Category Archives: Bits

unsuccess | ביטול

 

Contender

 

The itch deep in the core of one’s being to be a ‘somebody’ is something that needs to be scratched out. But how to scratch it out without scratching it, the itch, and thus making it worse, itchier—this is a problem for delicate fingers.

This sin of petty hubris—its prosaic character is audible in the humble choice of the word ‘somebody’ over the more poetic hubris of a Greek hero who desires to be a god; this petty hubris is an American fleur du mal and horticultural export known as ‘Success’—is somewhat like a mistake that stands in need of correction, a trespassing onto a property that is not one’s own. The true owner of the property has suffered a violation of his rights, and now these rights need to be officially confirmed and reinstated by a judgement and a punishment. The violence of hubris, in any case, cannot be conceived as some kind of damage inflicted by oneself on oneself. It is essentially an offense to someone else, and as such it constitutes a guilt. One needs to be ashamed, publicly, of one’s hubris.

This very shame, of course, pays a surreptitious tribute to the secret power of petty hubris and augments its power. The furnace in the engine of petty hubris is the all but inextinguishable promise, told to the self by those things on most intimate terms with the self, that something can be achieved. The promise that is the encouragement of the self to dwell on an extraordinary possibility, the possibility of extraordinariness.

That there is such a thing, such a possibility, as ‘being a somebody’—this conviction is the secret eternal flame of petty hubris. The angry forces that come along to curtail and subdue this conviction thus serve to fan its flames. Hubris is fired up by mythology. The angrier Zeus gets, the more the human ego feels an inborn need to rise up against him in revolt and to scream blasphemies.

And what of the Hassidic teaching of bitul? Is that ‘self-cancellation’ not basically the same mythological doctrine of hubris-crushing, the Hebraic counterpart of the catharsis procedure found in Attic tragedy? Is not the ‘Bible’ the original art of making oneself sick through herd morality (Nietzsche) and civilization (Freud)?

In exile, the Torah is almost everywhere submitted to a kind of mythological reading that would transform the Holy One, blessed be He, into a Zeus (Heaven forbid!)—and hence Adam into a Prometheus. This idolatrous syncretism thereby reduces the teaching of bitul into a doctrine of self-humiliation, self-mortification, catharsis, etc..

Bitul, genuine bitul, however, has little to do with this glorious mythological theme. Bitul does not correct a mistaken trespass onto anyone’s property. No property rights are violated. How could they be? The Infinite One is kone hakol, the ‘owner of everything,’ and therefore it is quite impossible to steal anything from Him, fire, fruit or anything else. It is impossible to actually offend Him or threaten Him, in the manner that the not-quite-infinite gods can be offended and threatened. In truth, there is no hubris. The ‘cancellation’ involved in bitul is consequently not an invasive surgery. It sounds like nothing more than a simple, ‘Excuse me, can I get by?’ addressed to oneself.

What bitul cancels is designated in Hassidic teaching as ‘existence’ (yeshus). There is no ‘ego’ to serve as the bull’s eye of bitul. The entirety of Creation, the fact of Creation as such, if anything, is at fault. Whence no one is at fault. The myth of the arrogant ‘ego’ is part and parcel of the hubris myth and an assimilation to Hellenistic ways of thinking. Creation, existence, hence my existence, simply has no secret power of self-affirmation. My existence has no promise to give itself regarding any extraordinary possibility to be achieved. I am truly and simple a nobody. I did not make myself. I barely know myself. The circle of my life is a set of electrons spinning around a molecular nucleus. I have my family, my acquaintances. Nothing more. I am often abysmally alone. Some people like me, some don’t. Fame is a mirage. I will probably never be a hero. And even if I manage to be a hero, so what? My life will probably never be on the screen. And even if it will be on a screen, next week will have a new feature. In any case, I will eventually get sick and lie dumbly in the earth.

And regarding this, the teaching of bitul says, very simply, that there is nothing to be embarrassed about. If anything, grasped correctly, there is reason to rejoice.

 

Prometheus

Balaamides

E R E I G N I S — the Happenstance — is the divine transmitter of the Es of Es gibt. Being happens to be transmitted by Ereignis. (This transmitter is the god from whose dangerous gift only another god can save us now.)

