Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Meaning of Liife

Wisdom Of Kahana: The Meaning of Life

Often I am asked about the seeming unfairness of life, the incongruities that exist where evil is often rewarded and the pursuit of goodness tends to lead to nothing but unbearable suffering and being hurt constantly. And this imbalance often is turned into a question about whether God even pays attention to our prayers and if he is truly omnipotent. After all, how could He not believe in those that believe in Him? It is not a Karaite issue, or a Rabbanite issue, or that of any other religion; it is one about the relationship between God and man. The answer is inextricably entwined into understanding the purpose and nature of life. Not life as in being animate, existing, and breathing, but life as in, ‘why we are here at all.’ So often man has quested for the meaning of life, never thinking that perhaps we already have that answer. If we were to take the time to meditate upon our existence, to actually assess the powers we have in our possession, then all would become crystal clear. We would realize that we have the ability to fulfil our needs and satisfy our desires. But too often we want more than we need and desire that which we don’t and then instead of being enlightened by life’s meaning we are instead dissatisfied and curse our very existence. We have knowledge, we have wisdom and we have the ability to change our world, but still we question why we are stuck with the life we had. Why, because we think once we have established what we consider some order in our lives that it should remain in place. But nothing remains forever. Change is the constant. Life is a continuous ebb and flow. Nothing is intended to remain permanent and understanding life is learning how to embrace that change. Accept who we are and what we are. Accept it gladly and without resignation or condemnation. See life not as a hardship or an affliction that must be borne but as a contest that must be won. We must rise to meet that challenge and not let it overwhelm us nor deter us from our goals.

Finding Life's Meaning

Like the gears in a clock, life is a constant movement and the only way we can exert any control is building those gears with central pins welded to an immovable base. A foundation that remains unchanging, that cannot be altered or overruled. That platform must be constructed from the faith we have in God, unalterable, unfailing, and unchanging. And it is from that solid base that we derive our wisdom, our knowledge and develop the skills necessary by which we can face life’s changes. The number of the gears, the size of the gears, number of teeth each gear has and how they are placed are all up to us and completely within our control; no one else’s. If we take our time to place the gears properly like a seasoned watchmaker then ultimately we will construct a timepiece that serves its purpose well. Some of will construct a Rolex, others merely a Casio. But even those that can only construct a Casio, if they study hard, learn from other masters, will eventually build a Rolex too. To do so means asking questions, taking advice, listening to others, and so often that is where we fail. Foolish pride often gets in the way of our ability to listen to others that are trying to help us. And when things go wrong, we will sooner blame others for that failure in our lives than accept our own responsibility.
Life’s adversities will provide us with pains like arrows through the heart, fill our mouths with vinegar like bile, crush our spirit until we feel we are unable to stand. But without such pain we cannot develop, we cannot grow, we cannot mature. Easy words for me to say I know you are thinking, made even more bitter when we see others to whom life appears to be more generous, providing them with far more than they merit or deserve only through the chance of a higher birth, unusual streak of luck, or the gift of treasures unwarranted. It is true, the path is not even, it is not always fair, but it is equally true that the going will not always be rough and there will be good times. We must learn how to make those good times, as fleeting as they might appear to exceedingly overshadow the bad times which plague us. Similarly those that have been raised high must always fear the possibility of being cast down. Our lives are neither short nor long, but the required length in which to achieve an understanding of life. Each one of us is intended to leave our impression upon this Earth so that those that we leave behind will retain a grateful memory of our lives while we were here. It is our choice whether we leave them with sour and foul memories of our existence or with a sense of admiration of how we continually faced adversity and found comfort from within to still be a better person than most would have expected from similar circumstances. And in turn we will pass that quality and understanding to our children so that they too may benefit from what we have learned.
The measure of a wise man is that he will always live his life to the fullest and will be grateful for the life he had. The foolish man is always begrudging what he has and keeps saying that tomorrow he will begin again but every tomorrow is followed by another and another. The coward never begins to live, never accepts the challenge, dying as he lived with nothing achieved. For those whom have only half lived I can say that you are already half dead. Life is to be enjoyed, savoured, relished and celebrated to its fullest. We are only tested by our weaknesses but never by our strengths. Doubts and worry dog us every day of our lives but these pressures force us to seek the wisdom that lies within all of us. Now is the time to live; not tomorrow and never later. Today we make a choice on the meaning of our own life.
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana

