Tuesday, March 21, 2017

So Much For Being Favored By God.

Chapter Nine  

Being a Jew, I was introduced at an early age, in Hebrew  Kindergarten, to the God of  Genesis.

 From the very beginning, He seemed rather fickle. It's as if He doesn't know what He's doing. He creates Man and it would appear as if without Man, Creation has no reason To Be. It all begins to function only after God makes man out of dust, discovers he is lonely and  puts him to sleep. God pulls a rib out of him and wraps it in flesh and blood, making a woman. She shortly gets him and herself  and all of mankind  into grave irrevocable trouble, from then on out. God makes a Man that seems able to surprise Him with disobedience. God is punishing. God doesn't like competition. God makes man and seems to lose control over him. Doesn't He know what He is doing?

And then things just get wilder and more incomprehensible.

   There is only one man and one woman as his companion, and they have two sons and one kills the other. Making things worse, the one killed is the one it says was favored by God, making his brother so jealous over this favoritism that he slew his own flesh and blood in a jealous rage.

 So much for being favored by God.

Is  this kind of man, the best God could create? Sinning, competitive, jealous, murderous? Unpredictable? Capable of becoming like God Himself and threatening God's hegemony over nature, His supremacy? And what kind of God would be afraid of his own creation? Isn't God supposed to be in command? Isn't He defined as The One in command?

Yes, I was full of questions about my Kindergarten Hebrew School God. Then they taught me the story of the Deluge and God obviously had regrets, made mistakes. He created  a man that became something he regretted having made, full of evil thoughts all day long. He decides to kill everyone and not only the men, women and children, why all the animals too! Everything alive on the ground, all to be drowned.

No one told me The Bible doesn't really mean it. That it didn't really happen that way, that these are just stories with lessons to be learned, not historical facts. Can you believe that? Grown up people, teachers, my father the Rabbi, everyone acted like they believed these stories were a description of actual events. Who was I to say that it simply made no sense? From the very beginning, to me, none of it made any sense! I was told, "You will understand when you get older!" "Don't ask so many questions!"

No one taught me what a metaphor is. My father, God Rest His Soul, was a Rabbi! Yet he couldn't answer my questions himself.

I was constantly thinking to myself,  what kind of God is This that I am supposed to believe in? But I believed, anyway.

For a while. Things got no better.

It certainly didn't seem like this God of The Jews cared whether I live or die. He seemed distant, unapproachable, frightening. He hid in a fire and Moses was afraid of Him. He got angry at Moses for just asking questions.

As a child I had fears of dying, getting an incurable disease, a growth in my brain. I would dream I was falling down tunnels of flame, falling forever. God didn't really care, it seemed, based on everything I was taught and my own experiences, too. 

He is almost always angry. Uncompromising. Unsatisfied with His Own Creations. He has regrets, He is Jealous. He redeems the Children of Israel from bondage in Egypt and then wants to destroy them. He keeps killing them, with fire and snakes. He promises  them through Moses a Land of Milk and Honey and instead kills a whole generation in the desert, realizing their worst fears about what He would do to them.  He creates a nation and then keeps threatening to destroy it. It appears like they keep disappointing Him, as if He is surprised by them. Isn't God supposed to know the future?  Doesn't He tell Abraham the future of his seed, that they would go down to Egypt, be enslaved, then freed? So, why is  He so disappointed at His own doing? He punishes His own Creation for its doing what He makes it do! It makes less and less sense.

And at the same time, He has all these powers! He showers the world with water till every one dies. He showers fire and brimstone on two cities full of sinners and kills everyone. He turns a woman into salt just for turning around and looking at what she had to leave behind. He saves Lot  and then his daughters get him drunk and have sex with him. Oh, I forgot.

He saves Noah and his family, but Noah is a drunkard and his own son not only commits sodomy on him, it is said he castrated him too. No, they didn't tell me this in Kindergarten, I heard this at a Jewish Yeshiva my father sent me to when I was 12.

And what about Reuben who slept with his father's wife and got away with it?

But still I believed.

And the contradictions!  The people want a King. God starts by making a good man, the best among them  King, and then completely destroys him and his sons. Even his heir, a good man by all counts, Jonathan, is killed in a losing battle and his body is hung, together with his father's and brothers, on the walls of their enemies' city. Samuel, the most consensual Hebrew Prophet of them all, Tells Saul that God has no regrets and then God tells Saul He regrets making Saul King.

Samuel tells Saul that The Eternal One of Israel doesn't lie, but it seems one has to live  forever to understand why.

So. I learned that The Jews say, the Bible needs to be interpreted to be understood. But even the interpretations need to be interpreted, because every generation just understands less and less. The religion gets ever more confusing, contradictory and full of  insoluble paradox. It is mystery and only mystics have a clue after years of ascetic living and self deprivation and then they write books which no one understands either, not in a way they can explain to me simply, what is going on!

I haven't   shared yet how my childhood  was a series of  ever more inexplicable crises. Confusions of Biblical proportions!  Non stop chaos. Nothing was permanent. Divorce and betrayal and abandonment and a whoring mother and an emotionally distant father who was completely self involved and knew everything but told me almost nothing that made any  sense. (There were a few things he told me that I remember as being very precious and wise.  Short anecdotes with lessons I only understood fully much later in life. But he didn't like my personality and told me as much.) 

Boy, The Jews sure have an incomprehensible and out of reach God, who seems just like my father.  So I loved my father deeply and loyally and loved God too. Don't ask me how, I just did. But He was so, so distant. So out of touch. Hebrew prayers meant nothing to me. I read them without comprehension like most every one else. It was if the prayer leader  read the first lines and the last lines and everyone mumbled incomprehensibly everything in between.

So there is this God who makes things and then regrets making them. This God who is the only one there is, too. You have no one else to turn to, no higher authority to make complaints. Everything in His creation seems out of control. Terribly cruel and full of sudden tragedy and mass death. First I read of The Holocaust, but my mind got all tangled up in knots. Then I read of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thought about a man sitting on the toilet, doing his business, and suddenly being blown into a cloud of dust. Out of no where, one moment you are there, telling your self some kind of story about your own life and in the next moment, there is no lesson learned because you are just stains on the rubble  of your disintegrated home.

