Spiced Up

Next to Last Day Chuf-shah

What kind of chufshah/vacation – different. Not bad, not bad at all. I rather enjoyed the visioning aspect the romance of middle eastern sleeping in fever especially now that I can refer to it in the past tense. I learned a load of music in a small package. I even made several connections from my past that will reveal itself in unexpected ways into the future.

Today I had only several goals, one to pay the two parking tickets I received yesterday. This happens to me every time I come here, I zoom around the country in my rental dodge-em car with impunity, park everywhere, and on the last day the shadow authorities who have been watching me for the whole time swoop down and tag me as many times as I leave the chariot for what they refer to as parking (foreign aid).

I figured out by myself how to pay the parking tickets on-line. I was as proud of this as if I was an astronaut and made an emergency adjustment on the equilibrium byzoozle that keeps the capsule from spinning off into space.

Then I went looking for the one sefer/book I wanted to purchase while I have been here that I have been studying on-line with a guy from Jerusalem who teaches it at midnight (his time) by some visual skype-like technology to me in St. Louis. I met him once in person, we actually did a gig together, and I see him every week on my computer screen and he told me where to find the book. I couldn’t find the book. I didn’t want to bother him while I was here because I knew his son was in the country and he was visiting his father on the coast, etc. I went to the three bookstores I knew which were in proximity before my ankle started to smart again so I was done looking.

I consoled myself by stopping at the CD store in the center of the town where the guys really know music and you can listen to anything you like. They got a huge kick out of the things I was asking for. Who are you? They kept asking. Where are you from? I’m from St. Louis. Where is that? I explained a half a dozen ways which didn’t relate until I said it was near Chicago.

They brought out a load of music I had never heard and we listened over the store system and I chose four tasty CDs talked music deep deep and all four guys waved goodbye and were amazed I spoke Hebrew.

While I was in the store I got a call from the guy who teaches me the sefer I was looking for. Where are you? He asked. I’m in the CD store in Jerusalem. Nice store, he said. Where are you? I asked back. I’m in Katamon [neighborhood in Jerusalem], where I live.

I went looking for the sefer we’re studying. I’ll bring it to you, he said. I can stop at a bookstore near my house that has it. I have a bicycle. Where shall we meet. So we met at the bagel store in the neighborhood where I used to live and he brought me the sefer in two volumes and we sat in the bagel store and I chose a passage and we learned it drinking cappuccino.

It was a piece about the world spicing itself up and lifting up even from the dark corners as the externals fall away. My teacher wrote in the margin the date of our learning, my name, Jerusalem the holy city.



I went to my last music lesson today where I broke the ornamentation barrier
There is an advanced ornamentation to the Turkish style of oudism
That I couldn’t quite figure with what I call my ear

So I asked my teacher and he broke the piece down for me
Ornamentation: each note of which he explained and played
He played it and I mimicked him

In a moment
Something that eluded me for years
Opened up in the simplest way

How could I have missed that

Today I saw it and heard it and felt it in my hands
At the same time

It was a moment
I almost turned into syrup

I also realized that it is quite similar to the ornamentation
Of the baroque guitar
With which I am quite familiar

I should have asked:
How much of this are you interested in

What I am doing is way beyond my expertise
Though as with other things I have taken on
In the realm of obsessions

My teachers think otherwise

I suppose that’s a rare teacher
Who can hear or see in the student
What the student cannot

That’s me and that is my teacher

I told him again on our parting
What a fine teacher he is
He told me what a fine student I am

I read from a great poet
That one needs something to write about
A life

I may have forgotten that
Get out and do things
He said

Otherwise you’ll bore everyone
With your little stories

jsg, Jerusalem

Playing the Guitar in Jerusalem

Playing in Jerusalem

During my recoupalescence in a hotel room in Jerusalem overlooking the Kidron Valley and the Old City on Mt. Zion, etc., tastefully furnished in iron frames and pillows designed in lapis and scarlet and greens and turquoise a mix of middle eastern and Indian motifs that worked well together, the lighting not nearly as careful but I opted not to use much of it and let the remarkable night-light outside my window be my attention and I threw the curtains back opened the windows and listened everyday for the muezzin announcing the end of the Ramadan fast at sundown from the Arab village Silwan across the valley. Tonight I will record it; it is so close over the valley.

My guitar playing friend in Jerusalem dropped off my guitar that I leave with him. I met him my first week here, my first visit, thirty six years ago. I was playing guitar on the steps of the only address I knew, the College I was to attend, and he heard someone had been playing there at night so he came looking for me. He was then and is now a complete guitar fanatic.

