by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths
A hippie marriage ceremony in the 1960s; binding the couple with a scarf.
A young man, around 20 years old, came for Shabbos dinner. He told me his family history and I said, “That is so beautiful.”
He said, “You are the only one who ever said that. All of the rabbis I’ve told it to found it pathetic, or even disgusting.”
You decide: His father was (or is) an American, Jewish, Rastafarin. The actual Rastas started out in Jamaica in the 1930s. They were worshipers of an Emperor of Ethiopia, saying that he was a yushka incarnate. But the American Rastas were mostly followers of the popular 1960s musician, Bob Marley.
The main distinguishing characteristics of the movement were (are) its love of reggae music, and cannabis (marijuana). For most, it wasn’t a religion, but a way of life, rejecting society (except for food stamps, and such) getting stoned, and singing freedom songs.
His mother is a Yemenite Jew. His grandmother was born in Mea Shearim. Mea Sharim is the ultra, ultra ‘charedi religious neighborhood of Jerusalem. As a youth, his mother ran away from the restrictive lifestyle, dropped all religion, fled to America, and became a Deadhead. Deadheads were (are) followers of the Grateful Dead (a famous 1960s rock group.) Deadheads would follow the band from concert to concert for years.
As things happen…, Rasta boy meets Deadhead girl, they fall in love and move to Bolinas, California. Bolinas is a small unincorporated coastal community in Marin County, California, 30 miles north of San Francisco. It has a reputation for being an extremely reclusive artist colony. There are no signs on the highway that point to Bolinas because the residents tear them down. There are less than 700 households in the entire community. What it was back in my day when I lived in Marin, 45 years ago, and seems to have maintained its flavor, was a place where ex or not so ex hippies would land trying to get off the street out of the city and still avoid society.
As things go their way, Rasta man and Deadhead lady have a baby boy who was born in Bolinas. Now comes the beautiful part. The boy grows up, and of all of the crazy things in the world… this outrageous boy decides to become a baal teshuva! Do you know what this means? He becomes a religious Jew, and ends up in a yeshiva in Jerusalem. Totally nuts! I love it!
Look at the nature of our people. By all rights this boy should have become a dope smoking, part time silversmith, fashioning handmade earrings for men, and fancy roach-clips[i] for women. But no…he wants to learn Torah.
This love of Torah is inside every Jew, even those who run away from it. An angel teaches the Jewish soul the entire Torah while the embryo is still in the womb. Then, just before the baby is born, the angel taps it on its lip and the baby forgets almost all that it was taught. So, if the baby forgets it, what was the value of teaching it to him or her in the first place? Because that Torah is still buried within each of us, and whenever we want, it is there ready to surface. But we have to want it. This fulfills the principle of freewill, yet allows us the great hidden desire for G-d.
So, why didn’t the rabbis he told his story to see the beauty in it? Those rabbis have been religious all of their lives. Jews who have been religious all of their lives really believe, with all their heart that the resurrection of the dead is going to come. They really believe this. A baal teshuva like me sees that it has already happened.[ii]
[i] Drug paraphernalia
[ii] Obviously, the actual Resurrection of the Dead will come later, but for the baal teshuva, it seems that his life has started again.