Covered

Because The Moon is Covered, part 1
Through what then will it shine?
Through teshuvah and the sound of the shofar.
–Zohar

1.

Tekiah – Original unity
Before exiles —
Personal
Spiritual
Tribal

Tekiah the universal —
Teruah – the relative

Wavering, crying
A longing to return

Broken
We are breaking up

The Great Tekiah
The promise of return

Sad and beautiful world
Sad – so far away
Beautiful – so hungry
We are to
Return

Because The Moon is Covered, part 2
Through what then will it shine?
Through teshuvah and the sound of the shofar.
–Zohar

2.

I will turn away from here
and approach There
*

Turning —
process not performance
journey not destination

Not sin-based
change-based

Not goal-taking
movement

Unstuck

*Rashi on Exodus 3:3

jsg, usa

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah

The moon is the image
the growth arc this time of year

Begin with Rosh Hashanah
the new moon of Tishrei

The new moon
barely discerned –
we draw down
something entirely
new

Ba-kesse
Hidden on Rosh Hashanah
until at Sukkot
fully plumped
with the moon* —

Supernal Mother
the higher light

Drawn down:
unstuck [we are]

Hey! a direction**
To —

When the moon is full
tell me what you know

jsg, usa

*Psalm 81:4
**Tashuv[ah]

And he Went

Then Mose spoke to Joshua, his successor:
He told him a couple of things but what I remember most
is the phrase chazak v’ematz
Be strong and courageous
I loved it when Mose talked about courage
he was always one of the few who did.

Mose said not to be afraid
God would accompany us
God would not have brought us this far
to let us go on alone.
That was good too.

Then Mose did something really important
he sat down and wrote the Torah.
He wrote the entire document so we would have something
for sure
to tell the future.

He wrote it down for us
the whole thing.

When Mose was done writing, God began to speak to him.
Your days are drawing near to die,
God said to Mose,
Go get Joshua and stand in the Tent of Meeting
So I can give Joshua final instructions.

That’s what they did,
Mose and Joshua stood in the tent of meeting
and God appeared in a pillar of cloud
so we didn’t catch everything.

What we heard was difficult
it was about the future
and what we would forget and how someone would
have to remind us now and again —
what we are all about.

So Mose wrote out the Torah
then he made up a song
that Mose taught us that day
it was a song, or a poem
and some of it was heard and is known

And some of it
remains secret.

There is a known song
and a secret song
a known poem and a secret poem.

One is flesh and form
the other bone and spirit.

jsg, usa

Maqam Bayat

D E half-flat F G

Every Shabbat is associated with a musical figure, a maqam,
Arabic cognate of maqom = place.

Jobs Bill 2

Dear Boutique Grocery Store in My Neighborhood,

I think a person should love his or her work
I love food
If you stick me in the olive oil department
I can discourse for hours comparing the oils
And the olive who grows only where winters are temperate
I’m a little far north for a good olive
but I sometimes summer in Italy
where the oils in the southern provinces are heavy
in the north the oils are milder
olio extra vergine di oliva in Tuscany is a favorite
as well as the darker oils from Umbria
especially around Assisi
Spello in particular.

I know everything about olive oil
which is by the way one of the seven holy species
mentioned in the Hebrew Bible
not the olive but the olive oil
the olive releases its dearest product
when presssed

I can discourse about that too
so my experience has prepared me well
for a position at your store.

Don’t you think I would be a fine addition?

I am becoming inspired by my President
Who has offered up a jobs bill
And what sensible Republican would
Oppose that?

Put me in the tomato sauce aisle
I love tomato sauce and know everything about it.
I mean the perfect red sauce
the superiority of red to white sauce
(white sauce an inherently flawed concept)
the perfect red sauce
that elevation of the lowly tomato to holy consequence
the interpenetration of spices, herbs, flavors, tomatoes
the sauce the identity of its ingredients but the ingredients not
the identity of the sauce —
as if there is something that makes it sauce that is larger
more consequential than its constituent ingredients.

The perfect red sauce, when it’s made right,
you cannot pick out the individual tastes,
unless it’s a wrong sauce
then you know there’s too much basil
or it’s too heavy with oregano, or bay leaf, too sweet,
or too olive oily
but when the sauce is right
it’s a perfect blend
and it just is, not this or that
it just is
the perfect red sauce.

It is many and it is one
many ingredients one perfect taste
not a combination of independent tastes
but one glorious irrefractable, irreducible taste.

I can talk about this for hours.

I enjoy the dry goods part of the store also
I can flat out order the best notebooks
Clever affordable pens [from Japan I’m afraid]
And three by five cards, etc., I am so delighted
That you carry them.
I would suggest adding a shelf of work clothes
I love overalls.

Also, the coffees and teas are a special expertise of mine.
I know everything about coffee and tea
And my taster is keen.

I am working on various deadlines for publications
And this has been a good distraction for me
So if you offer me a job
I may or may not take it
Depending on how far on my manuscripts
I have worked.

