Der Aybershter means The Highest

Der Aybershter means the Highest

I’m in the New York airport


I saw an African man eating Pringles

The Japanese men and their wives

Are all eating hot dogs wrapped in pretzel dough

They think this is the best thing they have ever eaten

I heard them thank Der Aybershter.

I listened to a man sitting next to me

Call a relative in New Jersey

He had recently moved to my town

He returned to New York for court

He received a year’s probation

It had to do with Rita ex-wife

And staying away from her.

I have to call my PO, he said.

He now lives in an apartment too small

For a table in the kitchen

But he likes it in my town,

He’s looking for a new girl —

I’m still young, he says, [he’s not so young]

You know what I mean?

It’s only a number.

He’ll keep his New Jersey license plates

Rita totaled his car

They took everything away from him

Der Aybershter? he said

Der Aybershter takes care of me.

You can always replace a car

I’ll work things out ‘cuz I have to.

The flight home was cancelled

Thunder storms

On television —

An earthquake killed twelve thousand

Half a world away.

A Rumanian woman sweeping up the airport

Der Aybershter, I heard her say

The world is cracked but Der Aybershter is


jsg, usa

I Open My Mouth and Sing the World

I Open My Mouth and the Oud Sings the World
I give this oud to my Palestinian friend

I told my friend I had a gift for him
The gift was broken I thought
Beyond repair
I had learned at another time
That brokenness is not permanent
It is not a curse
It isn’t determinative
That something broken when repaired
Is often stronger than
If it had never been broken
At all
About wood I learned this from a Russian repair man in Jerusalem
His name — Heart of the Strings.

This oud
This sound that links my friend to myself
It speaks a language that we share
We share a few words of Hebrew
A few words of Arabic
Our languages are close
Foods the same
Dances close
Music entirely the same
We love the oud
It is the instrument of our long lost relation
Broken many generations ago.

That’s not why I love the oud
I love the oud because the sound is here
In my chest
It is the sound to me of our shared ancestry
We are middle eastern people
We may have lost a relational mutual history
But whenever we hear this instrument
Play it
We remember.

I repaired this oud myself
With the help of my gifted friend
A fixer
I put new pegs in it so it would hold its tuning
I sanded the pegs myself
Found some older pegs that fit better than the original ones
We put a new fingerboard on it
I played this instrument
Repaired it so I could give it to my friend
Whose hands
Like my hands
Will make this instrument sing
Whose voice
Like my voice
Sings the common song we have recovered
In knowing each other —

Let peace rise from our voices
Our hands
The kitchen
From the repairs that we make
From knowing each other
Remembering that we are
Much closer than we think
The same.

jsg, usa

How We Learn pt. 3, I finish a year of pieces

I complete an entire year of pieces

How We Study on Shabbes Morning
Part 3: Homer

We welcome the two Homers from the land
Of the south wind
Named from the intersection of its French
And Indian heritage
The Quapaw tribe a member of the Sioux nation
The French called them Arkansas
south wind
there was controversy over spelling and
pronunciation until the state legislature clarified in 1881
spelled Arkansas pronounced Ar-kan-saw.

Homer and Homer
Homer the name of disputed origin
He who puts the song together
Offered the songs to a place that didn’t want songs
As the legend goes he took the name to shame the place
Much like Bo Diddley took the name of the primitive twanger
Of the cotton fields to either honor
Or tickle his roots.

We welcomed the two Homers
One working to relieve the suffering of elders
In the south wind
The other working on being lazy
Because there are so many distractions to true

We began with a prayer
Make it pleasant on our lips
The lesser known of the two blessings for learning
In our morning liturgy the Birchot HaShachar.

We discussed two articles from the weekly
The 2000 year old seed from Masada
that has sprouted
Indigenous date palm now 1.2 meters high
Is it male or is it female?
If female and we can find a male
They will reproduce
If not — ?.
Israel’s date trees are imported species
Because the Romans did not tend their date palms carefully
They built aqueducts to carry the water everywhere
But neglected the date palm
A clue to their eventual irrelevance.
By Crusader period, the indigenous date palm was gone.

We discussed the recently announced hoopoe
As Israel’s national bird
Hardly mentioned in the Bible
But celebrated in legend as the messenger bird
That flies between King Solomon
And the Queen of Sheba
Thus its place in the mythology of the country
As exemplar of shuttle diplomacy
In Hebrew duchifat.
The sense of longing in this choice of bird.
We discussed Aeschylus’s strange death
And Peres taking his name from a bearded vulture
And why Benjamin Franklin thought the bald eagle
Was a bad choice
And the Sufi version of the hoopoe
The leader of the bird search to find the King of Birds
Which is of course

We turned then to the portion Torah
We drank no tea at all
Convinced that tea
From a mix
Is not a good idea.
I have completed a year’s cycle of poetry
Based on the portion and the musical figure associated with it
I began with B’haalotecha and we have returned to
I read my piece and we parsed it
Which includes this:

Always we are moving forward
three days journey
the ark moving forward

Moses could have been hiding in a cloud
the cumulus drawn up over his face
I just can’t talk to another child of Israel, he might have said
I need some time to myself

but he didn’t

He dusted off the menorah he saw floating in the sky
Build it this way — God showed him

The light from its central shaft
that’s the Torah light
it will need a little lift

Don’t leave me in the dark.

That night we had the most wonderful concert.

jsg, usa

How We Learn pt. 2

What We Do When We Study

We begin with a prayer
Make it pleasant on our lips
For the pure delight of it
Then we reviewed the history of chess
Beginning with the Indian Chaturanga
And the notion of four lines of warriors
And what we can learn from the Hebrew word for the game
Which has to do with the death
Or the fall
Of the Shah.

We then made tea and drank the first truly
Awful cup of tea made in this series
An Indian chai spiced with cinammon and cloves
[cinammon comes into English from Hebrew kinamon but probably borrowed from an even earlier mystery source that may be in southeast Asia]
Tea from a mix
Never a good idea.
Chai itself only indicates that Indian tea
And Russian tea
Have the same origin in China
Chai tea is pleonastic
Like pizza pie
Unless it is Chai [chet yud] tea
A tea that gives you life
As in l’chaim.
We said a prayer over the tea
Everything created according to your word.

We discussed the mystery mitzvah of Sotah
The vow of the nazir
The notion of vows
The sense of bli neder
Without a vow
Which means so for sure
That a vow is unnecessary
It’s more than binding —
I will do it.

We concluded with the deepening
Of our three fold blessing
And this piece
Written by our teacher
Based on his teacher
The Sefas Emes
Who brings down the priestly blessing
Much like the Vedic
Multi-crystalled net
[a fragment]:

O holy God of Shabbes inspiration Naso

Maqam Saba

D E half-flat F G flat

O holy God of the three fold blessing [Numbers 6:23]
the birkat Kohanim
the blessing of the priests our beloved Kohanic ancestors

May God bless you and keep you
May God’s face light you up
May God’s face be lifted to you and give you shalom.

With blessing the power of the upper root descends
the universal descends on the lower root
the individual
the inner point of truth
this is also shleimut shalom
the universal as experienced within
wherever God dwells
there is blessing
wherever there is blessing
there is shalom
an integrating notion.

this for sure –

where there is shleimut there is integration
there is convergence
there is shalom
where there is shalom
there will be peace.

jsg, usa