To Light A Spark

Become a Clockmaker

May 31, 2009

Clocks. We all use them. We all need them. They are a part of our daily life. Anyone above first grade knows how to read one.

But how many of us know how they work? And if we actually figured that out, how many of us could build a clock on our own?

Our world is one big clock. It is something that, for our purposes, is useful. It does what we need it to do, on a physical level. We can all understand it, when we examine the surface. But most of us, when confronted with the task of looking deeper, end up coming up short.

This is not really our fault. If we spent all our life trying to figure out how everything in the world worked, we would never have time to live.

But the world is different from a clock. The world requires us to look deeper. We must figure out how it ticks. All of us.

Why is this? Why can't we just let the world be, and let it tick away as we go about our lives?

Imagine there is only one clock in the world. To find the time, we all need to travel miles and miles to check what time of the day it is. No one in the world knows how to build a clock. No one can create a clock for themselves or for others.

This clock would seem pretty pointless, no?

And indeed it would be. It would be useless. The clock would rule our lives, and we would have no ability to order our lives without living very close to it. Only a privileged few would have access to it.

The world is not designed in such a way. It is designed to allow us to dissect it, to examine it from the outside in and from the inside out. This way, we can build our own worlds. We can create, just as the Clockmaker did, a world around us that has the power of the Ultimate Clock. The World of Truth.

Unfortunately, however, most people in this world think that the Ultimate Clock is only the hands. The clock face. The numbers. They mistake the external for the internal.

What they don't realize is that the gears that make the clock work are just as real as the hands and the numbers. What they don't realize is that calculating when the clock will strike twelve is not the same as having the ability to build a clock of their own.

We live in a world where our professors tell us that knowing how the brain works means that we understand what it means to be human. Where the media tells us that if we know how many people died in a war that we will know which side is evil. Where morality is not examined deeply, but handed down to us by whatever culture we happen to find ourselves in.

Our Clockmaker never intended us to look at the world in such a way. When we do this, we are simply looking at the face of the clock and not dissecting it.

To reveal the beauty of the Ultimate Clock, we must dig deep. We must see beyond the brain, beyond the media, and even beyond morals. We must reach out and touch the infinite. We must become our own clockmakers.

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.

I am a Metaphor

May 24, 2009

"Push it! Come on, you can do it. Every time you push when you don't want to you are strengthening yourself."

Sweat is pouring from my head onto the ground. I grit my teeth and push. Adrenalin is running through me. I groan loudly, practically screaming.

"Push! Push!"

I fall to the ground, panting. I wish I could push harder, but my muscles are screaming. Crying. I am done.

"Great job, man. I'm really happy with how much you're pushing yourself."

My new roommate is kind of a fitness and health buff. He learned this workout with Diamond Dallas Page. It's hardcore. But I love it.

And now, as I sit here, my muscles already feeling the benefit of just a few workouts, I can't help but look back on something he said: "Every time you push when you don't want to you are strengthening yourself." My muscles hated me during the workout, but they love me now.

And now this maxim is hitting me. I'm starting to realize how much it applies to life. How I can harness it to grow not just my muscles, but also my soul. And my relationship with G‑d.

Sometimes I would rather get a root canal than pray. Sometimes, studying Talmud just seems silly. Sometimes, I want to go get drunk and high and forget I have any responsibilities in life.

But every single time I've ever resisted these urges, every time I push myself beyond what I thought was possible, my soul is further revealed. My heart is opened to the unity of the world. And I climb just a bit higher on that stairway to heaven.

We are all holding each other and dancing in circles, singing on the top of our lungs. Right now, the groom is on someone's shoulders and he is holding hands with his father, who is on another person's shoulders. The music blasts against our ears. But we don't care. We are in a state of absolute euphoria. One of our close friends, one of our fellow students has found his soul mate. He's joined her for life. It's so beautiful, we just want to dance for hours.

And that's what we do.

A week ago, I was covering the war in Gaza. I took a bus to a city that was being pelted with rockets. I looked on as a family mourned a soldier that had died.

And now here I am dancing, so happy, so joyous. It all seems so surreal. What kind of world is this?

Again, something hits me, like I've been smacked upside the head. I look back on how I felt while the war was going on. How hard it felt. How it seemed as if my heart was breaking every time I went on Facebook because I would see all my friends from back home attacking Israel for its actions. But most of all I remember feeling empty. I remember just wanting the war to end, no matter what the consequences, because going to funerals and visiting injured soldiers no longer seemed worth it.

Then this wedding came along. And I realized why were fighting. I realized how important it was to fight through to the end so that my friend could live a life of peace. A life without the constant fear of enemies surrounding him.

And then I see a glimmer of something deeper. Again, I realize how I can harness this lesson. There are times in our lives that seem like total war. Pain can descend from nowhere. People that we once trusted betray us. Why? Illnesses and injuries come from nowhere and knock us to our feet. Why? Parents, friends, family die. Why? It hurts so much.

But then we go to weddings. And somehow, it all seems to make sense. Maybe we can't put it into words. Maybe we don't totally understand it. But, as we work through the pain, as we fight the battles we need to fight, we often end up reaching sparks of light that are as unexpected as the forces of darkness.