Yours truly,

jsg
usa

Jobs Bill

Mr. President: I Need A Jobs Bill

Application for Employment
Trader Joe’s Corporation
Livingston, California


Dear Prospective Employee:

Please answer in 100 words or less why you want to work at Trader Joe’s.

Dear Trader Joe’s Corporation,

I’ve had a varied working career
that is, some really interesting jobs,
but I’ve been in the same profession
for some time now
I am feeling it is time for a change.
I have always loved grocery stores.

I love food and I love food
Beautiful.
I love the packaging of food
Love to taste the difference between the medium hot
And the hot
Salsa.
I know everything about salsa
Dancing and eating.

I love to dash off during working hours
And taste a little coffee now and again.
I know everything about coffee.
I love a decent tea around 4:00 PM
And a nice cookie
I know everything about tea.

I love to compare the fruits
When they are excellently ripened
When in season
When out of season
I am an authority on fruits.

I love to share with others
All the details about the foods
That I know.
I know everything about food,

Except pesto.
I don’t like pesto
And I think people who do
Are snobs.

And I don’t drink so —
Please
Do not put me in the beer and wine
Departments

But I will make it up to you
I swear.

Sincerely,

jsg
usa

The Great Olive Oil Must Suffer

The Great Olive Oil Must Suffer

It shall be when you enter the Land that Hashem your God gives you as an inheritance and you possess it and dwell in it; that you shall take of the first fruit of the ground that you bring in from your land where Hashem your God will choose. — Deut. 26:1-2

I was speaking with Rashi (vintner, 11th century, northeastern France) this summer.

Me: Of the seven species associated with the Land wheat, barley, grape, fig, and pomegranate, a land of oil-olives and honey [Deut.8:8]. Honey — what kind of honey?

Rashi: Not bee honey date honey [I’m translating], oil-olives, the olive she grows where winters are temperate, I am too far north. I am loving a good olive, but I often summer by south Italia, where the oils in the southern provinces are heavy. In the northern provinces, the oils are milder.

Me: Liquid gold.

Rashi: Exactement. Parfaitemente.

Me: You know, of course, to domesticate the olive comes from the homeland, Middle East, 6000 BCE. Olive trees make fruit in arid, stony soil all around the Mediterranean.

Rashi: Tell me something I don’t know. I have heard that there is a tree in the Maremma near Tyrrhenian coast, 3500 years old, before the Greeks, before the Etruscans even. The Romans made the commerce with the olives, they created the classifications too: vergine, extra vergine all that. The Benedictines took over after the fall of the Empire.

Me: I hear the first pressed oils are sometimes blended with lesser oils. This troubles me.

Rashi: Troubles you? I live for this, for everything that issues from the mouth of God. Extra vergine the oil must be extracted from first press, mechanical only no chemica, must contain less than 1 percent acid. Vergine, same extraction, less than 2 percent acid.

Me: It’s the olive oil that’s one of the seven species, not the olive.

Rashi: The midrash says the olive releases its best qualities when squeezed. Don’t you love that?

Me: I do. I do love that. The Italianos have a wonderful expression. I will translate for you: the great olive oil must suffer.

Rashi: Oh, that’s so Jewish.

The House of Letters

The House of Letters*

Through the Ninth of Av
Found:
The blessing in it

The implied Redemption
In Every
Exile

For every descent
Hidden Ascent

The dependable
Next
The implied Return

Permanent —
Only our Hunger
This Yearning for Return

Now:
49 days to Rosh Hashanah
Ascent of the sefirot

We begin with Malkhut
Climbing / Climbing
The True Tree

Roots Above

— jsg, usa

*Master of all the words,
We are breaking in on the year 5772
since the Creation of the world as we reckon time
in our language of acronym secrets clues and anagrams TaSH-‘av*
Tih’ye SH’nat Ayin Beit
The sign of the ayin may this be the year of the eye
The year of ‘Iyyun = focus – and the deep study of Beit
Opening onto the house of letters

Why We Close Our Eyes

Why We Close our Eyes When We Pray

We close our eyes
Turn in

Listen people —
listen carefully

Let God be God
This way that way –

He is she
You are me

With all the
attendant
difficulties

To hear implies blessing [Sefat Emet on Re’eh]
Blessing – when we attach
To the life of all Life

Ego ciao
The I recedes and we meet there
Elevated by the diminishing self —

Attached to the heart of the world
Essence to essence –
Bittul

We become little

This is blessing

The I is a thief [Menachem Mendel of Kotzk]
It snatches the partial and mistakes it
For the whole

Only Everything is everything [Marvin Gaye]

We not only close them –
We take out the I’s entirely
When we pray

jsg, usa

I visited the site 3 months later: here’s the story. Elegy.

Age of Fear

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, my government invited me to a think session in New York City. There were delegations from every state. At the end of day two, I felt I had to witness the site then called Ground Zero. It was December 11, 2001, precisely three months after. I called my friend, a downtown New York City photographer. We took the subway to Fulton Street at almost midnight. They were still cleaning out the subway and fortifying its walls. It was dusty in the subway corridors and overhead I could discern the reinforcements in the ceiling and on the walls.

