Weekly Cycle

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Week 38: Rabbi Yonatan

Rabbi Yonatan:

Week 38's Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers: Rabbi Yonatan talks about dedicating oneself to Torah out of wealth and out of poverty, and how the two are related.

Week 38: the Lion

B"H, we're back to Week 38! Approximately 1 year ago, this blog started with the following link.

This is the video for the Perek Shirah animal for Week 38, which starts tonight: The Lion

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

From the New Moon to the Next: Creative Writing

Once upon a time, there was a little boy. During the first seven years of his life,[1] he was very happy and loved his family very much. However, it had already been decreed in Heaven that the boy would undergo various changes: his family would be separated and he would have to move many times. He would have to move and change so much that he would not even realize anymore that he was a little boy, or even that he was a human being. The decree was not inherently bad – if the boy came to realize the changes that were taking place, he would be able to return to his previous condition, and become a man.
Phase 1: The Land of the Donkeys (Egypt)
When the little boy was almost seven, he was told that his grandfather had passed away in a far away land. The grandfather had left a great treasure there, and someone now needed to take care of it. The little boy’s father decided to move the entire family to this land. Much of his extended family was already living there. The land was very primitive and deeply immoral: it was known as “the nakedness of the earth.” In truth, it was not inhabited by people, but by donkeys. The move was shocking, and the behavior of the donkey-children upset the little boy. Some of the little donkeys were quite nice and friendly, but others made fun of the little boy for walking upright and for never using bad words. After the first day of school, when the little boy’s mother came to pick him up, he started crying a very deep cry, as if to say: “Mommy, this place is not for me.” The little boy’s mother didn’t say anything – she just hugged him.
One day after school, the little boy came running home to his parents, particularly shocked. “What happened?” they asked him. The boy explained: two of the little donkeys in his class were going to have a birthday party on the same day. Everybody was deciding what party to go to. The general consensus was that the donkeys should go to the party that offered most party treats and refreshments.  The little boy wanted to go to the party of the donkey he liked the most.
The little boy’s family did very well at first. The boy’s father built on the wealth established by the boy’s grandfather, and expanded it exponentially. However, with time the family started adopting many of the customs of the donkeys and mules. Influenced by these values, the little boy’s father and mother ended up separating.
The little boy’s father decided to marry the daughter of a king of the donkey people. Eventually, the boy’s father moved away from the land of the donkeys, leaving behind the boy and his mother. The little boy also had a brother, three years younger, who was placed in a little basket, taken by the father, and raised in part by the father’s new wife. 
As the little boy and his mother stayed behind, they both became more and more attached to the Land of the Donkeys. They saw a certain beauty in their lifestyle, like a pearl covered in sand. They constantly spoke about the oppression in the land – how the poorer donkeys were exploited, enslaved really, by those with more money and power – and how this needed to be changed. The boy really believed that things could change in the land, and that the donkeys could learn how to correct their violent, idolatrous, and morally corrupt ways. He believed much more in the donkeys than the donkeys themselves, and truly considered himself part of the donkey people.
The boy also had a wise music teacher, an owl, who would help him explore his inner feelings – both his patriotic feelings for the land of the donkeys, and those of an entirely different nature, related to a Promised Land far away. The music classes blended all of his feelings, into a language that was both specific to his situation, and yet extremely universal.
By the time the boy celebrated his coming of age, he was completely adapted to the Land of the Donkeys. It was a little after this time, when he reached the age of 14, that he was exiled to the Land of the Dogs.[2]

Phase 2: The Land of the Dogs (Babylonia)
The little boy’s departure from the land of the donkeys was somewhat sudden and traumatic. He left a land that was warm and tropical, to a land that was very cold. While he was there, he became friends with a rock badger. The Badger was born in the Land of the Donkeys, but had been now in the land of the dogs for many years. The Badger had a completely open mind, rational and beautiful, and was not afraid to explore hidden crevices and caves. The Badger was also concerned with the exploitation of the poorer animals – darker dogs were exploited and discriminated against by lighter colored dogs, even if the exploitation could not be compared to the one the little boy saw in the Land of the Donkeys. The Badger questioned the exploitation nonetheless, and also questioned the very purpose of everything else - of laws of the land, and beyond, the reason for work, and for living in general. These questions freed both the Badger and the little boy, and they would discuss them for hours on end. Life for them became a great open adventure. It was incredible to them that very few dogs seemed to be asking such questions – they were fed answers on a daily basis – their television sets seemed tell them what to think, what was important, and what wasn’t. The boy began to feel a certain level of disdain for those under the influence of this culture – at the same time, he began to feel that he was not a donkey after all, but perhaps a different animal altogether, like the Badger.
This is not to say that during this time the little boy did not become friends with any dogs. He did become friends with a few them – and came to become friends with many more dogs, once he moved to live with his father.
That’s right. In yet another unexpected turn of events, the little boy was given the choice to come live with his father. This would involve his brother eventually going back to live with his mother, though only for a short time. This switch that was also completely unexpected. As the donkey-princess would tell the boy, even after he arrived, it was always expected that the boy’s brother would remain by the father, and the little boy would be with his mother. In fact, his relationship with the donkey-princess was uneasy from the start. It was difficult to live in his father’s court - his stepsisters and his brother clearly received preferential treatment. The little boy was oppressed, treated like a second-class citizen in what was supposed to be his own home. The little boy knew of this oppression before coming, but he felt it was more important to come and learn from his father.
It was at that time that he became good friends with a group of three dogs. These dogs were different than the ones he had met while living with his mother. They reminded the boy much more of himself. There was something very familiar about the place he was living now, as if he had lived here before. In any event, he was incredibly touched by their accepting nature and their loyalty, especially by one of them, the Hound. The boy and the Hound were very similar in many respects, and even physically somewhat resembled each other. Even though the boy still saw himself as a different kind of animal, he could see himself now more as a dog as well. It was at this time that all four friends were exiled, each to a different place. The boy was sent to the Land of the Cats.[3]