Rembrandt Balaam

What the exportation means is that the questioning approach into Ereignis is to be a piously thoughtful receding, a retreat and backward sinking (Schritt züruck), in the direction of Being, deeper into Being’s bowels, into the womb where Being was differentiated by a difference older than the ontological one. This recession and descent is the sacred labour (עבודה) of going back to the womb—hence a kind of evaginated labour—a piety performed on the heath (Heide), or rather just under it, inside the soil. The genealogy of the prophet of Ereignis is therefore evident.

Heidegger is a descendant of Balaam.

רשי ויקרא א א. וַיִּקְרָא אֶל משֶׁהלכל דברות ולכל אמירות ולכל צוויים קדמה קריאה לשון חבה לשון שמלאכי השרת משתמשים בו, שנאמר (ישעיה ו ג) וקרא זה אל זה, אבל לנביאי אומות העולם נגלה עליהן בלשון עראי וטומאה, שנאמר (במדבר כג ד) וַיִּקָּר אֱלֹקים אֶל בִּלְעָם.ם

רשי במדבר כג ד. וַיִּקָּרלשון עראי לשון גנאי לשון טומאת קרי, כלומר בקושי ובבזיון, ולא היה נגלה עליוביום אלא בשביל להראות חבתן של ישראל.ל

ויקרא רבה א יג. אין לשון ויקר אלא לשון טומאה, כמה דתימר (דברים כג) אשר לא יהיה טהור מקרה לילה, אבל נביאי ישראל בלשון קדושה, בלשון טהרה, בלשון ברור, בלשון שמלאכי השרת מקלסין בו להקב”ה. כמה דתימר (ישעיה ו) וקרא זה אל זה ואמר.א

Ereignis happens (ויקר) as the primordial happenstance (עראי). It is an “event” that does not happen in time, of course, because it is time itself that is transmitted by Ereignis, by this “event,” by way of a necessary accidentality, or fatality, Schicksal, Ἀνάγκη. Time as such is a fatal gift. This is why Bilaam’s prophetic ecstasies are comparable to nocturnal pollutiones (מקרה לילה). Such pollutions are physiological manifestations of the recession and submersion into the “event” behind and beneath Being. And the physiological capacity that is designed for intercourse, i.e. for travelling along a course from one world into another world, erupts prematurely within a self-enclosed world, as an infertile implosion. What happens as a necessary accidentality is thus an expression of pure worldhood. Such worldhood, unmixed by intercourse with someone else in a medium of worldlessness, is impurity (טומאה). Pollution is too much world, a concentration of worldhood to the point of toxicity.

..ויקרא טו טזוְאִישׁ כִּי תֵצֵא מִמֶּנּוּ שִׁכְבַת זָרַע וְרָחַץ בַּמַּיִם אֶת כָּל בְּשָׂרוֹ וְטָמֵא עַד הָעָרֶב 

 .ראבעכִּי תֵצֵא. שלא ברצונו

Gelassenheit. What happens to the Balaamite prophet is beyond his control. He submerges himself in river, his Rhine, luminis ingentis fluctus, and goes with its flow. This happening is his happiness, his daemon.

On dry land, similarly, the heathen descends, recedes, backs down step by step, into the kiva of Being, deeper into the worldhood of the world, ins Blut und Boden des Seins, where the shame (בוש) of the human condition is to be “purged” by means of human blood, evagination, debirthing, the blood of shamelessness, rather than a “for-shame” (לבוש) investiture. But shamelessness, of course, is the antithesis of an absence of shame.

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In his Schwartze Hefte, Heidegger calls Judaism Bodenlosigkeit, “lack of footing,” and Weltlosigkeit, “worldlessness.” He has no idea how right he is. Keine blasse Ahnung! (… אלא בשביל להראות חבתן של …) Only the prophetic insight of an “uncovered eye” could possibly see things with such lucidity:

Die Frage nach der Rolle des Weltjudentums is keine rassische, sondern die metaphysische Frage nach der Art von Menschentümlichkeit, die schlechthin ungebunden die Entwurzelung alles Seienden aus dem Sein als weltgeschichtliche “Aufgabe” übernehmen kann.

