Monday, August 02, 2004

You will not read here the numerous initial attempts at this entry. My failed attempts at narration have left me fresh and disoriented--like one who has just woken, refreshed to a new day, knowing they have just completed an enormous dreamjourney, complete and seemingly coherent as it happened. But attempts at retelling reveal it to be incomprehensible, untellable without reconstruction of the newly conscious and logical mind. So I will attempt nonetheless to repiece the story although i know it will not be as it happened. it can only be as it is happening--the state of the union in my head.

enough ramble. lets try again.

Thursday night. Boogie. The dance floor, usually bouncing with dancers in their own private movement worlds, is carpetted with sitters watching the stage. watching the hands on the stage flinging themselves into the air above the little metal Darbouka drum. Hands and head, jerking upward, away from the drum as frequently as toward it, as if the man who possessed them had surrendered control of his parts to some other power. After a moment, we got hit by the voice that had brought the crowd to their seats. Enormous, powerful, slow, wailing, Shlomor Bar floored us too. Until the next song when the beat and the voice and the flailing head and hands and the voice and the voice of shlomo bar lifted everyone of the floor. sweatsoaked, bouncing, exhausting, ecstatic dancing. For Shlomo Bar, a performance is not a performance. A performance is a moment of prophecy, a moment of connection of intrumentmusicianaudianceandthedivine. That's how he plays--like someone trying to channel a connection so beyond himself. After the concert and more dancing to the DJ, some breathless wandering landed me in a quiet room full of light and meditation mats. There I found my neighbor--a musician and director of a new yeshiva--giving a small performance connecting tisha beav and tu beav. At the end, I received an invitation from a quiet guy with bright open eyes to some sort of freeform celebration of Tu Beav.

So I went. I found a circle of beautiful meditating Israeli neohippyish folk, mostly a bit older than me, meditating in a circle in the park. Coming out fo the meditation, some guitars appeared we started singing some songs about ahava. Someone lit some insence, and a smiling fellow in white handed out cards bearing the declaration "Ahavat Chinam." And then we were standing. With an enormous banner behind us, declaring "Halev shel haolam, Neeftach." And then we were singing dancing into the streets. Handing out Ahava cards to passing cars and tourists on ben yehuda. The perfomance element, almost a demonstration, I definitely had not anticipated--but I was ready to get a little tripped out and get into it. After tisha beav, I have been reflecting with much readiness on bringing some senseless love into the city. Some people were amused and some people joined boy took out his flute and started playing with the guitarists. Other people were not ready for this tripped out offering of love. I made sure to pick up the discarded and tornup "Ahavat Chinam" cards--they are an important lesson that love needs to be delivered in many different forms and manifestations--because no route will be mat-im to everyone. We danced our way through the center of the city, all the way to the old city, into Jaffa Gate, where the police subtly herded us and our dangerous messages of love to a space just outside Jaffa Gate. Sunset came, and we sat in a circle and read the shir hashirim, the book that rabbi akiva calls the holy of holies of the bible.

As we were wrapping up, a new group of people arrived and merged with us--a few of them had been at my Seuda Shlishit on Shabbat, and had mentioned to me they would be coming. This new group of beautiful souls brought me and quite a few of the others deep into the old city to see two Sufi Sheikhs. When we arrived, we were greated by the enormous smiling Green Sheikh. We packed into the small square room, the Green Sheikh took a seat and began to talk to us. He was wearing a big green wool hat, out of which sprung a great mane of a beard. He sat atop a small chair, an enormous figure, robed in several billowing robes--a green one, and an even larger white one over it, both of which rounded his figure atop the chair. As we took our seats, the call to prayer entered from a nearby tower, and he closed his eyes toward it. Then he began...I would love to try to reconstruct what he said, but I am pretty sure most of it will come out incomprehensible...We are in a greet time of meeting, he told us, a meeting of meetings, in this great moment of the call to prayer....We, plants and birds, fish and animals and humans, Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and Christians are all the zero, and we are approaching HIM, the one. When the zero is meeting the one from the right side, we make the perfect number ten. (the Sheikh smiles and laughs)...we can only walk so long on the earth before we fall down. we are weak, so we fight. ...but when the zero is meeting the one, there are no differences between us... I take care of you and you take care of me, I love you and you love me, I am you, and you are me....Why were we created? He created us for Him, and he created us for ourselves. For Him, he created us so that he can be with his love. We sometimes ignore Him and reject Him, but is always loving us. For us, he created us so that we can love him....

I can't reconstruct this well at all, but as he spoke I could think of little but shir hashirim, the holyofholies lovesong of the God and humanity. The man who had organized our visit arrived late, as did the second Shiekh, the host of the event, whose wore a kind of quiet humility that made him as enormous as the Green Sheikh. The organizer urged the Sheikhs to tell us about their background--the Green Sheikh told us about growing up in his home beside the women's side of the Kotel, playing and getting lost and scared in David's tunnels. The hosting Sheikh told of his family, the long line of Sheikhs that had preceded him, who had arrived from Uzbekistan 400 hundred years ago. He showed us photos framed about the room of his father, grandfather and greatgrandfather, the three most recent Sheikhs before him, and then he brought in his son, a quietly smiling with welcoming eyes, who will be the next Sheikh after he dies.

After they had finished sharing, they brought us down to a mosque below--an inimate archshaped room, covered in many layers of carpets. We sat against the walls in a circle, and the Green Sheikh began to lead a meditation. First chanting in long tones that trilled in the scale of sephardi nusash melodies. Again. and again. and again. Time ceased to be sliceable, and started to pulse and ebb and flow, no longer resolvable. Then everything went dark. For a long time, nothing was visible but a few faint white folds of the Sheikh's robe. Some candles lit, and a distant light came on and streamed a bit through the door. We rose to our feet, and the pace of the chant picked up. In the candlelight I could see the enormous round figure of the Sheikh, arms outstretched, moving slowly around the swaying circle. Chanting, faster and faster, turned into a fast throat breathing, which turned into a call in response in Arabic. The circle, now standing, drew closer and closer and closer inward. And the chanting faster and faster and closer. When the chanting had formed itself into words during the call in response I became silent. I remained in the circle, with all my intentions of prayer and meditation toward hashem, but not ready to give myself to words of another worship that I did not understand. I prayed for an open heart, to be one in this space so inentionally created for love and new connection, my fears of avodah zara subsided, so that I could focus my prayer fully toward hashem while being present and part of the chanting about me.

I walked back to nachlaot with Eliyahu, the organizer, and Chavivah. Singing and flying about the sidewalks, unable to bring words to our experience.

This account is so crude compared to the seamless grace and beauty of the days they return to...maybe i will return to them again, and have a new vision...until then, at least i have put down some rough notes.


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