This is Why I Dig Shul: What we say before we Greet the Bride

Friday night, Shabbat Naso, 10:45 PM

What We Say Before We Greet the Bride

Tonight I told the story of the three-petalled blessing
And the Kohanic lift
That I took from the Sefas Emes (Rebbe Yehuda Leib Alter of Gur, 1847-1905)
Who Aviva often cited when I learned from her
[A long time ago it seems]
In Jerusalem.

Aviva got onto the Sefas Emes from some influence of the
Gateshead teachers’ training college
Affiliated with the celebrated Gateshead Yeshiva
Largest yeshiva in Europe –
Where she learned in addition to her
Doctoral training in comparative literature at Cambridge.

The teaching I gave over was brought down by the Sefas Emes
The rebbe of Gur
I try to give it over once a year
On the Shabbes before Shavuos
When it’s always Naso
The longest parashah in Torah
and where the blessing appears.

I opened with sitting next to Vered Yericho
The Rose of Jericho at Dov Noy’s salon
Maybe fifteen years ago
And knowing Rose and hearing her tell me
That she was given to marry Moishele
The Rebbe’s son –

Instead she fled her home in Hungary
And came to Palestine.

Traveling with Rose to Jericho she sang the song she carries
like a sacred bundle
From the Sefas Emes
But I couldn’t remember it.

Don’t forget this song, don’t forget this song
I said to myself along the winding stairway to and from Jericho,
But I couldn’t keep it. I forgot it.

I found it only last summer
On You Tube
In Hungarian
Learned it and sang it on the High Holidays.

Thus my personal connection with the Sefas Emes was concise –

It’s not symmetry or even roundness I long for —
But I do favor the exploding fireworks and to follow
Every rivulet of sparks to its dispersal in air —

In the Sefas Emes version
The blessing is given in the singular
opening onto the whole
the individual as it opens onto the universal
the universal always sheleimut
l’sem lekha shalom
to bring the blessing from the individual instance
to the universal application —
the conduit from the one to the many
wild ride that –
to break through your skin and live in G*d.

The Sefas Emes connects blessing with wholeness with individuality
with blessing the power of the upper root descends
descends on the lower root on the individual on the instance
the upper root the anchoring above —
roots above.

The inner point of truth
this is shleimut shalom
the inner is experienced in the universal
wherever G*d dwells
there is blessing
wherever there is blessing
there is shalom —
can you dig that?

Peace is a vessel
it contains blessing.

I am you and
You are me
And we are all

I love the partial the broken individual incomplete
the fragment the wounded
I love the separate because it integrates
and even if not –
it is whole.

I am stunned by this teaching
Every time
I revisit it.

Then tonight C. brought some baked goods she made
in her magic kitchen.
I had a headache
Out in the sun too much today
Someone hollering
Dinner nice with my wife and son
But by the time of shul
Head aching. Stomach too.

We made the holy prayers
Then C.
[I will keep her confidence]
brought out these goodies
I couldn’t eat ‘cuz my tummy was also bummy,

still I had a sliver
one sliver of something C. called a tot
or a pote
or something I didn’t recognize
one syllable —

it was like a coffee cake
a little darker
or a crumb cake and it had
listen carefully here –

it had blueberries that were succulent
and the whole loaf not too sweet

the berries erupted in freshness from within this
crumb cake, common, a little darker

and it was the most delicious pastry
I have ever

It healed me entirely of every deficit
I had brought into the room with me.

I don’t know what this thing was
Pote tot wait maybe she said pot
Maybe it was made with pot
[no – she knows I would oppose that kind of thing] —

it was a coffee cake with blueberries.

Reborn I was on my way home
And I am not giving over this story
Only to pass on the holiest of the Sefas Emes teachings —

Not to entice you to shul
though it was wonderful

Or to honor the Rose of Jericho
Or to remember Dov Noy

And the wonder of those days
And the deep learning of Aviva
And her introduction for me of the Rebbe of Gur

But to mark the wonder of
these days

And to follow stories
Their ribbons of light

Like fireworks in the sky
Bursting like fresh blueberries

In my mouth.

jsg, usa