Leave: on Ki Teitzei

O holy Shabbes inspiration Ki Teitzei

Here’s a tough one: what about stoning a rebellious kid?

When a man has a son who is stubborn, and a rebel one who does not listen to
the voice of his father or the voice of his mother —

and they discipline him and he still does not listen to them
then his father and his mother are to grab him
and drag him to the town elders
in the gates of his place —

and they are to say to the town elders
our son is stubborn and a rebel
he does not listen to our voice
he is a glutton and a drunkard

then all the men of the town are to pelt him with stones
so that he dies [what?!]
so shall you burn the evil out of your midst [oh – my – G*d]

and all Israel will hear and be awed. [Deut 21:18 ff.]

I don’t believe this for a minute. This is like threatening your kid with Juvenile Detention. Who actually got sent to Juvie?

The Rabbis said: the stoning of a son who is stubborn and a rebel never happened and never will happen. Why then was this law written in the Torah?
It was put in the Torah so we can study it and receive reward for our study.
[BT Sanhedrin 71a].

Meaning — we should talk about it because there may have been a time, there may be a time to come, when you want to strangle your kid. You gotta talk about it. Think it through, turn it and turn it for what it means.

Lousy good-for-nothing kid, so-and-so ungrateful no-count lowlife kid —
talk it through, think about it, let the heat dissipate.

The Talmud continues: Rabbi Yonatan said, you are wrong. It did happen.
I saw one [kid who was stoned to death] and sat on his grave
. [Sanhedrin 71a]

If we thought we were out of this story with our sophisticated sensibility, our enlightened parenting intact, consider this picture of Rabbi Yonatan sitting on a grave — back to the verse, the end specifically: all Israel will hear and be awed.

Rabbi Yonatan: Look — I don’t know whose grave I was sitting on, but the point is when my kid hears about it, he and all Israel will be awed, moved — look I’m trying to run a household here.

We don’t really act this way but we do resort to lesser strategies once in a while. We get frustrated; our kids aren’t behaving the way we would have them behave,
parenting is not the sophisticated set of clever strategies the books recommend,
family peace is not the way we intended it: HEY IT’S NOT HAPPENING THE WAY IT WAS SUPPOSED TO –

Give me a break here. My version of existence — my children, my family —
let the rest of Israel hear it and set their houses in order. We’re doing the best we can, what we are reaching for is a way to return.

Ki Teitzei — when you leave — ya-tza — the room for leaving. When we leave our expectations over the great messes that our lives have become, when we cease to compare the what-it-is to the what-we-wanted or the-way-it-was-supposed-to-be, when we leave Ki Teitzei behind all the supposed-to’s of our existence: our kids — supposed to behave this way, our husbands our wives — supposed to act this way, ourselves — supposed to enjoy our lives this way.

When we ki teitze, when we leave — if we leave — our expectations where they belong: in a shoebox under the bed, then are we free to deal creatively with life, with our children, our families, the way they are, not the way they are supposed to be.

The way they are: the great what-it-is. We have ki teitzei’d, we have left the supposed-to-be and have entered the holy way-it-is; now we are free to be alive to life in its complexity, its messiness, independent of our effort to manage, cajole, contain.

We are alive to life as it presents itself to us; not as we would have had it.

We are now truly co-creators with G*d in the full catastrophe of existence, as Zorba and the Buddhists say, and free.

Forgive us O holy G*d our lofty strategies and less lofty strategies. We are all learning, studying the world so we may receive the merits.

We’re doing the best we can.

jsg, usa

Gigs part 2: Teachers, Inspirations, Influences

Teachers, Inspirations, Influences part 2

The gigs and teachings were wonderful. I ended up throwing away a lot of my papers. When I disappear, I will disappear into papers and my footprint will be very small. Smaller now that I’ve sold/given away all my boots.

The boots were given to a good cause. I took the money from the boots and the gigs and gave them to two worthy efforts in the Land I am personally connected to; something will come of it, and if not, something will come of it.

There is always a something; the nature of that something may not be within my perimeter but it’s always something. Sometimes at night when I can’t sleep there is a game on television: is it something? I laugh; it’s always something, the world there to parse. What is it? Would be a better game: what is it? We will never exhaust our interpretations.