Back to the Holocaust. Here you are telling yourself you are a Jew, a member of God's chosen people and you find pride and distinguished dignity in your cultural identity. And then you are being evicted from your home, having your beard and sidelocks sheared off with scissors in front of a mocking crowd,  and then you are scorned for believing everything you do about your God and your place in His plan for all of humanity, sent off to slave camps and those who can't work are slaughtered more brutally than cattle. Is this God's reward for preserving His Book, the very same book that makes Him look so ferociously indignant all the time because of how you behave?

Look at these Jews! God's chosen people? Chosen for what? They go to their deaths refusing to deny the very same God who promised them they will be slaughtered in every way imaginable for refusing to obey Him. He tells them through His Prophets that mothers will eat their own children in  desperate hunger during the sieges of their future enemies and then terrible stories of siege  are told. In one a woman  complains to the king that she and a neighbor had eaten her baby the night before and now her previous dinner partner was hiding her own baby boy from being cooked in their mutual cooking pot!

Throughout history there are Jews that hold on to this precious Hebrew Bible, and refuse to deny its laws and precepts at the cost of not only their livelihoods, homes, but at times their very lives and the lives of their loved ones, culminating in the horrific actuality of The Holocaust, which ended just over 11 years before I was born.

This God of The Jews is problematic, to say the least. I was told God actually makes sense. Be Good and see good. You are rewarded or punished based on your actions. God is Just. I was also told there is no understanding God's justice. The wicked thrive and the righteous suffer miserably, like Job.
Have faith! Believe!

I mean even the Children of Israel were shown miracles by Moses so they could believe in Him. But now it seems God doesn't really perform miracles, despite all the miracles in Egypt, culminating in God's ability to kill just like that. He stops the heartbeat of all the first born in Egypt in a single night. The cries and the wailing are heard all across the land. He makes pillars of fire and smoke. He splits the ocean with a wind till the ground is dry and then covers up Israel's   enemies with the waters of the sea, released from his hold on them. All of Egypt is drowned and the bodies are dead on the edge of the beach.

The Children of Israel thirst and He turns stone into water. And when they demand meat He gives it to them and then kills them while the meat is still between their teethe and before they can swallow it.

He opens up the earth as if it has a mouth that swallows alive whole families for rebelling against Moses by their saying, " God talks to us, too!"

When the people express fear that they will not be able to conquer the land God has promised them, fear they will die in the dessert, He says "That is exactly what will happen to you, what you fear will become real, you will all die in the desert for not trusting Me."

Moses  begs to live a little longer, to see the Promised Land of Milk and Honey  himself, and  God tells him to shut up and stop begging. He shows Moses what he will never experience in the flesh and then kills him and buries him some place no one will ever find.

Honestly, no wonder there are so few Jews in the world after all these thousands of years they have been reproducing. It is amazing they all didn't become Christians and buy into this new always Benevolent God, who has His Only Begotten son tortured and then slaughtered horrifically as proof of His love for humanity. All one has to do is believe that God has One Son,  and that Son is God in The Flesh and He Comes To Redeem Man from Sin by dying for everyone but then gets his life back for all eternity and........No, Christianity doesn't have a better narrative than The Jews, I am afraid. But still it would have been expedient to exchange one outlandish ridiculous narrative for another. One could have an easier life without all these rules and regulations that make it ever more difficult to have fun. Oh, there  are many Jews down the ages that are seduced by the expediency of conversion and who appear to adopt Christian and then Muslim narratives. Never the less,  a hardcore nation of multi colored individuals living in coalescent  communities in every civilization of the world, over the course of History, maintain their Jewish identity. How? Why?

It makes no sense. But I believed anyway.

Recently, I have come to understand part of the mystery of the phenomena of The Jews. When a narrative is deemed of Divine origin, no matter how absurd  and outrageous, it has a high value in the mind  as a determining factor in behavior.  The idea of Divinity does this. The Divine, whether one god or many, has the power to shape our existence. Therefore knowledge of the nature of the Divine is the most valuable in the mind. Divine stories in all cultures are revered and were preserved before writing, by word of mouth. This makes sense. If there are divine powers that determine the course of our life and to what degree our needs are met or not, knowledge of these powers and how to appease them and supplicate their intervention on our behalf, is the most important knowledge there is and that makes perfect sense. If a people have a narrative that goes back to the beginning of time and explains how they came to be in the circumstances they are in when they hear the narrative, and then the narrative goes on to describe the future of this people and by so doing, gives them meaning and value and significance greater than any to be achieved by abandoning this narrative, they won't abandon it, no matter what. Even a meaningful death is more valuable than an incomprehensible chaotic life, as regards the priorities of the mind. So not only The Jews coalesce around their divine narrative and hold on to it despite whatever the consequences of doing so, so do the Christians and The Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and people of any faith in a message that they believe comes from whatever be their idea of Heaven as Master of Earth.

    What is unique about the Jews is the actual historical STORY that  is the consequence of their clinging to some kind of Divine Narrative that started even before they went down to Egypt, and could only have been told by word of mouth. That narrative of The God of Abraham, The God of Isaac, and The God of Jacob. This is the narrative that started  with the beginning of the world and explained why the Jews found themselves in Egypt as slaves. They didn't have yet the written Hebrew Bible with the Books of Moses condemning them as a stiff necked people. The just had a story about some God who promised their ancestors a home in a land called Canaan as a free people, and they believed some day a messiah would come and realize that divine promise. At least that is what it says in The Books of Moses.

What is unique about the Jews is that once they had a divine narrative, it kept growing and became ever more sophisticated as did their culture and their history. Their Torah became an ever dynamic self fulfilling prophecy that just got more and more complex in its interpretations as they survived one civilization after another. The mental secretions of Jews trying to interpret the Books of Moses and Justify the God they believed in became a powerful social glue that held them together intellectually and in the spirit, despite vast distances between their communities  and great differences of social context, as they found themselves dispersed in all the different cultures of the civilizations they maintained their identity in. Other peoples hold on to their Divine Narratives tenaciously too. But The Jew's narrative evolved and grew in quantity of holy texts, the duration of the Divine Narrative to which was added events as their destiny twisted and turned,  and the complexity of their contradicting doctrines and dogmas. They developed the Kabbalah which became the foundation of  Gentile mystics attempts to decipher the meaning of Divine signs and symbols throughout the Orient and Western civilization.