Phase 3: The Land of the Cats (Persia)
The move to the Land of the Cats was also shocking, though not nearly as shocking as his previous moves. The Land of the Cats was still relatively close geographically to the Land of the Dogs. The boy kept in touch with his dog friends, and he found out that the changes they were facing were also quite intense, perhaps more than they could handle. Over time, the boy discovered that the Hound went through a very difficult period, but recovered and went back to his old self. Another literally became crazy, and the third adopted an alternative lifestyle.
Almost immediately upon entering the Land of the Cats, the boy became friends with a rabbit. This Rabbit had very open ears and eyes. The Rabbit was mysterious and thoughtful, full of inner feeling and tremendously accomplished in all areas of language and the arts. The Rabbit could communicate quite well with nature, and with much smaller animals and insects. Once, the boy and the Rabbit took a trip to the park, in one of the many deep conversations between the two, the boy figured out what kind of animal he in fact was: a toucan. A toucan was a colorful, playful, and tropical animal, which lived among many different cultures, and traveled on a regular basis – that was him.
The Rabbit taught the boy how to also keep his ears and eyes wide open, to be open to change and to new experiences.  The Rabbit would say, “When the student is ready, the Teacher appears.” The boy now also began to be able to see different messages or signs that appeared to be being sent to him from Above. The boy also learned from the Rabbit how to interact with smaller animals. In one of their trips to foreign and historically dangerous lands, the Rabbit told the boy about how to interact with a group of bees that seemed to be persecuting him: “They will not harm you, if you do not harm them,” the Rabbit said.
There was something almost magical about the Land of the Cats, and the boy began to experience all that it had to offer: sunrises, deer and horse-rides, plays, and lectures... during the summers and vacations he would travel and meet other animals, some of whom had a deep impact on him. The land was very advanced, and much of the inhabitants’ time there was dedicated to learning, to improving themselves. It was an idyllic living of sorts. He even had an angel as a roommate. And yet, he felt like an outsider there, in a way that was much more pronounced than in any other land he had been to before. He slowly began learning more about his own ancestry, about the beliefs, rituals, and experiences of the Promised Land. He often found the Teacher’s messages in them as well. Yet, it all seemed so archaic though, so limited.
The boy was already not so little anymore, and he was already at an age where it was expected in the culture that he have some kind of mate or girlfriend. The boy looked and searched, and it seemed pretty clear that there wasn’t anyone quite like him in the Land of the Cats. He then received permission from his father to have a relationship with a cat, if he found one he liked.
It was around that same time that the boy did in fact meet a special cat. Their relationship was quite strong. However, the boy clearly understood that the cat wasn’t like him, and that this relationship could not last. On this point, the Cat’s view couldn’t have been more different. She felt that she could very well be like the boy, that the relationship was likely to be eternal, and that those investing in the relationship had to assume as much. This of course, required incredible commitment, and the boy was not at all familiar with the concept. Toucans need to stay light, he thought, to be able to fly. In those days, the boy was “flying” so much from the things he had learned from and experienced with the Rabbit, he could not be tied down by the Cat’s heaviness. Yet, strangely, the Cat anchored the boy, and in a way permitted him to “fly” the way he did.
Needless to say, the relationship eventually ended, and the boy hurt the Cat quite badly. The boy however, completely unequipped for the loss of the anchor in his life and by the enormous guilt he now felt, was faced with his most serious personal crisis. As the boy would soon learn, amazing things happen in times of struggle and internal conflict.  Nevertheless, the heaviness, the conflicts, and the pressures on the boy were starting to become unbearable.
The boy’s 20th birthday was approaching, and great news arrived: he was granted the right to return to the Land of his Ancestors. This was the ancient, Promised Land he would sing about, and yet it was also a very young new country.[4]

