But he did it – because he could. I don’t want to single out Clinton as the only one who abuses power – and I do wish him the best of health. But this is a theme that runs through our society, people with power exercising it arbitrarily, simply for the sake of reveling in that power. We who live in the Nike era of “Just do it,” look in awe at those who have the power to look back at us and, without a single flicker of conscience, say, “You’re fired.”
But he knew that if you juggle three balls in the air they look like five; that five look like 10; that seven, if you can manage them, look like 20 - and that none, as long as they remain in the air, can be examined to see if they are real.
Such emotional depth and honesty are found throughout our sources, and it is part of what makes Judaism so resonant for people these days. We live in a world overflowing with insecurity, and while we may not have invented fear, no other group has had more experience at dealing with it. And since we Jews are not burdened with dogma, no one is telling us what we have to believe, we are free to express our doubts openly and not to rely on God alone to save us.
It’s not hard to explain our long-standing infatuation with the Evil Eye. The ayin ha-rah appears in many other cultures. In Arabic, it’s called the ayin harsha; the droch shuil in Scotland, mauvais oeil in France, bösen Blick in Germany, mal occhio in Italy and in ancient Rome, the oculus malus. Some folklorists believe that the evil eye belief is rooted in primate biology, where dominance and submission are shown by gazing and averting the gaze, and it relates to our dislike of staring.
We begin our journey in the north. I love every inch of Israel, but no place is more special for me than the Galilee region, and especially the Jezreel Valley, from Beit Alpha in the east, westward to toward the Mediterranean Coast and Mount Carmel. Nowhere on earth can one find such a combination of natural beauty and ancient history. There Deborah defeated the Canaanites on Mount Tabor, Saul succumbed to the Philistines on the slopes of Gilboa, and there the epic revolt against the Romans began. There the swamps were drained by the early Zionist pioneers, there thousands of barren acres of hillside were carpeted with greenery by the Jewish National Fund in the 1920s. And there the hills are often not hills at all, but accumulated layers of time, century upon century, civilization upon civilization, one on top of the other. At the center of it all is Megiddo, sitting on the crossroads of the ages, atop 26 layers of civilization. No wonder it is considered the place where the end of days will arrive, Armageddon. When you walk there your existence transcends a given place or time. You become one with all that has ever occurred and all that ever will.
The melody is the one that we have become familiar with, the haunting Bratzlaver niggun to Gesher Tzar Meod. Only they’ve changed the words. Instead of it saying that the whole world is a narrow bridge, the Yemin Orde version says: Kol haolam kulo gesher day rachav, v’haikar le’ehov chinam.