   All this doesn't change the fact that at Face value, The God of The Jews who spoke to Moses "Face to Face", is a paradoxical conglomerate of contradictions, a wild storm of a God, whose disregard for the life of mankind is demonstrated in the fact of death itself. And death comes after what seems to be  inexplicable  sequences of chaotic events, where one man, a cruel despot, gets rich and has many wives and countless offspring, finally dying peacefully in a ripe old age with his loving family around him, and another who strove all his life to be virtuous, dies young anyway like an abandoned impoverished dog in the street, haphazardly run over by a horse and carriage.  Both such narratives happen and God is the Author of All narratives, The Jews tell themselves and the world.

And the narrative of the Jews itself is just a wild story of a people who cling blindly to a narrative out of the hubris of believing they are God's chosen and special among the nations. Even though the composers of the narrative, the Prophets and the Scribes, write of the Jews of their own generations, that they are for the most part, a heartless disobedient nation of ingrates, deserving of every illness in the book of curses and those not in the book as well! Moses says explicitly that every disease of the mind or body or the heart that can come to man The Jews will deserve and suffer from, for their disobedience ind ungrateful natures.

The Jews don't like to confront the simplicity and outright literal meanings of these passages, for obvious reasons.

Now one might go so far as to say, Here and Now, in today's world,  The Jews have begun to manifest the miraculous divine nature of their uniqueness in that they are a free people in their own hard won land once again.

Certainly as an historical event, The Jews return to Israel as an independent nation and the revival of Hebrew culture over the course of the last 150 years, is an utterly anomalous and unprecedented event in human history, enough so to cause millions of Christians to find in these events the affirmation of their own prophetic narrative which includes a second coming of their Messiah to complete the work of the first, who obviously left behind a world with a lot of imperfection and falling far short of the visions of the Hebrew Prophets they claim laid the prophetic foundation for the coming of their Messiah God, Jesus Christ. These Hebrew Prophets spoke of an End of Days when there would be world peace, but the history of mankind since the death of and purported resurrection of  Jesus Christ has been anything but peaceful. This to no small extant due to Christians imposing their belief on heathens, too.

The vast majority of the Jews themselves don't seem to believe that the Creation of The Secular State of Israel as a national home for the Jews, to solve the problems of antisemitism, is a Divine Manifestation.  Just as they dislike the idea that the Holocaust was a Divine Manifestation. They understandably can't comprehend how a million Jewish children deserved to die prematurely of  divinely designed illnesses and starvation or to be tossed alive into mass graves with their murdered parents. Secular Jews deny the Jew's narrative in The Hebrew Bible is of a Divine source to begin with. Many don't believe in a God and those that do, not necessarily the God of Israel. Many religious Jews don't see the birth of Israel as anything different than the previous chaotic historical events they have survived as a nation and Israel is likely to disappear as mysteriously and insignificantly as it came to be. Only the coming of their Messiah can resolve the paradoxical and contradictory ball of confusion which is their own history and their dogma and doctrines and holy books. They believe that all of this world that surrounds them is best ignored for the noise it is, as anything that distracts from the study of the interpretations of the  incomprehensible teachings of The Hebrew Prophets is to be ignored and remain unacknowledged as anything but a test of their blind faith. To be distracted from the study of the Talmud is to sin. Very simple.

All of this is part of the context in which my Faith in My God of Art developed.  There is also the sequence of personal events that led me to finally abandon the God of Israel and The God of my Fathers in search for another explanation for this wild confusion of a universe, some as yet unknown to me narrative of circumstance and consequence that makes more sense.

Now I believed in The God of Israel for no other reason than people believe anything that aligns them with something more powerful and of longer duration than themselves. My father told me no more than this. "You are a Jew. Jews Believe In One God, The God of Israel, and Israel is The Nation of The Jews. You Believe This No Matter What!" This belief  aligned with those Jews who believe the same and "the Jews are a special, powerful nation of long duration", thus giving my own life meaning and value and historical significance.  Who doesn't want that? For this reason people are patriots of whatever notion of a nation they belong to.  When people value humanity more than nations they  see themselves as citizens of the world and achieve what they believe to be greater significance and value by having their own belief, like every one else. Some people align themselves with groups for other reasons than historical significance, such as soccer fans. They are in it for the dopamine rush of social cohesion, which is perhaps merely a more intense version of the same thing.

This aligning belief with a group is a very cohesive element in one's mind and not soon abandoned. Negating such a belief in one's self has potentially severe consequences and only occurs when a renewed assessment of one's beliefs leads to the prediction that continued allegiance to an old idea will lead to greater disintegration and disillusion than adopting a new belief or at least initiating a search for one.  People do leave old alliances and embark on journeys of self discovery in the hope of finding more meaning and value in new allegiances. This is both the biblical story of Abraham and Rahav The  Prostitute. Abraham left his father's land and his nation with it's belief in idols and many gods and Rahav betrayed her nation of idol worshipers to join a greater  and more powerful nation with a destiny she chose to be part of.

My own faith in God weathered some very chaotic and confusing experiences starting from the day I was born. My mother was my father's fourth wife. They met at a horse race track. My father was a 37 year old Rabbi and my mother was a 17 year old student in high school. What either were doing at a horse race track other than the obvious I couldn't say. My mother once told me that her family at the time was poor and my father appeared to be a relatively well to do, elegantly dressed and charismatic "older" man who could extricate her from a dead end life situation. My father said that he fell very much in love with his fourth wife. At any rate they married.

I can't find anything of substance about my mother on the internet. She died recently but that was of little significance to me as I grew up without her and had made peace with her decease in my life many years prior to her death.