Phase 4: The Promised Land
            Right away, when the boy arrived in the Promised Land, he met a giraffe. Because of its height, the Giraffe had tremendous perspective. It seemed to understand well where the boy was coming from, yet was willing to share with him the ancient customs of his own tradition. The Giraffe was a friend and a guide. It once happened that the boy slept in the same palce as the Giraffe, and the Giraffe had one of the boy’s dreams. Based on the dream, the Giraffe showed the boy a path of how he could change, mature.  It became clear that it was time for the boy to stop being a toucan, and become a horse. The boy now saw a path in which he could gain the weight and responsibility of his tradition – in the Promised Land, these customs now made more sense. It all seemed worthwhile, and not at all limiting as it had felt in the Land of the Cats.  Nevertheless, the Giraffe would stress that it was important for the boy not to overdo it – not to get lost.
The boy’s transformation from toucan to horse was something out of a movie. Each month he would make a commitment to work on a certain character trait, or an aspect of the tradition. The boy came to realize that this had to do with the fact that he was like the moon, and that all the changes he undertook were related to his portion in the Book. Also, as the boy discovered spirituality, he discovered the concept of purity, and the Living Waters. The boy always had a fascination with water, and with the sea. Now he saw that in order to make a change one had to first make oneself like nothing; to go underwater, in order to be reborn. He started to understand that in order to truly be taught, one had to be like nothing before the Teacher.
Through the commitments made by the boy, he started noticing that he was getting heavier. He knew that in order not to get lost he had to maintain a balance with his old self. During his transformation, he became like a centaur, or even better, a pegasus – a flying horse. Strong, firm, stable legs, but with arms and mind wide open, ready to fly: “Hineni, I am here,” he would yell, “to fulfill Your will, ready to be taught.”
The boy also started realizing the things that he had done wrong in the past, and fixing them. At the height of his reawakening, he had a very powerful dream: he saw himself committing one of the mistakes he made in his previous life as a toucan. Still in the dream, he cried out to the Teacher directly, “How could you let me do this?” and throwing himself to the ground. Incredibly, instead of hitting the floor, the boy went flying ever higher and higher, transcending many many levels and spheres. He woke up completely exhilarated. There were other very powerful spiritual experiences too during this time in the Promised Land, many of which he shared with the angel that accompanied him.
            Despite the Giraffe’s warnings, eventually, the boy did overdo it. He decided it wasn’t good enough to be a horse, and decided he wanted to be a lion. He discovered a way in which this could be done (at least for a short time): he had to make a special vow. He was still very far from knowing and doing even the basics, but there was something, almost an addiction, that kept pulling him to reach higher, so he did it.
            Living like a lion was clearly much more than the boy could handle – it was somewhat of a bitter life for him, sapping a lot of the happiness he had been feeling. During this time, he met a very kind bee. This bee brought him a lot of honey, and also taught him a lot about the Book. The boy enjoyed the bee’s company very much. One day, however, without much explanation, the bee flew away.
            His vow came to an end, but so did his time in the Promised Land. The heaviness persisted to such an extent that he had to leave. His father told him he had to go back to the Land of the Cats.

Phase 5: Back in the Land of the Cats
He figured that once he was back in the Land of the Cats, he would go back to being a horse again. It didn’t quite work out that way. The day he had left, his mother accompanied him on his way out of the Land, and on that day he had another very powerful dream. It was told to him that he would now be entering a field, an orchard. In that field, he would be faced with challenges, and that the outcome of those challenges was yet unknown. If he failed, he could become crazy, he could die, or he could even do the work of evil; but if he succeeded, he would become an expert. He was no longer a lion, and not a horse either; he was certainly not a toucan. As he would still learn, what was needed now was to be an animal that would be strong and focused enough to hold on to what he had learned in the Promised Land, no matter what – he was to become a bull.
He arrived at his new home in the Land of the Cats, and from the window he could see a vast field. At first, he didn’t see how living outside the land again could be so much of a challenge. After all, he had been so powerfully charged by his experiences in the Promised Land, that he could not foresee any major obstacle.  He soon learned it was going to be quite difficult: he was quickly reminded that following the instructions of the Book outside the Promised Land felt very limiting and demanded great self-sacrifice. Furthermore, his father and his entire court were very much opposed to the lifestyle and the sacrifices demanded.
When he arrived back at the Land of the Cats, all of the friends from there that he had made prior to leaving to the Holy Land now had very little in common with him, and not much interest in catching up. At least at first, he was all alone. He did receive one visit: the
Badger from the Land of the Dogs. It was a great surprise and an encouragement – he was reminded that, after all, he had faced dramatic changes before.
Eventually, his animal friends of the past were replaced, almost systematically, with other animal friends, that were somehow more pure than those before. He again had the company of an angel – but this time one that would teach and guide him how to adapt his traditions to his environment. He met other rabbits, and eventually even another very special cat, who had soft eyes. He also sought to teach others of the incredible experiences he had had, the intense spirituality he had found in the Promised Land. He tried to teach his students to see that everything is connected, and to show them how to try to feel the Teacher’s feelings, to feel His presence here and everywhere.
            One day, the boy learned that there was going to be a big festival in the field across from his window. He had a strong feeling that he was going to meet someone special there that day. For some reason he arrived at the field already at night, and the festival had already ended. “I guess I was wrong,” he thought… then, he heard a voice from the very middle of the field – it was a rose. In turned out that the Rose had been planted there completely “by chance,” waiting for someone to plucked it out. The boy became very good friends with this Rose. He realized that the Rose had been in the dream he had when he met his mother, leaving the Promised Land. The dream had been about going into the field. Of all the acquaintances and friendships he made after coming back from the Land, it was perhaps with the Rose that he could most identify, open up, and share his thoughts. There was also something about their clear differences – he being an animal and she a plant, that made worries about being judged or about hidden motives/desires disappear. He met other roses in other fields too, but the bonds with them were clearly not as strong as with the Rose. He felt that when he would try to explain to others his experiences, the signs he saw, and the connections between different events, they probably thought that he was a bit crazy. Perhaps the Rose also thought he was a bit outside the norm, but so was she.
            The boy started teaching others about the Promised Land’s ways, and after his first student’s graduation, it became clear that the boy had succeeded in maintaining what he’d learned about in the Promised Land despite all the challenges and sacrifices it brought. However, this had come at a high price. The boy wasn’t happy. He didn’t understand anymore why he was doing what he was doing… it had become somewhat irrational. His emotions and thoughts were not fully stable. At times, he would get depressed. It was at this point that he realized that he had to let go to some extent. He had to live life too, to the best of his ability. He did not resemble that horse anymore, running free in the wind. Instead he was a bull with a seemingly huge burden on his back.[5]          
            He needed time to figure things out… he went to the ocean, and there he met a sea-dog (seal). This Sea-Dog was very sweet. It helped him let go to some extent. He became a dog himself, but he quickly understood that this wasn’t him. He decided he wanted to be purer, and became a goat – he soon felt that this also wasn’t him. He understood that his fall into being a dog and a goat was a big mistake, but one that could still be forgiven, and that he could still transform himself back into being other purer animals.  He then transformed himself into a ram. This was more balanced – with the right priorities in place. He finally got back to being like a bull, but this time he was an ox - with a strong desire for upholding the ways of the Promised Land while continuing to learn much more about them.
It was not much after that he was told that it was time to leave the Land of the Cats, and go to the Land of the Bulls.

