Second Night

Eight Angels Came to Me On Eight Nights
Each one told a story**

The second night
the Chernobler Rebbe came
dressed as an angel in Japanese embroidered silk.

Are you a man or a lady?
I asked him —
there are so many more possibilities
said the Chernobler laughing out loud.

The Chernobler Rebbe reminded me
oil is wisdom
poured over the head
of the Priest King Messiah
overflowing like precious oil on the head
running down the beard of Aaron.
The pure finely-beaten, most excellent of the olive oil —
the olive that releases its finest product when pressed.

Smell this, said the Chernobler Rebbe,
pressing his wrist to my nose
another quality of oil
the capacity to absorb.

I smelled yasmina
jasmine,

When I make perfume the scent is absorbed into the oil —
then distilled. Wisdom
is absorbed from the world this way
— both its beauty and its contaminants.

Now, said the Chernobler Rebbe,
one small vial of pure oil
when fired up lights everything.
Wisdom when it is tended burns pure
burns long burns sure.

We are all in the game —
attaching to the pure
resisting the contaminants lurking
everywhere around us within us.

The Chernobler was chanting now
O God — a heart of purity create in me
bind me to the purifications
separate me from the contaminants —
the Chernobler
singing

Begin now.

Eight Angels Came To Me On Eight Nights

Eight Angels Came to Me On Eight Nights
*Each one told a story

The first one asked questions

What kind of light?
What is Hanukkah?
A miracle but which one?

It hasn’t clarified yet.
Backwards we are telling the story
the prophet Elijah standing on the street corner

unlit candle waving in his hand
from a dark thatch of beard
he asked for a match —

Fire, he said
as well as light
some specially created light

or fire –
We call Hanukkah
the festival of lights

Josephus did too —
the kind of light
that burns.

Secret of Hanukkah

Raza deHanukkah
The Secret of Hanukkah

What is Hanukkah?
— Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 21b

From the Talmud the familiar story
there we found one vial of pure
uncorrupted oil — shemen tahor
intact with the seal of the kohen gadol
the HIGH Priest.
We found it, the Maccabees
and their holy band of insurgents did
fired it up enough for one day
it burned for eight.

From the prayers —
it’s the miracle of the war
the few against the many
oil not mentioned.
Rashi: which is the miracle?

The Chernobler Rebbe —
oil is wisdom.
Oil poured over the head
of the Priest, the King, the Messiah,
the head overflowing with wisdom,
like precious oil that ran down the beard of Aaron (Ps. 133:2).
Oil wisdom the pure finely beaten
most excellent of the olive oil
the olive that releases its dearest product when – pressed.

The Chernobler Rebbe brings down oil
— absorbs with contact.
I make perfume, first absorbing scent into oil
then distilling into purity of scent.
I acquire wisdom absorbed from the world
both its beauty and contaminants.

Remember the Greeks
who defiled all the oil but
one small vial of the pure
one small vial that when fired up
lit up the entire eight days.
So it is with the quality of wisdom within
— when it is tended it burns pure
burns long, burns sure
but it needs caretaking.

We are all in the game
of finding the purity within,
resisting the many contaminants
lurking everywhere around us, within us.
We might absorb the contaminants.
Lev tahor bara li Elokim
a heart of purity create in me O G*d (Ps. 51:12).

Stay close to sources of purity said the Rebbe
tend carefully the purifications —
prayers, good teachers,
the mashpia
what inspires, who influences,
the good, the true, the pure
— what we can trust.

Locate wisdom in the language of soul
it needs tending, caretaking,
midwifery, it requires our attention —
soul.
On Hanukkah we fire up the quality of soul
every year it strengthens
this is the secret the raza of Hanukkah
light up the wisdom within, celebrate it
let it be brought into the world
separate it from the contaminants
care for it in the common
and uncommon methods
of soul tending.

Begin now
with —
a prayer.

I am alone with my shoes and still I cannot move.
One step and the world would cease to exist.

Let me know in some abstract non-abstract way
in my soul, that we are safe.

Let me be wise myself, trust wisdom,
let us be wise together.

Let my soul speak freely to my heart.
Let my mind yield now and again
so my soul might take up residence.

I am carrying my soul with me wherever I go.
Ahead: a field, a small house, a mountain,
I unpack my bag, take out a sandwich, make tea.

I reach in, I pull up my soul —
it is a mouth now, a pen, a stick,
a candle, an inwardliness,

it has taken the shape of prayers.
Save me, my soul
pick me up and lay me down, carefully.

jsg

Hanukkah for Kids

The Story We Tell Our Children

The story we tell our children about Hanukkah
is found in the Talmud (Shabbat 21b).
There we are taught that when the Maccabees
fought their way into Jerusalem
and to the Holy Temple
they found the Temple defiled
even the menorah could not be fired up.
There was no purified oil for the menorah
only a single cruse of oil.
So they fired up that small amount of holy oil
and it lasted for eight days.

None of these sources, however,
mention kindling lights on Hanukkah.
The first mention of that comes in a later strata of the Talmud
called a baraita
which preserves the argument
between the House of Hillel
and the House of Shammai.
The House of Shammai lit eight candles on the first day
and decreased them each day. The House of Hillel claimed
that you only ascend in matters of holiness,
so they lit one candle on the first night
and one for each succeeding night.
As usual, the House of Hillel prevailed.

Thus the miracle story of Hanukkah,
the miracle of a small amount of oil
sustaining for eight days and nights,
the miracle of a few over the many,
the miracle of prevailing over arms
stronger than our own.

Now — sit down and tell me
how it feels for you.
What’s at stake here?
When do we fire up what we have
when we cannot imagine it is enough,
when do we ascend in holiness
when holiness is s0 remote
what’s the signficance of lights at all
when holiness
survival
reclamation
purificiation of the defiled
repair
integrity
identity
is at stake.

With our lights the present is gazing into the past
in the past
surely they stared out of darkness
into the future.

The surprise miracle —
finding each other.

jsg, usa

He Settled Down

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Vayeshev
Maqam Nahawand

Father thought he was going to settle down [Gen.37:1]
in Canaan
I love this part –

so he sent me after my brothers [37:14]
to inquire of their shalom.

I couldn’t find them
they were feeding father’s flock in Dotan.

I go when called [37:13]
Hineni I say
entirely here
but I wouldn’t make so much out of that
I don’t have the energy to be anywhere else
so I am here
besides
my present is demanding enough
to require my full attention
know what I mean?

Get comfortable and I’ll tell you the story
I love this part —
the Torah says
I was in the emek of Hevron [the valley] [37:14]
Rashi the poet reminds us
surely we know that Hevron is high
not a valley
he means I am spinning into the amukah now
the depth of the story
the deep tale
I will find my brothers
they will sell me out
I will be taken to Egypt
I will thrive there
be enslaved there
we will find freedom from there.

That’s the deep story
we become a people with an edge in Egypt.

I dreamed a dream
stop me if I told you this
in it we were walking through a field
all of us
then we were alone in a small valley
a true emek
it was beautiful just like in the story
all the flowers brightly colored like acrylics
just as Rashi the poet might have predicted.

It was all as it is supposed to be
the deep significance of events clarified in the dream
just as Rashi the poet mentioned
the colors were more vivid
the events released their deep significance
just as Rashi described them
only in color
the kind of colors a kid would draw

or a cartoonist

or God

the story opened to me like a flower
a field of stories
opening.

I’ll tell it to you again if you like
the whole story
get comfortable,

Joseph.