own fate, no longer tied down by tyrannical rulers. 

We stand together, now and forever, for the Jewish people and God’s land. 

Now, I say all of this with absolutely no idea as to if I will end up here one day. But, the older I get, the more of a likelihood it becomes. I feel that if I don’t end up here one day I will be taking God’s endless protection for granted. And, as America continues to deteriorate, raising my children here becomes more and more logical. 

What kind of country do we have the displeasure of living in? What else is out there for us? Think about it. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Israel Series: Post 1

I woke up just before sunrise this morning. I've just arrived in Israel so my entire sleep schedule is off. I sat in bed for about an hour, pondering returning to sleep. But then I realized where I was. I realized I wasn't in Memphis anymore. I realized that I was in the land of my people. I realized it was my duty to arise early and do whatever I could to experience Israel.

I began my day with a morning workout in my brother's backyard. The workout itself was so mind boggling. I didn't find myself in a gym surrounded by people trying to look sexy. I found myself in the Hills of Judea, alone with my thoughts. I didn't use fancy, expensive workout equipment. I used rocks. I lifted large stones. I felt as if I was utilizing the natural resources that God created for this land. As I was lifting, I stopped to think about my efforts to stay in shape, comparing those efforts to the efforts of my ancestors. I was exercising in the hills that my forefathers traveled through. I was looking out at the mountains, absolutely blown away by the fact that Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, all of my ancestors saw the same ones.

I've never really appreciated the idea of prayer. I contact God when I feel desperate enough to do so. That being said, if I don't have something to pray for, I won't do it. But I looked up at the clouds this morning and I felt as if God was traveling through them. The clouds were moving so fast, almost as if they were making their daily rounds through Israel to ensure everyone was okay. For the first time in my life, I felt as if God was really all around me. After seeing the clouds, I felt it necessary to put my Tefillin on to pray. As I said the Amida, I passed quickly over the first Passuk. But then I took a step back. I slowed myself down. I re-read the words. When I said Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, I felt them there. I saw them looking at what I saw. I progressed through the Amida with meaning and passion, finally arriving at Shema Koleinu. I always stop to speak to God in english at that  point in the prayer. As I was talking, the sun rose a little bit more, just enough that it shined on my closed eyes. The experience gave me the chills, it made my heart race. When I said the words, I meant them. When I talked to God, I felt like he was listening.

Finding the connection here seems to be effortless. Being in the home of my ancestors gives Judaism a new meaning. I identify myself as a Zionist Jew, not necessarily as a religious one. But I felt something I had never felt before this morning. I felt my appreciation for the land of Israel strengthen, something I didn't think was possible. And I felt a religious connection to God and my people. That feeling is one I'm very much looking forward to reliving multiple times while I'm here. That feeling is almost indescribable.

What's more, today I traveled to Ma'arat Hamachpaela with my family. We visited the tomb sites of some of the most significant Biblical figures in Jewish history. I stood just above the dirt where my forefathers rest. Learning about the Jewish People's history in a classroom is not so emotional and impactful. But living the history, being enamored by it - it doesn't get much more impactful than that.

Just when I thought things couldn't get any better, my brother took me to watch the sunset over the Hills of Judea. We sat on the edge of a mountain, looking out at the beautiful land God promised us. It was absolutely surreal. The scenery in itself was breathtaking. But thinking about my people's history was absolutely baffling.

I see the history here. I feel God. I am absolutely delighted and amazed by all of the beauty of this land. It's been just over a day and I'm already having a phenomenal experience.

I'm going to be writing about more of my experiences here within the next few weeks. It's good to post again.