Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall

Here are the mandalas from this week.  This is also an experiment to see which pictures Facebook will post as links to the blog post.

Mandalas of the week (and experiments for the Facebook post)

Mandalas of the week (and experiments for the Facebook post)



Here in Jerusalem it rained.  I went out with an umbrella a few times and it was just an average October for me.  After sunny and hot for months, I was pretty happy about the rain.

Rainy day and a pot of jasmine green tea

Rainy day and a pot of jasmine green tea

Down in the valley it was apparently apocalyptic.  Record setting rainfall.  Floods.  Power outages.  Some wanted to declare a state of emergency.  Keep in mind this is about 60 km (40 miles) away from Jerusalem, but 800 (2,600) meters difference in elevation.  For pictures and video.

Morgan Freeman in the House!

In awesome news this week, Morgan Freeman came to Jerusalem to film his documentary “The Story of God.”  But he didn’t just come to Jerusalem.  In these really tense times, he went to the Old City and filmed at the Western Wall and at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Of course he had body guards, but as a celebrity, he would have had guards anyway.  He didn’t make a statement about the situation, but his actions said that he wasn’t going to stop filming because of the tense situation.  That’s good enough for me.  (The documentary is due out in April 2016.)

Screen shot from the Times of Israel

Screen shot from the Times of Israel

A Word of Hebrew

The word “matsav” means situation.  It can be used as an informal greeting, “ma hamatsav?” (what’s going on?) – though it usually sounds like “ma matsav?”  It can also be literal as “ma hamatsav po?” (what is the situation here?) when you are asking for an evaluation of a situation.

Matsav is also a kind of euphemistic term Israelis use when referring to everything going on in Israel at any given time.  Even English speakers will throw it in an English sentence because it’s so heavy with additional nuance.  “The matsav is just terrible.”  “What is the government doing about the matsav?”

A Few Words about the Matsav

Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a press conference last Saturday and stated four main points:

  1.  Israel respects Jordan’s special role as custodian of the site (via the Waqf).
  2.  The historical status quo will be maintained, that is, Muslims pray there, non-Muslims visit.
  3.  Israel has no interest in dividing the site and rejects any attempts to do so.
  4.  Israel welcomes increased coordination between Israel and Jordan to ensure restraint and respect on the site.

The takeaway is that it is not Israel’s policy to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.  There are Israelis who are actively campaigning for the right to pray there, but that does not make it Israel’s policy.  In fact, there is disagreement among the Jewish community itself about praying on the Temple Mount – for religious reasons, not political ones.

The other takeaway from these points is that the Temple Mount is administered by Jordan via the Waqf.  The Palestinian Authority is not involved and never was, even before 1967.  Israel does not administer the site, but is in charge of the security.  It’s complicated and messy.  So when Jews try to pray near the Al Aqsa Mosque, they are arrested by Israeli police.

Netanyahu also said that he would welcome CCTV on the Temple Mount (Jordan’s idea) to be able to respond to incitement from either side and possibly prevent violence before it happens. Full article.

Who is against the idea of CCTV on the Temple Mount?  Palestinian leadership and the Jewish activists who want to pray on the Temple Mount.

Why does it matter?

Sheik Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the guy in charge of Al Aqsa, got on Israeli TV news this week and announced that there has never been any Jewish Temple on the site – not 3,000 years ago, not 30,000 years ago.  Al Aqsa Mosque has been on the site since the beginning of time.  It was apparently built by angels in the time of Adam.


Let’s say for a minute that he means it spiritually; Al Aqsa has been there spiritually since time immemorial.  But he rejects any evidence that there has ever been a Jewish presence there.  Biblical references.  Rejected.  Archeological evidence.  Rejected.  Historical documentary evidence.  Rejected. What he actually means is that the Jewish people were never here and have no connection to the land and thus, Israel has no right to exist in this space for any reason.

Is the current wave of stabbings because of Temple Mount?  Not really. (Palestinian leaders have said so.)  Is the Temple Mount important in the big picture?  Absolutely.

And that’s the matsav from here.

Let’s all have a Shabbat shalom and a great rainy weekend!

And for everyone who’s celebrating, Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from the Dark Knight!

Happy Halloween from the Dark Knight!

9/11 and Rosh HaShana

Today is 9/11.  Of course I remember September 11, 2001, and we should take a moment to commemorate those whose were robbed of the rest of their lives by a major terror attack.  Let this sad day remind us all that none of us knows what the future will bring.  Let’s be kind to one another today.

For me 9/11 is directly linked to the High Holidays.  Next week it’s the Jewish New Year.  Rosh HaShana (literally, the head of the year) is a two-day holiday that is usually in September or October.  I won’t get into the religious details and questions; you can look those up yourself.

Rosh HaShana is the beginning of a 10-day period that will end with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  In English, these days are called The Days of Awe.  In Hebrew they are called the much scarier yamim nora’im (The Terrible Days).  It’s traditional to take a spiritual accounting (heshbon nefesh) of the past year – determine if you did well, where you can improve, make some adjustments for the upcoming year.  It’s more than the January New Year’s resolutions that go out the window on January 2nd.  Not so the spiritual accounting of Rosh HaShana.  It’s not about losing weight and taking care of your health.  This spiritual accounting is internal and focusing on becoming a better person.

“Aharei ha-chagim!”

The bureaucratic joke in Israel is that if you have a project starting at any time in September it will likely be pushed off to “aharei ha-chagim” (after the holidays).  However, this is not after the two-day holiday of Rosh HaShana.  Not even after Yom Kippur ten days later.  No, “aharei ha-chagim” means after Sukkot is over.  In Israel if you start anything in September, you can count on at least a 3-week delay.  Because there are so many holidays and kids are out of school (even though they only started last week), the entire country grinds to a halt and everyone is on vacation (again!).

On one hand, there is something really powerful about taking the time to reflect on the year that passed and look to the future; or, more likely, taking the time to be with your family during the holidays.  The rhythm of life in Israel allows for both (without mandating either one).

On the other hand, this is 3 weeks of sanctioned procrastination.  “Acharei ha-chagim” can be used for just about anything.  All your big plans and aspirations?  Meh.  Leave them until later.  Perhaps some real soul-searching is going on in these 3 weeks and it might be a legitimate way to pause and take a breath.  But who can honestly say that they are taking the full 3 weeks to do an internal spiritual cleanse?

And so we come back to 9/11.  What is the spiritual message that I heard in this tragedy?  You never know when the end will come.  Around this time I ask myself:  Is my spiritual accounting up to date?  Was I kind enough?  Did I let the important people in my life know that I care about them and they matter to me?  Was I true to myself?  If today was my last day, would I have regrets? Am I procrastinating or am I regrouping? What can I do to make tomorrow/next year better?

Well, I don’t want to end on such a blue and morbid note.  Rosh HaShana is a happy holiday!  We are given the opportunity to clean our slates and start fresh.  So let me wish you all a Happy New Year!  A Shana Tova u’Metuka (a good and sweet year)!