For the Iowa Ceremonies
You look at each other and say
I love you
When you are sick I love you
I will care for you
When I make decisions
You cannot make
I love you
When you will need me
I love you
I might need you in the same way
I love you.
We will share a house
I love you
I love you
When we are old
I love you.
I love you
Why not marriage –
And a home together
Why not marry?
Family and children and marriage
I love you
We will marry each other.
I will be holy to you
You will be holy to me
All the minutes of our lives.
We will make toast for each other
I love you,
Pancakes and toast
Children and a home
Why not marriage?
We can be entirely happy
As lovers and friends –
Like the first creations
In the garden of Eden
In the beginning.
The Politics of Marriage
It was toast that brought us together
And without the toast
We were finished.
We disagreed on everything
Make one more piece of toast that way
And I’m leaving you.
All I wanted really was toast
The same toast that everybody else had
Or didn’t have
The toast that brought us together
And the toast that drove us apart.
Toast, you said,
Is that what you really want?
Do you promise to love and cherish
Tart up now and again?
Clean the seeds out of your teeth
The detritus from the front yard
Are you going to make that ****-ing toast?
When marriage is trivial
When marriage is not trivial –
It is trivial when you have it
When you don’t it is of the highest consequence.
You want toast?
I married you for your toast.
Why not, marriage isn’t political
Plodding away we are through toast
And leaving our socks around the room
Empty toothpaste tubes
Not enough aspirin for the headaches you’ve given me –
Someone to curl up with on Sunday night
These lowly blessings of life
Passed up passion ages ago
As the enduring legacies of marriage,
Keep the politics in your pajamas
I will –
All the toast I want
Whenever I want it.
The Week I Went to Iowa To Make Marriages the Torah Was Severe
I went to Iowa to marry seventeen couples the first week that the ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court — that the state’s same-sex marriage ban violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples — went into effect. We arranged a bus from St. Louis, Missouri, the adjacent state to Iowa were the seventeen couples live and where same-sex marriage is banned by amendment to the state constitution. The bus was scheduled to leave from the synagogue at 6 AM. There were four officiants on the bus (my wife and I – two rabbis – did not reflect the balance of the group which included two Jewish couples but we Jews are always, you know, out front on social issues), one officiant waiting to assist us in Iowa City, and seventeen couples who had volunteered for the event. Ed Reggi and Scott Emmanuel put it together and called the day the Show Me Marriage Equality Bus.
Ed had traveled up to Iowa City to arrange the marriage licenses and put the details together. He met a minister (interim) at the Unitarian Universalist Society in downtown Iowa City that had recently celebrated its 100 year anniversary. Ed also found a restaurant that specialized in organic food that was delighted to put together a post-wedding lunch for us at a reasonable price (Devotay), he found a wedding cake artist who offered to donate a spectacular wedding cake from a traditional recipe that featured a rainbow interior (Jamake Dudley), he found the mayor of Iowa City who wanted to welcome us at the marriage bureau (Reginia Bailey), it all kind of fell into his lap the way he told it. The bus was nice too — though not too comfortable — it’s a bus.
By a little after 6 AM we were off to Iowa City. There was a load of media in the parking lot of the synagogue before we left. I am media-shy so I stayed away from cameras and reporters but somebody had to do it and my wife was there early and she talked to everyone. Nobody it seemed had slept much the night before, still the ride was not quiet and sleepy, and if people slept it was only intermittently including myself. By the time we made it to Iowa City, we were all tired but stimulated. It rained lightly most of the way but the ride was pleasant, up [the celebrated] highway 61 a pleasant road (not too crowded) to Iowa City. Our bus driver stopped several times and all of us full of coffee stood in lines for the rest rooms.
When we reached Iowa City, our first stop was the Johnson County government center where Kim Painter, the Johnson County recorder, granted the 17 couples licenses on the spot. Ed had worked this out in advance. The mayor of Iowa City, Regenia Bailey, was also there to welcome us and take pictures. “If you are looking for a friendly place to live, please remember us,” she said. She seemed genuinely delighted to receive in her secret oasis, this Iowa City, in the great state of Iowa.
Our next stop was the Unitarian Universalist Society on Gilbert Street in downtown Iowa City. There was a small group waiting to welcome us at the Church, some Church members and some more media, this is Iowa City and our arrival qualified as a big media event. The Church friends invited us in, after pictures on the street, welcomes all around, smiles and hugs, and we went downstairs to a kind of fellowship hall where coffee, cakes, cookies, and fruit were nicely displayed. We hadn’t stopped for food so most of us were hungry and we gobbled up some good will while many of the couples ducked into a bathroom or a classroom to change for the ceremony.
