Monday, February 27, 2012

Evolution in our Time


symbiosis (ˌsɪmbɪˈəʊsɪs, ˌsɪmbaɪˈəʊsɪs)

— n
1. a close and usually obligatory association of two organisms of different species that live together, often to their mutual benefit

One of the most fascinating facets of the natural world is the arrangement known as symbiosis. This is when two completely different organisms evolve together in an arrangement that is mutually beneficial to both organisms.
One example of symbiosis is the teeth cleaning habit of the plover bird who hops into the mouth of the crocodile and picks bacteria out of it's teeth while the crocodile keeps its mouth open like a good boy in a dentists chair.
Another example is the way the clown fish is able to live inside the dangerous tentacles anemones without being effected by it's toxic shocks.
There are many other examples in the aquatic world of normally predatory fish coming to cleaning stations to get groomed by fish they would ordinarily eat.
We are not exactly sure why some species evolved to be independent and completely self sufficient while others need other species to come to arrangements with but that doesn't change the fact that the phenomena exists.

It's not every day that we get to witness the genesis of a symbiotic (if there's such a word) arrangement but apparently we are living in just such a time.
I am referring to the relationship between the walker and the tennis ball.
Apparently the walker evolved in an environment where there were many tennis balls floating around. And when it needed to glide on a smooth surface, instead of growing padded bottoms as you would expect, the bright yellow tennis ball hungry for some rubber bacteria perhaps, came along and latched onto the bottoms of the walkers thus creating the perfect symbiotic relationship. Or perhaps the tennis balls just missed their owners so much, those that lovingly took them out every sunday morning along with their white shorts but could no longer play due to old age or injury. Whatever the reason may be, this arrangement looks likes it's here to stay and we get to bear witness to the wonders of evolution first hand.
In a million years from now scientists will still be marveling at this unlikely pairing.



Wednesday, February 22, 2012



never far..
close by
..climbing walls
growing and
shrinking shadow
....scares me
(perhaps because)

....all it really is
is ME
..getting in the way
of the light
( definitely


Friday, February 17, 2012

Free Will vs Divinely Inspired Action

There's a very illuminating vort on Parshas Mishpatim in the Mei Hashiloach.
I'll keep it short and to the point.
A recurring theme in his philosophy and in the writings of other mainly Chasidic leaders is this idea that all our actions are directly caused by Hashem and are thus part of his divine plan. The punchline is usually, therefore don't get too down on yourself by things you've done because it wasn't really you doing it, it was Hashem.
Which naturally brings up some obvious questions, like where does free will fit into this picture? and why accept consequences if ultimately it was a divine occurrence?

Here's the gist of what he says.
It says in Tehillim "Somech Hashem L'Chol Hanofelim V'Zokef L'chol Hakefifim".
Hashem supports those who have fallen and makes upright those that are bent over.
There are two spiritual is a Kafif meaning he's bent over but hasn't yet fallen, and then there the Nofel, one that has already fallen.
The Kafif represents a mind burdened with toxic waste. It might be full of resentment, anger, haughtiness or lust. It has un-resolved issues marinating inside. When a person is in this state it's very difficult to resolve what's going on and do Teshuva. So Hashem brings them out into the realm of action. The arena of action thus becomes a workshop all his deep issues. So out of His goodness Hashem will cause him to sin so that he can go from being a bent over Kafif to a fallen Nofel. Once they're in the world of action, now they can be addressed and resolved.
So the fact that our sins might be divine occurrences doesn't contradict our free will because the actions that God causes are just a release of toxic waste which is in our minds and souls in order for us to do Teshuva.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Off the Derech, reframed


A few weeks ago the Mishpacha magazine published an article by Ronnie Greenwald about frum teens going off the derech and the way their parents handle it. In it he mentions that he sometimes hears from parents that they wish their child were dead rather than off the derech.
Needless to say Rabbi Greenwald reacted strongly to that sentiment and most letters to the editor reflected that as well.

There was however one letter from someone D.S. from Lakewood who staunchly defended a parents right and prerogative to wish their child dead rather than sully their soul further.
He mentions the Mitzvah of Ben Sorer U'Moreh to support the idea that the Torah would rather see an errant boy dead than alive when in fact one can deduct just the opposite from this commandment.
The Talmud says that there has never been such a case in history. The conditions are simply too far fetched. I look at this and see quite clearly that Hashem is telling us that, don't think you humans can ever decide on your own when to give up on someone. I'm giving you this mitzvah but I'm also showing you that you have no business carrying it out.

Here are some random thoughts that come to mind...

I find that there are two types of people that are "off the derech" these days.
There are the ones that we see around us, the subject of the above mentioned article. Here's how it usually happens.
Most people live inside spheres of gravity that keep their homeostasis somewhat regulated. If not for these, while we might be more free in a sense of the word, we'd also be living highly volatile lives. These spheres usually consist of family, friends and lifestyle. Think of a moon orbiting a large planet. The moon might fluctuate a little, but is kept in place by the gravity of the larger planet. Our "life" keeps us on a general path even for those that might question it here and there. It usually takes some kind of trauma, either a one time acute event or a long term festering chronic situation that will knock someone out of the orbit of family and lifestyle. This is most often the case with these "off the derech" boys and girls. Their orbit no longer feels safe, or some kind of trauma has created a situation where being inside the orbit is more painful than leaving it. Religion itself is very rarely the primary target, rather it becomes representative of the one that has caused the pain. Only someone very sick, narcissistic and controlling person would wish nothing but compassion for these "troubled" youth.

Then there are those that are off the derech for intellectual reasons, usually atheism. These are popularly known as frum skeptics. These are the old fashioned heretics and apikorsim that family members used to sit shiva over in the past.

Here's the irony.
These frum skeptics more often than not are perfectly happy living in the orbit of the frum lifestyle. They don't leave their families nor change their outwardly appearance.
They look the part of pious jew, go to synagogue, openly keep the laws of Shabbos etc while blogging online how they don't believe in God.
So this father who wrote the letter invoking the old reaction of wishing death upon his wayward child for leaving the fold might be going to shul bemoaning his fate to his friend or chavrusa or "the sheina yid" or even Rabbi who in turn might be nothing more than the true heretic of old who doesn't have the guts to live according to his true convictions.

Then I have this vision of that unavoidable meeting after 120 where he'll find his sons "troubled" soul at long last at peace at the right hand of the father who never stopped loving him, while he is suddenly confronted with that horrifying reality that is the role his egotistical and controlling nature played in kicking his son out of the orbit of Judaism.

Let me end with the words of the poet Khalil Gibran. Words that every parent should read at least once a day.

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, 'Speak to us of Children.'

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.


Thursday, February 09, 2012

mourning grogginess


the beeping
...pulled him
leaving a

in the void

...the characters
of his dream
...premature death


Sunday, February 05, 2012

your greatest enemy


I am your greatest enemy
I take away your freedom
I kill your dreams....
I'm waiting for you
...every morning
with a list of resentments..
and reasons to feel down
I have your acquaintances
......all lined up
I attach the habits to your wings
that make it impossible
.................for you to fly
and what makes me most
FRUSTRATING......(ugh) that I am no longer here
for you to stare
down..and yet...
I will ALWAYS be here
stealing your FR E E D O M

I am


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

65 degrees


It's 65 degrees on February 1st
(the winter poems are rapidly melting)
....I think I'll take the dog out for a walk

Oh wait.....I don't have a dog..
....oh wait
It's 65 degrees on February 1st

.....maybe I have a dog after-all