Phase 6: Land of the Sheep
On his way to the Land of the Bulls, the boy was able to negotiate with his father’s court to allow him to spend a year studying the law of his ancestors… he was not allowed to go back to the Promised Land again, but he could stay in a certain area within the Land of the Dogs where others like him could study about the Book and its Law.
He spent day after day learning and learning, enjoying the “burden” of his people’s holy laws and customs. At that time, he became very close with a lamb. He studied together with the Lamb every day, and the two become very close. Then, one day, the boy felt the urge to leave his study partner – study with others – after all, he only had one year. That day a very big tragedy happened in the world.[6] The boy didn’t understand the connection between the events, but he felt as if he had broken from the path he was meant to take, hurting a good friend in the process. The next day he went back to studying with the Lamb.
During that time, he was able to make full use of his status as an ox. His roommate for a great part of his time there was another ox he had become friends with in the Land of the Cats. He friend was such a great ox, however, that compared to hime he felt more like a donkey. The two tried studying together, but they seemed a bit incompatible in their studies, though very much complementary in other aspects.
            Also during the time that he was in the Land of the Sheep, he met a young lion cub by an amazing “coincidence.” With the Lion Cub, he began to learn about the dynasty of the Great Lions and about the last two Great Lions in particular. The boy kept in touch with the Lion Cub throughout the rest of his life. These Lions were extremely connected to the Law and Book, and their connection was much more positive and spiritual then that of most of the sheep he encountered.
A few months prior to the boy’s year of study in the Land of the Sheep coming to an end, he went to visit his next destination, the Land of the Bulls. During that visit, he had a third powerful dream, this time with the last Great Lion. In the dream, when the boy looked into the eyes of the Great Lion, he was sent flying higher and higher through many different spheres, just like the dream he had had in the Promised Land. The Great Lion then said, “You are very spiritual. You should be a teacher.” “But I’m about to go to the Land of the Bulls to learn its laws!?!” the boy replied. The Great Lion answered, “Do it, but do it for the Book.”
            The year in the Land of the Sheep was full of learning of growth, but there was also a darker side. The atmosphere and the environment of the Land of the Sheep reinforced a few dangerous concepts. One was expected to behave in a certain way, and that those who chose that way knew infinitely more than the boy and the rest of the sheep. Because of this, the boy became like a sheep himself. As a sheep, the boy was willing to faithfully sacrifice many aspects of his prior self for what he now was told.
Unfortunately, sheep have a history of being slaughtered, and eaten alive by other animals. The boy’s father did not like sheep – in fact, he appeared to have almost a trauma regarding the subject. The father’s court, which was already partial against the boy in the first place, conspired against him, and made it so that the father almost ate his own son alive. The boy barely escaped. After the escape, the boy laid down his head to rest, and once again the Great Lion appeared to him in a dream. It gave him the strength to keep going.