About my father there are a number of articles. This sums them up.
My Father's Legacy

The article doesn't mention my mother and father's marriage. I was told I was conceived while my parents were on vacation in Miami Florida. Between then and my first conscious memories, a lot happened.  My father left his calling as a Rabbi and determined to make more money and buy my mother beautiful things, he learned how to be a stock broker. He was very successful.  My first memories all have to do with moving into ever bigger houses. I distinctly remember my father coming into the house and declaring he is worth over 2 million dollars, must have been back in 1960 or so. He bought my mother a convertible Cadillac she promptly crashed. We had a live in maid. The only memory I have of my father and me together is our going to Synagogue on the High Holidays. I am dressed in a suit with short pants and feel uncomfortable in my clothes. My father makes me feel rushed as he holds my hand and leads the way to prayers. My mother was distant and came and left my mind in a blur. I don't recall any affection. I am sure she didn't breast feed us, at that time. She didn't have a job either. The live in maid took care of  my older sister and myself and then my mother had my brother Daniel in 1959 and my youngest sister then, Deborah was born in 1961. I remember feeling confused as I kept having to cope with new environments.

   I vaguely remember my mother teaching me to read. I remember once getting onto bed with her as she was watching television. I remember her making me  a lettuce and tomato sandwich with mayonnaise on toast. It was very good but I don't recall her ever making it for me again. I remember her giving me a silky nightgown of hers to go to sleep with when we moved into a new house, as I had recurrent  nightmares. I didn't understand why it was supposed to help. My father was a distant mystery.

   I was sent to a Hebrew Kindergarten where I heard my first confusing Bible Stories. Once my mother left me off but the school was closed, it was some holiday she wasn't aware of. She drove away and I was collected by a teacher who happened by and took me to her home. She called my mother who came and picked me up, unapologetic. There was always something very superficial about her communications to me. I felt brushed off, all the time.

My father got in trouble with the securities and exchange commission. They annulled his license. He still had a lot of money and we moved to Phoenix, Arizona. He had a house built which was yet incomplete and the night we arrived, the hotel we were staying at burnt down. I distinctly remember him carrying me out of the smoke engulfed room, crying later because some stranger picked me up and brought me to his room, I thought every one was dead but me. I saw the flames from the window seem to lick the sky, they were so high. I was told my mother passed out. My father coughed out smoke for days, weeks. I had recurrent nightmares of falling down tunnels of flame for months afterward.

My father, for some reason, decides to change our name from Rabinowitz to Robbins. This of course changes the Hebrew Value of my name in Gematria, aligning it with Bible Code which has the values of my Hebrew name in verses concerned with the nature and coming of The Messiah.

The Gematria Code in The Hebrew Bible That Discloses The Identity of The Messiah

First grade, secular school, the teachers think I am a genius and I am put into a special class where I am completely out of touch with what is going on. My mother buys me a record player as a reward. I am confused at school. Nothing makes any sense.  I get therapy sessions for a speech defect, I can't pronounce the letter L.  My neck is twisted, somehow, my mother hangs me for long minutes from some contraction which connects to the door. My father is away, looking for a business in Israel.

My mother becomes even more distant. I am full of  relentless curiosity and go through her drawers. I find a massage vibrator  and I can't say why, I hid it underneath the porch with some dollar coins I found too. She is perplexed more than angry. She tells me she will take us all to the amusement park but she leaves me behind. I am bitterly disappointed. Her only excuse was , "I couldn't find you and it was getting late."

 I see a movie with my half sister Sharon and I cry when Hercules throws a large stone wheel on his enemies and their blood flows down their crushed bodies.  We had a swimming pool behind the house and I charge kids from the neighborhood for a swim. Once I am at some neighbor's house and three kids my age try to force me to bend down to a picture of Jesus, I don't know how they knew I am a Jew. They didn't succeed. I walk away feeling strong and lonely.

I go with my half sister Sharon to the movie "West Side Story" and want to love some girl some day the way Tony loves Maria. When they sing the song 'There's a place for us." I think it was all worth it  even though Tony dies. Sharon cries and I smile.

Mt father is away for a long time. I see my mother reading the book "Sex and the Single Woman" in a bathing suit by the swimming pool and feel disturbed but I can't say why. She shows me a dying puppy in the shed behind the house and tells me she meant it as a birthday present but it has a disease. I don't recall ever seeing it again.

 I pour colorful cleaning or testing chemicals into the pool as an experiment. It needs to be drained and refilled.

My mother is bathing in the afternoon and calls me to the bathroom. I am six years old. I can see her nakedness and feel  aghast. She asks me to bring her the towel. I do so, a brown towel. I give it to her and run away as fast as I can.

Little  girls are inviting me to look at their private parts. I don't know why. I am ashamed to look, but do so through my fingers. They giggle at me. This happens a lot. I want to tell my mother about it, what the neighbor's daughters ask  me to do in the card board houses I would make in the back yard, but I don't.

There is a Playboy Magazine I find in the house. I am fascinated. There is a picture of a naked woman with curly dark hair, leaning backwards against a man's chest in the shower. She is smiling at me from the picture. I can't stop looking at it. It is engraved in my mind and comes back to me frequently, whenever I see a naked woman in the shower, in a movie or in my own life. Finally, when I am 40 years old, I find myself in Paris with the love of my life, a sweet girl of 25 with black curls. We are in the shower and she leans against me, just as the girl did in the picture and the picture comes into my mind out of no where, like an explosion. I think, "This was meant to be!" It surely was.

Once the police come to investigate a vandalism of an empty house. Children had poured paint all over the walls. It had been my doing with a couple of other kids I had lead on an excursion. My mother lied blatantly and said I had been sick, I had never left the house. She didn't even ask me about it.

My mother is in bed with another woman. I come into the room and sense something thickly sensual. I feel out of place. I don't understand.

We move into a smaller apartment.  I change schools. My mother is supposed to sell the house and we are meant to join my father in Israel. This happens more than once, the moving into a smaller apartment, the changing of school. One night I wake up and walk into the living room in the middle of the night. I had heard my mother laughing and she sounded like I had never heard her before. When I came into the room, she was sitting on some strangers lap. She looked at me impatiently and got up without a word and walked into her bedroom, The stranger went in after her, after he told me to go to bed, my mother has a headache.

