The Jazz Rabbi, Part 1

25. Oct. 2018

The Jazz Rabbi, Part 1 -- Alex Nuttall 20181025
The Jazz Rabbi, Part 1 -- Alex Nuttall 20181025

The Dream

I went to sleep that night hungry. I lived in an apartment in Ghent, Norfolk, Virginia. It was sometime in the late 1990s. The year was 1998. I couldn't keep a job. I was depressed. I prayed all the time.

I have prayed as many times and as many ways as there are humans on this earth. When I went to sleep that night I had yet to pray like a Jew. You see, I've been a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim and a Buddhist but not yet a Jew. 

I had a dream. In the dream I was in a gymnasium. It was large. There were thousands of people in the gym. In the center I saw a red haired and red bearded fellow whom I thought was a viking. He was a powerful man. He also played the drums. He was amazing.

I walked up to the man as he played. He was drumming like crazy. He was all over the drum set. Beating, beating, beating on those skins. Ba-tap! Ba-bomp! Ba-ting! Ba-too! He showed no mercy on those drums and our ears. The ears of myself and the audience begged him for more. Ba-tap! Ba-bomp! Ba-ting! Ba-too! 

I walked closer and closer as he continued to play. I could not see has face. I was behind him. He kept on playing until I was about 5 feet from him. He turned around and we made eye contact. He stopped playing. It was silent. He said, "Shalom."

End of dream. I woke up in a sweat. It was about just about dusk. It was a cool November morning. The radiator creaked and ping-dinged as it did its job. The windows were open. An empty bottle of cheap whisky was on the floor beside my bed. I had to do something.

I got up on my knees and I prayed to God.

"Dear God," I began, "Thank you for the dream that I received..." 

I don't know what else I prayed exactly but I am sure that that is how I started. As a young person I watched many televangelists on TV. I went to church and Sunday School with joy! I was good at praying. I was a pro! But I hadn't prayed in a while. I was due for some good praying. I needed me some religion. So I thanked God for the dream and promised I would go find a temple and start praying some more. It was a sign.

I took a shower and got on some nice clothes. I wanted to be presentable.  I began my journey.

The Journey

It was about 8 o'clock in the morning when I left my apartment and went for a walk. I was bundled up for the brisk chill. I was showered. I had shat. I had shaved. 

I was a Ghentile in Ghent. Besides the many fine churches in Ghent. Ghent has three Jewish temples within walking distance of each other. One is a Reform Temple, another is a Conservative Temple and finally there is an Orthodox Temple.  I needed to meet with a Rabbi and tell him about my dream.

The first place I went to was a Reform temple. It was a beautiful, massive structure. My church growing up was called Temple Baptist. This temple looked exactly like my old church except it was a synagogue . 

I walked into the temple and a secretary was there. I said to her, "Is the Rabbi in?" She explained to me that he was not and that I could set up an appointment. I told her that I would be back later and thanked her for speaking with me.

 I did not want to set up an appointment. I didn't tell her that I was on fire inside. I smiled and left.

The second synagogue I went to was a Conservative Temple. It was very fancy and nice as well. It looked more like a temple and less like a church. I tried to open the door but it was locked. I had to be buzzed in so I rang the bell. I voice came from another side out of a tiny speaker. 

"Hello," she said.

"Hi," I countered. "My name is Alex Nuttall. I would like to speak with the Rabbi."

"He's not available." End of discussion.

There must have been a camera too. I didn't see her, but she saw me. I was not attractive. I left.

I knew there was one more place I could check. It was an Orthodox Temple. The place was not as fancy as the other two. Outside it looked like a simple country church sans the cross. It was a white building. Paint was peeling. It needed some love.

I went for the front door and it was unlocked. I opened it. Inside it was warm. It was well lit. There was a desk and a secretary sat there. She greeted me warmly. 

"Hello, my name is Alex. I would like to speak with the Rabbi."

She smiled. "Sure, hold on. Let me see if he's available."

She walked away and I stood and waited. Everything in this temple looked familiar and also strange. I had grown up playing and swimming at the JCC (Jewish Community Center) in Newport News, Virginia. Many of my friends had been Jewish. I even knew Hanukkah songs because our elementary school had Christmas and Hanukkah programs together. I was very comfortable with Jewish people and their faith. I had yet, to actually go to a temple. I had no idea what the differences were in Jewish practice and faith. 

The secretary returned. She said, "The Rabbi will see you now. Please follow me."

 She led me to his office. I walked into a scholarly office. To the side of a beautiful wooden desk was a man about my height. He extended his hand and I shook it. He has red haired and red bearded gentleman just like my drum playing viking. He introduced himself and I did the same. He asked me to be seated.

"What can I do for you?" he asked.

"I know this is really strange and I apologize for bothering you. I would like to share with you a dream that I had." 

He patiently listened. He nodded his head. He smiled.

When I was finished his eyes were very friendly. He continued to smile. He said, "I used to be in a Jazz band. I played the drums. As a matter of fact, my drum set is set up here at the temple in the other room."

My spine tingled the same way it did when I first heard Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze".
The Jazz Rabbi -- © Alex Nuttall / OgFOMK ArTS 20181025
The Jazz Rabbi -- © Alex Nuttall / OgFOMK ArTS 20181025

Praying on

My conversation with the Rabbi was warm with caution. The Rabbi made it very clear that he was not about converting Gentiles to Jews. "We are not in the business of proselytizing!" He would say. He even took the time to educate me on a group of Gentiles who practiced kosher and were not Jews. I listened. By this time I grew to like him even more. He was human. He was not a salesman. He also was the guy I saw in my dream.

After our meeting I made up my mind to go to the next Sabbath Service. It was a couple days away. In the mean time I wanted to go to the library and researched all I could about Judaism. I also wanted to sell my plasma so that I could eat. I was still hungry.

I had about 3 dollars in change. I walked to Hardee's and bought two butter biscuits.  I sat down inside and contemplated everything. My dream, the meeting, discouragement and my resolution to become a Jew. I was praying inside at every moment when I was not planning what to do next.

After I sold my plasma I went to the Larchmont Library.  I drove my blue Ford Fiesta there. I now had twenty dollars. I was going to make it.

"The Jazz Rabbi, Part 1" is about how Alex Nuttall went through a brief Judaic phase. It all started with a crazy dream about a drumming Viking who said, "Shalom". Some of the details in this story have been changed to protect and respect the privacy of others.

#OgFOMK #AlexNuttall #Faith #JazzRabbi #Judaism #Pray #Shalom

© Alex Nuttall / OgFOMK ArTS -- 2018 All Rights Reserved. - Writing - Journal - "The Jazz Rabbi, Part 1"

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