O holy Shabbes Inspiration Ki Tetze

O holy Shabbes inspiration Ki Tetze

Here’s a tough one
what about stoning a rebellious kid?

When a man has a son who is stubborn
and a rebel one who does not listen to
the voice of his father or the voice of his mother

and they discipline him and he still does not listen to them
then his father and his mother are to grab him
and drag him to the town elders
in the gates of his place

and they are to say to the town elders
our son is stubborn and a rebel
he does not listen to our voice
he is a glutton and a drunkard

then all the men of the town are to pelt him with stones
so that he dies
[what?!]
so shall you burn the evil out of your midst [oh – my – God]

and all Israel will hear and be awed. [Deut 23:18 ff.]

I don’t believe this for a minute
this is like threatening your kid with Boys Republic
— who actually got sent to Boys Republic?
[only Jules – see Jules and the Dome of Truth
and I may have made that up].
The Rabbis said: the stoning of a son
who is stubborn and a rebel
never happened
and never will happen.
Why then was this law written in the Torah?
It was put in the Torah so we can study it
and receive reward for our study.
[BT Sanhedrin 71a]

Meaning — we should talk about it
because there may have been a time
there may be a time to come
when you want to strangle your kid
you gotta talk about it
study it turn it and turn it for what it means
lousy good-for-nothing kid
so-and-so ungrateful no-count lowlife kid
talk it through
study it think it through
let the heat dissipate.

Your reward: patience.
your reward —
think it through
find your quiet
make your peace
it may not even involve your kid
it’s something you had to do
there’s your reward
doing your work independently
of that good-for-nothing lowlife kid of yours.

The Talmud continues [Sanhedrin 71a]
Rabbi Yonatan said,
you are wrong.
It did happen.
I saw one
[kid who was stoned to death]
and sat on his grave.

If we thought we were out of this story
with our sophisticated sensibility
of enlightened parenting intact
consider this picture of Rabbi Yonatan sitting on a grave —
back to the verse
the end specifically
all Israel will hear and be awed.

Rabbi Yonatan:
I don’t know whose grave I was sitting on
but the point is when my kid hears about it
he and all Israel will be awed
moved
look I’m trying to run a household here.

We don’t really act this way
but we do resort to lesser strategies once in a while
we get frustrated
our kids aren’t behaving the way we would have them behave
parenting is not the sophisticated set of clever strategies
the books recommend
family peace is not the way we intended it
HEY IT’S NOT HAPPENING THE WAY IT WAS SUPPOSED TO —
we’re doing the best we can
what we are reaching for is a way to return
Ki Tetze
when you leave
ya-tza
the room for leaving
when we leave our expectations
over the great messes that our lives have become
when we cease to compare the what-it-is
to the what-we-wanted
or the-way-it-was-supposed-to-be

when we leave Ki Tetze
behind all the supposed-to’s of our existence
our kids —
supposed to behave this way
our husbands our wives —
supposed to act this way
ourselves —
supposed to enjoy our lives this way

when we ki tetze
when we leave
if we leave
our expectations where they belong
in a shoebox under the bed

then
are we free

ki tetze when we leave our expectations
we are free to deal imaginatively
with life
the great what-it-is
we have ki tetze’d
we have left the supposed-to-be
and have entered the holy
way-it-is
now we are free to be alive
to life in its complexity
its messiness
independent of our effort to manage
cajole
contain

we are alive to life as it presents itself to us
not as we would have had it

we are now truly
co-creators with God
in the full catastrophe of existence

and we are free.

Forgive us for using lofty strategies
and less lofty strategies
we are all learning
we are learning
studying the world
so we may receive
the merits.

Amen.

jsg, usa

In Italy, the Sun and the Moon

Italy, the Sun and the Moon

The Sun

On the first drive into Umbria, the sun was setting. We saw fields of sunflowers, large squares of bright yellow from a distance, sunflowers turning their heads towards the sun.