He became a doctor, also an engineer, he is quite clever and an excellent guitarist. I also appreciate his form of doctoring. I told him how sick I had become so he dropped off the guitar at my hotel, said he’d talk to me later. That’s my kind of doctor. Don’t worry about it, he said, everybody gets what you have now. You’re an official resident. You’re just not used to it. I’ll be back.

He and I toured all over Israel within the month we met and he is one of those people who I encountered in life and changed everything for me. We were touring Israel three four nights a week the first year I was here. I played with musicians from all over the world. I played entirely American music which I might have stuck with had I not been exposed to a different sound while here, a sound which eventually pushed out the sound I had in my head. It burrowed deeper into my soft tissues opening up worlds for me I didn’t know existed.

My friend is more into American music, knows more about roots music than I do, still he appreciates what I do and every time we get together I meet with his musician friends and he asks me to play for them and they go crazy with the music I now play. Which is their music. I learned it from them in a sense and every time I return here I give it back to them, these middle easterners who are playing the blues and jazz heroes of my youth. Just another metaphor for how idiosyncratic our histories are and who could have predicted where we are going.

When I am here I am studying the oud with a great player I met over the internet who lives in south Tel Aviv. He is also an excellent teacher. He has taken me on as a student and will give me as much time as I ask for and also loans me one of his instruments. It’s perfect.

The material he gives me is demanding and I generally make as much time as I can to practice but it’s all on the fly and the material is challenging. This trip I was working on a 7/8 rhythm that was really throwing me at first. I kept sneaking in another beat and turning three into four now and again and I could feel the need to push the rhythm down into my body, it wasn’t a problem of counting, it was a problem of feel. I had to feel that rhythm in my joint that jaunty three when I am anticipating four.

Because I have been sick, I am walking now in three and four time and it’s an interesting walk/dance and I don’t know if I’ll ever return to a regular stroll. I have the 7/8 I believe fully integrated.

I felt that when I hurt my ankle, between my first and second lesson, it threw off my musicality. The first lesson was fantastic; I picked up the piece he showed me and played slowly through it with no problems, the first several times I played it even managing to get the feel of the 7/8. I would have to work on all the fingerings and gather up some speed but I could do that in my practice time before the next lesson.

In between lesson one and two, I hurt my ankle, went to the hospital, bound up my leg too tightly and in the second lesson I couldn’t play a thing. Lost the sense of the 7/8 and felt bad. I had practiced but I had lost the music in my body; I was compensating in my head and it was no compensation just distraction. Phone is ringing.

That was Meeli who is my friend living on the kibbutz near the Sea and when I told her the whole story she said she is delighted that I am cos m’leiah kind of person. The cup is full, not empty quite similar to the English idiom half full except in Hebrew it’s full full.

That’s right; I’m in Jerusalem, I haven’t left the hotel room in two days and I’m having the time of my life. She thought this was just great. Meeli is a natural philosopher. We laughed and laughed at all the unfortunate circumstances of this experience. Two Akivas chattering away in the holy tongue.

jsg, usa

Vision part 2


R. Gamaliel, R. Eliezer b. Azariah, R. Yehoshua, and R. Akiva
came to the Temple Mount
they saw a fox coming out of the Holy of Holies,
they all burst into tears, except Akiva
Akiva laughed. [Makkot 24b]

I saw the foxes on the narrow dirt roads of the lower Galilee inching my way along in a Spanish-built car directioning myself by intuition and finding my way to my destination. But I saw the foxes, it was the week before Tisha B’Av and there was nothing in the obvious associations lost on me. The foxes were small, beautiful, car savvy, easily outrunning me on the car/foot/bike path darting in and out of openings in the foliage at the side of the road where they no doubt lived and thrived. Little foxes.

I felt neither the inclination to burst into tears or to have a particularly optimistic read on the future, though the Akiva laugh is always most meaningful to me as an invocation of neither via postiva or via negativa, just via ambiguosa. Who the hell knows what the foxes prefigure: you may as well laugh. They thought it was desolate, Akiva thought it was funny, George Moon thought it was desolate and funny, I think when presented with the sensory information, you may as well laugh.

I also feel the proximity between the laughing and the tears, to me they are right next to each other on the spectrum of human responses to existence when it is not a linear notion but a circular notion. Tears are sitting in one spot on the circle, right next to the tears the funny man and the distinction between the two is subtle. You might think you’re sitting in the tears spot and a moment later you’re cracking up and you realize you are in the next seat, laughing. I spend a good deal of every day in both seats as do most of the people I love.

