Exodus, part 9

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Ki Tissa
Maqam Hijaz
D E-flat F# G

And on the seventh day

U-va-yom ha-sh’vi-i

sha-vat va-yi-na-fash [Ex. 31:16]

God Shabbated

and ensouled [vayinafash]

to Shabbat is to ensoul.
The land will do the same
when the land Shabbats. [Lev. 25:2]

Coming down the mountain
like a river on wheels
two tablets inscribed
mi-zeh u-mi-zeh [Ex. 32:15]
this way and this way.

The holy and
not the either/or

Hold onto
Ba-zeh v’gam mi-zeh
This and also this. . . [Kohelet 7:18]

This and that
except — there is no that
only this and this
mi-zeh u-mi-zeh.

You and me
God and you
Me and God
Matter and spirit
Good and Evil
Male and female
Left and right
Yin and Yang
The two triangles
Halakhah and Aggadah
Law and Lore
Gevurah and Tiferet
Severity and beauty
the good and the not-so-good.

Mi-zeh u-mi-zeh
this and this.
Sometimes I feel so
Ordinary and separate.

A few drop dead experiences
in the midst of ordinariness
a reminder
what we are all about.

Raza d’oraita, the secret of Torah.
This and This.
Radically And.
Like tzimtzum
code for God everywhere and a child dying
an earthquake, plague, pestilence, suffering,
the appearance of spaces empty of God.

There is no place empty of God.
We are radically And.
We know this mostly —
HaShem Is Eloheinu, Hashem only.

Blessed is that holy notion
Mi-zeh u-mi-zeh
this and this
there is no

jsg, usa

Exodus, part 8

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Tetzaveh
Maqam Sigah
E half flat F G

You asked me why Moses our teacher
was not present in the story this week.

He is present, I said, but hidden
or quiet
he is of course
the you in the first line [Ex.27:20]
Now you shall command the children of Israel
then he recedes to where he lives
the heart of the story
the quiet center.

For all the qualities we could remember him for
we remember him for humility.
Not for his accomplishments
humility we remember him for.

Moses our teacher is an empty vessel, I said,
plenty of room for God.
He also leaves room for his students
that space
he recedes so creativity happens
there is no place empty of God
the vessel cannot be too empty
but it can be too full.

No room for God in a vessel too full,
you said.

So he does not come into the Land, I said,
and he does not preside over the sanctuary –
two activities of expressed leadership.
He presides elsewhere
he is our spiritual center
and our story could not have happened
without him.

We know this, I said,
we know the difference between
what is rooted
and what is derivative
what is source
and what is appearance
what is heart
and what is bone.

You said you saw Aaron on TV this week,
the robes, the stripes a nice touch,
it’s Moses I need most, I said,
his eyes searching for mine when we meet.
He is the one who sits with us quietly,
when we are waiting through those awful waits.

Aaron — words, robes, coats, big lips.
Moshe of all eyes.

I see Moshe at the airports
pretending he is picking someone up.
His dress is unintentional, I am sure.
There is only one Moshe, the genuine article,
so many Aaron pretenders these days.

Something else gives Moses away –
his earnestness, his willingness
I read entirely through his eyes.
He is the one
the only one
who sits with us as long as it takes
and whatever it is he is wearing?
I forget.

jsg, usa

For Our Dear Ones

I wrote this from a dream. I was thinking about the soul-to-soul connection that we invoke in the prayer Keil Malei Rachamim, O God full of compassion. I wrote it with my mother-in-law in my heart, Miryam bat Herschel v’Shayna Chaya, her memory is a sustaining blessing.

Our Beloveds

I hate death
you give 30 – 35 years
40 years 50 years
coming to know someone
you become heart to heart
soul to soul with someone
it takes 25 years for that
when you know someone
25 years
you begin to melt into each other
you become like them
they become like you
we call this melting
I melt into you
you melt into me.

When you know someone for fifty years
it’s soul to soul
when you know someone for 50 years
it’s more than melting
your souls begin to converge
we call this
we become one
something different from each of us
we become one somebody else
this happens at fifty years.

That’s why I hate death
after all that
melting into each other
becoming one with each other
I hate death because after all that
someone dies
then you have to wait
thresholding we call it
we wait on the threshold for each other
I hate death
because someone dies
then we wait on the threshold
until we are together again.

This is called God
we all wait on the threshold
for our beloved ones
they wait for us
that’s why I hate death
it’s the waiting
until we join each other
this is God.

This is what we mean
when we say we are waiting for God
God is waiting for us
it’s code for
we are God waiting for each other.
We wait
this is the source of all
our God hunger.

Heart to heart
soul to soul
becoming one
25 years
50 years
waiting at the threshold
enough for now
this is all I know.

jsg, usa
Feb. 6, 2008

Portion #7 in Exodus

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Terumah
Maqam Hoseini
D E-flat F G

offerings lifted up
the first objectification of the spirit
build the place out of Me
Make [of] Me a Mikdash/holy place

and I will dwell [Shakhanti/Shekhinah]
among them
within them. [Ex. 25:8]

It’s an inside job.
Why don’t we get that?
I am kind of sick of the institutionalization of the spirit
by now
aren’t you?

It’s an inside job.

The preoccupation with spirit
the game of soul
God tells us at the beginning of the enterprise
it’s an internal matter.

Build your palaces
raise all the money you can
decorate well
but I will set my spirit
in the inner chambers of your heart.
I want your heart, God says,
that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

The holy place
the union of two worlds
built out of terumah
from the Aramaic root for two
all the terrible twos of existence
integrated in the holy place.
It is both kedushah
and shekhinah
outer and inner
upper and lower
masculine and feminine
the Holy and Blessed One
and Shekhinah
God and human beings
the beit k’nesset
house of meeting.