Sunday, July 22, 2012

In This Time

In this Time

Where has it all gone, that awe and amazment we once all held,
A time when we could lay back and listen to the quiet of the rustling trees,
Or watch the sun as it reflected across the stillness of the lake,
A time when we ran outside as soon as we saw the graying clouds,
So that we could feel the first drop of rain upon our skin,
A time when we would stare upwards beneath the night skies,
Waiting in anticipation for that eventual shooting star.
When we would greet the morning by taking a deep breath,
As we watched the golden rays of the sun burst above the horizon,
Or hear the waves as they tossed themselves upon the soft sands beneath our feet.
The crackling of the dried branches as we stared deep into the brilliant flames,
Hearing the laughter of young children as they roll like logs down the steep hill.
Feeling the softness of the fallen blossoms between our toes as the fruit ripens,
And the scented headiness of the Spring, filling our lungs with every breath we took.
All these things we once possessed and we cherished them above all else,
Only to give them away for pursuits that bring us far less as we lay claim to the envy of others.
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Deliverance: Part One of the Flavius Josephus Journal

Part One of the Trilogy
With the arrival of 2012, the release of my latest book is about to take place. In fact it's early release is on the publisher's website at but the book is also available from Amazon Books and Barnes and Noble. Most people are aware of the history of the Roman Jewish War that ended fatally on the mountain top Masada after seven years of fighting. But history isn't about recorded events as they transpired. Real history is about the people that initiated those events, establiishing the patterns in which they unfolded. It is about the mechanisms behind the world stage, behind the closed and sealed doors, the raw emotions that led to both good and bad decisions. Amongst Jewish teachings, the reputation of Joseph ben Matthias, commonly referred to as Flavius Josephus is one of traitor, liar, and deceiver. Jewish analysts have blamed him for not only the loss of the war but for the end of Jewish civilization as it existed 2000 years ago. Harsh accusations to lay at the feet of a single person, and illogical if one actually studies the history and recognizes that the bitter squabbles, infighting, and selfish motivations of those pursuing control of the Jewish forces were actually to blame. But the rabbis had another motive for casting the blame on Josephus, a far more personal motivation. After all, he was born of a priestly family, his Sadducee inheritance was enough to condemn him in their eyes even though he professed to have Pharisee sympathies. But it was not the Sadducees that caused the downfall of Jewish civilzation. Throughout the war they stood as the peacemakers, desperately trying to find a peaceful solution between East and West. In reality, the people were inflamed by the Pharisees, the early progenitros of the rabbis, to resist any truce, leading them to falsely believe that God would intercede and provide the people with victory. And after these rabble rousing rabbis ultimately drew the blades across the exposed throat of the Jewish nation, they were the first to run from the battle, concerned with only saving their own lives, as evidenced by their illustrious sage, Yohanan ben Zakkai, concealing himself in a coffin to escape the doomed city of Jerusalem, leaving behind the victims of his rebellious incitements to face the final assault by Titus. As he and his students, specifically chosen to be the bearers of his coffin fled from the face of danger and thereby pass through the lines of the Roman army, a city burned and tens of thousands died.
Meanwhile, Josephus desperately tried to use his influence with Titus's father, Emperor Vespasian, to stay the hand of the young general from utterly destroying his people. Without concern for his own safety, he managed to secure the safety of several thousand. Two of those people that he rescued were Martha bat Elioneai, the widow of Jeshua ben Gamaliel and her son Joseph. My ancestors, who then headed east into Parthia where my family established itself for a further eight centuries. One might say I have a debt of gratitude to Flavius Josephus, for whom my family would not have survived and I would not have been born. It was he that insured my family survived, not Yohanan ben Zakkai and his band of cowardly rabbis.
But what kind of man would plead for the lives of thousands of Jews, risking his own safety, fully exposed to the arrows and stones shot down from the parapets and towers of Jerusalem by its Jewish defenders? What kind of man could transition from the greatest tactical general of the Jewish armies to the attempted peacemaker walking between two nations but accepted by neither. Who was this man that four years prior to the start of the war was sent on a secret mission by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem into the heart of the Roman Empire? How did a young man move freely through the palaces of Rome, dine at Nero's table, watch the burning of Rome in August of 64 AD, only to lead an army that became the greatest threat to the survival of an Empire? Deliverance provides a view into those secretive years which ultimately changed the world.