Phase 7: Land of the Bulls (Greece)
The boy arrived in the Land of the Bulls, faced with a bittersweet situation. He was sent by his father to learn the laws of Bulls and their philosophy. On his first day, his friend the Ox accompanied him to class. Despite it all, he still thought of himself as a sheep, and it proved to be quite difficult for him to focus on anything other then the Law and the Book. He also surrounded himself by other sheep, almost as a form of protection. The protection did not work very well, and he also started seeing tremendous problems with these sheep’s behaviors. While many of their ways were praiseworthy, there also seemed to be a bit of a distortion of the Law and the Book itself - a distortion that deeply impacted their ability to succeed in this extremely high pressured environment. The pressure was indeed very high, with those that failed to learn the law of the land threatened with all sorts of punishments.
It was at the height of this pressure, during the actual exams, that the boy was asked to help out someone new to this land, who needed a place to stay. The boy offered his home, and the night before the guest was to come, he had another dream. In the dream a holy person came and said to him, “So you want to learn how to pray? I’ll teach you how to sing.” On the next day, he went to pick up his guest: a big bear. As soon as the two met, the boy could tell that their connection would be very strong. The Bear and the boy’s birthday were only one day apart, and the Bear also knew the Lion Cub. The boy did in fact learn a lot from the Bear, whose charisma, persuasive abilities, and spiritual power immediately attracted quite a following. But the Bear was also quite demanding, and the boy felt that in order to stand strong against the bear’s constant tugging and hugging, the boy had to quickly learn to be a bear himself. It was thanks to the bear that the boy stopped being a sheep.
The Bear was on a mission, and the boy helped him as much as he possibly could, even during his final examinations! After three months, the authorities didn’t let the Bear live with the boy anymore. With the stipend he received from his father, the boy sponsored the Bear’s journey of 40 days and 40 nights, which culminated with the Bear receiving the Book on his birthday, a day after the boy’s own birthday. The boy handed the Bear the key to the Book.
While the boy offered a certain level of hospitality to the Bear, the Bear also made it so that the boy received enormous hospitality from a family that had been the first to receive the Bear in the first place: the Camels. The Camels, especially Mrs. Camel, had enormous admiration for the Bear, and were instrumental in making sure that the Bear could receive everything he needed in order to be able to read the Book. Mrs. Camel held on to every word uttered by the Bear, treating him as she would treat a prophet.
Mr. Camel was very well respected in the community – he was one of its prominent teachers and spiritual leaders. The Camel’s ways of following the Law was quite different from what the boy had experienced so far. It was very much tied to older desert customs, meant for a more secluded life that did not seem consistent with the faster pace of life in the Land of the Bulls. These were beautiful customs in large part rooted in those of Promised Land, and the boy grew enamored of them. He almost became a Camel himself.
Much of the strong feelings the boy started having for the Camel family customs and for the Camel family itself got translated into feelings for Mr. Camel’s oldest daughter, the Morning Star. In reality, the feelings the boy had were not based on anything concrete. Due to a series of unexplainable signs and wonders, and also the encouragement of the Bear, now a major influence in the boy’s life, the boy felt he was meant to marry the Morning Star. But she was always secluded and above grasp (she was also often quite sick). When she did appear she rarely said more than a few words, so highly esteemed was the virtue of modesty in the Camels’ home.
 The signs became stronger and stronger, and during this time, the boy was on a spiritual high he had never attained, not even in the Land of the Sheep. He felt that the Bear, the Morning Star, and the boy himself had an important role to play. The boy tried as hard as he could to find a cure for the Morning Star, and even managed to prescribe her cures, both spiritual and physical. At first, the Star did even improve. He was also intent on going back to the Promised Land, to the place of his dream. Along with all these efforts, the boy felt strongly that he had to tell the Morning Star a stark fact: she had to come down from her place in the sky. Quoting a verse from the Book, he explained to her that otherwise her household would be lost and salvation would come through another source. The daughter failed to act, and indeed her household did eventually fall apart.
It started when the boy’s mother and brother came to visit the boy, and were present when the Bear received the Book. They were taken aback by the entire situation – the boy was paying minimal attention to his studies despite the harsh punishments involved. They perceived in the Bear qualities that were clearly problematic, such as delusions of grandeur and lack of concern for others. After their brief stay, they relayed the information to the boy’s father.
The boy’s father, troubled from the very beginning with the boy’s direction, had spent a long period with little contact with the boy. It was as if the two were hiding from each other. The boy’s father did not know about the Camels, and not even about the Bear. When he realized the dire situation at hand, he came himself to visit the boy.
The boy’s father first spoke to the boy, trying to dissuade him from abandoning his studies and going to the Promised Land. The boy listened but was not convinced; he felt it was the Will of the Teacher to go against his own father, mother, and brother. The father then went to confront the Camels, Mr. Camel in particular. During their intense confrontation, in which the father completely humbled Mr. Camel (who in turn was not used to being treated with such directness), the boy experienced another sign, perhaps the strongest of them all. It became clear to him that he was not meant to go to the Promised Land right now, that this had been a test, and that everything would be ok.
The boy’s father helped the Bear go to the Promised Land, with a stipend for him to study the Law and the Book he just received, on condition that during an entire year he would not speak to the boy. As to the Camels, interestingly enough, Mrs. Camel appeared to side more with the boy’s father than with Mr. Camel, and the Camel family was broken up. The Morning Star did not recuperate. The boy would later realize that he would need to fulfill the role of the Morning Star himself.[7]
            The boy survived his first year of studies, and the father arranged so that the boy could return the following year without incurring the punishments that usually accompany his less than stellar showing. In his second year, he was invited to live in the house of a Tiger. The Tiger was a superstar, with a very similar background to that of the boy. The Tiger had lived in the Land of the Dogs, the Land of the Cats, the Land of the Bulls, and even in the Land of the Pigs – what appeared to be the boy’s next destination. The boy learned tremendously from the Tiger, including how to be engaged with the knowledge, culture and technology of the lands of others, without losing one’s own identity. In fact, one could draw many parallels and comparisons between different cultures that could prove very useful in understanding the Book.
After waiting a year, the boy went to the Promised Land to visit the Bear. He saw in the Bear a split personality – part-prophet, part-scoundrel – and decided it was time to let go of the Bear as well. Like with the Morning Star, he would have to play the role of the Bear, too.
Almost as soon as the boy moved in, the Tiger had become engaged to a deer. However, the Deer’s family refused to accept him. Part of the issue was that the Tiger did not give up his identity as a Tiger. He wanted to be both a tiger and a deer.
When the boy understood that this was possible - to be more than one animal at once - that he didn’t have to choose between animals or let go of the previous phase, he began again from scratch, going back to being a horse. The boy began changing from phase to phase at a much faster rate but retaining the earlier stages as well. Each animal phase now lasted months or even weeks, as opposed to years.
The boy’s studies also improved, as well as his ability to interact with the cultures around him in the Land of the Bulls. The boy’s future started to look quite promising, despite the enormous tension between his desire to devote himself completely to the Book and the demands made on him to dedicate himself to learning he laws and philosophies of others. A wise and humble Sparrow helped him navigate between these two worlds. The Sparrow also managed to help the boy and his father to better relate to one another in a series of heart-wrenching dialogues. Sparrow received payments from the boy’s his father, but still managed to not only be reasonably balanced, but even to allay many of the father’s fears and traumas.
There was also someone else that helped the little boy tremendously: a little girl. The little girl had the same birth date of the Bear (one day after the boy’s). She had the same name as the boy, and even came from the same city in the Land of the Donkeys. She also had a younger brother with the same name as his brother, and both brothers lived in the same land. The girl’s father and the boy’s father had introduced the two, after both had come from a short trip to the Promised Land. The little girl’s family clearly had very good values. Her father reminded the boy of Mr. Camel, but of a reformed Mr. Camel, who believed in the importance of being engaged with the lands of others and having a profession. He also had a deep connection with the Great Lions. The little girl’s mother also had a very deep connection with the last Great Lion, and had even received a blessing from him to write books, which he repeated twice. The mother fulfilled this blessing, by writing various books. One book started with the verse the boy had quoted to the Morning Star. Another started with the following quotation from the Holy Book: “"He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes and cause them to inherit the throne of glory." Also, the little girl’s grandmother lived with the little girl, and she was very kind and musical. It turned out she was a friend and colleague of the Owl.
The little girl was beautiful inside and outside - so beautiful in fact that at first the little boy was nervous to even look at her. That nervousness certainly came out on that first encounter, in which all four, the little girl, the little boy, and their respective fathers, sat down for lunch. The little girl was full of life and happiness, and had a forgiving sense of humor. There was a certain tenderness about her, a nobility and sensitivity that were hard to miss. Every encounter with her was filled with excitement.
The little girl also had very powerful dreams, which she would tell to the little boy. These dreams seemed clearly related to the little boy’s own life. 
And yet, the little boy was quite hesitant about pursuing this relationship beyond friendship. The boy was still extremely dedicated to the Law and customs he had learned. The girl was also familiar with them, especially given her connection to the institutions of the Great Lions, yet was clearly not as observant as he was. He also had not completely given up hope on the Morning Star, and was intent on returning to the Promised Land eventually. Despite all the many “coincidences” and good chemistry, after a summer of friendly encounters, the boy returned to his studies without making any romantic overtures.
As the boy returned to his studies for his third and final year, he moved to a more metropolitan area in the Land of the Bulls. He also welcomed an old moose friend, who the little boy had known well in the days he lived in the Land of the Donkey. The Moose reminded the boy of what he was like in those days, in his first time away from home, before the many transformations that followed.
            After a short time apart, it became increasingly clear to the boy that the girl was his soul-mate. On the birthday of the last Great Lion’s wife, the boy spoke to another spiritual leader in the Land of Bulls, who basically told him that the little boy’s reservations regarding observance levels should not prevent this wonderful match from taking place. It was ok to make some compromises for the greater good.
The little boy wrote to the little girl, sent her gifts, called her, and eventually even traveled many hours to visit her, during both their birthdays. Their friendship turned into romance, in which the little boy now saw them both as deer. The little girl came to visit him once when their birthdays were celebrated a second time that year, and then the boy went to visit her again during the Festival of Redemption. One the Second Festival of Redemption that year, as the little boy finished his studies, the little girl came to the Land of the Bulls to rescue him. The little boy went to live in the Land of the Pigs, close to where the little girl lived.       

