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Thursday, April 22, 2004 - Editor: Jerry
When your mind is free, not concerned, or
worried, or focused on anything in particular,
and your heart is not grasping or clinging to
anything, then you are free. The most
characteristic quality is that there is no
fixation on anything; you're not focused on any
issue or experience. Whatever is there, is there.
So there is a freedom of mind. The mind is not
saying, "I want this," or "I want to look at
this," or "It has to be this way." The mind is
loose. The expression "hang loose" tells us what
it means to be liberated. ~A.H. Almaas
This reminds me of a true story...
For twenty-four hours the orthodox had fasted and
prayed. The Rabbi led the long and strenuous
service with the dignity and strength he had
shown in years preceding. Throughout the
traditional service in Hebrew, he would pause to
tell a human story which would reflect the
meaning of Yom Kippur. In this way he brought to
the service a fresher meaning, revelation and
Toward the end of the service and the end of Yom
Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a young man my age
came nervously down the aisle of the synagogue
and squeezed his way to a seat next to me. I knew
Franklin Kaplan from high school. "Am I too
late?" he asked urgently, wiping sweat off this
brow and face with a white handkerchief. He
wanted to know if he was too late to somehow
receive forgiveness for a year of sinning. "No,
you're okay, the service isn't over," I
whispered, as if I knew that he was really okay.
Man, what a disturbance this guy is, I thought to
myself. After a few minutes he calmed down enough
to where I could say it was as if he wasn't
The end of the service was welcomed by the weary
devout members of the congregation. The Rabbi
delivered his final discourse. It shined with
philosophical brilliance, glowed with warmth, and
possessed the chill of truth.
I was still not 21 years of age and heard this
discourse and all the others and now sensed G-d
in my heart and in the synagogue. I could not
separate heart, G-d and synagogue.
The sacred day officially over, we congregation
members turned to each other and shook hands in
solemn cheer, easing our ways into the aisles,
still shaking hands, all of us slowly making our
ways to the rear of the synagogue.
There was a long table covered with a white
cloth. It was one of those rickety tables with
legs that unfold and which could be easily stored
and set-up. A hundred of us tried to get close to
the table while waiting for the Rabbi. He came
forth, wearing a slight and tired smile, shaking
the hands of many.
The Rabbi took a position at the center of the
table, his back perhaps three feet from the wall.
All eyes were on the Rabbi, and these were eyes
respectful of a man of known wisdom, compassion,
brilliance and humanity.
In fact, the devout were jostling and shoving to
get a place close to the table and the Rabbi. The
light and unsubstantial table got pushed closer
to the Rabbi and he had to step back a little.
The Rabbi, seeing this push toward him and toward
an empty white table soon to be filled with food
(remember, everyone had been fasting), was
visibly not pleased. He didn't say anything.
I let people push ahead of me, but got pushed
myself closer to the coming food and the Rabbi.
It soon became clear to me that the men wanted
the food more than the atmosphere and aura of the
Soon the commotion reached a new level of
excitement as the congregation made way -- as
they did for the Rabbi -- for ladies carrying
large silver trays high above their heads. On the
trays were bite-size squares of golden sponge
cake and dark brown honey cake. Other trays held
small paper cups filled with sweet red wine. The
ladies filled the long table end to end with
silver trays of food and drink.
When the ladies were out of sight, the Rabbi --
now only a foot from the wall behind him -- took
a piece of honey cake and a cup of red wine. He
held both, one in each hand, at heart's level.
The Rabbi was about to utter a prayer and words
of wisdom prior to everyone indulging in the
goodness of the food and drink.
That's when Franklin Kaplan reached for a piece
of sponge cake.
Not a second later the table was swarming with
hands. In less than a minute the trays were
barren, the table cloth splotched purple. But the
men in back were pushing forward to get their
share. Soon the pushing became mindless. The
horde was moving the table toward the Rabbi and
the Rabbi closer to the wall behind him. The
ladies couldn't pass through the crowd to bring
more trays filled with more food and wine. In
fact there was enough cake and wine for twice the
crowd ... in the kitchen!
Soon the long table was squeezing the beloved
Rabbi against the wall. The Rabbi observed all
this in silence.
When the table edge pressed painfully into his
thigh and he heard other men grunt and felt panic
ensue, the Rabbi yelled, so loudly, I tell you,
that I'm sure even on the street it could be
heard: "HANG LOOSE!"
At once the elbowing and the pushing and the
shoving and the reaching and the knocking
stopped. At once the voice of the crowed went
from aggravation and desperation to a low even
murmur. The table was pulled back. The ladies
were let through. The most pushy pushers were
seen smiling, nodding, straightening their hats,
shaking hands. Cake and wine was passed to the
rear. Soon everyone had at least two pieces of
cake and two small cups of wine and there was
plenty left on the table.
The Rabbi made his prayer and speech. As the
decades have passed, I have forgotten the
discourses and stories of the Rabbi. But over and
over again, in times of distress and difficulty,
of pressure and pushing and the hunger for
something or other, I've thought of the Rabbi's
great wisdom and call. Why stress? Just hang
loose. There's enough for everybody. Enough what?
Wine, sweetness and God.
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