In the morning I tried to talk about this with my sister Suzie but she just told me to shut up. I went to school in a daze and when I came back, my mother was gone. There were some sandwiches cut in neat triangles and a glass of milk, with a note saying she would be back soon.  There was a sharp pencil and a pad of paper. I felt frustrated and confused. I had a painful lump in my throat. I took the pencil and pressed the point against my skin until the tip of the pencil pierced and I felt  a sharp pain. Then I wrote a note the best I could. "I don't know why you are sitting on a man's lap that isn't my father." I crumbled the note up into a ball and threw it on the floor. I ran out and decided I wouldn't come back till it was very late, no matter what.

When I came back my mother was waiting for me on the couch. She wasn't smiling and looked severe. She didn't ask me where I had been despite it being unusually late for me to come home. She told me to sit besides her and she explained that father had been away for a long time and she was lonely. I remember her hairdo in a bun over her forehead and the deep red color of her long pointed fingernails. She didn't apologize for ignoring me the night before. She explained that every one can get lonely and she was no different. I heard her out and said nothing. When she was done, I just shook my head and went to my bedroom.

The next day she made things infinitely worse. When I came home from school she told me to sit down on the couch. She took out of her purse an unwrapped cheap toy, like those one buys at the checkouts in supermarkets. She told me the man who had been with her had bought it for me because I was a good boy. I didn't believe her. I felt deeply misunderstood and insulted that she thought I could be bribed like that. That she thought I would believe such a brazen lie. I was wordless and took the toy and went into my room and promptly broke it. But I said nothing to her. To anyone. I was ashamed of her behavior to the bottom of my soul. I was maybe not quite seven years old and I had no ideas how babies come into the world. But everything inside me protested her behavior instinctively. I thought about my father and how I could never tell him what I had seen, what I had been told. She didn't ask me to keep it a secret, she didn't have to.

Soon after this we traveled by plane to Israel. It was a long trip. My father was waiting for us at Ben Gurion Airport. He had a bouquet of flowers for my mother. We spent a few days in a hotel in  Tel Aviv and then took the bus to Eilat. It was a journey of six or seven hours through the dessert. Eilat was a small town on the border with Egypt and my father was contemplating the purchase of a business there, perhaps a small hotel. My memories of Eilat are very vivid. The mountains around the sea were jagged and sharp, the sea was crystal clear and the smell of sewage was common in the streets. I must have been in the second grade. No one really spoke any English at the school I went to. Everything was foreign about it. I daydreamed a lot. I made some friends, children  who were from England and we went for long walks in the mountains. Once I found an ancient coin and my father  took it from me and gave it to my mother on a necklace. This reminded me of when she had taken the best of the Halloween candy we had gathered and brought it to my father.

Soon enough my parents could be heard yelling at each other as we came home from school. It seems my mother insisted in wearing a piece of Jewelry her lover had given her. It was a necklace with a black opal. She told my father he had been just a friend. Obviously, she wanted to infuriate him. break his heart, prepare him for divorce.

Once a missionary came to the little apartment my father had rented us. I was there with my mother and sister. I was never more than vaguely aware of my siblings presence or absence. He sat down and he and my mother began a conversation. He wanted to share a gift with her and took out of his leather case a Christian Bible. My mother said she doesn't want it and she thinks it best he should leave, preferably before my father came home. He just grew more insistent on sharing his glorious truth. My father came in and immediately understood what was going on. He told us to leave and we had barely made it to the bottom of the stairs when the missionary came flying down the stairs himself, my father having literally tossed him out by the seat of his pants.

My father found no suitable business in Eilat. After just a few months we returned to the United States on an ocean liner called The Olympia. It was 1963, sometime around Passover. This is where my mother met her new lover, the one who was to become her second husband and the father of her next two sons. She would disappear for hours on the ship. I have no idea how she explained this to my father. Her lover was a Moroccan immigrant to Israel who was abandoning a wife and two children in pursuit of a better life in America. All I remember of him on the ship was that he and my father toasted each other on The Seder night as they were each conducting the Seder ceremony at neighboring tables and must have been familiar with each other.

I also remember that we stopped on the way to New York in Athens and I saw the Pantheon, for which I felt an inexplicable hostility. And then we stopped at Pompeii and the wretched images of a man and a dog captured by lava in a grotesque posture for posterity were engraved painfully in my mind. My father told me once, may years later,  that Pompeii was destroyed as punishment for the Roman's destruction of The Temple in Jerusalem. If I remember correctly, I thought that made sense.

When we arrived in New York it was unseasonably cold and it was snowing. We were collected by my mother's father and went south to Maryland. My father soon left for Porto Rico, looking for business, intent on leaving the US for reasons I don't know. That was the last time I ever saw my father and mother together, coming off the Olympia.

We stay with my mother's family a few days. I have nightmares every night, finally overcoming them by telling myself I welcome them as an adventure in a different world. The nightmares stopped after this and I was almost slightly disappointed.

School is a confusion. I don't know what is going on, just wait for the day to end. My mother has rented us an apartment, three children and her. My older sister lives with our grandparents.  I wake up early and try to help by preparing breakfast for my younger siblings. My mother doesn't seem pleased by this, I think it just made her feel more guilty. Suddenly her now lover comes to live with us, just like that. But they often fight. I can hear her saying loudly, "Don't touch me!" I hate him and my mother sends me to live with her parents for a while. Suzie and I trade places. They  live nearby, help out. My grandmother Sylvia had suffered from manic depression all her life.

Then I move back with my mother. Things just happen. No explanations. Finally, one winter night in the middle of the third grade, must have been 1964, my mother packs our stuff in cardboard boxes and sends my older sister Suzie, me, and my younger brother Daniel to our father in New York City. He has dyed his hair black. He picks us up at the bus station and I can't stop crying. He buys me a cheap watch and that doesn't help. Finally he takes us to a Godzilla movie and I am distracted and calm down. We stay in a cheap hotel in Manhattan for a few months. My father gets a  very needed serendipitous tax return  from the time he was a millionaire and he buys a house in Canarsie Brooklyn. We have a live in maid for a while from Bolivia who has a son of her own. But that ends and I don't know why. I start the fourth grade at P.S 242.