Phase 8: Land of the Pigs (Rome)
Although things were looking brighter for the boy, after his studies of the law, he was now expected to work hard, for the king of the Pigs, who was allied with the boy’s father. The Pig king was ruthless and domineering. He had a horrible temper and had no qualms about destroying a person’s sense of self-worth and self-respect. All around him lived in fear, and his appearance and demeanor was such that at any moment you might hear a swear word or something a long the lines of “off with his head!” Yet, the Pig king had taken an immediate liking to the little boy, and the boy learned a lot from him. Interestingly, the Pig king saw the boy as his protégé.
It was soon after the boy’s 27th birthday that he asked the little girl to marry him despite not having yet a prospect of stable future under the rule of the Pig king. The boy worked hard to keep his job, but eventually he became exhausted. He also felt he was not remunerated properly, and felt the need to dedicate appropriate time to his observances and studies despite the increasing demands of the king. The boy’s zealous observances now deeply annoyed the Pig king, but the boy started caring less. It one day struck the little boy that, just as in the most difficult days in the Land of the Bulls, the only one the little boy needed to fear was the Teacher Himself. From that day on it also seemed that the Teacher wanted the boy to leave the Land of the Pigs. Everything that could possibly go wrong seemed to go wrong, and at every turn the little boy was castigated for it. After all that the little boy had been through, he was not taken aback by this as he might have been before. Yet, enough was enough, and he ran away.
Phase 9: Refugee on the Way to Israel
With nowhere to go, and no source of income, the little boy still did not break his engagement with the little girl. He felt deep inside that he would find a way to make it so that he could sustain himself and live with the little girl in the Land of Sweet Waters. In the meantime, he had six months to figure out a plan.
After wondering around as a refugee, receiving rejection after rejection, the boy found asylum in the Land of the Frogs. The Frog had a small kingdom also very close to the Land of the Sweet Waters, with much potential for growth. They also had an alliance with people from the Land of the Donkeys that was very economically beneficial. The little boy’s own connection to the Land of the Donkeys was seen as a very big plus. The little boy worked directly under the Frog King, who taught him many skills, and played a role that was quite similar to the one the Tiger had played previously. Again, the little boy had to work very hard and was often quite exhausted. Nevertheless, the little boy somehow found the time to establish himself in the Land of the Sweet Waters, and get married without changing the initial date of the wedding. Soon after the wedding, in the Land of Sweet Waters, he ran into the Ox. It turned out that the Ox had also moved to this Land, and he helped the boy take up much of his holy studies and customs once again. He also met another lion, whose many teachings appeared to be custom fit exactly for the boy.
Despite the Frog King’s great kindnesses toward the boy, the boy knew that the Frog King had to have his own self-interest in mind. The boy did not want to risk the same fate of some of the others that were close to the Frog King but then lost favor with him. Therefore, the boy continued to look a more stable position, one which would allow him to enjoy life with his new wife, and allow time for him to study and observe the Law and the Book.
It did not take long for this true miracle to take place. The little boy was swept up and landed in the the Land of Eagles. The Eagles were incredibly merciful and understanding. Their land was also close to the Land of the Sweet Waters. Working for the Eagles was honorable and enjoyable. Under their guard, the boy was finally allowed to lead a stable and balanced life. [8] He was even able to spend a significant amount of time improving his business skills in a land reminiscent of the Land of the Cats.