And I suppose that's something I learned at the wedding. We can let our own personal wars turn our hearts to stone. We can cut ourselves off from the world, not allowing our souls to breath. Or we can remember why we are here. Remember the beauty of the world, and how that is the ultimate goal. That is what matters, and all the pain, that's just temporary, just there to raise us higher if we let it. If we stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel, we can trudge through the mud to get to the other side.

Ever since I was young, I found the world fascinating. Why were things the way they were? Why did we have to have five fingers? Why did colors exist? Why did anything exist at all?

I loved science. I still do. Understanding the way the world works always seems to blow my mind. I especially love theoretical physics. Black holes! String theory! Etc.!

But even science couldn't satisfy my curiosity. It seemed that it only answered my "Why" questions with "How" questions. Why do we have five fingers? Oh, because that's what has helped humans survive the best. Okay... but... why is that?

It was like an episode of Lost. With each answer, there would be an infinite amount of new questions. Would I ever actually get a real answer?

And then my mind opened to spirituality. It started off with a class on Taoism in college. It blew my mind. The way it described the world. The way it showed the reasons behind the reasons excited me so much. It awakened within me a realization that it was possible to find truth.

But still, as aware as I was of the truth being "out there," Taoism never seemed to answer anything. It just opened me to the idea. It was excruciating, and I spent years searching and searching for something that made sense.

And then I walked into a Chabad House. And everything changed. Suddenly, there were answers! Answers that made sense. There weren't teachers avoiding my questions, preachers yelling fake ones at me, or students talking nonsense. Here was the truth. Truth I connected with.

Even when I first touched Judaism, something still seemed missing. I guess the question was still: What is all this? Or, more appropriately, why is all this?

He stands in front of the class, shaking, gesticulating, his arms flying. We all love him.

We are in a class in the Old City. He is teaching us the secrets to the universe. The truth behind music. How to break free from kelipah. What Moshiach is.

And then comes the moment I'll never forget. Fire in his eyes, he says, "The Torah talks about G‑d having hands. Feet. A mouth. Ridiculous! G‑d is without form. He is beyond form. How do we explain this?

"One explanation is that the Torah is using metaphors. We can understand G‑d better when we identify with him. If we anthropomorphize him.

"But the Torah is truth. It can't lie to us! Every word is real.

"So what is the Answer?"

We hold onto our chairs. No one is making a sound.

"The answer is that G‑d does have arms. He does have a mouth. And a hand. He possesses all that we possess and infinitely more. The Answer is that the only Real Thing in this world is G‑d. The Answer—

"...Is that we are the metaphors."

I am a metaphor. All the experiences I've gone through, from every time I've exercised, to the wedding, to my class in the Old City have all been metaphors. They are channels to Truth.

When we learn to access these channels, we are bringing G‑d into our world. We are revealing the infinite.

It is so easy for us to go through our daily lives and simply get used to everything. We begin to think that the how is the why. We think that metaphor is reality and reality metaphor.

But when we access the channels of metaphor and reach Truth and see our experiences for more than what they are, we can break open the shell that covers reality and reveal the G‑dliness within.

Now, instead of exercising, we are touching G‑d. Instead of being consumed with pain we can use it to reach higher. Instead of studying science we can use science to reach reality.

And with each time this infinite reality is revealed, we come closer to making our entire world infinite and truly peeling the shell away so that we will never need it again.

May it happen today.

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.

Break Through the Screen

May 17, 2009

Look around you. How many screens are in this room alone? Your computer, your cell phone. Anything else? How many in your house?

We are living in the world of the screen. A world where reality is filtered, fiddled with, and finally repackaged as a product all its own.

Screens are even starting to appear within screens. We can now watch television in our computers. We can look at photos on our phones. With each development, with each move forward, we are getting more and more distant from our own reality.

And so it is in the spiritual world.

Reach out. Touch. What you feel... is it real? What you touch... are you truly feeling it? Reach inwards. Touch yourself. Do you feel yourself? All your dreams, aspirations and emotions? Or do you just feel this fleshy thing with bones inside?

We are seeing the world through a screen. A screen behind many other screens. Some of the screens are the way people tell us to look at the world. Some screens are our addictions. What it all comes down to, though, is that we live in a physical world, a world where the spiritual is not obvious. We must dig our way towards reality.

Have you ever watched a movie you were so engrossed in that the movie theater around you seemed to disappear? Have you ever listened to a song and stopped paying attention to the lyrics and the individual instruments because what you were listening to was so perfect? This feeling of semi-spiritual euphoria is something we can spread out to the rest of our lives if we simply realize how to break through.

The important thing to realize is that those screens are just constructs of our imagination. And just as they were created out of nothing, so can we crush them with each moment that we live. All we need to do is reach within, into our essence, and the screens will begin to dissolve.

I hope that you and I can brave this journey together. That we'll break through all the screens that hold us back from seeing the beauty of the world in its true magnificence. Until we can see G‑d's infinity revealed in every detail and every moment of our existence.

I'm excited... aren't you?

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.

