Beginning and End

This is the beginning and the end
As if linear does not apply
A circle a cycle a spiral —

We ascend with the end
We begin
The end implies the beginning
By the beginning we are not naïve to the end.

, the self-devouring serpent
By Plato the first living being [Timaeus, 33]
Turn it and turn it
For everything is contained within

— Yochanan Ben Bag Bag [Avot 5:22]
Who knew the chambers of the Torah. [Tosefta Ketuvim 5:1]

There is a life force
A point existing within each thing
A sign of divine origin
When you attach to this point
You become partners in creation
It is generative. [Sefat Emet on Genesis]
Ha-chayot she-m’cha-yeh chol davar
The life force that enlivens every living thing
the soul of every living being.

Attach to it
Ha-adam ha-di-buk b’ne-ku-dah zeh
Become glued to it.

When we meet
We are so bonded
In the deepest place
No beginning no end —

All center
All circle.

jsg, usa

Rebbe Nachman on the Serenity Prayer [for his Yahrzeit 18 Tishrei]

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov on the Serenity Prayer

— From the King and the Emperor

All the repairs are made from Rosh Hashanah
Until Shemina Atzeret [the Eighth day of Assembly]
the unification made on Simchat Torah
when Chava/Eve and Adam are united
face to face —

Having been created back to back.
The Holy One separated Adam and Eve
to reunite them at the end of the 22 days
Simchat Torah
the time of the wedding.

The dancing like the dancing
of the Holy One for Adam HaRishon [Primordial]
the first Adam
a wedding party of holy angels and chariots
descending for the dance.

Through these 22 days
we merit our true matches
each Adam for his Chava
each Chava for her Adam –

So it is on Rosh Hashanah
that Adam and Chava
travel to Uman —
it was there that the chair
the Rebbe saw in heaven was created
the one that held all the matches in the world
inscribed on it.

He asked
how wilI I make a living?
You will be a matchmaker
and so every year in Uman
Rosh Hashanah
they go searching for their soul-mates.

We are taught even after we find our soul-mates
and marry
we spend our lifetime
searching for her —
Even after she marries him
she spends a lifetime searching out
his uniqueness
and he for her.

We are gathering Chesed
the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot
from the bottom up
the Chesed within Hod
the Chesed within Netzach
until we merit Chesed within Chesed
on Sukkot we call this
gathering down the Chassadim —

Then the light of Chesed is completely revealed
and it sweetens all the judgments/Dinim.

Something new drawn down during the Days of Awe.

Now, through Sukkot, we merit new ideas
and those Dinim/laws of life
that are written and sealed through Yom Kippur
are sweetened with the light of Chesed.

We have drawn down so much new in these days
making the adjustments
separating the ones we can make
from the ones we cannot make.

G*d, Chesed in Chesed,
master of the Chassadim,
grant me the Shalvah/serenity
to accept and make the adjustments
the courage to separate the ones we can make
from the ones we cannot make

and the wisdom to know the ones we can
from the ones we cannot know.


jsg, usa

Chesed: kindness
Netzach: victory
Hod: Awe


#8: A prayer of gratitude

Tiferet is beauty

My lines are drawn in pleasant places,
making sense, laid into soft wax.
My lines are laid in pleasant places,
I am wearing them, now I am weaving them
working backwards from the source.

I am breathing soul at the inner point of truth,
the lines converging on tiferet, beauty.

I am thanking you
for the soul breathing within me
and the unclaimed soul without.

I am tying untying my life in knots,
I have assembled the fibers
and hung them on the wall.
All weavers pass through tiferet, beauty.

My lines are laid in pleasant places.
Meet me at the blessing,
it is a tunnel to the heart of the world.

Restore me don’t restore me,
trust me.
I am wearing my soul like a coat, inside out.

My lines are left in pleasant places,
a true person of compassion
pulled them together into time,
just enough for another day.

Now I know that nothing
nothing in G*d’s creation is ever lost.

My lines are left in pleasant places,
my lines are left in pleasant places,
invisible fibers of relation
that pull me to You.


Psalm 16
Ben-Zion “Rope-maker”
Genesis 2:7
Sefat Emet on Three-fold blessing
Rebbe Nachman’s last unfinished story as told by S. An-ski

I Love You With All My Broken Heart

A Blessing for the Chag[Sukkot]

I was sitting with the truthful linguist, the Gerer, just before he became nifter, er dead, it must have been ‘04, maybe ‘05.