I recall the description of Bar Yochai, Akiva’s student: one eye smiling, one eye crying.

Akiva, I am sure, knew the prophecy from Zechariah 8:4ff, Old men and old women shall sit again in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.

If so, don’t take this prefiguring of the foxes too seriously; better days are coming. Akiva of the long look.

Or perhaps what Akiva had was a real vision. He actually saw into the future and saw what Zechariah described happening; it wasn’t a matter of attitude or posture, it was Akiva gazing into the future and seeing so much restoration that the implication of the ruin brought by the foxes meant nothing to him. He might have been laughing at everybody else’s limited imaginations. Behold the foxes; here’s the story of the foxes, drawn in a homiletically limited way, Akiva saw beyond that, eschewed homiletics entirely, had confidence in the future and knew God provides. Relax, said Akiva, I saw it and quit making sermons. You’re boring me with your tears drawn from those cute little foxes.

Secret: every so often — what we have here – is a real vision.

I’m in Israel as I’m writing this and the second or third evening I was here, I twisted my ankle in a rather dramatic and frightening way. I saw this at least a week before I came. I didn’t tell anyone well, because I didn’t believe it myself, it was just a dreamy imagining that I hurt my ankle when I came to the Land and I couldn’t do much. I had myself a vision, I also didn’t want my friends and family to think I’m crazy, crazier, it’s just not comfortable.

I’ve had visions before and they are not induced by drugs (sometimes by dreams) and some I pay attention to, some I don’t, some have changed or authenticated the course of my life. They are not acid flashbacks; I came of age in the Sixties but I bet I smoked less grass than my high school teachers and I was lead singer in a great band and couldn’t get a girl for the life of me. No, not any of that. I lived across the street from the MC5 and I spent all my free time in the library. I’m not bragging; this hasn’t as a matter of fact paid off at all until about a year ago. There’s just a door that opens once in a while in my head and I look through or out. That’s what I saw about two weeks ago: an injury, a foot or leg injury in Israel, myself laid up.

What I didn’t see was the virus that followed, one I assume I picked up while visiting the holy Rambam at the hospital in Haifa that really laid me out, drove up a fever that crashed the bell over my head and made me delirious for at least one night and achy and stomachy and prepared for a clean colonoscopy by day two of said Vee-roos [Heb.]. No visions however, just hurt.

My handlers drove me to Jerusalem and dropped me in a hotel room by myself for two days with no food. But it was good; I felt like I was a street addict detoxing except I was overlooking the Old City. So much romance I could hardly stand it.

Blake saw God outside his window when he was five. I don’t doubt this at all. Read Blake. My own son picked out angels when he was just beginning to speak, his first word was “light,” and don’t think you know where those angels are congregating. It’s more like Wings of Desire than you think and in the expressed environments of such spirits – not a trace. I checked many times, returning to wisdom of Exodus 25:8, build it and I will dwell within them. Them, not it. All the clues are in the holy Torah. We have to think like Holmes.

As I am writing this, I am coming to my senses, having not left my hotel room overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem for two days now. The hotel staff is very kind, they know something is wrong in there but do not ask. I am here to do some teaching, most of which I have had to reneg on, and to study with my music master with whom I have met enough to have acquired my pieces which I have diligently worked on. I have a load of books and the Wifi and figured out foreign access to Netflix, I have a very tasty borrowed Turkish style oud and a lovely German guitar I purchased in Prague and keep in Israel because I have been studying here every summer with my musical muse. I haven’t spoken to anyone in days.

I don’t have that much to teach anyways. I have entered the listening learning curve of my life, having moved through the talking teaching curve I think as a young man when I had the hubris to think I knew something. I am on the less is more track, find your silence, give it give it give it all away, etc. track. I love it here.

I am high enough overlooking the valley Kidron that the breezes obviate the need for air conditioning, which I love. The air and light of Jerusalem during the various changes of the day is one of the great pleasures of being here. I wonder how the weather is where you are? [I know; wanted to end this piece without anyone feeling sorry for me].

Sending healing from Jerusalem, the place I am born and born and born.

Rabbi James Stone Goodman

Dark Vision

Dark Vision

None darker than the story of the Chozeh/Khoyzeh of Lublin, often referred to in English as the holy Seer of Lublin, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak. Disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, he also studied under R. Shmelke of Nikolsburg and Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk. He had thousands of followers and great powers. He could look into a forehead and read out character, past deeds, and the root of a person’s soul.