From the window of the place where we stayed, we overlooked a valley and the sunflowers down below were often a subject of conversation.

The artist next door explained to us that the sunflowers were a replacement crop, planted where once there were tobacco fields. There were not nearly as many tobacco fields as there once had been in this area; as in the United States, there was some government subsidy to the tobacco field farmer, support for a crop that is not as profitable as it once had been.

The artist explained to us, “the sunflower now is proud and tall, but you will see, before you leave, their heads begin to droop. They look so sad before they are harvested.”

The name for sunflower in Italian is girasole, which is not sunflower, as in English, but the flower that spins with the sun. The sunflower spins for the sun, acres of them. It seeks the sun, spins around to face it, proud and defiant in the early cycle of its growth, but we saw it, not long before we left, the sunflowers dropping over with the weight of their own fullness, fields of them uniform in their sadness. Like the face that appears in a cloud or in the swirl of oil in water, like a chair seen from a distance on the lawn of a house in the moonlight, it was unavoidable interpreting the sunflowers.

There was surely something sad in the flowers drooping in the yellows, facing east in their unmoving expectation of renewal. But by the time we left, the sunflowers had humbled themselves into a new posture, the anthropomorphic sadness was unavoidable, but they could have been read as patient, prayerful even. They were about to be harvested. For all their growing throughout the long days of the summer, this their goal: to give up their seeds, arc towards the ground as the summer days shortened and loaded them up with seeds. They drooped with the weight of their crop, their purpose to produce seeds, the heft of the seeds drawing them down towards the ground. To be bowed with their own fecundity — how is that sad? Still it looked sad, maybe this the harder idea: not sad looks sad, to be stuck with appearances this way playing the heart when the head knows better.

The Moon

One night we watched the sun set from the balcony of the artist, where he often sat at the end of day, with friends and supper. After the sunset, he jumped up and led us to a small park on the upper reaches of the town to watch the moon rise.

“Oh wait,” he said, after he had locked his door,” he rushed back inside and brought out a large pair of binoculars that he strung around his neck. “My parents asked me what I would like as a gift, so I dragged them to Perugia and found the biggest pair of binoculars I could find,” he said chuckling.

We looked at the moon from the edge of the little park, then we walked down into the piazza for a late cappuccino, glass of wine, gelato for the kids.

To everyone he greeted, I heard the artist chattering in Italian about “la luna” and motioning to his binoculars. It was an event that night, la luna, we went to watch it the next night but it was cloudy, or we missed it, or we went to the wrong place.

The next night was the full moon, and I snuck up to the park at the top of the village for a late night sighting. Someone was there before me, standing next to the stone ledge that runs around the park on the top of the walled town, eleventh century, the best spot in town for moon viewing. I watched from behind, the person at the edge silhouetted against the moon, so large and full and present, myself in the shadows at the other end of the park, we both silently watching, perfectly still, then the person standing at the edge reached out, grabbed the moon, and rolled it across the universe.

On a Mountain

We settled for three weeks on the top of a mountain in Umbria, in a city built in the eleventh century surrounded by a wall. There was stone and brick walkways that all led down to the piazza in the center, where there were several bars and chairs and tables to sit in the evening.

There was a film festival when we first arrived. The directors of the films were often invited and occasionally they showed up. They were given keys to the city, they ate in the nice restaurant with the Sardinian chef, they took their picture there and left it with their autograph at the desk.

Last year, someone received the key to the city and cried. His picture was also displayed at the Sardinian restaurant.

When we arrived, the film festival was in full swing. The films were shown on a giant white screen that had been set up in the piazza. I watched a beautiful Italian film one night. I figured that I would understand the action of the film. The director was there and his style was tight shots of beautiful faces. I watched the entire film and realized that all I understood was that it was about two brothers. That’s all I knew. Maybe it was about two brothers, I wasn’t sure.