I had the greatest time away this summer, many fine gigs, a holy fall through the health/illness continuum to a place where the best had to be made and it turned out better. Still walking with cane but it has become fashion and everyone helps me around. I also move slower which is good for me because I am generally falling up steps moving too fast. Dropped some poundage beneath the suits and everyone compliments me on my clothes which is delighting my mother to no end in the Next World. In my sixties I am growing up and in.

I am eager for the next chapter; the material given to me has been very strong and voluminous. I feel them all speaking through me, all of them who have showed up in my little life. I owe them everything.

jsg, usa

InSpiration from the Psalms

There is an interesting teaching from the Psalms about inspir-ation. The language in the superscription to the Psalms: sometimes le-David mizmor, signifies To David a song, and sometimes mizmor le-David, a song to David.

With le-David mizmor, the Shekhinah – the inner Presence, inspiration — rested upon him and then he uttered the song. First we encounter David, the person, the performer, the artist, he does his preparation and with enough preparation, the art happens. Personhood precedes Inspiration.

With the language mizmor le-David, a song to David, the music, the art the work precedes, then there is inspiration. The work brings Inspiration. You begin with the work, not the personality; it is always all about the work, the art.

With David, the sweet singer of Israel, he lifted up his voice in song first, then the Shekhinah descended upon him afterwards. He played himself sang himself worked himself into the place of Inspiration.

There’s more: We are taught the Shekhinah rests upon a person when there is joy, as it is said:

but now bring me a minstrel.
And it came to pass, when the minstrel played,
the hand of God came upon him.
2 Kings 3:15, Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 117a.

Blue always quoted this teaching before he began to play. He hugged his instrument to his chest, closed his eyes, and began to play. He played until the Shekhinah, Inspiration, came and settled within him.

“This is how you might play without inspiration,” said Blue, “but for me, never longer than twenty minutes.”

jsg, usa

Sitting With Zohar

Sitting with Zohar

Because the moon is covered, bakesse* he said, I was sitting with Zohar next to the tree of knowledge. We were eating garinim [seeds].

Every Rosh Hashanah we draw something entirely new in to the world, he said, but it’s hidden – bakesse – like the moon. Look up into the sky on the first of Tishrei – what do you see?

That’s your wisdom, said Zohar, it’s present but in-articulate. That’s the business between the 1st and the 15th of Tishrei. Your wisdom? He said like a teen-ager — it plumps like the moon.

By the full moon of Tishrei, the 15th – fully articulate.

Then, he said smiling and spitting a shell, you will tell me what you learned.

* Tiku va-chodesh shofar– bakesse — le-yom chageinu
Make a tekia on the month with the shofar
when it’s hidden/bakesse
to — the day of our chag [Sukkot] Ps. 81:4

The moon is covered, said Zohar, so through what will it shine? Through teshuvah and the sound of the shofar.

He blew a tekiah. That’s the unity, he said, he gave it a good blast. The universal.
Then he blew a teruah. That’s the relative, he said, it’s a wavering, a crying, always a longing to return.
It get’s more serious, he said. He blew shevarim. Now we are breaking up.
He blew a tekiah again. That’s the promise of return, he said.
It’s a sad and beautiful world, said Zohar. Sad we drift far away. Beautiful – we are so hungry to return.
He blew a tekiah gedolah, a great blast. That is our longing, he said.

The moon is covered, said Zohar, but it shines through teshuvah and the sound
of the shofar.

Return that hey, the letter of direction, he said, hey ha-m’gamah. Toward, that’s the word, or to. Teshuv[ah].
I will turn away from here and toward There,* he said. It’s a matter of turning. Not arrival, journey. Not goal, process. Not sin based, it’s a matter of change. Movement.

Unstuck, said Zohar.

*Rashi on Ex. 3:3, how the Baal Shem Tov taught teshuvah.


Gigs: All my Teachers Inspirations Influences

All My Teachers Inspirations Influences Appear With Me At Every One Of My Prayers and Gigs

It was my birthday and I had a day full of gigs and teachings. I brought a load of papers with me as is my custom, over-prepared, and began the day with a roomful of people teaching the holy entry into the Days of Awe from a re-spiritualized I must be nothing in order to be something perspective, quoting the verse from Psalm 100 that I learned from the Language of Truth. I turned out the overhead lights and used only the goofy make-up lights dialed down by rheostat half-way in what must have been the dressing room for the theater next door. Big room, must have been 100 people stuffed in.