Let the Chips Fall Where They May

May 10, 2009 1:00 PM

It never failed to excite me. Every time I would walk in, my heart would beat faster and my fingers would shake a little. The hair on the back of my neck would rise.

The sounds of chips hitting the table and being passed around filled the room. You could not turn anywhere without seeing a huge LCD television that inevitably showed whatever sports was playing at the time. People would scream in excitement or let out groans of despair.

A casino is a carnival of human emotion. A palace of dreams made and shattered. And I was there. I was about to join in. Just walking in was an intense experience. I had to join in.

Almost always, the poker room was so busy that you had to sign up on a list if you wanted to sit down. I would go up to the huge list of names and ask them to put down my initials. EN. The list was huge, and I would usually have to wait fifteen minutes to half an hour for a seat. But I didn't mind. Waiting just built the tension.

Suddenly, I would hear it. "EN" would be called out so the whole casino could hear it. It was my turn.

I sat down at my table. I immediately laid down my money. When I first started playing, I would put down sixty dollars. As I progressed in my skill and obsession I would come with a thousand or two. No matter the amount, the moment of sitting down at the poker table was always incredibly powerful.

My chips would arrive, and that was when I began observing the people at my table. The people were always my favorite part of playing poker. There were cowboys, playboys, beautiful women, old men who had played here for ages, boys that were there for their first time. They seemed so interesting.

And then the poker would start. I would get into the game. I would bluff, be sincere, sigh, scream and emote just like all the rest. We were locked in an epic battle, one that would never end.

What I didn't realize is just how eternal and epic that battle would become for me. As I became more and more invested in the game of poker, to the point where it became the way I made my living, it started to overtake me. It became me.

Soon, I was playing poker whenever I could. With my friends, at bars, at the casino and online. Poker was my life.

The best poker players are able to distance themselves from the game. They see money as just chips. The way they measure their abilities.

The problem is that this is also how they measure their self worth. When the chips are up, they are elated, motivated and happy. When the chips are down, as it were, they are depressed, unhappy and sullen.

Being an emotional, crazy Jew did not help me in this respect. As I advanced in the poker tables, moving from the lowest "blinds" (minimum bets) to the higher limit tables, I could not separate myself from my abilities.

I remember the first time I made a few thousand. It was incredible. I felt like a king. The other poker players looked at me enviously as I racked up (organized) my chips as I stood up to leave. The dealer congratulated me. I felt like I had vanquished my enemies. I had control.

For the next few months, I was keeping stacks of hundreds in my room.

But poker is not always so pretty. Making a few thousand is nice. Until you lose a thousand in one hand (round). That's exactly what happened to me the more I played high stakes poker. I would make a lot and then lose a lot. This was poker. This was my life.

But I couldn't handle it. The life of a poker player was too much. I remember watching as those hundreds in my room started to dwindle and slowly disappear. I was on permanent tilt (losing control of poker logic because of emotions). And I started to lose more than my money.

Now when I would walk into the poker room, I would dread it. My heart still beat faster. My fingers still shook. The hair on my neck still rose. But now it was out of fear. Would I make enough to live extravagantly or would I lose so much I wouldn't be able to eat for the week? I never knew. And the lack of control ate away at me.

When I would walk into the casino, the people no longer seemed interesting. They seemed obsessed and down-trodden.

As I sat and stared at these people, the cowboys, playboys and all the rest, I realized that their outer appearances meant nothing when it came to poker. Hanging pitifully onto a desire to associate with the maverick ideal of the players they had seen on television. They were all just like me.

And that's when it truly became apparent that I was wasting my time. That all this time spent associating myself with an image and an ideal that had no connection to the real things in life wasn't worth the energy I had been exerting.

Looking back, I've realized that this is the state most of the world finds itself in. Whether in our career, our clothes or anything else, we are trying to fashion ourselves into idols. We have become our own gods.

The world promises us that we can become this ideal. We can reach the point where others will bow down to us and praise us. This is why celebrities are so revered. And this is why poker became so popular. The moment it became televised, people saw a chance for them all to become one of the "greats." When they saw regular people making millions on national television and becoming celebrities in the process, they had to join.

I was one of those people. And nothing makes me happier than to know that, among other things, Judaism has helped me realize that life is not a constant attempt to join an elite of self-worshiping idols, but to reach out and touch the truly infinite.

I no longer have hundreds stacked under my bed. I no longer receive envious looks in a room filled with noise and excitement.

Why give that up? Because it was emotionally draining? Because it was meaningless? Maybe.

But there is something much more. Something much deeper. I no longer have to look to a television to find a god. I no longer have to drive miles to a casino.

Now, I can sit down in an empty room and read a book and feel connected to deep truths. I can listen to a rabbi and discover the secrets to the universe.

And when I leave yeshiva and face the real world, I will be able to open a check book and see G‑d. When life throws me curve balls, I'll be ready with a catcher's mitt. I will understand why I am doing what I am doing. Every moment has a purpose. I can't imagine how any amount of money or fame could compete with that.

G‑d is everywhere. Life is beautiful. And truth is everywhere we look.

We all need money to survive. But opening our hearts to the infiniteness of G‑d is how we truly live.

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.