Another night, they showed the film East is East which appeared in my home town not long before we arrived in Umbria. It was also a wonderful film, and the director appeared. He received the key to the city. The film was dubbed in Italian, but they also showed two of his shorter films, which showed a great sense of humor and a tender sympathy for the point of view of children.

My friend who travels often to Italy sent me a small Italian cellular phone. I sent the phone number to Ellis, another pal from home. I rarely speak to Ellis when I am home, but when I travel, he calls me almost everyday.

Ellis called and I popped my head out the window of the mountain fortress where we were staying, I looked up at the moon and sent a clear message to the satellite overhead. The sound of our voices shot to the stars above, and surely someone on the other side of the valley was watching me, hung out the window, dangling in the moonlight out the wall of this protected town under the canopy of stars, one of which is the satellite that bounced my voice off its metal and sent it back to Ellis, half way around the world, in an instant.

Epilogue

My wife encouraged me to have a reading of the story, part of which is this story minus the epilogue. I wasn’t ready but I read the story anyway, to my wife, my daughters, and the artist who lived next door and had come to visit.

In the reading, I realized that the story had ended too soon.

I didn’t know you wrote stories, the artist said. I didn’t realize you were so observant.

I was embarrassed, so much of the story was about him, but I realized in the reading that it was about art, I suppose, the making of it, thinking it, performing it, living it. There was more of that in Italy than where I come from.

One day we sat looking at the mountains where walked the saints and mystics of Assisi, San Francesco and his comrades. We sat with new friends in a grove of olive trees from which fine olive oil is made. The mistress of the olive grove pointed up toward the ridge of the mountains, where Francesco walked, and said, “sometimes I sit here and I imagine I see him up there. Is that crazy?”

No, I said, and I told her the story of the Sabbath Queen and how we welcome her every Friday night. “We all stand and turn to the door and bow in the last verse. It’s a love song that sings her to her lover. Do we imagine her? Yes, that is always the point.”

“What is it about San Francesco. . .” she asked.

“Nothing. What San Francesco had was nothing and it’s the very thing everybody wants. His power was the power of nothing.”

We had lunch and discussed literature and art. There was an architect, a singer, a painter, all of them knew a great deal about American writers in addition to their own artists.

My wife mentioned that I write. “Oh yes?” They all said. “What do you write?”

“Stories,” I said.

“How wonderful, what kind of stories?”

They wanted me to read one of my stories and I realized that I spend a month, sometimes a year where I come from, and no one asks, not once, for one of my stories. At home I am often shy about bringing up a passage from a story that I have written, though I think of them often.

Still, I missed my home, and I felt a little like an expatriot story writer in Italy, and though I didn’t miss the secrecy of writing stories at home, I missed the collusion with the few people I know with whom I talk nothing but stories.

To one of those people, I sent a note care of the cafe where we frequent in my home town. In the note I described a coffee house I visited in Rome, where Keats, Lizst, Shelley, Byron sat and drank coffee, not far from their famous house, a pink house, near the Spanish steps. Now the coffee house is mostly a tourist place, but I could still feel the presence there of something beautiful, and exciting, and risky.

When I visited the famous coffee house in Rome there was a man sitting by the door, with a pink tie and a pink kerchief in his pocket that was much too large for his cream jacket, posing next to another gentleman who sat at a table and painted. It may have been all that is left of the former glory of this wondrous place, but I enjoyed it anyway. I loved it. I wrote about it.

james stone goodman
umbria, italy
luglio, 20__

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Shoftim

Someone found slain
might be
murder
no one known responsible
a body found in the woods
at the bottom of a well
the remains of a person unearthed
under a construction site

a person killed
who is responsible for life taken
in ways unknown.

This mysterious mitzvah of Torah
eglah arufah – the broken-necked calf
some connection to cleansing the community
from unspecified sin [Lev. 4:13-15]
and the other great mystery mitzvah
the red heifer [Num. 19:2 ff.]

Eglah arufah the mystery
of the broken-necked calf.