I am still walking with a cane so my beloved daughters helped me carry all my bags and papers and guitar over to the location. They stayed for all my events; I begged them to go do their work but I think they were worried I couldn’t get around. I have never felt so well taken care of. They also really got into the teachings.

I missed my teacher so I called him during the day. He’s been ill lately and his conversation was somewhat confused but it was good to hear his voice. I wanted to tell him I saw him in my dream as a young man, and he saw me, but I didn’t. It wasn’t the right time.

I did three events that day, the last event a concert in the big theater. I had all my papers but I decided to fully engage the audience in the Baal Shem Tov manner and remove all separations. Not show business, ceremony.

All my stories are full of dates and numbers and details I generally don’t remember but I put the papers away, slung my lousy leg over my good leg, and sat on top of a stool without moving for an hour and spoke poetry and sang my cholungen out. I chose every word carefully and didn’t go where I wasn’t comfortable; my voice opened up about half way through and control was excellent. I played with dynamics in a demagogic fashion and the theater belonged to me. Breath, inhale and exhale, in unison. A rare and cosmic event.

One fellow came up to me and said quietly, “you’re teaching a kind of secret, uncommon wisdom, aren’t you?” I loved the phrase uncommon wisdom.

Everyone wanted to know when I was coming back and if I choose to retire here, I’m set up. My son too showed up for the last gig so all my kids were with me, we sold a load of CDs and went out to birthday dinner.

Dinner was from Korea and delicious. Afterwards the girls and I went to a movie about an unknown singer from Detroit who became popular in South Africa. It was one of the finest movies I have seen in a long time and began with the testimony of the producer of the singer’s first record who I knew from the homeland. As the story unfolded I was drawn into the beauty of the mystery character’s being in an engagement I haven’t experienced from a movie in a long time.

The audience applauded when the movie ended. There were quite a few South Africans at the movie and they were all talking about it afterwards outside the theater. I stopped and talked with a few of them; their perspective from the South African angle, mine from the Detroit angle. We had a wonder-ful conversation, exchanged names and such, everyone in the theater had been so stimulated by the movie that the conversations spilled out of the theater all around.

It was a great birthday. I got to unpack my craft in my idiosyncratic way, I think it has become quite sophisticated and well received; during my concert several people hollered out “when are you coming back.”

I may never leave. I told them in my homeland I pay people to come to my prayers and gigs. They thought I was serious and though I was fibbing there is some truth to the searching out an audience, whatever it is called, that has not been simple for me.

How much does it cost to join your synagogue? Someone asked me.

How much do you want?

jsg, usa

On My Re-tire-ment

On My Retirement

What will you do now?
Tie your long gray hair in a tail
braid your beard with beads
pierce your ear, pierce it twice
never bless another piece of bread
as long as you live —

Go bungee jumping in Colorado
hunt the wicked weebee bird
defend the precious rain forests of the Amazon
trade secrets with desperadoes
teach Vienna to dance.

will you float the sea
take lunch in the sun
write commentaries on the text—

Remembering Bar Yochai
who emerged from the cave
believing if he only could spend
two Sabbaths properly
the world would be redeemed.

Rabbi —


jsg, usa

Disparate parts

First gather together all
Your disparate
Return to yourself

The great truth
Return to yourself and
All the worlds will Return
To their Creator

This the secret of the
The world will return
To the Source of its Being

And the light of G*d

jsg, after Rav Kook

Shoftim 2

O holy Shabbes Shoftim

Someone found slain
might be
no one known responsible
a body found in the woods
at the bottom of a well
the remains of a person unearthed
under a construction site —

a person killed.

Who is responsible for life taken
in ways unknown.

This mysterious mitzvah of Torah
eglah arufah – the broken-necked calf
some connection to cleansing the community
from unspecified sin [Lev. 4:13-15]
and the other great mystery mitzvah
the red heifer. [Num. 19:2 ff.]

Eglah arufah the mystery
of the broken-necked calf.

If, in the land
someone slain is found lying in the open
the identity of the slayer not being known
your elders and judges shall go out and measure the distances
from the corpse to the nearby towns.
The elders of the nearest town shall take a calf
which has never been worked, bring it down to a rugged wadi
which is neither plowed nor sown.
There, in the wadi, they shall break the calf’s neck.
The priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward
then all the elders of the town nearest the corpse
shall wash their hands over the calf
whose neck has been broken
and say “our hands did not shed this blood,
neither have our eyes seen it.
Forgive, O God, your people Israel
whom you have redeemed
and do not let guilt for the blood
of the innocent remain
among your people Israel.”
[Deut. 21:2-8]

Rashi quoting the Talmud:
what kind of confession is this?
Who would imagine the elders had anything
to do with it?
The point: everyone is responsible
a life has been taken
the whole community is somehow
who was not involved?
No one.
A closer look at the culture
it’s the culture it’s the culture.

