How An Erotic Dream Led Me To An Understanding Of The Sacred Tongue

Monday afternoon, I catch the new Oliver Stone movie W.

George Bush and his cohorts are portrayed as fools but I find myself enjoying every minute and I feel disappointed when it ends.

I park by Borders in Westwood and after browsing for an hour, I walk over a mile to UCLA’s Royce Hall for the Ilan Stavans lecture.

I’m the first to arrive.

As I’m checked in, I’m told by the girl, "Just to let you know there’s no recording allowed."


Last time I was here was in May 2007 when I recorded the lecture by sociologist Samuel Heilman and put it online.

(I met someone that night. A few good conversations were followed a month later by rejection, humiliation and shame when she Googled me for the first time.)

Some people must not have been happy.

Some people must’ve been waiting a long time to give me that message.

I don’t notice anyone else getting told that recording is not permitted.

Good luck on enforcing this! It’s a new world. You can’t suppress information. It wants to be free!

The title for tonight’s program? "How An Erotic Dream Led Me To An Understanding Of The Sacred Tongue"

Wow, that’s brave. I’ve had a lot of erotic dreams but I’d never have the balls to stand up in public and explicate them as meditations on Torah.

I remember going to bed with this University of Judaism student a couple of hours after meeting her at a Makor Friday night dinner in 1996 and she told me that she liked to talk Torah while having sex.

Oh man, I’m going to get in so much trouble for writing this. I’ll be the first Jew in history booted from the Happy Minyan.

Of course my writing is inappropriate. All good writing is inappropriate.

I guess I’m an out-of-control kid in an old man’s body.

I’m surrounded by the infirm tonight. They swarm the free eats — salad, fruit, and kosher cookies — and devote all of their limited resources to getting them down their crooked gullets.

This is not a group high on social skills. Eating seems to cause enormous effort. The food lodges at the front of their mouths and I sit in excruciating fear for 90 minutes that it’s going to start dribbling down their shirts.

There’s one hot chick, my Yellow Rose of Torah.

I watch this old guy sit next to her and put on the moves, complimenting her on her sparkly personality even though she’s not saying a word.

I guess other parts of her must be sparking for him.

Me, I’ve only ever thought about her as a big disembodied intellect, sorta like Jesus and jellyfish and my mom.

Rose wears these black boots that reach to her knees. Her foot sways back and forth and I’m unable to concentrate on the higher things. Maybe I’ll write a blog post about how an erotic dream led me to miss the substance of Ilan’s talk.

Dr. Arnold Band begins the evening. He says the regular bloke who does the halting introductions, Dr. David Myers, is "back home in Scranton working on the election."

Gee, I wonder who he’s supporting?

Sway, sway, sway.

Dr. Myers never says "Gut Shabbos" to me. I pass him in the streets of Pico-Robertson and I always wish him a good Sabbath and he never responds.

Hurts my feelings.

Sway, sway, sway.

I must not think of Rose in this way. Must dwell instead on my rabbi’s pure love for me.

There, that’s an excitement killer.

There’s one other bloke in the room wearing a kipa. It’s black and says "McCain Palin," just like mine (except mine is a pink lipstick yarmulke).

Sway, sway, sway.

Think about my rabbi and all he’s sacrificed for me. Think about how great it would be to have him as my editor. Think about all the good discussions we’d have in our little one-on-one chats.

Sway, sway, sway.

Think about my dreaded Wednesday morning coffee date. Oy, how I hate it when they come over on Shabbos and ask for my contact info. That always means ejection is just hours away.

Sway, sway, sway.

At least I’ll always have the virtual shul of

My dead mommy. Never got invited to Gavin Brown’s birthday party. Leaving that note in sixth grade on Cindy’s desk and getting the reply, "I don’t feel the same way." Arriving at UCLA in September of 1988 too sick to man up under a normal load. Repeating my dad’s life.

Humiliation. Ejection. Rejection. Humiliation. Shame. Ejection. Rejection.

Rinse, repeat.

Sway, sway, sway.

Oy, bearing the body. Oy, Ehud.

Oy, oy, oy. I’m so f—–.

Arnold Band thanks us for "coming out on a night of so much anxiety."

Oy, perhaps King Moshiach Obama will not be crowned tomorrow.

White racism!

Sway, sway, sway.

I look at my own feet. They’re contorted on the floor, black tennies housing white socks.

The pineapple on the old guy’s fork just in front of me shakes violently as he struggles to put it in his mouth.

That’s how I am when I try to take a —-‘s — off.

Ilan retails a dream he had about a woman in her early thirties with short black hair who got naked at a party and spoke a language he couldn’t understand.

His friend told him he was dreaming about Hebrew. That he was suffering from language separation anxiety.

So Ilan goes to Israel. After a long day of research, he comes back to his hotel and visits the sauna. As he sits there, a naked young woman very much like the girl of his dream, walks in.

When she sees him, she says, "Slicha" (pardon) and leaves.

Or did she say "sh–"?

Ilan is not sure.

Question time.

I ask the second one: "You said tonight, "I was born into the Spanish language. I’m very proud of that.’ Why are you proud of an accident of birth? I’ve never heard anyone say they were proud of being born into the English language."

Have you noticed that the only people who say they are proud of an accident of birth have a chip on their shoulder?

It is weird and sad. It’s a cry from the heart. It’s a public claim to matter that is only announced when you fear you don’t.

The only Jews who say they’re proud Jews are Jews ignorant of the Jewish tradition.

Straights never say they are proud of their heterosexuality. Only insecure gays need to proclaim pride in their homosexuality.

Dodger fans are never proud of being born Dodger fans but San Francisco Giant fans are often absurdly proud of being born Giants fans.

In San Francisco, Giants fans regularly chant, "Dodgers suck." At Dodger stadium, the hometown fans never chant "Giants suck." They’re happy rooting for their team but don’t feel the need to get nasty about it.

I never hear white people proclaim pride in their Caucasian status, yet we’re supposing to respect those who claim "black is beautiful?"

Ilan answers: "I take pride in a language that produces Don Quixote. It could not have been written in any other language. Only in Spanish. The ambivalence of being a Spanish speaker. The way that you see the world as treacherous. In having a language where Jorge Luis Borges could write his stories, no matter how often they are translated into other languages… There are things you can say in Spanish that you can’t say in any other language. I was born in Mexico… I teach it to my kids. I teach it to my students. It is the language of Cervantes and Borges and it is a language you can say things that you can’t say in any other language."

I wonder if Ilan’s proclaimed pride in being born into the Spanish language is a reaction to the criticism he’s received, as summed up by wikipedia: "He has been criticized by some Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, and other Latinos who have attempted to discredit him for writing on Hispanic culture while being Jewish and Caucasian[1] [2] [3] ."

That criticism is even more bizarre than Stavans saying he’s proud of an accident of birth. What in being Jewish renders one incapable of writing on Hispanic (or any other) culture?

Ilan tells the New York Times: "’In Mexico, I was a Jew. In the U.S., I became a Mexican, but all these dichotomies helped me to see that you can be an outsider and an insider simultaneously. You become a member of another minority, but not fully. Here I’m a Mexican in the U.S. I’m a Latino. I’m a Jew. I’m an American.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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