If, in the land
someone slain is found lying in the open
the identity of the slayer not being known
your elders and judges shall go out and measure the distances
from the corpse to the nearby towns.
The elders of the nearest town shall take a calf
which has never been worked, bring it down to a rugged wadi
which is neither plowed nor sown.
There, in the wadi, they shall break the calf’s neck.
The priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward
then all the elders of the town nearest the corpse
shall wash their hands over the calf
whose neck has been broken
and say “our hands did not shed this blood,
neither have our eyes seen it.
Forgive, O God, your people Israel
whom you have redeemed
and do not let guilt for the blood
of the innocent remain
among your people Israel.”
[Deut. 21:2-8]

Rashi quoting the Talmud:
what kind of confession is this?
Who would imagine the elders had anything
to do with it?
The point is everyone is responsible
a life has been taken
the whole community is somehow
implicated
who was not involved?
No one.

Three sets of elders are part
of the ritual.
First group of elders measures the distance
from where the body is found to the nearest town
3 to 5 elders who came from the High Court in Jerusalem
to make the measurement. [BT Sota 45a]
We have come to make the measurement
the closest settlement –
Altoona
Poughkeepsie
Utica
Silver City —
We will focus our inquiries there
or we will place responsibilities when
the detectives arrive.

Another team comes then from town
and their task is to take the calf down to a wadi
a wild place neither plowed nor sown.
Finally the elders of the closest town
the third group of elders
shall wash their hands and say this:
our hands did not shed this blood
neither have our eyes seen it.

Magical the myth of it
absolvement through mystery ritual
this from Nachmanides and Ibn Ezra.
From Maimonides —
a mystery story
a strategy to solve a murder [Guide 3:40]
the murderer probably lives nearby
stir it up –
the more likely someone will be found responsible.

You shall act in accordance with the instructions
given you and the ruling handed down to you
you must not deviate from the verdict
they announce to you
— either to the right or to the left.
[Deut. 17:11]
Rashi: you bowed to the court
even when you thought it was wrong. [Rashi on 17:11]
Not the Rabbis
you might think you are to follow
if the Sages tell you that the left is right
and the right is left
not so – [JT]
only when they tell you that the right is right
and the left is left
when the professionals conspire to alter truth
you follow what’s right
not who’s in authority
the truth is stronger than authority
truth stronger than bureaucracy
there is only one true power
and it speaks to the individual
you can trust it.

This is the portion of justice
tzedek tzedek tirdof
righteousness righteousness
mentioned twice
you shall pursue it [Deut. 16:20]
what follows:
the bride of God
you shall not plant an asherah [Deut.16:21]
some sort of Canaanite goddess
a cult tree
planted near the altar of God?
It took too long to separate
God and his bride
the bride of God is not to be reunited with her consort just then
we are talking about justice here
not myth.

Tonight
the holy Shabbes
the King and his consort
the goddess and her beloved
the Queen and her lover
re-united and it feels good
the symmetry of return
rectifying something broken
separated long ago
tonight
they are love-making.

jsg

The Night of Murdered Poets

The Night of Murdered Poets
August 12, 1952
Remembered on August 12, 2007

[Performance piece
spoken at Neve Shalom
Jacob’s Pillow
August 11, 2007]

The poets who are appearing
in this performance
are all dead
they are the murdered poets
tonight we remember them

the Night of the Murdered Poets.

This from Peretz Markish
one of the poets
murdered on August 12, 1952,
The Night of Murdered Poets.

I don’t know whether I’m at home
or homeless. I’m running, my shirt
unbuttons, no bounds, nobody
holds me, no beginning,
no end
my body is foam
smelling of wind
Now
is my name.

There were fifteen on trial
all were kept in Moscow’s Lubyanka prison
in the basement
Thirteen of the fifteen were executed
on August 12, 1952,
all were prominent Jews and distinguished
Soviet citizens
all were good Bolsheviks
they had emigrated from the Pale of Settlement
to the urban centers Moscow, Kiev,
this from Dovid Hofshteyn,
one of the murdered poets.

