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To Light A Spark

Dear Father

A Letter from the Trenches

December 18, 2008

I am writing to you at a moment when I have some breathing room. A moment of calm. A moment where I feel like I can write, without the enemy coming down upon me.

I am sorry I haven't written to you in so long. Please understand. For months now, the enemy has attacked. He has been unrelenting. It has been one of the hardest battles of my life.

I miss you, Father. Every day, I pray to be close to you again. Close to comfort. All that I want is to come home and to be close again with you again.

But I know that this war is necessary. I know that this fight, these moments when I feel furthest from you, are really the moments when I am serving you most. I know that really, I am doing it all for you, Father.

I have to be honest, though. As this last battle raged, I began to forget what this was all for. I forgot why I was fighting, Father!

Instead, all I could see was the dirt in my eyes and the blood on my hands. All I could see was the enemy's guns pointed at me. There was no time for thinking, no time for caring about what side I was on. I just did what I was told.

I just aimed.

And shot.

And fought.

These are the moments I will never understand, Father. Why can't the world be simple? Why do we need to fight for our souls? Why can't the good side get along with the... other side?

Instead, we must fight like dogs. We must live in the darkness, we must allow our enemies to surround us while we fight them.

Sometimes the struggle is so overwhelming, I forget what side I am on. I begin flailing around, struggling through a darkness that is so truly enveloping that I feel as if I am doing more harm than good.

This was what the last battle felt like. This was why I didn't speak to you. I almost forgot you were there.

But then something miraculous happened, Father. As we fought, and as it seemed most desperate, the enemy suddenly began retreating. For seemingly no reason beside our stubborn determination to fight on, the armies decided to turn and run. It was a glorious moment.

As we chased them down the fields, as we danced in jubilation, the massive size of their forces no longer blocked out the sun. The rays of light came down and poured over the field.

And this was when it all started to make sense. This was when I suddenly remembered you. And I remembered that I was out here not for me, not just so that I could defeat my enemies, not just so that I could brag about my achievements.

I am here for you. I am here because of you. And I can't return to you without finishing what I came here for.

I've come to accept something. At first, I didn't want to. But since coming here, since hearing the footsteps of countless enemies surrounding me, I have no choice but to accept that there is nowhere to hide. That if I don't stand up to the darkness, it will continue to spread until it covers every part of the globe. Until it covers my very soul.

And this is why I am here, in another world, another dimension, unable to see you or touch you or hug you. I have work to do. I am here for a reason, and that reason is so that I can return to you. I am here so that I can return your world to you. I am here for you.

Still, the battle may be won, but the war is far from over. The enemy has simply retreated. It has not surrendered. It has not backed down. As I rest, they are regrouping. Staring down at the beautiful sunny field, I am aware that it will one day be dark yet again. The army will be back for me again, this time stronger and more powerful.

But as I sit here, Father, staring at the beautiful field, looking at the rainbow you created just for me, I can't help but bring up vague memories of when we were truly side by side. And I can't help but look forward to the moment when we will yet again be able to look each other in the face and hug each other out of pure love.

Elad Nehorai is an alumnus of Arizona State University and Mayanot yeshiva. You can find Elad wandering around America, gallivanting around Israel, or getting lost in the clouds. His favorite things to do include reading, writing and conversing with G-d.

The Carnival is in Town

December 12, 2008

Yesterday I was at a carnival. The flashing lights seared into my eyes. The sounds of children laughing and parents screaming and carnies singing tore through my ears. The smells of turkey legs, kennel corn, and fried Oreos wafted into my nostrils. It was a beautiful, glorious high. As I got on each roller coaster, as I went into the house of mirrors, as I bounded through the sensory world, I felt more alive than I had been in a while. My heart ached with joy. Life made sense. Everything fit.

But today I'm in a desert. No lights. No sounds. No smells. Just sand. Dirt. Blankness. Life makes no sense. I'm disconnected, bored, alone.

I spent the entire day searching for the lights, listening as hard as I could. Sniffing as deeply as my nostrils and lungs would allow.

Nothing.