Perhaps the only point of muddiness here is the exaggeration implied in the little word alles. There is certainly no question regarding the “uprooting of […] beings from Being” as the world-historical task entrusted to the Jews regarding themselves. The uprootedness and worldnessness implied in this task begins with the first word of the Torah and is developed with unprecedented inwardness and practical force in the Shaar haYihud vehaEmunah and thenceforth. The benedictive term that corresponds to the would-be maledictive Entwurzelung is קדושה. Whether or how this task pertains to “all,” whether or how everyone is to be uprooted and worldless must therefore remain a mystery built into the ministerial office of the Jews as defined in Exodus 19:6. The mystery is not for human hands to unpack. All that is in our hands with respect to uprooting (which precludes every alles) is the non-ministerial aspect of of the task: וגוי קדוש.

וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ לִי מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים וְגוֹי קָדוֹשׁ

But the worldlessness of of the Jew—this is an absolutely fundamental teaching of Kabbalah. Few things are as fundamental.

Bilaam cannot grasp the benedictive essence of his own would-be-curse. This is because he has a deeply conflicted emotional relationship with his donkey in tandem with his nocturnal issues, that is, with the event of the material world (חומר). In his very benediction he is granted a glimpse of the Messiah. But does he really understand why the Messiah rides a donkey? Does he understand how that donkey will have overcome every element of innate stubbornness? Does he understand why only the most perfectly worldless man, in the moment when history is perfected, is able to ride a donkey without so much as holding the reins?

Likewise Heidegger’s entire thinking is fundamentally asinine. SeinSeynEreignis—this is a harnessed team of donkeys that by miraculous dispensation were lent the power of speech in order to call upon Heidegger’s thinking.

1966.– Jim Henson designs the “Wheel-Stealer” for a General Foods ad for a crunchy snack, cookie“Wheels.” 1967.– The “Wheel-Stealer” appears in an IBM training film, Coffee Machine. In it, the monster devours a coffee machine. 1969.– Arnold the Munching Monster appears on three commercials selling Munchos, a Frito-Lay potato chip. Each of these is a prefiguration of Cookie Monster.

It would be useful to make an analysis of this figure from the perspective of the Frankfurt School critique of bourgeois appetites. Even more so from the perspective of Veblen’s theory of leisure, or Bataille’s second law of thermodynamics. Cookie Monster’s very being is rooted in a commercial dimension — from which he never quite emerges. He is the embodiment of consumerism. He devours Wheels, Munchos, and a machine that makes coffee. In him, consumerism is boiled down to its essence, its truth, its etymon. Consumption, literally.

And the consumption is out of control. His hunger exceeds that of an animal. It is monstrous. The message of the commercials in which he was conceived and born is: “Here is a foodstuff that will latch on to your taste buds with such violent force that you’re superego will lose control, and hence the money you earned through your labour will escape your pockets. But more, even your id will behave with a ferocity unknown in the animal kingdom, a monstrous ferocity. The fact that you find me, this monster before you, amusing, may console you in the thought that you are, after all, not like me, and that I am simply a farcical figure through which you may vicariously enjoy the monster within you. Yet this consolation is not strong enough to stop you from buying this snack.” The economic system that is supposedly built upon the control imposed upon the ego by the superego, in the form of investment (Aesop’s ant), thus reveals its underlying drive to total leisure (the grasshopper).

His consumption, in a sense, is conspicuous. He lacks the refinement of proper conspicuous consumption displayed by a civilized barbarian. But his gluttony is a kind of luxury. The fact that this monster never even eats his cookie, as the cookie explodes into crumbs in his mandibles and flies to the floor, is not a disbelief suspended by the audience. The waste is precisely where the real pleasure lies.

(It is interesting that the practical health problem posed by Cookie Monster had to wait until 2006 to be addressed. “Cookies is a sometimes snack.” Aristotelian ethics steps in, on the set with Martha Stewart.)

The entire nefarious power of Cookie Monster lies in his innocence. This is the personification of the animal soul (nefesh habehamit) at his charming best. The impressionable young child, after suffering Jiminy Cricket’s oppressive Apollonian demands finds Dionysian relief in the company of the blue monster from Sesame Street.

Jiminy Cricket

Jiminy Cricket

The world of Collodi’s Pinocchio is a world forsaken by God. And the main problem is what to do instead, what to install in God’s stead.