My father meets the woman who is to become his fifth wife and bare him twin daughters. Her name is Malcah.

The Miraculous Story of My Father and His Fifth Wife Malcah

When Malcah comes to live with us with her first born son, Itamar, from a previous marriage, we start off very well. She introduces me to classical music which we listen to together. She has books with pictures of art from ancient times until  the modern. We look together at the pictures. But there are some troubling issues between us. First, I used to get three dollars a week from my father for cleaning and straightening up the house, the best I could. She fires me. I always had had an enterprising spirit and used o tmake pocket money by helping people carry their shopping bags to their cars in the parking lot, at the large grocery store across the street.

Malcah  also insisted I call her Mother, which I simply couldn't. My father tells me, "Be smart, call her mommy! She is better to you than your real mother ever was!" But I couldn't anyway. Malcah is very energetic and romantic at heart. We start singing Friday night Hebrew songs together. She had been a Hebrew Teacher. That's how she met my father. She speaks to me for real, like no one ever had before in my life. I feel I love her. But I can't call her Mother. I see her as a friend. I am acutely aware of her body, all the time. I want to be near to her, look at her, talk to her. When she gets undressed and I see her in her bra, I can't help staring. She stops undressing near me, in my presence.

 Malcah gets pregnant and soon we find out she has twins in her belly.  I save money and buy her a little colorfull gold plaited ship which I give her as a present, as she is in bed. She is very pregnant and doesn't move around much. She seems very joyed at my gift. Finally she gives birth and nearly dies. She has a hemorrhage and the doctors bring her back from the brink of death. My father's hair turns completely white overnight. Had she died he would have been left with two infant girls, the four of us and Malcah's son.

Malcah comes home and one night she cleans the bathroom where I had left droplets of urine on the floor. I was prone to day dreaming all the time. She had written in lip stick, " I aim to please, you aim too, please!" I wet the floor anyway. She was on her hands and her knees and she started to bleed profusely. She called out and people came and carried her away on a chair, taking her to the hospital immediately. Again, she nearly died. She didn't come home for weeks. My sister Suzie took care of the twins with a responsibility far beyond her age. Suzie married young, moved to the US  and started to suffer from severe schizophrenia, got divorced and lost her children. But when she was just 13 years old she was like an adult in how she coped. She never liked me very much, though. She always had cruel things to say to me about me. I don't really know why.

Anyway, when Malcah came home her attitude towards me completely changed. Sometimes she would shower me with affection, physical and emotional. But that was rare. More often she would criticize me for everything I did. It was very confusing.

My father got a job as a Rabbi and we moved first to Beacon, New York and then to Mount Vernon. Sometimes Malcah would sit me on her lap and hug me, tickle me, make me laugh and shout out. She was very physical in her affections for everyone. She would sit on my father's lap and he would yell at her to get off. But sometimes I saw him hug her from behind and hold on to her breasts while she was doing dishes.

At other times she would be very cruel to me, sadistic. When we were still in Beacon, she got us a dog I personally didn't want. I had never been able to feel affection for dogs after the sick one my mother had shown me in the shed, which died shortly afterwards. Malcah had us all gather together one evening, and smiled as she told me, it would be my job to wipe the dog's ass after he took a shit. She had prepared some toilet paper and told me the dog needed a wipe. I moved towards the dog and proceeded to try and hold it still as I did what I believed was needed. Why would any one lie about something like that? I was so incredibly gullible, so deeply naive, yet quite intelligent when it came to understanding complex stories or abstract ideas. Malcah laughed and the whole family laughed with her. I was embarrassed and shamed. This became a favorite family story of Malcah's, told when I would come home for weekends from boarding school over the years to come.

But while so inexplicably cruel, Malcah was often very warm and affectionate with me.  I began to feel an overwhelming desire to be touched by her and when she hugged me and let me lay next to her,  I began to get pronounced erections which was a novelty for me. I hadn't yet learned to masturbate or anything like that. I can't say whether she noticed this or not. I was torn with conflicting feelings. My need for physical intimacy, hugging and caresses was a constant craving. Sometimes I got what I wanted and sometimes Malcah would behave hatefully at me. " We are not going to buy you your school supplies because you don't deserve them!" She wouldn't explain why. She would repeat this in variations on a theme, until I would cry. I felt I was sinning against my father, by wanting to be touched by Malcah so much. But I couldn't help myself.

And my father had outbursts of hostility towards me. In retrospect, I know Malcah was constantly complaining about me. Once, I was at a lesson he was giving to children of the congregation in Beacon. It was something about Jewish history and I knew very little. My father had returned to being a Rabbi after years of living a non religious and mostly secular life, the years I had grown up with him and my mother together. My ignorance exposed his past, I assume. Anyway, when I couldn't answer a question others could, he slapped me in front of all the other children. The shame was much worse than the pain.

On another occasion, in Mount Vernon, before I was sent away, my father believed us to be late on a Friday after noon and told me to hurry and get dressed as I used to walk with him to the synagogue for Shabbat prayers. He thought I was being lazy and tardy and began to hit me and kicked me to the floor. I knew I had done nothing wrong and refused to apologize, infuriating him. H hit me a few times, yelling "Cry, Cry!" and instead of crying, I remembered how he came into the smoke engulfed room in the hotel fire in Phoenix and also yelled "Cry! Cry! Cry so I can see where you are!" and he lifted me and carried me to safety. Finally he relented. As we walked to the Synagogue we passed a large clock at a train station and my father saw that he was wrong about the time. He didn't apologize, he just told me sheepishly that I must have deserved it for some other reason.