The Holy One is always delighted
when we storm the upper worlds
and take the Shekhinah to dwell among us. [Zohar 135a]
The Holy One sits smiling on a glorious throne
when the Shekhinah enters the mystery of Oneness. [Raza DeShabbat]
new souls
new souls all around.

Terumah –
gold and silver and copper
sky blue wool, purple, and scarlet wool
flax and goats’ hair
rams’ skins dyed red
tahash skins and shittim wood
oil for the lighting
spices for the anointing oil and for the spicy incense
shoham stones and stones to be set for the ephod and the breastplate

while you’re at it –

grow a new heart.

jsg, usa

What We Do On Shabbat

What We Do on Shabbes, part 1
Shabbat Mishpatim
Feb. 2, 2008

First we sing.

When we arrive at Psalm 150
the girls Sarah and Miranda
arise and I teach them how to dance
like Temptations
while they are chanting behind me

Brit arises and she wails
another layer for good measure
in honor of the classic arrangements from Memphis

and as I chant the holy instruments of the Temple
Praise God with the sound of the shofar
with the harp and the oud
with the tambourine and dancing
with strings and pipes
with cymbals sounding
with cymbals loud and clashing

every thing that breathes thanks and praises God

Then we read from the holy Torah
the portion that week
the end of Mishpatim
when Moses goes up the mountain:

And God says to Moses,
Come up to me into the mountain, and be there
and I will give you tablets of stone
and the Torah
and commandments which I have written
that you may teach them.

And Moses arises and his side-kick Joshua
and Moses goes up into the mountain of God.

And he says to the elders,
Wait here for us, until we come again to you
and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you
if any man have any matters, let him come to them.

And Moses goes up into the mountain
and a cloud covers the mountain.
And the glory of God settles upon Mount Sinai
and the cloud covers it six days
and the seventh day God calls to Moses from the midst of the cloud.

And the appearance of the presence of God is
like devouring fire on the top of the mountain
in the eyes of the people of Israel.

And Moses goes into the midst of the cloud
and goes up into the mountain
and Moses is on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

We then finish praying
and we take big pillows and lay them on the floor
we move the Moroccan copper table away
and we all lie down with our heads to the center
and our legs stretched out like spokes of a wheel.

At the center of the wheel
our minds.

We lie that way all of us staring up
the tops of our heads
dumping our ideas into the shared
receptacle that we create
with our contiguous

Then we count off:
number one
I am number five.

We then discuss
what Moses sees
at the top of the mountain.

What happens
during the forty days and forty nights.

We dump all our ideas into the mind
sometimes the ideas slip between
our brains
Hey! I say to number three,
that’s my idea!

No, it isn’t
I thought of it.

We dream the top of Mt. Sinai
all our ideas begin to rise
too lofty to remain in the pot
I say —
put your hands out and hold the ideas
so they don’t all float away.

We all put our arms out and hold our ideas
so we can run to the table and
preserve them on paper.

Before we leave for the tables
Moses calls
so does Rashi
and Rambam
and Ibn Ezra from the eleventh century
and Ibn Gavirol the poet
and the Baal Shem Tov

but we are too preoccupied with our ideas
and the only call we take is from

Margaret Thatcher.
How she got into this story

I cannot imagine.

jsg, usa

Telling, Writing, Reading

I felt as if I was following the sequence from the Torah: first the telling, then the writing, then the reading. I brought this down from parashat Mishpatim, when Moses first begins the telling, the verb root s – p – r (Exodus 24:3) which means “to tell.” Then there is the writing (24:4), followed by the reading of the book of the covenant (24:7). The Torah sequence was not at all curious to me, it is exactly the sequence of events I myself had been following: the telling, the writing, the reading. My reading audience was always my children. I read them all my stories. — jsg

That’s the technique: Prepare a story, a poem, a prayer for telling, one that has not been written.

Tell it to the group.

Then write it.

Then read it to the group.

Let us evaluate this method of developing story:

Telling, writing, reading.

Go thou and write now.


O holy Shabbes Inspiration Mishpatim
Maqam Saba
D E half-flat F G flat

The Arabic word Sabi means baby boy, so Maqam Saba is used for the Berit Milah (circumcision). Saba is used for perashiot that contain either births, covenants (berit), a variety of laws, the mention or reference to an army (Saba), or the actual word Saba. Maqam Saba is also used on Shemini Atseret (Eighth Day of Succot) and the Eighth Day of Pesah, because the number eight is associated with berit.

They saw the God of Israel
they had a vision of God
in their chests
then they ate and drank. [Ex.24:9]

If we feel God everywhere
in our chests
on the mountain top
God in the Torah
God in the kitchen
God waiting for the bus
God everywhere
why not

The last line
And Moses came into the cloud
and went up the mountain
and Moses was up on the mountain
forty days and forty nights. [Ex.24:18]

We want to know
what happened up the mountain?
What did Moses see?
In the Zohar
Moses ascends
wearing the garment of colors
draped over his shoulders by the rainbow,

he saw what he saw
he enjoyed it
All of it
up to that place.

What place.

What place is it where language meets its limit
beyond which the most that can be said
about something
is nothing.

It’s like this
and like that
like this
— an old man like me
doesn’t offer a single version
a word rattling around in an empty bottle –

first: the obvious
then the less obvious
the secret even
to arrive where we began
the plain sense
the surfaces having released their opacity


We know this about life
every now and again
don’t we?

jsg, usa