The immediate task in planning such an installation is to set down the mood of the workers, namely the readers. The author makes the sensible decision, given the animalistic human cruelty that marks the center and the circumference of such a God-forsaken world, to make the mood a jocular one. As Nietzsche understood with such perspicacity regarding Don Quixote, the gruesome tortures and humiliations that Pinocchio endures at the hands of talking beasts and beastly men was designed to make the first readers of this fairy-tale laugh themselves to death. The installation itself is thus foredoomed to be a joke.

What is the material with which, or on which, the problem is to be solved? C’era una volta un pezzo di legno. The Aristotelian character of the material is unmistakable. The piece of wood in question is ὕλη. The broader metaphor is clear. But by giving the metaphor such long legs and making it run from beginning to end without a moment’s rest, Collodi’s brilliant contribution to our understanding of the general problem of the installation of something in the old stead of God, the God whose first melancholy goodbyes were heard in the streets of Collodi’s native Florence a few centuries earlier, was to frame the problem with absolute precision as a mechanical one. It is not by accident that the invention of the burattino, the stringless marionette, takes place in the same decade as that of the horseless wagon, the automobile.

How is the mechanical problem of designing and installing an internal motor in combination with a steering mechanism within the soul of a wooden boy who lives in a God-forsaken world solved?

In order to approach the more nuanced and multi-faceted solution as it appears in Collodi’s world, it is extremely useful to operate retrospectively by looking first at the dumbed-down, simplified, sugared-up caricature of the solution as it appears in the interpretation of the story designed by Walter Elias Disney. Disney’s interpretation is really an articulation (perush) of the story which succeeds in distilling its essence, and even, in the relaxed mood of the American Gospel, in refactoring into it some of the Christian element that Collodi’s nervous Italian Catholicism had pushed into the dumb margins of the text.

The interpretation hinges, to be exact, on the transformation of Il Grillo Parlante into Pinocchio’s conscience. Jiminy Cricket.

How does this happen? The Blue Fairy appoints him. Who is the Blue Fairy? She is no longer la Fata dai capelli turchini whom Pinocchio makes his mother. The turquoise-haired Fairy, to be sure, is already wanting in her maternal instincts. She’s more like a coquettish Mother Theresa than a proper mother. One even wonders if she doesn’t harbour a secret taste for cruelty, judging from her tireless passion for scolding her little wooden bambino. In any case, by the time Disney gets through with here, she is the full-blown psychic compensation and proxy for parental inattentiveness. Her entire fairy-like incandescence says, “Sorry, little man, I just ain’t here for you.” She is pure klipah nogah.

And as for Geppetto, he is the epitome of bumbling paternal neglect. He sends his naive wooden boy off to school. Why? Doesn’t he wonder for a moment whether it’s a good idea to send a newborn puppet into the world? He presents school as a child’s obligation. The reality is, however, that Geppetto has no time for him.

Step in Jiminy Cricket. Dapper little Jiminy Cricket, given a world forsaken by God and parents alike, is the deputized mechanical bureaucrat-babysitter of Pinocchio. He is the figure of the super-ego.

In Collodi’s text, clear sign of this role—which here exists only a larval form—is evident in Pinocchio’s healthy instinct to squash the Talking Cricket on his spot on the wall.

It is also evident from the way he returns to haunt Pinocchio like the ghost of Hamlet’s father. But in Disney, the Cricket is positively immortal. A ghost on this side of death.

And always let your conscience be your guide!

As such, as conscience, super-ego, Jiminy Cricket blocks all access to God. For God, God as He is manifest in the Torah, the Holy One, blessed be He!—God offers Himself as the Guide external to the psyche. This is why He gives the Torah, as a gift coming from beyond. And God wants parents to be the earthly guides of their children. Whence the fifth commandment of the Decalogue is on the first tablet. But by insisting on the installation of an internal conscience as a guide—Heaven help us!—the possibility of trust (emunah) in God, and of receiving guidance (Torah) from God is altogether eclipsed. One continues to speak of God. to be sure. But what one speaks of is a bureaucratic function, a mechanism. Eventually this will be recognized as an illusion, an illusory projection of the tired father absorbed in his own neuroses.

Ethically speaking, Jiminy Cricket is a daimon. Above mechanical innovation (Ionia), and above domestication of animals (Egypt), and beside the domestication of human beings as slaves (Egypt), we find the highest spiritual technology man has unleashed: the daemon conscience, the super-ego. By far the most dangerous idol erected in human history.