He also had a worthy detractor. His detractor implied that the Chozeh was a phony. The Chozeh said people followed him, he didn’t ask them to. So his detractor challenged him: tell your people you aren’t a Rebbe at all and they’ll stop following you. He did that, told his people how lowly he was and they only thought he was extra humble and loved him more. Chassidim love humility, said his detractor, so tell them you’re a big shot, a real tzaddik. Moishe Gross. See if that works.

The Chozeh said to his detractor, of course you’re right. I’m no rebbe. But I’m no liar. I just can’t do that. In the end, his detractor came to regret opposing him.

There is an exceedingly mysterious story told about him. A dark tale; when it is told, it is told reluctantly. There is a story with messianic and visionary qualities and another version of a much more mundane nature.

In 1814, in Lublin (today Poland). Lublin — one of the more dynamic centers of Chassidus. Simchas Torah that year something out of the ordinary was happening.

They had come from far away places to rejoice with the Holy Seer of Lublin. The shul had never known such crowds or such fervor. The Holy Seer of Lublin said, let’s forget all our troubles. They sang and danced around their Master and worked themselves up into a heat.

Just before the holiday that year, the Holy Seer of Lublin had sent emissaries around the countryside inviting everyone to attend.

And so to all who came to the shul that night in 1814 to celebrate, the Holy Seer of Lublin said, drink and celebrate! If it’s pure enough, contagious enough, it will last forever–I promise you.

He was in his late sixties but he led the congregation that night with extra vigor. They celebrated that night with more intensity; they felt as if something important was hanging in the balance, as if something big depended on their actions that evening.

“Sisu vesimchu b’Simchat Torah!” howled the Seer. And so they did that night: they rejoiced and celebrated in the joy of the Torah. They danced and sang and hardly noticed when the Holy Seer stole away out of the room, and upstairs into his private study.

What he did there is not known.

What is told is this: his wife heard strange noises coming from his study, sounds like those of a child weeping. She rushed into the room and the room was empty. She screamed.

They heard the scream below. They ran upstairs and she was crying and repeating, he told me to keep an eye on him. Now he’s gone. He’s been taken away.

More she would not say.

The single window in the room was too narrow for a man to pass through, and there were empty bottles on the window sill which had not been disturbed.

Everyone ran out into the street. They searched for him all over Lublin. Hours passed. Then about only 50 feet away from the shul, a certain Reb Eliezer of Chmelnik heard a weak moaning in the shadows. He came close and saw a man lying on the ground, twisting with pain. He didn’t recognize him but it was the Seer of Lublin. He looked awful.

It’s me, Yaakov Yitzchak, son of Meitil, the holy Seer whispered.

They carried him inside. Reb Shmuel held his head and heard him repeating these words, “the abyss and another abyss.”

They put him to bed.

There’s a kind of conspiracy of silence around this story. Some sources refer to the story cryptically as the Great Fall (HaNefilah HaGedolah), without details. Usually the sources add the expression (ka-yadua) “as everybody knows” which means nobody knows, or is supposed to know.

Most sources feel that the Great Fall has some sort of mystical or metaphysical implications.

Another version come to light recently and seized by his detractors is he was drunk and he jumped.

He never recovered. He stayed in bed for 44 weeks. When he died, the entire Chassidic world went into mourning. He died on Tisha B’Av.

Why am I telling this story as if to a group of campers huddled around a camp fire listening to a ghost story?

Because it’s a ghost story. The world of the Holy Seer of Lublin and his progeny have all gone up in ghosts. Hitler generously assisted by the great cultures of Europe delivered that entire world to the ghosts. They are all ghosts.

The Holy Seer Promised on that night that if your ecstasy is pure enough, it will last forever. It didn’t even last for him, sick, he never recovered, passed some 44 weeks later. The abyss, the abyss, he whispered.

The Seer of Lublin was called a chozeh because he saw things. Visions. He may even have seen things he was not conscious of seeing. There is a level of nevuah (prophecy) that does not recognize itself, it is not self conscious.

The ecstasy would never be pure enough, and his world would only last for another couple of generations. Maybe the holy Seer of Lublin was granted a glimpse into the future, a glimpse into the abyss, the abyss of the total conflagration of the world he knew. He saw into the future but how far did he see? If he looked and saw only to the conflagration it was a sight too devastating to recover from. The abyss.