Three sets of elders are part
of the ritual.
First group of elders measures the distance
from where the body is found to the nearest town
3 to 5 elders who came from the High Court in Jerusalem
to make the measurement. [BT Sota 45a]

We have come to make the measurement
the closest settlement –
Silver City —
We will focus our inquiries there
or we will place responsibilities when
the detectives arrive.

Another team comes then from town
and their task is to take the calf down to a wadi
a wild place neither plowed nor sown.

Finally the elders of the closest town
the third group of elders
shall wash their hands and say this:
our hands did not shed this blood
neither have our eyes seen it.

Magical the myth of it
absolvement through mystery ritual
this from Nachmanides and Ibn Ezra.

From Maimonides —
a mystery story
a strategy to solve a murder [Guide 3:40]
the murderer probably lives nearby
stir it up –
the more likely someone will be found responsible
[I’ve seen Ice T. do this on television].

You shall act in accordance with the instructions
given you and the ruling handed down to you
you must not deviate from the verdict
they announce to you
— either to the right or to the left.
[Deut. 17:11]

Rashi: you bowed to the court
even when you thought it was wrong.
[Rashi on 17:11]

Not the Rabbis
you might think you are to follow
if the Sages tell you that the left is right
and the right is left
not so – [JT]
only when they tell you that the right is right
and the left is left –

When the professionals conspire to alter truth
you follow what’s right
not who’s in authority
the truth is stronger than authority
truth stronger than bureaucracy
there is only one true power
and it speaks to the individual –

you can trust it.

James Stone Goodman

Thou shalt not swallow the unconscious

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Shoftim

Thou shalt not swallow the unconscious – 11th Commandment

This is the portion of justice
tzedek tzedek tirdof
righteousness righteousness
mentioned twice
you shall pursue it [Deut. 16:20]
what follows:
the bride of God
you shall not plant an asherah [Deut.16:21]
some sort of Canaanite goddess
a cult tree
planted near the altar of God.

It took a long time to separate
God and his bride
the bride of God is reunited with her consort
every Friday night
we are talking about justice here
then myth.

the holy Shabbes
the King and his consort
the goddess and her beloved
the Queen and her lover
and it feels good –

good the symmetry of return
rectifying something broken
separated long ago –

they are marrying.


Maqam* Ajam

Ajam here means “Persian.” It is constructed of two trichords with whole step – whole step pitch intervals.
There is usually a half step between trichords so the Ajam tends to sound closest to the Western Major scale:
whole step, whole step, half step tetrachord.

Example: D E F F sharp G sharp B flat

Or B flat C D E flat F G

*A maqam is a musical figure from the Sephardi/Oriental tradition,
based on modal musical forms. Maqam is a cognate of the Hebrew Maqom – Place.

Always on the Midbar

On the way West, I revisited the place in my soul where I left one midbar/desert for another. It was from there I left for Jerusalem and I suppose entered the great adventure of my life. You couldn’t get there from here, I might have thought, I was so far away from the Jerusalem in my heart when I lived on the midbar in the great American West. As my teacher used to say, I mutated out of my life there.

I did my gigs on the desert of the United States of America and the response was oversize enthusiastic. I spoke nothing about my own journey that came from here to here, as they say in the language of the soul, because it’s all here. Wherever you go, there you are. So much true.

Still, I have been some places and I kept that secret wisdom within but it expressed in my voice and teachings. As always, I honored my teachers, inspirations, influences. I spoke about them and indirectly about the me they created. I told no jokes.

There was much sharing in private conversations. I have history there, but not much the same from then to now except the root human experiences that sustain throughout the changes of life.

All the time accompanied by my oldest child, how privileged I feel. Sometime I feel I am writing so I don’t forget the wonder.

The morning before I left I prayed with the Yemenite, Persian, French, Israeli, Sephardic Jewish community there on the midbar. I prayed for the souls of Lillian Ben-Zion and Rose Bilbool. That night, in concert, I gave back some of what I’ve learned from them.

jsg, usa