This of course is an Idumean technology, i.e. a daemonization of a Torah principle of parenting. This is why his name is a minced oath of J.C.. It is the “God” of Esau. Esau does love his father. But when it comes down to it, he prefers the idol of Isaac’s blessing.

In political news as in philosophy and in haute couture and social media etc., the issues that are put into play at centre stage are guided by a category than which there would seem to be no higher, namely the category of the interesting. How something comes to qualify as interesting is as mysterious as how pretty fractal patterns burgeon out of nothing in particular. The eye-catching symmetry and harmonious order of the pattern would vouch for the substantialness of their origins. Again, as in high seamstressing. And in aesthetic domains in general, of course, this genetic force of différance, of the innocent child at play, is more than welcome.

abstract 1

The question is whether any attempt to actually deal with a political issue can be entrusted to child’s play. This is the old Platonic question. It may be, after all, that the most boring issue is the key issue to unlocking a given political problem. The hermeneutic matrix and language for dealing with the problem, moreover, may be a very old one. It may be altogether impossible to make “news” out of it.

When a Hassidic discourse, for example, sets something down as an inyan, an “issue,” this implies a directive for where to place one’s innocence. The directive addresses the seasoned self, the self well-acquainted with sin but also well-aware of the origins of sin in innocence. When the Rebbe identifies something as inyana shel torat haḥasidut, “the issue of Hassidic teaching,” the hosid trusts his Rebbe that this issue, no matter how bygone, obsolete, recondite or passé it may be, and perhaps even precisely because it is so, holds the secret to a veritable political grip on the slippery fish that are peddled about here and there as “news.”

The concept of “modernity” is such a news-type concept. When does “Modern Philosophy” begin, for example? In the moment when the preceding philosophy of the Schoolmen appears as an interminable discussion about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. What is old, what is no longer “news,” appears as a picayune squabbling and hair-splitting of irrelevant issues, issues that no longer refer to anything real. Yet isn’t this how all genuine training must seem to the novice? “Wax on, wax off.” One becomes a Karate master by shining many cars. Likewise the “irrelevant” infinitesimal details of Lurianic metaphysics. The truth is not necessarily the object of thought if the object itself must belong to the category of the interesting. An object produced within a boring discipline of thought may, even while irrelevant per se, correspond adequatio ad rem to a truth that has yet to be realized as an object.

WaxOnWaxOff

The News.— As informative as gossip. Gossip on a global scale. —But gossip does provide information, does it not? To be sure. Gossip can provide an exhaustive and perfectly true (“excellence in reportage”) account of how Mrs. X did such and such to Mrs. Y, yet without in any way whatsoever touching the motives behind the accurately reported actions of Mrs. X, to say nothing of the external causes for these motives which were furnished or triggered by Mrs. Y. Likewise news remains as blithely “informative”—that is to say, as myopic and shallow—in comparison with historical analysis as gossip is in comparison with psychoanalysis.

The unrelenting itch to hear the news, moreover, is fundamentally the same as the gossip-itch. The satisfaction that news and gossip alike provide is the feeling that one is on top of things, that one is not being duped by current events in the universe. And hence the auto-hypnotic suggestion that one is doing something about the situation. As if such obsessions—gossip, news—were in some way actually empowering!

cnn

“The Arabs.”— A good example of news nomenclature. The term may true and meaningful enough, and relatively stable since the Abbasid Caliphate. But what does this relatively new name tell us about the oldest motives of the sons of Ishmael?

The fact that the sons of Ishmael are preoccupied with the Jewish Question in a way that seems thoroughly antiquated to an Idumean (“American,” “European,” “Western,” etc.) sensibility runs interference and causes dissonance in the mind of a Jew who remains mostly illiterate about Auschwitz beyond having read Wiesel’s Night and visited Yad Vashem, and watched Schindler’s List. Historical illiteracy has a powerful effect upon political conditions, no less powerful than an extremely low air-pressure zone has on the weather conditions. The relative vacuum in historical literacy sucks the need to hear the news—How’s the weather lookin’ today?—and to fret and obsess about the news into its low air-pressure zone.