City!
I arrived in your harbor
On the ship of my loneliness.
The ship of the loneliness. . .
I rinsed her sails
In the winds. . .
They dwindled and tore
In the lengths and breadths
Of the world.

They were looking for artistic freedom
and inspiration
all of them were committed Marxists
all of them good Communists
optimists idealists all of them
not all were poets
but the event came to be called
The Night of Murdered Poets.

Five poets there were:
Peretz Markish, Dovid Hofshteyn, Itzik Feffer, Leyb Kvitko, Dovid Bergelson.
Who were they?
Some of the greatest Yiddish poets
at the end of the era of Yiddish poetry.
Dovid Hofshteyn, after living in Berlin and Palestine,
returned to the Soviet Union
because he believed in it.
He published numerous volumes of poetry and translations.

Peretz Markish founded a modernist Yiddish movement,
Khaliastre
during his years in Warsaw.
He too returned to Russia
and was awarded the Lenin Prize for literature in 1939.
Itzik Feffer edited the Yiddish journals Prolit and Challenge,
became a member of the Union of Soviet Writers.

Dovid Bergelson left his chaotic Ukraine and Russia
went to Berlin in 1921
native Russian speaker schooled in classical Hebrew as a child
he chose Yiddish to write his stories and novels
I’d rather be first in Yiddish than second in Russian.

He never adjusted to life in the West.
Stalin called the exiles home and after some years of wandering
Bergelson fell for Stalin’s dream
in 1934 returned to the Soviet Union.
After the War, Stalin’s cracked obsession with Soviet Jewish culture
turned dark.
January 1949, Bergelson arrested
with dozens of other Yiddish artists.

They were betrayed by what they believed in —
These words of Dovid Hofshteyn,
murdered poet,
a eulogy to Yiddish civilization as he knew it:

My love, my pure love!
one call I’ve always heeded –
mute, I’ve carried it
a thousand days:
above the gray head of my people,
to be
a youthful radiance!

They were all beaten
before interrogations,
Bergelson confessed
that his religious upbringing
was indeed nationalism.
Kvitko denied belief in God.
Bergelson said that Hofshteyn
encouraged the study of Hebrew.
Hofshteyn regretted that he had continued
to write in Yiddish.
At one point Bergelson blurted out
referring to a poem by Itzik Feffer,
one of the murdered poets,
there cannot be anything criminal in the phrase
‘I am a Jew.’
If I approach someone and say
‘I am a Jew’
what could be bad about that?

All of them were members
of an organization founded by Stalin
called The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.
Their purpose was to enlist Jewish support around the world
for Soviet anti-fascist activities.
Stalin sent them to the United States during the War,
the first Soviet Jews
to officially visit the West.
Itzik Feffer the poet
and Solomon Mikhoels the actor,
they met with Einstein
and many prominent Americans
in 1943.
Stalin himself had founded
the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee
in 1942.
It published its own Yiddish newspaper
Eynikayt,
when the War ended Stalin became suspicious of his Jews
he questioned Jewish loyalties
especially after the founding of the state of Israel.
In 1949, the Soviet press began
an anti-cosmopolitan campaign against Jews.

Peretz Markish, one of the greatest of the murdered poets, wrote:
Hitler wanted to destroy us physically,
Stalin wants to do it spiritually.

In 1948, the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee
chairman, Solomon Mikhoels,
was murdered
and the entire Committee was arrested.
They were interrogated and forced to sign confessions,
only one, Boris Shimeliovich, refused,
despite 100 plus lashes daily for a month.
They were charged with disloyalty,
bourgeois nationalism,
cosmopolitanism,
and planning to set up a Jewish republic
in Crimea
to serve U.S. interests.

The Night of Murdered Poets,
they murdered fifteen Jewish intellectuals and artists
August 1952,
followed by the Doctors’ Plot,
a group of Doctors, most of them Jewish,
charged with plotting the death of Soviet leaders
in 1953.
Only the death of Stalin in 1953
prevented the final Soviet pogrom.
Stalin had gone mad with paranoia
and obsession.