The Sukkah is a chuppah, he opened with, we wedded G*d on the way out of Egypt. I am the Holy One who marries you, he chanted quoting Vayikra 22, then he chanted the prayer Who spreads out a sukkah of peace over us. The truthful linguist stopped and cocked his head sideways, spreads out means to choose a portion, a part of the whole, he said. G*d is wholeness itself, and part of wholeness. I dwell with the partial, I dwell with the lowly with the humble, he was singing again, quoting Isaiah 57.

Who is a whole person? He was quoting the Book of Splendor now — me, the one with a broken heart. His voice ascended. Wherever G*d dwells there is wholeness. G*d makes whole out of half. Who spreads the sukkah of peace over us? He spread out his arms like he was saying come to poppa.

He was bringing down the idea now to its resting place, his voice settled into a whisper, a low hum heard from one corner of the room to the other.

G*d sets aside the partial, the inner point that is everywhere, the part that is all. A few of us among the many, the wounded, the sick among the well, the partial among the whole.

He closed with this: Everywhere, everywhere G*d dwells — is whole.

jsg, usa

• From the Sefat Emet Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter,
the rebbe of Ger (near Warsaw)
d. 1905.

Sukkah: temporary booth of the wilderness
chuppah: wedding canopy

Closing the Gates

Yom Kippur
Neilah, the closing of gates
I was determined never to look at my retirement account until it was time for me to retire and spend it. I applied for the position of oud player to the Court of the King. My notion: to teach quiet people to string words together like beads for the sake of heaven.
So – I said to no one in particular – I think I will. That was last year at this time, during the closing of the gates that we call Neilah.
I felt happy. I knew in my bones in my blood that this is the way I was supposed to feel. It was still light as I was returning the tools of my trade back to the Rainbow Village, a cluster of dwellings for the developmentally disabled where the synagogue meets. That was Monday, September 28, 2009. That night I went to bed happy and I woke up happy on Tuesday, September 29, and I’ve gone to bed happy and woke up happy every night and morning since. I am a happy man. Ach Sameach Torah calls it (Deut.16:15).

Today is September 19, 2010 and I intend to be happy today.
Last year, the guy who lives in the Rainbow Village who hums and clicks was walking by me and it’s not as if he started talking as I am talking, he hummed and clicked as he always does but this is what I heard:
Isn’t it wonderful to be alive
Aren’t you grateful for this day and all the days of clarity you have been given
Isn’t it a privilege to have done your good work today with your mind and your hands
And to be tired in the sun with the added advantage of returning your tools to their resting places
That’s what he said
Isn’t it good good
To be alive on September 28, 2009 in the afternoon
To be carrying the tools of your trade after having put in a good day’s work
To have taken upon yourself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven
To have put on your yoke of service like all working animals and have actualized your power and potential and served well your Creator
To have been rewarded with nothing loftier than this perfect day in the sun that you will remember not only from recall
But from your intention to put on your poet’s wild yoke and write as many stories and poems that you can
Over the internet
Onto the wind
Out to the sea

james stone goodman, united states of america

O My Dears

O my dears –
I am an imperfect perfection

G*d has blundered more than once
in creating us whole

with broken parts.
I have learned with the Sefas Emes

that all my broken parts are whole
and even if not —

none of us are partial
we are all Miniatures

in some inscrutable way
that will clarify if not in this world

in the next.
I apologize

for what I have said or done
intentionally or inadvertently

or I may do or say
in the coming days

that has hurt or may hurt
in any misconstrued way –

In words
Mine are careful but

What I miss in discernment
You may receive with generosity

What I offer in exhilaration
You may receive with patience

— forgive me.
I need you more than you know,

your friend always,
james stone goodman, united states of america

Tall John Pt. 1, YK Stories

Tall John, part 1
It’s about forgiveness

I fell asleep on the couch. Didn’t feel too good the entire night. Tired out. Fell asleep in my clothes on the top of my bed, boots and all. Ordinarily I love falling asleep with my boots on, like sleeping on the prairie, but Saturday night I just fell asleep. Unreconciled. Unforgiven. Disappointed. Vague but present feelings of inadequacy. Unreconciled is the word. Unreconciled is the world.