How far did the Holy Seer of Lublin see? Did he see the end of his world in the Forties, the vision so horrifying that he saw no further?

I am writing this from Jerusalem, here in this place where we rejoice in spite of our past, where we do not despair, we lift ourselves up all the way dragging God back into the world reluctant reluctant, and this year on the ninth of Av, the day the Chozeh died, I remember the Seer of Lublin tell his story and witness beyond where his vision may have settled. Out of the dark vision, light. Out of death, birth birth birth.


Vision 2

R. Gamaliel, R. Eliezer b. Azariah, R. Yehoshua, and R. Akiva
came to the Temple Mount
they saw a fox coming out of the Holy of Holies,
they all burst into tears, except Akiva
Akiva laughed. [Makkot 24b]

Akiva said, old men and old women shall dwell again
In the streets of Jerusalem
And the streets of the city shall be full of children
— I know the prophecy.

Akiva saw something his friends did not
He saw the future —
How dark the night, he said, how bright the day to come. [the Maharal]

The harder the fall, the higher the return
Akiva laughing.

In the future
When it is time for the Messiah to come
On what day do you suppose the Messiah will be born?

The ninth of Av.

jsg, usa

Maqam Hijaz

According to one source, all other instances of maqam hijaz, it is mixed with maqam bayat.
Only Shabbat Devarim, Shabbat Chazon [Shabbat of Vision] does hijaz appear in its pure form.

A maqam is a musical figure. Each Shabbat is associated with a particular maqam.
Maqam Hijaz D [1/2] E-flat 1 ½] F# [ 1/2] G

Vision 1

Shabbat Chazon the necessity to read the vision of Isaiah
on the Shabbes before Tisha B’Av
God gives us the remedy before the malady
Built in — this curative wisdom is built in before it’s prescribed
the vision before the fall
the hope before the destruction,

I can’t find the blessing in it
he said to me over a cup of Joe
this always the problem in suffering
or in waiting or in frustration
I can’t find the blessing in it.

On this the Shabbes before the 9th of Av
we recall the destruction of the Temples
even on Tisha B’Av there is a buried holiness and seed for hope.

Shabbat Chazon
Chazon: read the vision of Isaiah
The future Jerusalem — rebuilt, strong,
Built on resolution of the mistakes of the past.

From R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev —
The Shabbes of vision –
Third Temple
you can see it.

Feel this: always on the Shabbes just before Tisha B’Av
Black fast
Preceded by Chazon/Vision
The holy Temple rebuilt
The redemption we pray for daily.

Feel this: the proximity of what saves and what corrupts

Feel this: the vision of an ascendant future and the losses of the past

Feel this: the proximity of ascent and descent

Feel this: what purifies what defiles

Feel this: for every descent
A hidden ascent —

Something purifying out of exile
Something pure emerging out of suffering
Shabbat Chazon: a vision of ascent out of descent.

I found the blessing in it
Do you feel it?

Devarim Shabbat Chazon/Vision

Maqam Hijaz

According to one source, all other instances of maqam hijaz, it is mixed with maqam bayat.
Only Shabbat Devarim, Shabbat Chazon [Shabbat of Vision] does hijaz appear in its pure form.

A maqam is a musical figure. Each Shabbat is associated with a particular maqam.
Maqam Hijaz D [1/2] E-flat 1 ½] F# [ 1/2] G

Between the Narrows

Between the narrows
The 17th of Tammuz
And the 9th of Av

Opening onto –

Pinch Squeeze
And from the squeeze –

You open With

Contract and expand
Constrict and Open

Breath pursed
Narrows Release

From constraint To expanse
Exile to Redemption

There is a hilltop in Jerusalem where heaven and earth touch. After the destruction the bride began to weep, the ground wept too. The bride returned as a bird perched at the wall.

For three summer weeks, I sat low in sadness. I planned to bleed, to wash myself clean.

This I have been taught: After a river of tears, expect the messiah.

On that day,” says Isaiah, “the great shofar will be sounded. And they will come, those lost in the land of Assyria and those forsaken in the land of Egypt, and bow before G*d on the Holy mountain, Jerusalem.” — Isaiah 27:13

jsg, from a mtn top in the Gallilee

Use the Strength

Use the Strength of the Yetzer
For Rising
It is grown from

Be gradual

Our goal –
The Highest

When will my deeds
The deeds of my
Fathers and Mothers?

Awakening strength
Little by little

The light in life
Will shine

jsg, usa Rav Kook Groove
*Yetzer, the dark inclination