We walked up out onto Fulton Street and a short distance to the site. Past midnight now, there were still people lingering in the area. On the site itself, we could see the ironworkers finishing up their welding for the night, but the lumbering trucks did not cease moving the mountain of debris that remained of the World Trade Center.

From a distance, I could see the crude natural memorial: the piece left of the aboveground skeleton of the towers that I had heard New Yorkers call “the potato chip.” Perhaps it was a way of domesticating or taming the tragedy somewhat, but it didn’t look anything like a potato chip to me; it was two hundred feet tall and it looked like the ruin of a holy place, stately and dignified, ruined and demeaned, both.

It reached out of the ruins and up towards the sky like a sign of both destruction and the aftermath of inspiration and courage. It embodied both ruin and reach.

I was drawn to get a clearer look at this beautiful-terrible remnant. We walked 360 degrees around the site, and on the west side, facing New Jersey, we stopped in front of one of the spontaneous shrines that appeared all around what once was the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Hundreds of such shrines had sprung up spontaneously, decorating the temporary walls that had been built all around the site.

An old man kneeled in front of a particular shrine where we stopped, reading the notes and pictures and stories that made up an altar on a wooden fence. We stood there next to him, all of us reading the stories given in pictures and words, prayers from children to their parents, letters from parents to their children, lovers to lovers, friend to friend, each story an entire world.

It was then, that moment, in front of one of many such altars, that the tragedy of the World Trade Center ceased to be theoretical for me. I felt the weight of three thousand broken worlds times the number of intimates who do not forget, a sad set of multiple thousands sitting in a circle around God.

All of a sudden, next to the altar where we stood, opened a section of the wooden fence, and out rolled one of the trucks laden with debris from the site. The gates remained open and we were granted one of the few clear visions available then into the Ground Zero site. We all stood silent, looking past the altar, the stories, the pictures, the prayers, into the site of the ruins of the World Trade Center, Ground Zero, watching the dump trucks rolling out loaded with debris. We sat in silence watching for ten minutes, then the old man now standing next to me said, “so began the age of fear.”

My friend and I continued to circle the site, walking around it, from every angle entranced by the monument both terrible and wonderful that loomed over us reflecting the stadium lights that shined after dark, the truest symbol I had seen of the now altered sense of the world, the Age of Fear, a remnant in metal of disaster. The skeletal remains of the World Trade Center.

There were still people walking with us. No one was sightseeing. I felt like we were all on a holy pilgrimage, praying with our feet, circling the ruin that rose in the distance, a totem in the massive graveyard that the World Trade Center had become. It stuck in the site like a tombstone, this potato chip, this cathedral of ruins.

It was close to three AM by the time we headed back to the subway. We had spent three hours in walking meditation, the smell that everyone talked about in the air then; what is that smell? Is it acrid, is it sweet, is it something burning, but burning sweetly, a mix of Levitical incense? Is it the kabbalah of ruin and redemption — is that the feeling, descent and ascent, the grotesque and the beautiful bound up, interpenetrated, the unholy and the holy — symbolized by the broken cathedral that had risen out of the ruins where there once was a building? That’s what it looked like: a broken cathedral.

These uncommon feelings, a mix of holy and unholy, pity and fear, awe, I recognized them: a form of mourning, a quality of brokenness, when what is released from the ruins of the heart is something quiet and beautiful, strong and sure, the sense of both impermanence and permanence, to be drawn to the core and know that something good there endures.

jsg, usa

9/11 Prayer #2

9/11, Prayer #2
On Nitzavim,
the sedra of 9/11/2001

We are standing today
all of us
the big shots
chumps
children
wives and sweethearts
–and the stranger
that is within
all of us
before Hashem The Name
God
–from the hewers of wood
to the carriers of water
all of us
today.

To cut a deal with You
So — You will remember the deal
You cut with our ancestors
good people
eager covenant cutters.

But not for us alone
do You keep this agreement
not for us who are here
today
but for those of us
who are not here
today.

This deal that I set before you this day
(You know which one I mean)
it is not too far from you
that you should say
who shall go for us
nor is it too hard for you
that you should say
who will do this for us.

It is not in heaven
and it is not hidden
and it is not distant
but right here
under your nose
it is in your mouth
and in your heart
it is sitting next to you on the bench
waiting for the bus
it is standing on the corner
in front of Starbuck’s
watching for the light to change.

Close
that you should do it.

Look
see
look see:
I have placed before you
the life and the good
the death and the not-good.

Love Hashem
walk like God
do the right things
the simple things and the complex things
figure out what you can for yourself
and be wise together
then you will multiply
and God will grow you
and bless you.

But if you don’t listen
and fly away
I tell you
I surely tell you
you will be lost
and your days will not be lengthened
on the land.

So I call heaven and earth together
to witness for you and against you
I have placed life and death before you
blessing and curse.

Choose life
choose blessing
love God
listen
glue yourself to God
for God is your life
and the length of your days —

God promised your ancestors
God promised them
I swear.

jsg, usa