I dreamed that I couldn’t find my way, missed all my connections, alone and wandering, lost in a strange location, adrift on a dangerous sea in a rudderless boat. Woke up Sunday morning early, same feelings. Like my boots, I awoke with the same feelings I had on when I went to sleep. Unreconciled. Unforgiven. Disappointed. Had a meeting at nine A.M. was running the track at eight A.M. writing the residue that the dream had left in me. Unsettling unreconciled abandoned even.

Running the track at eight A.M. a little pocket notebook and a pen around my neck. Stop and write. It’s about forgiveness I write. Sure a little angst this time of year is entirely appropriate I am thinking (summertime, just before the holidays, Elul to be precise). It’s about forgiveness. That’s right. Forgiveness? I am searching my memory for something I have done that begs forgiveness.*

Some time earlier, I was asked to perform a wedding in a park. Dancing and storytelling, a little music. A tall man with an interesting face hovering over the rest of the crowd riveted by the ceremony totally present. I am introduced to him, tall John, we exchange pleasantries. He withholds his wisdom but I see it on his face. I knew he had something to say, something important, but we never got to it. I regretted it standing there against a metal rail, staring at the crowd, silent. Too shy, I.

Two years later I am performing another ceremony. I am granted the rare second chance. Tall John present again, hovering over the crowd, completely present, beautifully engaged. This time I intend to mine his wisdom. I know he has it. I wander over to him after the ceremony. Everyone else is congratulating bride and groom, tall John and I snatch a few moments of conversation. He is a poet and is telling me about one of the most powerful religious experiences of his life. “It’s about forgiveness” he said to me. “It’s all about forgiveness. I asked for it. I prayed for it. I felt it. What a ceremony. . .”

I had not forgotten tall John nor his message. So Sunday morning I’m running the track at eight A.M. after being abandoned in my dream, I am writing in my little notebook to make sense of the dream residue. It’s about forgiveness I write. It’s the cargo of forgiveness rolling through me that I am feeling, bad dream, lousy sleep, I am unreconciled, unforgiven, disappointed.

Whose forgiving whom? There’s one other runner on the track. He’s walking the track, earphones, black socks. I pass him. It’s tall John.

“Remember me?” I say to him. “Sure I remember you,” tall John says. “How are you?”

“I’m fine,” I say.
“Some dream you had last night,” he says.
“Yeah,” I say, feeling invaded.
“You know,” he says, “it’s all about forgiveness. Forgiveness is at the center.”
“Yeah,” I say, “but who’s forgiving whom, who’s being forgiven? Am I forgiving? Am I forgiven? Do I forgive myself?” Tell me, tall John, you’re the one who brought it to me, I am thinking, more annoyed than awe-struck.
“I wish I could tell you,” tall John says. “But I’ve been sworn to secrecy.”
“By whom?”
“By the secret society of poets. They sent me. It’s not a G*d thing, it’s a poetry thing. People often call the poetry thing a G*d thing, people confuse us with angels, that delights us poets to no end but the society of poets is a secret society. If I were an angel instead of a poet, I would tell you what to do. Poets will never tell you. It takes a lot of discipline to remain secret,” he says.
“Discipline,” he says. “There’s so many temptations to go public. Our meeting, for example, at the wedding is as public as we get.”

I’m trying to sort all the things I thought were G*d things that were actually poetry things, all the poetry things that were actually G*d things, understanding now the source of most theological confusion.

“Find someone you want to ask forgiveness from, something unfinished, something unsaid, some hurt something intentional or unintentional,” tall John says. “Ask them for forgiveness,” tall John says. “Say — ‘I am sorry please forgive me for anything I have done to hurt you’ ” tall John says. “We are not reconciled, with ourselves or with G*d, until we have made peace with one another.”

“When you have done that,” said tall John, smiling, “then you speak to G*d, to the G*d of your understanding. Say it out loud ‘I screwed up — forgive me.’ Just say it, with your moon roof open driving down Ladue Road at night, in the shower with the hot water splashing on your face, say it. Out loud. ‘I messed up, forgive me.’ And you are forgiven, when you have spoken. Isn’t it wonderful?”

Was that an angel speaking to me, or a poet?

Boom boom boom boom I’m running the track again. I know the story is not done.

jsg, usa


YK Stories: Tall John, pt. 2

Tall John, part 2
It’s about forgiveness

“It’s about forgiveness” the poet said, forgiveness of whom?