The Prologue

I have attached the prologue to my book. I hope it will wet your appetites and give you a taste of things to come:
There is a stench to all that is Roman. A decaying, gnawing foul odour that eats at your innards until your belly is swollen with gall. For all that is Roman is not to be considered enlightened, or precious, or inspiring, or deserving to be praised and cherished. Instead it is a festering sore, which rots from the center outwards until there is no flesh left to feed upon. If ever there was a crime against humanity, it is their crime of ignorance, their inability to understand neither the world they rule nor the people they have conquered.
Its legions come offering gifts of civilization and Prometheus’ fire but they choose to never comprehend how those they have come to embrace find no solace or comfort in their offerings. This has truly been the sin of Rome’s emperors and senators from their time of conception. Though desired, they can never understand that which they have lusted can never be fulfilled because one man’s passion is another’s hatred. This is Rome’s true gift to the world, hate; a fiery, all consuming, unimaginable hatred that is destined to leave millions dead in its wake.
Remember well the day that wind from the west came to the far eastern shores of our great sea, not as an army to pillage but as a friend, specifically asked to give aid to a battered priest. Our priest-king Hyrcanus, embattled in a war against his own brother in a never ending struggle to wrestle the kingdom and the throne. And remember it well that when the dust had finally settled, there was no longer a kingdom, but a province, ruled not by either of the two brothers, but by a vassal that danced a merry jig to the songs sung by generals and imperators of the most powerful empire that ever ruled. And recall that when these vassals proved weak and inefficient, they were replaced by men of the equestrian order, knights of Rome, that were sent to this far corner of the world so that they could reward themselves with treasures, rape our women and desecrate our most holy of places. Remember them well, for they have reduced us to this pitiful state where we are beggars in our own land.
And none have shown us favor since the first of the procurators was gifted by Tiberius to herald our doom. Neither Caligula, nor Claudius, nor Nero that has followed saw it any differently. We are to be made to suffer by the hands of this breed of men that they have sent to rule over us as their procurators. Cruel and spiteful, bitter as this land of rock and hot sand that they have been rewarded with as their prize for all the years they have served dutifully. This bitterness has turned their hearts black and these men of the aristocracy, these nobles of ancient families have turned their venom against the very people they rule. They line our roads with crosses from one horizon to the other with the corpses of our people hanging until the flesh is eaten by the birds that dot the sky overhead.
Where are our leaders to raise their voices against such atrocities? Our messiahs to bring a strong right arm against such brutality. Too many have fallen beneath the mighty hand that these procurators wield, and too many have been clamped in chains and sent to Rome, to stand before the Emperor to answer for crimes they have committed against this evil and corrupt Empire.
Now is such a time. Now is the time for us to fight for all that we believe in. This is where our war begins. We are at the junction when all that lives under oppression will rise in a single voice to shout that we will not suffer any longer. We will not remain helpless victims of a foreign occupation. It is time for all men to finally look deep within themselves and find that inner strength that long ago separated us from the beasts of the field. There is but one word that whispers over and over in our heads until we cannot hold it inside any longer and have to shout it out loudly for the entire world to hear. We cry out for freedom, and when enough of the people shout that word together in unison, then we will become a force that will settle for nothing less than achieving that dream. There are those of you that say we are not ready. The time has not yet come. The Lord God has not sent us a sign. I say to thee, nay! He has sent us a thousand signs; a thousand upon thousands but we have been blinded by our own ignorance. And even if the Almighty has been deaf to our plight, when he hears the shouts of our voices for freedom, he will be deaf no longer! Let the Empire of Rome tremble in our wake. Let all who bring death and destruction to the seed of Abraham know that in so doing they curse themselves. We are the children of Israel, and we have no master to lord above us but God. And with a mighty hand He will crush our enemies. Hear me my brothers. The breath and spirit of the Lord shall lead you!
Jonathan Cayapha