Phase 10:  Land of the Sweet Waters (Times of Redemption)
The Land of the Sweet Waters was by the seashore, but also very much like a forest. The little boy soon found out that the little girl could be many animals – a deer, a lioness, a dolphin, a sea lion. While the boy’s color was blue, the little girl could be many colors, all colors in fact. She was the color white. Through her, the little boy realized that he could have all his different phases, but that at the core he was a human being like her. He was that same little boy… an infant, lying next to wild animals, as in the Book’s vision of the final redemption.
The boy was almost 28 when they got married. Soon after the wedding, the boy felt that in 100 weeks something amazing would happen. 100 weeks later they had a son, who was both like the angels that had helped the little boy during his journey, and like a little cub that was fiery like the sun. The man finally understood the true meaning of what it meant to be a lion – to transmit everything he’d learned until now. A year and a half later, they had a little girl, an olive tree, who shined like the moon. The man then understood what it was like to also be a wolf, protecting his dear daughter from whatever harm could come her way.
The man came to understand how to structure his different phases so that he could now be all the phases at the same time, as long as he made himself into a vessel. The Teacher taught him how to use the phases as tools in which to build homes for Him: the home with his wife and children, the home at his house of worship, the home in the house of study, at work... even his own body was to be a home for Him. The man now understood why he needed to live in so many different lands. He also understood that, in order for his vessel to have pure oil, the man needed to feel crushed inside. His Father and Teacher had sent him to all of these lands for his own good. All the animals of the different lands were also human like him, and that they also had phases, too, just like the world itself.  The man then started writing down all his adventures and his conclusions in a book.

Phase 11: The Pig and the Hare - Rome and Yishmael Combined
            Despite this balance and stability, there was a growing sense inside the man that the “status quo” was somehow unsustainable. His family was growing, his wife was pregnant again and his position with the Eagles did not seem to have many prospects for advancement. The man prayed regarding this, and it was not long after that his prayers appeared to have been answered. He was offered a new position, in a land adjacent to that of the Eagles, ruled by the Turkey Vultures. He accepted the position, after some initial and lingering doubts on both sides. It was a big “leap of faith,” as this position offered both change and hope for a better future – this certainly appeared to be “the one.” However, the disappointments were almost immediate. The man worked extremely hard, and the “pure oil” inside him - his faith, will, and pleasure in what he did were once again revealed. Despite that, his work was not recognized – reports of it were completely distorted. As it turned out, the Turkey Vultures were very similar to pigs. The man even had to work with a Pig, as well as a Hare, who acted as if they were actually a single entity. Both of them had no scruples about not telling the truth and covering up their lies. Nevertheless, whereas before, as a boy, he might have been intimidated by the situation, the man proved to be quite determined to face the lies head on, albeit with some diplomatic maneuvering. With one confrontation after another, it became clear that the hope and change promised by the Turkey Vultures was a mirage. Miraculously, very miraculously indeed, the man was able to escape and return to work in the Land of the Eagles relatively unhurt.
The man did not leave the Turkey Vultures completely unscathed because at the last minute he returned zealously took on the Pig and the Hare. It involved some self-sacrifice, and after this his left side was slightly hurt, and it would take some time for him to fully recover. In the midst of his returning to the Land of the Eagles, another son was born, this time a little Wolf, who also had the beautiful qualities of a giraffe and a deer.

Phase 12: Back in the Land of the Eagles
The situation in the Land of the Eagles was now much better than before. The recent experience in the Land of the Turkey Vultures proved to be quite helpful. First, it helped the man realize how great things were in the land to which he was now returning; second, with the knowledge he had obtained from all his experiences, he was now able to grow much more on his own.
The man now aimed to grow to become an expert in his fields, while continuing to build his homes. Incredibly, his financial future became much more secure despite, or exactly because he did not give in to the Turkey Vultures.[9] There were still moments of insecurity and difficulty, but the man had faith in the Teacher.
In another very fortunate turn of events, his loyal friend, the Hound, decided to move from the Land of the Dogs to the Land of the Sweet Waters. Incredibly, soon afterwards, his good friend the Donkey also moved from the Land of the Bulls to the Land of the Donkeys, and then to the Land of the Sweet Waters as well.
The man finally had time to finish his book, and he and the little woman’s mother decided to write it together in the native tongue of the Land of the Donkeys, in accordance with a blessing given to his mother-in-law by the Great Lion himself. Soon afterwards, when the boy was 33, the first book was completed and ready to be revealed.