“Say a prayer to the God of your understanding,” I heard a voice saying, is it the poet, is it an angel? “Say it in whatever form is necessary. Say it in whatever form is helpful,” I heard.

Jazzy the chinchilla died two days before Yom Kippur. It lived in D’s room. She fell apart. “I should have looked at her this morning,” she said wailing, “I didn’t even look at her. If only I would have looked at her, maybe I would have seen she was sick, I could have taken her to the vet earlier. . .”

“D,” I said, “it’s not your fault. You took care of Jazzy like a mother. It’s not your fault.”

“No,” wailing, “I could have done better.”

Her friend Lizzie in the car with her after burying Jazzie turns to her and says, “D, that’s teshuvah. It’s not your fault. You’re forgiven. It’s teshuvah, say a prayer and you’re forgiven. That’s how it works.”

We are taught by the sages and by ten year olds that G*d is forgiving, it’s the heart of G*d to forgive. Am I forgiving? My inner poet is asking: have you forgiven yourself? For all the lost trails, for the journey that calls me back to itself, for the roads that have gone into mourning every time I have been distracted from my way, for the errors of omission for the sins of commission for the sin that I have committed in deed, in thought, in speech, for the sin committed willingly, for the error done unaware, for all these things, I forgive, for the sins done to me by omission or commission, aware, unaware, in thought, deed, speech, I forgive, I forgive them all, I forgive, I forgive them all.

“G*d,” I say, “forgive me for my sins, my errors, my shortcomings what I have done what I didn’t do, forgive me for not forgiving myself, forgive me for the sins against you the sin of not loving you the sin of not loving life the sin of not loving myself created in your image. . .” and from somewhere on the track I hear “you are forgiven, as you have spoken.” Is it a G*d thing or a poetry thing?

Like my ancestor Jacob (Genesis 32:30), the experience is not enough for me, I have to know. “Tell me your name,” I say in an ultimate kind of mind.

“Yah — who is it?” I hear. Is this the holy name of G*d, is it G*d answering the door, is it the poet answering my question with another question, is it G*d calling to me like to Adam (Genesis 3:9)?

Are you poet are you angel are you G*d — is this the voice of the secret society of poets, “Yah who is it?” Is it my friend being silly hugging a tree in a field? Of course I want to know. I want to believe this is G*d’s holy name. I want to fall on my face and say blessed is Hashem’s most secret unknowable most holy glorious name forever and ever, but no, it is surely the secret society of poets calling me to respond. Yah — who is it? Hello?

james stone goodman
united states of america

From Isaiah

[From Isaiah 1]

The vision of Isaiah son of Amotz
The future Isaiah
[Which he saw]

Hear O heavens
Pay attention O earth
Come to me with real meaning
Purify yourselves
Remove the mistakes
Stop doing what prevents you
You may get out of your own way
Learn to do good
Be a seeker of justice
Strengthen those who need strength
Take up causes

Let us get moving moving
And reason together
And if our sins are like scarlet
They will whiten like snow
If they have reddened like crimson
They will become pure as wool
Turn the darkness into light

The more dark
The more light
Find your willingness

Don’t blame anyone
And all that is impure
Will burn away
In your burn

[From Isaiah 40]

Take comfort
Take comfort now
It’s time to come home
Take the straight road home
The highway
Time now for the crooked to become
The rugged
Leveled and low
It’s time —
Everybody knows

Get yourself up to a high mountain
Raise yourself up
Everything is in place
Waiting for you

Nothing missing
Not one thing

[From Isaiah 49]

No one has forgotten you
You are engraved upon
G*d’s heart
You are written on the palms
Of G*d’s

Raise your eyes
And see all about you

You have said
This place is tight for me
No more
It has opened to you

You will be nurtured
And you will be honored
You will know and be

You will be comforted
— Even among the ruins
You will hear music
And see beauty

You will find joy
And music
And gratitude

[From Isaiah 54]

And when you feel
You will look down
And see yourself walking
On jewels
All your children will be students of G*d
Great will be the peace of your children

When you are thirsty
Go and drink
Eat what is good
And let your soul enjoy its abundance

Then no one
Will be in your way
And when you need to
Your soul will

[From Isaiah 51]