A concomitant phenomenon is visible in France and other European countries. The panic over the hordes of Ishmael’s sons streaming into France is expressed in delightful ignorance of the fact that this phenomenon is a direct product of the French colonialism of the Ishmaelite world during the last centuries. The inability, or refusal, of the French to recognize the internal impact of colonialism within the French soul, and the inheritance of this impact, makes the infiltration seem like a pure contagion attacking the organism from without. What do you expect if you walk out into the cold without a scarf or hat?

sciarpa-kefiah

In reality, of course, there is no hope of coming to terms with the Jewish Question in its renaissance as a contemporary Ishmaelite preoccupation without confronting the fact that the Ishmaelites have simply never heard of Alfred Dreyfus while Herzl was simply incapable of forgetting Dreyfus even in the endless beige dunes of Palestine.

herzl small

The media is said to have a double-standard. Jews are held up to a higher moral standard than the Palestinians (פלשתים). The simplest way to deal with this, and perhaps a necessary expedient in the short run, is to complain and to hope and to pray that by means of complaint the media will come to adjust its approach.

But there is an alternative course that may be taken. It’s not as convenient as the first one, admittedly, nor perhaps as expedient in the short run. And the political perils of such an approach must be carefully considered before anything is implemented. The approach: to persuade the media to explicitly own the double-standard. What if the media were to be challenged to state outright, without mincing words:

“Yes, the Jews are held up to a higher moral standard than the Palestinians. They are a kingdom of priests. So says their Torah. And priests are universally held up to a higher moral standard. This is what humanity expects of the Jews. We challenge them to achieve their God-given higher moral standard. We entreat them to do so, for the sake of humanity as well as their own sake. We understand that their priestly ministrations, when properly carried out, would improve the spiritual state of humanity, just as the proper efforts of a global association of physicians would improve the physical state of humanity. And therefore we propose to help them, in whatever way is in our power to do so, to function well in their holy office.”

And who among us—yes, us Jews—is prepared for such a statement from the media?

 מִצִּיּוֹן מִכְלַל יֹפִי אֱ|לֹהִים הוֹפִיעַ

If the incomparable extra genus beauty of this city is to been appraised on aesthetic terms built on its own soil, the configuration of an appropriate colour theory and its application would be a necessary propadeutic. As over many other cities on this great lovely marble of ours, the sky is blue. And yet here in Jerusalem the sky is blue somehow more conspicuously than elsewhere. When there are clouds, for example, one could swear that they too are blue. Likewise, in certain moments unchecked by critical thought and in refutation of Freud’s Akhenaten theory, the sun.

וְנָתְנוּ עַל צִיצִת הַכָּנָף פְּתִיל תְּכֵלֶת

But certainly all romantic colorations must be resisted. The blue is altogether inconclusive. It leans outside itself. Refractively. It shies away from its own loveliness like a blushing girl. If it is indeed to be classified as techelet, this hue does not tend toward white or leek green or any other identifiable colour. The mishna specifies these two colours as contrasts for the sake of identifying the transition between twilight and two distinct lights.

(מאימתי קורין את שמע בשחרית משיכיר בין תכלת ללבן ר’ אליעזר אומר בין תכלת לכרתי (ברכות ט,ב

But the blue of Jerusalem’s sky persists, even under the harshest sun, as a inwardly precarious, irreducible twilight colour. The most that can be said, consequently, is that it is a metaphorical hue of blue. The hue is not literally there, even as it is certainly there to see plain as day. Like the blue of the sea in the medium of water, this blue in the medium of air stands in for a transparency that would be too much for the eye of flesh and blood to handle on a daily basis. The sky over Jerusalem, in short, is transparent. As if the fact that the sky is nothing more than a preferential refraction by blue-scattering nitrogen and oxygen molecules were rendered visible, and the blueness itself is nothing more than one strand of techelet among, and hinting at, the disheveled transparent threads among which it weaves its resting position.

And once a proper theory of colour were worked out to account for the quality of transparency in the blue of Jerusalem’s sky, the political issues regarding what lies beneath the sky might be better illuminated as well. Doesn’t the whole issue of “land” as it is applied to this fair city, in the manner of cartographers, surveyors, real estate agents, mayors, prime ministers, police commissioners, etc., becloud the hint that is constantly given by the inconclusive blue above such measures? Which is not to say that this should be a kind of “city of refuge” whose levitical inhabitants do not have the option to buy property. The notion of an “international city” tries to get away with such a suggestion, even as the notion does touch on something essential.

