Back in the Saddle: Parshat Re’eh

Ram Nissan, in another journey into the liturgy, found himself in ‘The Saddle’, the ancient city of Shechem that sits squarely between the mountains of blessings and curses, the ‘saddle’ of Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, the Split and the Bald. The mount of decision and the slippery slope. This was the place of rectification, after all the twists and turns they’d left behind them. Ram Nissan finally got it, casting his gaze through the millennia time and again at the altar of Quantum Universal Integrated Experiential Temporality, each encounter with the fifty foot holoFlame yielding another piece of the metaphysical puzzle. This spot, just across the Jordan from Gilgal, Joshua’s future stone circle, training ground of prophets, was the crosshairs through which the future incarnation of the Israelites might be seen. Meditating on this place, his mind flashed on the rape of Dinah, the site the Christian’s call Jacob’s well, Joshua’s place of decision. Moses was telegraphing his people that this is the spot that will make or break you, your future. The two mountains create a powerful focusing lens, a point of omnidirectionality, complete indeterminacy. And Gilgal, reincarnation, of course, is smack in the middle of the field of vision just across the Jordan. All this at the dark moon of the month that declares, “I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me!” Total receptivity, all that calls to us. Ram Nissan was in awe. His receiver was wide open and ready to download the messages coming in.

Time for some rolodexing through the annals of history for this particular week. Ram Nissan adjusted the holoShawl, cobalt tzitzit dongles sparking in sync with the pulsating body of Adam CADMan tumbling in his luminous corona. Rav Ram Nissan ben Krishna HaKohen Tzedek Gadol was always blown away by this vision in the thundering holoFlame, revealed only by means of the holoShawl. His friends from the Hack Pack would really dig this scene as well. But it’s not their scene, not the one he inhabited with them. They’d have to choose to come here, and so far he was on his lonesome. Sigh. The loneliness of the Redemption. In spite of the fact that he knew that everyone was alive, everyone that ever did live, most of them remained tucked away in their little narratives waiting for Ram Nissan to pay them a visit. And in the fullness of time he’d do just that. Meanwhile, the CADMan was available for his peculiar form of discourse. With his mind’s finger, Ram Nissan poked at the point on the CADMan’s glowing corpus, the particular sinew that encoded this year in history. The deeper he poked, the farther back in time. He immediately felt the heat of 1945 and almost drew back in alarm. Both atomic bombs had hit their targets this week in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The years piled on: 1914, the Germans assaulted Liege, the first battle of the First World War; deeper in, the year 910, the last Viking assault on England is repulsed at the Battle of Tettenhall by the allied forces of Mercia and Wessex; 1964, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution is passed, and 26 years later to the day President Bush orders Operation Desert Shield, the greater calamities that followed set in motion by relatively trivial initial conditions.

Deeper yet–he could feel the CADMan groan– the year 378, one of the most decisive battles in history. Valens, the Roman emperor of the East, is defeated by the Visigoths at the Battle of Adrianople. Two-thirds of the Roman army, including Emperor Valens himself, were overrun and slaughtered by the mounted barbarians. A shudder ran through the great altar. Still deeper, Ram Nissan presses back to 48 BC, Caesar’s civil war. At the Battle of Pharsalus Julius Caesar decisively defeats Pompey who flees to Egypt. The beginning and end of empire decided in battle the same day 426 years apart. Nineteen Seventy four, Nixon resigns; 1995 Jerry Garcia dies; 1988 Al-Qaeda formed at a meeting between Osama bin Laden, Zawahiri and Dr Fadl in Peshawar. The year 610, the traditional date of the Laylat al-Qadr, when Muhammad began to receive the Qur’an, 1222 years to the day after the killing of Sinsharishkun, King of the Assyrian Empire, and the destruction of Nineveh by an army of Babylonians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians and Scythians, in the century after the Hebrew prophet Jonah had taught the Ninevites to repent. Nineteen Twenty Five saw the first national march of the Ku Klux Klan, 30,000 men in hoods, in the streets of Washington, D.C.; 40 years later that same week President Lyndon Baines Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act, officially prohibiting racial discrimination in voting throughout the country. Two years earlier, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, prohibiting the testing of nuclear weapons in outer space, underwater, or in the atmosphere. Humanity was on a roll. In 1936 Jesse Owens wins his fourth gold medal in the Olympics to the chagrin of his hosts, the Third Reich. In 1919 Germany adopts the Weimar Constitution, on paper, the most liberal and democratic document of its kind the twentieth century had ever seen. In 1945 Japan accepts the terms of the Potsdam Agreement, unconditional surrender. In 1914 the first electric traffic signal is installed on the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 105th Street in Cleveland, Ohio; exactly 77 years later, Tim Berners-Lee releases files describing his idea for the World Wide Web which debuts as a publicly available service on the Internet. The traffic increases exponentially with time. And in the furthermost reaches of human history, 3114 BCE, the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar begins.

Ram Nissan pulled back his holoShawl and checked in with his own calendrical reckoning. It was mid-evening of the year, time for the main course to be served up at the Eternal Sabbath’s table, before the evening gave way to full tilt festivity. Moses had offered the Israelites their choice of fish, meat and poultry courses. What to eat and what to reject, and what to give to the little one who cries down the lane. The test of who we are. What to proffer in recognition that none of what we have actually belongs to us. We are merely the lens through which this vision of plenty is focused. Breathtaking. Moses wants the Israelites to view all their brethren as free, in essence, whether bound in servitude to another or not. The Redemption is an inevitability to be accepted, embraced, not calculated, and certainly not forestalled. And this opportunity presents itself in our walking the walk of pilgrimage three times a year, three times a day in the framework of the Eternal Sabbath of the Redemption, three times to present ourselves at the altar and remember that we once lived in the land of bondage, strangers in a strange land. Moses, man of vision, shows the Children of Israel that they may choose to walk the walk of Jacob, the walk of beauty, of harmony, of peace and of compassion.

About the Author
Michael Diamond’s day job is as a psychiatrist and doctor of medical qigong in the Washington, DC area. He has published occasional verse, fiction and translation in Andrei Codrescu’s journal, The Exquisite Corpse; in the journal Shirim courtesy of Dryad Press; in the online journal for Akashic Press; and in The Journal of the American Medical Association. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, an artist and illuminator of Hebrew manuscripts, their dog, one cat, a cockatiel named Peaches and a tank of hyperactive fish. He has had a strong interest in Torah since first exposed to traditional stories as a child. Over the course of his life he has run the gamut of spiritual exploration of many world traditions of meditation and mythology. For the last several decades he has landed squarely in the traditional Jewish world. His writing is informed by all of this experience, by his curiosity about today's world and by his desire to mine the Jewish experience for its hidden and revealed wisdom. Torah Obscura, as in camera obscura, from Latin, meaning "dark room", also referred to as pinhole image, the optical phenomenon that occurs when an image of a scene at the other side of a screen is projected through a small hole in that screen into the chamber provided. A glimpse of an otherwise invisible world afforded by a small aperture for light. All materials herein copyright © 2018 Michael S. Diamond. All rights reserved.
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