It is me
Who comforts you
And when you are scared
You have the words you need
In your own mouth

You will be protected
You may awaken yourself
You may awaken yourself now
And assume your strength

Shake off the dust
Inherit your peace
Turn away from the contaminants
Follow along
Slowly slowly
Cleanse yourself and follow along

[From Isaiah 54]

Sing and broaden yourself
Lose your fear
Spread out north
And south
And settle all the desolate

Forget the shame of your past
I give you my kindness
And my covenant of

[From Isaiah 60]

Your light has arrived
You shall shine
Even in darkness
And G*d’s way will be seen
By your light

Lift your eyes all around you
They are all assembled to accompany you
And expansive
Shall be your heart

Now you inherit true
Abundance of life

Your light will never

All your people are righteous
You are all a branch
Of the planting

G*d’s handiwork
All of you

jsg, usa

YK Stories

Big John

John disappeared from the club for six months. What happened to John? I asked when I noticed he hadn’t been around in a while. He’s in the hospital, very sick, the only hope an experimental treatment.

I went to the hospital to visit, but there was no visiting. The sign on his door was definite. The nurse said it wasn’t a good time for visitors.

It was that way for months. No visitors, no exceptions. Then I heard his mother and his sister had come to town. What did that mean?

Several months later, one Sunday morning I was at the club. Someone was standing at the juice bar, thin, didn’t recognize the face but something about him was familiar. I stared at him, thinking I know this person but unable to name him.

It bothered me all morning. I hadn’t heard John’s name mentioned around there for months, and it didn’t look like John. John was big, this guy was slight. That’s not John, or is it? I really wasn’t sure. I couldn’t tell.

I later found out that was one of John’s first days back. John had been more of an acquaintance to me than a friend until he was out of the hospital and back to the world. Then John and I became good friends. He appreciated that I had come to visit.

One day we were sitting around the club, and I asked him about the hospital. That’s when John began to open to me his experience in the hospital room.

I was there six months, John said. I thought I was going to die. I think everyone thought I was going to die. I did die a few times, he said. They had to bring me back.

What was it like? I asked. Dying, I mean. It was like you read about, John said, a lot of light, friendly faces and a Presence, safe and not at all scary. I remember floating up above the bed and watching myself from somewhere near the ceiling, and I remember being kind of recalled to my body. That’s the only way I can describe it.

I’ll tell you this: when I was lying there alone in the hospital, dying, I could hardly remember the attitude that saw me through things, the way I used to be. It was gone.

That was the worst part about it, everything I thought I knew was gone. Emptied out.

I went in with all my spiritual resources intact, or so I thought, John said. But there came a time when it all went right out the window. I was going to die and I wasn’t ready and I was scared and pissed and all the serenity I thought I had was gone. Completely gone. I was an empty well.

Then my mother came from Florida. She sat next to my bed for weeks, most of the time I was incoherent. When I wasn’t, I asked her to tell me that she loved me. My sister came and I asked the same of her, tell me, I asked her, what is it that you love about me? Be specific. And they told me. They told me how they loved me, they reminded me how they have always loved me, why they loved me, what it was about me they loved the most, they recalled our entire story together, over and over. That’s what saved me. They loved me well.
Specifics. They recreated our story together. When I couldn’t do it for myself, they did it for me. Does that make any sense? Pretty soon I was no longer afraid. It was the most amazing trip.

Then John told me a story that he had heard from his friend Janet.

There is an old man in summertime who sits on the bench in front of the court building every day and says hello to her. He is always there, nattily dressed, a skimmer hat perched on his head. He always smiles, always nods hello to her. Then one day he isn’t there. And the next day, and the next. Janet looks for him. A few weeks of summer passes and Janet wonders what happened to her man.

Then one day he returns. He nods and smiles and for the first time she says something to him. Where’ve you been? I thought you had gone away.

No, missy, he says. It’s been too hot out here lately, so I’ve been sitting over there, across the street, inside the lobby of that building. I could see you from there, the whole time. He smiles and Janet imagines him watching her, smiling at her from within the lobby of the air conditioned building across the street. She pictures herself looking for him the days he didn’t appear and imagines him watching her frustration and sadness at not seeing him. I’ve been watching you. He smiles.

Yeah, said John, that’s what happened to me. That’s just the way it was with me.

jsg, usa