The Trial

The text of the trial preceding the Night of Murdered Poets
came to light after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The accused knew that the trial was a sham,
still they defended themselves vigorously.
This from Itzik Feffer, one of the murdered poets, defending himself against
the charge of nationalism:
My nationalist tendencies came out in the following ways:
I said that I love my people.
Is there anyone who doesn’t love his people?
I wanted my people to have
what all others had.
And when I saw that everything was being closed down,
everything being eliminated,
this pained me and made me rise against
the Soviet power.
This was what motivated my interest
in the Crimea and Birobidzan.

The principal accusation: the Crimea question.
Jews had established small agricultural communities
in the northern Crimea in the 1920s.
After the dislocations brought on by the War,
the Holocaust,
Mikhoels and others proposed
making the Crimea a Soviet Jewish republic.
The Soviets assumed that the proposal
was a conspiratorial
effort to dismantle the Soviet Union
from within.

— This from Leyb Kvitko, one of the murdered poets —

Day and night
We must loom large in their eyes
They bother with us so.

Small is what we are, so small
Fear drags us to the earth
As if we were fear’s very own

Where, then, we small ones
Can we hide?
Where can we hide our full grown grief?
Our grief?
Our love?
Our secrets?

Day and night
We must loom large in their eyes
They bother with us so

Don’t you wonder –
who were these people
who bothered with us so?
Ask the survivors of the Soviets
let them tell you how close the Soviets came to succeeding
with their paranoia, their cruelty

they murdered our intellectuals
they chased our souls
into the basement prisons of Moscow.

Don’t you wonder about these totalitarians
and why they obsessed about us?

Day and night
We must loom large in their eyes
They bother with us so

We ask to be left alone.

Peretz Markish:
Hitler wanted to destroy us physically,
Stalin wanted to do it spiritually

Shabbes Inspiration Re’eh

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Re’eh

See, I have set before you this day, a blessing and a curse
the blessing —
if you shall listen to the commandments of God
which I command you this day
and the curse —
if you shall not listen to the commandments of God
but turn aside
out of the way
go after other gods
which you have not known. [Deut. 11:26 ff.]

Goodbye Moses our mother
farewell old friend
sorry you’re not making the trip with us
ciao.

You are preparing us for life without you.
Wear your rubbers
stay out of the rain
drink plenty of water
say your prayers

everything you’ve taught us before.
Don’t walk around in wet socks.

It begins with See – the intuitive grasp of everything
the momentary aha!
switching to listen
the way a message unfolds in sequence
as – I – am – writing – this
and you are hearing it.

Two ways of knowing
the intuitive grasp
the momentary apprehension
and the careful unfolding through sequencing
seeing and listening.

Something else:
See is singular
switching to plural
listen is plural
all the verbs and pronouns go plural.

Every singular has the power to go plural
to tilt the world
— the world may be that evenly balanced —
one singular on this side
shifts it here
one on that side
shifts it there. [B.T. Kiddushin 40b]

To choose blessing seems obvious
this from the Italian: we are always extremist
we can choose either blessing
or curse [Ovadia Sforno 1475 – 1555]
it is always either/or for us.

Not all of us —
Choose it this day
this day three times in the passage
it’s a daily choice
good news
you choose wrong today
you can choose right tomorrow.

Something else, from the Gerer rebbe
you know what listening is don’t you
listening implies blessing. [Sefat Emet, the Gerer rebbe]
You know what blessing is —
when you attach to the life of Life
the source
the heart of the world.

What specifically is the blessing?
What the curse?
You know which choices are blessing
you know which are curses
so forget about this last point.

Here is the blessing
found in the mud:

I will bless you and increase you as the earth,
as the sands of the seashore as the sea,
look at the algae now
and the horseflies buzzing around your face,
I will make you as great as the algae, as the grasshoppers.