When I feel spirituality, when I feel like G‑d is talking to me, it's glorious. I'm alive, connected, I'm truly in a carnival. All my senses are heightened. My life seems perfect, like I can see the picture on the jigsaw puzzle I'm putting together. Read Torah all day? No problem! Pray three times a day? Awesome! Don't flirt with girls? Well, I'd still rather do that, but okay.

Life on a spiritual high is like a carnival. When I feel totally connected it's just the best feeling I'll ever have.

But carnivals only come for a small part of the year. For the vast majority of my life, at least, I'm living in a desert. Thirsty, starving really, for just a drop of what I tasted at the carnival. I'll do anything to feel that again. Do anything to regain the heights I reached on the roller coaster at the carnival.

And so, I try to create my own carnival. Sure, I can't ride a roller coaster, but I could create some illusion that makes my heart beat just as fast. I can even bend a few rules. Break some even. As long as it keeps me alive. As long as I feel like I can still see that picture of the puzzle.

And so, I start to forget about Torah. My praying slips through the cracks. Flings with girls make a lot more sense. Sure, I'm somewhat regretful. But what am I supposed to do? The carnival left. And all that remains is dirt.

Over time I've created an entirely illusory carnival. A carnival that appears whenever I want it to. Awesome.

But there's a problem with this carnival. No matter how big it is, I still see the dirt on the outside. The carnival, no matter how big it is, will never fill the entire desert. It will never cover the world. It will never fill my imagination.

I'm more alone than I ever was before.

Sometimes, I choose to leave the illusion. Usually, though, something wakes me up. I get a shove. I run out of flings. It's Shabbat. I run out of money.

I have no choice but to go into the desert. Out of the illusion. And it's painful. It's painful because the desert is so damn boring. It's painful because as boring as it is, I realize how much more real it is than the illusion I created.

And pretty soon, I begin to wonder. Was that first carnival... was it all just as fake as the one I created? Was it some sick joke I've been playing on myself?

These are the doubts anyone who has honestly addressed his religion has faced. This is the reality that all of us down to earth humans live every day when we attempt to reach truth. Sometimes it hits us. But usually it's gone.

Many of us spend our entire lives trying to recreate that carnival. We get addicted to the illusion of reality. We would rather have Diet Coke whenever we feel like it than real Coca Cola a drop at a time.

But with enough trips back and forth, and with enough help from G‑d, some of us are lucky enough to begin to understand the point is not the carnivals. The point is not trying to decide on the real carnival. The point is reality.

Anyone that has spent a night in the Israeli or Arizonan desert knows exactly the beauty that can come from simply being alone in the desert. From realizing that as alone as you are, you are connected to the truest thing in the world.

Reality exists in the desert. In the sand. In the dirt.

When we walk out bravely, ignoring that ache in our heart for the lights, for the sounds, for the smells, into the desert, we are truly experiencing life.

And when we are out there, when we are truly putting ourselves into the dirt, into the muck, and trying to find out why the hell we are out there, that's when the puzzle really starts to come together. That's when we start to realize that a beautiful, incredible, infinite carnival exists in every single grain of sand in that desert. That it may take years to access even one of those grains, but it will be so worth it.

And in the end, that's what this whole glorious adventure of life is all about. Reaching past the illusion, past even the grain of sand, and straight to our very souls. Straight to true reality. Straight to G‑d.

Elad Nehorai is an alumnus of Arizona State University and Mayanot yeshiva. You can find Elad wandering around America, gallivanting around Israel, or getting lost in the clouds. His favorite things to do include reading, writing and conversing with G-d.
People travel around the world searching for it. They starve themselves for it. They scream, they cry and they beg for it.

“It” is that little thing called meaning. Truth.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could just bang two rocks together and find It? What if we could save money on airplane tickets and seminars and find that meaning in our own lives?

Join me on my journey through the infinite without even resorting to a midlife crisis.
Elad Nehorai is an alumnus of Arizona State University and Mayanot yeshiva. You can find Elad wandering around America, gallivanting around Israel, or getting lost in the clouds. His favorite things to do include reading, writing and conversing with G-d.