Phase 13: Beginnings of Revelation (and a Brush with the Different Exiles):
After his brief return to the Land of the Pigs, the man appeared to be given opportunities to also go back to each of the respective lands he had lived in – first to the Land of the Bulls, then to the Land of the Cats, and then to the Land of the Dogs.
Back in the Land of the Eagles, the boy took shelter and refuge in a place where people followed customs extremely similar to those in the home of the Camel. The man spent some time there, although he did not make it his permanent dwelling as once he might have. At the same time, the man was also given an opportunity to study in a very prestigious program back in the Land of the Bulls. This time, however, the man refused to go back.
Later on the man was given an opportunity to teach at a school, just as he used to do in the Land of the Cats. The subject matter was one he had in fact studied while in the Land of the Cats, as well as in the Land of the Dogs. This would have been an immense commitment that would take away from his time with his family and would detract from his focus on the Book, and his own book that he was writing. Again, the man refused.
In a similar turn of events, his friend the Hound offered him opportunity to work together, in an enormous project, which was potentially very lucrative, that would have required much time and attention, and a lot of interaction with other dogs. The man did not refuse outright, but the opportunity fell through for other reasons, and the man’s time was spared once again. 
The book written in the language of the Land of the Donkeys was about to finally come to fruition. Spreading word of the book could involve a few trips back to the Land of the Donkeys, but again, the man had no intention of living there again. His eyes were on one day making it to the Promised Land.
In the meantime, just like with the Land of the Donkeys, the man did still manage to keep certain aspects of each one of the other lands in his life as well. With the Eagles, he further explored the knowledge he had acquired while both in the Land of the Pigs and the Land of the Bulls. In his classes, the knowledge he gained in the Land of the Cats was always with him. In the management of his homes and other dealings, he did occasionally think back to the knowledge he gained in the Land of the Dogs.
It was around this time, that the man had a very pleasant surprise. He received a true gift from the Teacher, the fourth pillar of his home, a beautiful little Lioness-Star. The man’s home was now complete. Now it was just (!) a matter of getting stronger, gaining more expertise in his fields, further maintaining his homes, building new ones, and completing the books ahead of him.

[1] Each of the first 7 years represents an aspect of chesed, as in the counting of the omer.
[2] There is an ongoing parallel between the individual (a small world) and the world at large, the individual Jew and his people. This is based on a teaching of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Meanwhile, at this time, the majority of Jews lived in exile, scattered among the nations of the world. Until very recently, their history seemed to follow the same cycle: they would start united and linked to their tradition, then slowly they would assimilate into the culture of their surroundings, only to be exiled again to a different land. They would then return to their tradition. Slowly, they would start assimilating again, and the cycle would repeat itself.
[3] Meanwhile, at this time, the State of Israel was established. In a show of amazing diplomatic cunning and military prowess (not usually associated with the Jewish people of those days), the Jews grabbed a window of opportunity in history, which allowed them to return to their land. However most Jews lived in the United States, and the State of Israel itself was still highly dependent on America. The United States was the world’s only superpower, building off the work of the world’s largest immigrant population. It had a very close relationship with Europe, which it had helped reconstruct after World War II. The Arab states were also now doing very well, due to their enormous amounts of oil reserves, which the United States and Europe would buy and protect. The Palestinian people, however, did not benefit much from the oil-money of the other Arab states. They turned their angst and violence towards the Jewish people in Israel. And even though they initiated attacks on the Jews on a regular basis, they were the ones that always felt exploited and attacked.
[4] At this time the State of Israel was no longer in an early development stage. It was reaching a point of maturity, where choices had to be made regarding the country’s direction. The problems mentioned before still remained. In fact, they had increased to the point of a serious internal crisis. Arabs terrorists had been exploding themselves along with dozens of civilians, in unprecedented acts of murder. Israeli leaders were close to agreeing to a “Peace Agreement” in which they would concede territories to Arabs, in return for peace. These homicide bombers were against such an agreement.
[5] Meanwhile, pressure at Israel’s borders. “Peace Process.”
[6] That day was September 11, 2001.
[7] In the meantime, the US invaded Iraq; the Shiites and the Sunnis started a civil war. This was on Shushan Purim.
[8] Meanwhile, Israel’s political and economic situation improved. Israel’s relationship with America was strong, even though still marked by some tension regarding Israel’s borders and religious commitment to the Land. The relationship with Europe had improved immensely, to the point of significant cooperation. Even the Arab world inched toward peace, and the Palestinians (who deep inside identified with Israel more than with any other country) were working toward peace and their own independence. There were still tremendous lies and double standards, which Europe and the Arab world spread without any scruples – but America at least seemed well aware of these lies, even if it did not fully express its opinion against them.
[9] Meanwhile, Israel was growing more and more prosperous. It had more rain, and found great reserves of oil and gas. Israel was also proving to be more and more tolerant and adept in balancing the many different dimensions of its national character. It had Jews from every corner of the globe, with different cultures and rituals, all living together under the same roof. Even Jews from the Diaspora had the opportunity to connect to the country without necessarily living there full-time. Still, some parts of the country at time appeared to be somewhat dysfunctional.
Luring in the distance was still an existential threat against Israel, due to religious extremism and a sense that the country still could not overpower all of its enemies (internal and external). This threat was countered with the resilient faith of the Jewish people, who by having already experienced so much, survived and thrived, was confident that its future looked very bright indeed. The United States also showed a great level of support.

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