Thursday, July 12, 2012

From Sorrow Comes Great Joy

From Sorrow Comes Great Joy

The Balance

It is up to us to seek that balance, to find that release of the waters from the well of misery because the longer we allow it to remain the more foul it becomes until it seeps into the groundwater and pollutes everything else it comes in contact with. It is no different from opened bottle of wine we rarely pour, only to let it sit well beyond its time, until it ferments to nothing more than the bitterness of vinegar. What remains is a foul and disgusting brew that is so sour in the mouth that it is no longer recognizable as the ambrosia that once graced our palate. Nor is the sweet syrup from the cane, the hive or the maple tree anything more than the theft of those living organisms labour and life blood that we have seized the moment of our joy from their sorrow. The balance of joy and sorrow has existed from the dawn of time and it is the purpose of each and every creature to seek the harmony of that co-existence. More so in our case because mankind has forgotten along the way what true happiness is and why it should be cherished and preserved.
At the time you experience a moment of great joy, then seize that opportunity to stare into the darkness of the well and find a corresponding sorrow that can be lifted in the hanging bucket and then poured out upon the land never to sully the waters again. Look deep into your heart and you will certainly uncover a grievous sorrow that for so long has prevented you from experiencing great joy. Release that offense that life has made you endure and the tears will certainly flow and you will understand that you are weeping more so from the delight of casting that burden from your soul once and for all.

Until Then

Until we have suffered greatly we cannot appreciate the tremendous joys that this life affords us. Until we have carried an insurmountable burden we have no knowledge of what it feels like to have a great weight lifted from our shoulders. Until we have suffered from a broken heart we do not understand how finding eternal love differs from all we had experienced before. Until we have suffered and experienced an unrecoverable loss we cannot appreciate how much joy and happiness we had while what we lost was still with us. Until we hold the broken pieces of a cherished dream within our hands we cannot find the elation of reconstructing it piece by piece until we have restored the treasure to our satisfaction. Until we have stared death in the face we cannot appreciate how magnificent the gift of life is and how we must never take it for granted. Until we have shivered in the dread of an everlasting winter we cannot find the absolute delight of basking in the glorious rays of a summer’s day.
Until we have been downtrodden and cast from the bosom of YHWH, we cannot experience the joy of our return to His grace and His loving kindness. This is the lesson and gift God has presented to us throughout our three thousand years of Jewish history, letting us know that only through the despair of being His suffering servants can we actually find the purpose and joy in life. As incongruous as these tears of happiness may seem, to all of you that ask why we must suffer so if we are truly His children then I answer that it is all part of the balance that must be experienced if we are to appreciate all that the Lord has given to this world. And until we can empty the well completely by counteracting every drop of sorrow contained within that pit existing within all of us with both enlightenment and understanding of the joys that are manifested in equilibrium, then we will never attain that point of eternal happiness that we seek. Each of us stands at the edge of the well, bucket in hand. The choice either to stare into its depths and sigh, “this is impossible,” or to roll up our sleeves and shout, “I can do this,” is entirely left to us.
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kaha