Look up now to the sky
you will be as great as the stars
as the darkness too
you will be as great as the darkness
as the sand and the sea and the stars
the mud and the dark and the green
the sticky stuff on the surf
the early rains and the later rains
the mud and the mud the green the sand the dark.

You will be a blessing —
as great as the dark
as the sea
the sand
the green
the flies.

Amen.

jsg, usa

Commit: Shabbes Inspiration Ekev

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Ekev

So God afflicted you and made you hungry
and had you eat the manna [translate: what it is]
which you had not known and which your ancestors had not known
in order to make
you know
that not by bread alone do human beings live
but by everything that issues from the mouth of God
do human beings live. [Deut. 8:3]

Not by bread alone
we don’t live for money
slip me some bread Fred
it’s not enough.

The rabbis tell us that Torah is bread [Sifre on Ekev]
not by Torah alone do we live
we need the commentaries
to unfold the text
breathe into it.

No bread – no Torah
No Torah — no bread. [Avot 3:21]

No bread no Torah
here meaning no parnassah
no livelihood
it’s hard to be wise or holy or smart
for that matter
when you’re hungry.

No Torah no bread
the Dow fell a hundred points
because Mr. Merrill and Mr. Lynch
weren’t learning?
That’s the point:
it’s the Tao stupid.

It’s a hard point to make
Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya
you in the second generation of Tannaim
second century
a person of wealth and good genes
you could trace your ancestry back ten generations
to the scribe Ezra
you became Nasi (prince-leader) as a young man
your beard turned white
overnight
so your colleagues would accept you
I’ve seen it happen.

What were you thinking?
No Torah, no bread?
No learning no wisdom no program
bread will never be enough
you are always hungry
money won’t do it
love won’t do it
drugs won’t do it
booze won’t do it
a person remains hungry
there will never be enough bread
to fill the emptiness that only Torah can fill.

And it shall come to pass
because [ekev] you listen to these ordinances [Ibn Ezra: if you listen]
and keep and do them
God will keep the covenant and the mercy
sworn to your ancestors. [Deut. 7:12]

Ekev
don’t stomp on me with your foot
curious conjunction this – ekev –
we are expecting something more common
im for example if
but it’s ekev
translated because

Because
the mystery of the uncommon conjunction
something a preposition might admire
ekev also connotes heel
it refers to those acts
ordinarily not paid attention to [Midrash Tanhuma 1]
those that are thrown under our heels
so to speak
Rashi calls them the light ones
the ones that might not attract our attention
the unglamorous deeds
I LIVE FOR THEM
FOR EVERYTHING THAT ISSUES FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD
the conjunctions of the mitzvah world
their lovely low-li-ness.

Every generation is a heel generation
every person a heel person
everything previous rests on us
every act every word every gesture
contributes inscrutably
to the what it is.

Every word every conjunction every preposition
every mitzvah light or heavy
counts
contributes
everything
We are the heel on which everything rests

Amen.

Everything counts in some ultimate way
as hidden as the heel that supports
the weight of our bodies.

Ekev – Because you listen and safeguard and keep [Deut. 11:13-21]
you do for Me
I do for you
neat and balanced.

If the nature of the relationship is more nuanced —
If it turns on the lowly conjunction ekev
don’t insult that conjunction
be a conjunction for a while
be a preposition.

You know the laws that I gave you to protect?
Do them and I’ll keep the covenant and the kindnesses
You know the mitzvahs that you didn’t keep
the ones that you walked on
the ones that were thrown under your heel?
For that, too, I will keep the faith.

What you did and what you didn’t do
what you remembered and what you forgot
what you honored and what you desecrated
it all rests on the heel of your generation
maybe on you yourself
and only at the moment of transition
will it be clear that everything
preceding
every single thing
was necessary
everything contributes
the big the small the good the bad
the beautiful the lowly the lofty
the intentions
the mistakes
all of it.

Can you dig that?

jsg