It all came to a crescendo when Malcah told my father that either he send me away to a boarding school, or she would leave him. She shouted this out loud for everyone to hear. In a few weeks I was driven to a Yeshivah boarding school in Baltimore. My father drove me there and I can't recall any conversation on the seven hour drive. When we arrived, we both went to the bathroom and used the urinal. I remember my father staining his pants with urine and cursing under his breath. Why do I remember this? Why do I write it here? I revered my father but he didn't like me. I told myself I was helping him by agreeing without protest to be sent away. But I must have been angry at him for abandoning me to Malcah's whim, too. So pictures that were degrading to him would stick in my mind, confusing expressions of my self denied hostilities. It happens to all of us.

Soon he left me with my suitcase and just a few dollars. I waited for the principle outside his office, under the care of his red headed secretary. She made me tea. Her young daughter was with her, a child of maybe six or seven years old with cascading red curls, like her mother. . I thought she was very cute and she flirted with me, smiling and playing hide and seek with her face and the desk her mother was working at.

Little girls have liked me all my life. It has been a recurring and comforting motif. When I was just eight or nine, I had a friend, a Black American child in the third grade with me in Manhattan. We were the brightest children in the class and I would visit him at home. His little sister used to fawn on me, hold my hand and beg me to stay. When I was just seven, still with my mother, there was a little girl named Ginger who was the daughter of a friend of my mother, a divorced woman who lived in the same apartment complex. Ginger used to dance for me on the bed and remove her clothes. I never really understood at the time why she and other girls so wanted me to look at their intimate parts. It happened a lot.

After an hour or so, the principle came and invited me into his office. He had a black Yarmulke on his head, was clean shaven and wore a black vest, slightly overweight and not so tall. He closed the door behind us and asked if he could kiss me, which he proceeded to do on my cheek before I could answer. His lips were wet and he hugged me to him but I moved away quickly and went to the other side of the desk. He said something like, " I Just want you to feel welcome..." and proceeded to become business like explaining the rules and what life is like in the dormitory of some 75 boarding school students, from grade seven like me, to those in the twelfth grade. It must have been in October or the beginning of November , 1968.  On my first night, the boys interrogated me about what exactly happened in Rabbi Shapiro's office. His affection for young boys was renown.

I was put into the third grade for Hebrew studies,  because I knew nothing in Hebrew and felt very clumsy and out of place in a classroom with children who were eight years old and simply much smaller than me, physically. I remember the first lesson I learned in Hebrew, from the book of Genesis. Abraham sitting in his tent in the heat of the day, seeing the three angels approach. We would read the Hebrew and the Rabbi would translate word by word and linger sometimes on the Rashi interpretations too, which was written in different confusing letters than the Hebrew scriptures. I was bored terribly. But somehow, though in a daze, I believe I remember everything I l;earned in that class of the narrative itself. I felt a deep desire to know Hebrew. I even went so far as to tell myself I would forget all my English if only I could completely understand and speak Hebrew.

There is one word that stands out in my mind of all the words I learned then in Hebrew. I can still see it written in Hebrew letters on the blackboard. The Rabbi took time to explain the word,

 "The Knife".  המאכלת

It can be translated as "That which consumes." and the words "Consuming Fire אש אוכלה " that describe God, use the same root א כ ל,  which means "to eat" or "to consume".

The word is used when it says Abraham lifted his knife to slaughter his son Isaac, and then before he did, an angel called out from the heavens and told him not to send forth his hand and slaughter his own, first born son in obedience to God.  His willingness to do so is unfathomable except to prophets.

In the evenings after school. I got to know the other kids at the dormitory. There were Playboy magazines hid under mattresses and poker sessions. There was pornographic literature with stories of incest and sexual fantasies.

Shortly after I arrived, I was taken against my will into the room of the fattest and believed to be the smelliest kid in the dorm. I was pushed into his bed and I had my shirt removed and ketchup and mustard were smeared all over me. It was not as traumatic as you might think. It was done in jovial spirits and I was told "After this, you will be just like any one of us!" While it was being done, I kept thinking "I hope so."

I suffered terribly from having no money at all.  Once I stole some loose change from the top of the dresser. It couldn't have been more than a dollar or two. The missing change was immediately noticed and as I was alone in the room, I was also the most obvious suspect. There were two other kids in the room, significantly older than me. They closed the door and told me they wouldn't let me out until I confessed.  I was ashamed of myself to the core of my being but wouldn't come clean. Finally, they let me go to the bathroom where I took the coins out of my pocket and put them on the floor. Then I called them and told them that I had found the money on the bathroom floor and that was proof it wasn't me who stole it.  They looked at me with pity and let me be.

Even before I had ever actually masturbated to orgasm I craved pornography. It was on my mind all the time. There was a paperback book with a story about a kid, a teenager who hangs out in a park and is picked up by an older woman. She bathes him and caresses him intimately in the bathtub, then dries him and feeds him. He keeps coming back to her and she seduces him completely. It was while reading this story that I had my first orgasm. I was touching myself under the covers while reading and the sudden flush of  sensation was an overwhelming surprise. I was though, very ashamed, and felt like I was somehow perverted. I didn't know that everyone else was masturbating with the pornography too. The words "dirty pictures" and "dirty stories" contaminated the whole activity of reading and looking and touching myself.

Whatever was going on with my brain chemistry, I was quickly overcome with a constant horny throb that was like a magnet, pulling all my thoughts and calculations towards one goal, the next time I can get my hands on something to read or look at and jerk off to. I would take a break to go to the bathroom during my morning Hebrew lessons and bring myself to orgasm while sitting on the toilet. I did it two or three times a day. I was insatiable.

Once I was busy beating away when I heard a noise and looked up to see one of the kids in my class looking down at me from the top of the stall. He had climbed up to spy on me. I had never felt such hostility in my life. I wanted to kill him, but did nothing, said nothing. He said to me tauntingly, "I saw what you did! I am gonna tell the Rabbi!" with a big grin on his face.  I walked out and back to the class feeling like I hate everyone and everything. The Rabbi never said anything to me. I began to shoot little pieces of  paper rolled up with saliva at the kids in the class. I had realized that the Rabbi was non confrontational. I wasn't afraid of him. The kids just giggled and I was never disciplined for it.