Jerusalem is a transparent city, the site of transparency between heaven and earth. It can be assumed quite categorically that no issues of land will ever be resolved or even adequately approached until the blue issue, with all its corollaries pertain to refraction and transparency, is acknowledged and properly addressed by an appropriate colour theory.

I have never been so aware of just how many times the word ירושלים occurs in my quotidian liturgical life. The meaning of the word is re-shuffling the wall-stone tiles under my feet. It used to have such a securely geographic meaning. No longer. The new meaning, shifting into a pure temporality, counted in seasons, became clear to me by the end of my first Seder here. What ירושלים means, the word, is:— n e x t   y e a r . Or, what amounts to the same: — n o w  !

Yerushalmi rudeness.— Souls simply unable to bear how fiercely they desire one another. A blessed brutality alone, nothing less, is what makes it possible to bear the burden of this fierce passion. One can only be this rude with family.

A Jew does not need to be a prophet to feel that the people of Israel are in the process, still, of cultivating a general condition in which Jews can reach down into each others souls in order to tap something of vital value to human life on earth. The fact that the state is fashioned on an Idumean model is of course the great internal blockage to the upward flow. But it would seem, to the extent than an average lay Jew is permitted and perhaps even required to intuit the divine supervision at work in his socio-political circumstances, that this blockage is not severe enough to make it still necessary for Jews to continue their cultivation efforts in a state of exile. The plumbing work that remains is best done in a concentrated population of Jews on old soil. The high degree to which the Jewish soul has achieved a inner civil relaxation, having extended the feeling that it is legally acceptable if not morally permissible to “take off one’s shoes” even beyond the private domain and in the public domain, is bound to dissolve this Idumean blockage. The Israeli Jew just needs a little more time—not very much more—for his excitement over the entrance ticket to Idumean civilization to grow stale and insipid.

In contemporary Israel, each and every cab driver has a highly articulated political opinion. Much more so than, for example, an average American cabby. This “interest in politics” is not what it seems to be. In reality, it is both nothing more than a tending to one’s cactuses on the balcony and nothing less than a messianic itch.

The state machinery might do well to take care of the Ishmaelite brother in our midst. If only as a matter of politesse. Perhaps something like a Marshall Plan would be in order, where the state could invest in the growth of Arab settlements and towns through education in the Jewish way of life and thought. Likewise perhaps the Koran should be taught to Jewish youths as a text of critical historical importance for fostering sympathy.

The contemporary Israeli convention of distinguishing Hilonim from Haredim—that is, so-called non-religious Jews (literally, “profane ones”) from so-called religious Jews (literally, “quakers”)—is a remarkable irony of the exilic mind. Exile denuded (gala) the land of its inhabitants precisely because the Jews were becoming mere Haredim, Jews fanatically preoccupied with supra-rational divine decrees, hukkim, at the expense of being just as busy with rational social laws, mishpatim. Read Isaiah and Jeremiah. To permit and even promote quaking as definitive of the identity of an authentic Jew is therefore nothing less than to perpetuate the sins of those who were extradited to Babylon. There is no such thing as a Hiloni, a “non-religious Jew.” This is an oxymoron. Jews, as the Rebbe taught, all Jews, without exception, are “believers children of believers”—where “belief” has dire little to do with propositions and professions of creed. If we find it so needful to insist on this kind of distinction, the most that can be said is that many Jews tend to fall into one of two camps: those who are enthralled by hukkim, and those whose life is enframed by mishpatim. What shall we call them—Hokniks and Mishpatniks? In any case, they are both absolutely right—absolutely “orthodox.”

The word opportunity assumes a new inflection here in Jerusalem. The usual notion of a waiting potential—Aristotle’s dynamis—is certainly still there. But the opportunity that is Jerusalem is inflected as something quite palpable, tangible, a kind of actuality. As if the essential thing were already realized, and the fact that reality has not caught up to the Realized were an accidental matter. It was from the Bostoner Rebbe זצל that I first heard the word “opportunity” used this way. But to actually hear the inflection one needs to pace up and down Machane Yehudah.