I would take long walks in the surrounding neighborhood at night. It was very cold and I shivered but walked anyway, looking at the lights beyond the curtains, wondering what it was like to live in the same place for years, to have a mother and father and a family around oneself. The homes looked like dollhouses to me. They weren't too big. I would imagine some girl standing in a doorway, inviting me in to watch television. We would sit on the floor with a blanket over our knees and eat potato chips. Nothing even remotely like this ever happened, of course. But I kept trying, hoping, maybe tonight?

I was very homesick . I wrote my father a letter asking to come home for the Hanukkah vacation of nine days. He sent me money for the bus. He and Malcah picked me up at the central station. The Yeshiva was far more religious than my family. In the Yeshiva there was no listening to the radio on Saturday, no putting on lights. When I mentioned this to them perhaps critically, they just laughed at me for becoming a Yeshiva Bachor, implying I was brainwashed and couldn't think for myself. I have no memories whatsoever of empathy from anyone in my childhood, ever, except somewhat dimly from a school teacher on occasion.

Weeks passed and became months. It was time for my Bar Mitsvah. I was approaching 13. I had barely learned what I was supposed to read in Hebrew in front of the small crowd of my father and Malcah's respective families and congregation members. I was, as usual, pretty much in a daze. I read the speech my father had written for me mechanically, just wanting it all to be over quickly. I got some gifts.  A few books with glossy pictures of Jerusalem and Israel. An alarm clock. I don't remember what else. I think it was Joan, my mother who sent the clock. Other than half a day after two years of separation, I hadn't seen her since that winter night she sent us away. We had no connection.

Joan had kept Deborah, the youngest, with her when she sent us away. Debbie must have been two years old or so. Joan took Debbie with her to Israel where she went with her lover, Avi. Somehow they went to Eilat and Joan abandoned Debbie with neighbors and chased her lover to Europe. These neighbors contacted my father who sent a plane ticket for Debbie when she was just over three. We picked her up at the air port and she had sores on her legs, was very thin and barely spoke. She would  get up at night and walk in her sleep. She grew up just fine though, married young, had lots of kids. I barely know her. Last time I saw her was after Joan had died. She approached me at a wedding of Malcah's grandson and said, " My condolences for your loss!" with a big grin on her face. I was at a complete loss for words. I think she was upset that I hadn't come to a wedding for one of her children as it was far away and there was no convenient transportation and I really couldn't afford a gift. As I said, I and Debbie had not spoken to each other for decades other than a few brief exchanges at the few  weddings I did attend over the years.

When summer finally came, I arrived back into the family life as a very horny and constantly aroused introverted new adolescent. I had stolen a pornographic book I read and masturbated to it on the bus for hours.   Of course when I got home,  my attention was riveted on Malcah, who again oscillated between ravishing me with attention and affection and glaring at me testily or completely ignoring me. Shortly after I arrived, my father went to Israel on business. Malcah didn't like to sleep alone, apparently and her son Itamar, who must have been 7 or 8, had spent a few nights with her.  Itamar and I   were in her bedroom and she said something like, "Tonight you can sleep with me, its your turn." And I flat out refused abruptly  and left the room. I had never told my father about the night I had found Joan sitting on that stranger's lap. I had always felt sorry for him, I knew he had loved her very much and she had betrayed him terribly, broken the sixth of the ten commandments. My mother's adultery was always near the surface of my mind. When Malcah suggested I spend a night with her there was no hesitancy on my part, I reacted as instinctively as I did to my mother's infidelity. I am not saying Malcah was aware of how obsessed I was with her, I am not saying that she aroused me sexually, knowingly, consciously, and with intent. Malcah never impressed me as being particularly self aware. She is however very emotional and spontaneous, volatile and instinctual. Who knows? Many people have all kinds of urges they can't explain. I still do.

The summer ended and I returned to the Yeshiva for a few more months. At some point the Principal told me that my father wasn't paying my tuition. I didn't know what to say. I was always broke myself as he barely gave me any more money than the bus and taxi fair. I worked on Sundays mowing grass sometimes.

My best memories from the Yeshiva have most to do with listening to Simon and Garfunkel.  I couldn't get enough of them. The words of their songs went around in circles in my mind together with their melodies. I wanted to love a girl the way girls were loved in their songs. Someday I would, too. A number of times, as matter of fact. I have been very blessed in things that are important.
This song in particular seemed to be about me.


The night sets softly
With the hush of falling leaves,
Casting shivering shadows
On the houses through the trees,
And the light from a street lamp
Paints a pattern on my wall,
Like the pieces of a puzzle
Or a child's uneven scrawl.

Up a narrow flight of stairs
In a narrow little room,
As I lie upon my bed
In the early evening gloom.
Impaled on my wall
My eyes can dimly see
The pattern of my life
And the puzzle that is me.

From the moment of my birth
To the instant of my death,
There are patterns I must follow
Just as I must breathe each breath.
Like a rat in a maze
The path before me lies,
And the pattern never alters
Until the rat dies.

And the pattern still remains
On the wall where darkness fell,
And it's fitting that it should,
For in darkness I must dwell.
Like the color of my skin,
Or the day that I grow old,
My life is made of patterns
That can scarcely be controlled.


I was taken out of the boarding school Yeshiva sometime in October, 1969. My father and Malcah had decided to make Aliyah, Transcendence, move to Israel. Suzie, Daniel and I were to go first, to boarding schools. Suzie to one and Daniel and I to another.  This was a momentous decision and I was very happy with it. I had deep, deep feelings for Israel and Jews. I can't say really why. Perhaps because my father did? But he hadn't always. Somehow his meeting Malcah had renewed his faith in The God of Israel. I noted this to myself. It was a factor in why I had faith. I saw my father saved and how he saved us. His meeting Malcah was so serendipitous, it must have been God taking care of him, taking care of us. And there was how he got that tax return exactly when we so needed it.

The God of The Hebrew Bible was perhaps confused and caused chaos, but sometimes He came through for you when you most needed Him.  Maybe He was lonely and mankind just didn't meet His needs for company? These were the kinds of thoughts I occupied myself with a lot, when I wasn't feeling horny and jerking off.

No comments:

Post a Comment