We then went up into the Sanctuary where the Unitarian minister’s wife served as wedding planner and organized the seventeen couples in a relatively painless authoritarian manner. It was a little complicated – seventeen couples and five officiants – Scott had divided the couples up so we each had three or four couples to marry in this partially public, partially private ceremony.
Each of the officiants had a moment to say something at the podium, the couples then came up and stood between the pews and the sacred space, then we moved up into the sacred space and each couple came up one couple at a time to speak their vows to each other.
Each officiant’s vows were a bit different. I didn’t know the couples I served, we were on the bus together but we met only briefly before the ceremony. We hardly had time to discuss the events, and I was also busy with putting music together as that was my responsibility as well. I had my guitar with me that I imagined I would play a little on the bus, but there wasn’t room for that kind of thing in the cramped seats and my guitar was stored away in the storage compartment underneath the bus anyway.
The wedding planner organized a processional grouped by the officiant in order of the ceremony, it was a little complicated but we pulled it off. I had a head-full of music but thought I would be led by inspiration and didn’t really plan what I would sing or play. In the first group of couples was a woman with a fine soprano voice, she asked if she could sing a song with my accompaniment after she walked in with her partner. She asked to sing “You Are So Beautiful [To Me]” a Billy Preston tune made famous by Joe Cocker. I happened to know it, but I knew it in the key of A. I sat with the singer for a moment and determined that C would be a better key for her so I did a quick transposition and we were ready.
Before she arrived, I opened with a Sephardic love song [in an old Jewish-Spanish dialect] called Una Matica de Ruda (a little bit of rue). It’s an extremely beautiful and tender song. I was feeling some sort of added energy in the room by then that was not common to most marriages I have done. It felt, I admit, a little edgy.
Then the soprano singer walked in and stood next to me. I played through the chord progression once in C and by the second time through she joined me, her voice opened like a human flower and something wonderful happened in the room. For me — I dropped into my skin — we had entered ceremony. Before that, there was a jitteriness in the room. With the song, You Are So Beautiful [To Me], I felt the room settle and she sang the song much slower than we had run through, I pulled the guitar accompaniment down to quiet and it felt to me like a prayer. After that song, everything changed.
Then I sang Going to the Chapel and We’re Going to Get Married made famous by the Dixie Cups and everybody laughed, I think out of tension. I sang one more song after that (a stupid choice) and I am trying to forget the one verse I sang before I stopped. It was time for the vows.
My wife began and said some beautiful emotional words during her time at the pulpit. This was a significant event for her too, she has been a pioneer in our community and elsewhere in so many things and none more dear to her than equal rights. She married the two Jewish couples, who we have both known for many years, and for one of them I came up and chanted the traditional words that couples repeat to each other and those are the words that technically marry individuals in the Jewish ceremony. They both wore beautiful tallitot [prayer shawls] that I helped them put on and chanted the blessing with them: Blessed are You, Eternal our G*d, who has made us holy with Mitzvas and has asked us to wrap ourselves in fringes. They did. They looked great.
When it was my turn to officiate (I was next) I went up to the pulpit and read a poem that I had rewritten for this occasion which I will append to this document at the end. It got a laugh, but it was a serious piece, a little quirky but serious.
The Jewish wedding ceremony doesn’t really have vows. The rabbi acts as a master of ceremony, truly, and the couple speaks words to each other that signifies the entrance into the next stage of their existence, a ceremony we call an act of holiness. The words have to do with the notion that with this ring, you are holy to me.
The way I understand holiness in this context is that there is something entirely the same in every marriage that every human being who has linked his or her life with another human being has experienced. It comes out of a universal hunger for intimacy, reciprocity, exclusivity, and disclosure in the commitment of accompanying each other through the changes of our lives. It is also something entirely idiosyncratic, individual, something unique that only exists between these two people in just this way. It happens only this way once, now. Not either or, but both. It is both universal and entirely individual, mythic and personal, like everyone else who has married and something created uniquely between these two human beings. That to me signifies this notion of marriage as holiness. One foot in the universal pool one foot in the personal pool.
I spoke these words quietly to the couples I served, I don’t think anybody else could hear, it only took a few moments and I realized as I was speaking these words how right to the heart of the matter these words were. I could feel the eyes of the couples I was officiating for burning into mine, my eyes into their eyes.
Then I made up some vows, I put some words together similar to others I have heard, some from poetry I have written, and everything was valid and confirmed — they were married according to the great state of Iowa.
One of the couples brought their son with them, he looked to be about eight years old, he stood up on the sacred space with us and someone snapped a picture of the couple kissing, the boy looking up at his parents, all photographed from behind, my face peeking out between their union. It is a beautiful picture, I love the boy’s attentiveness the most.
I went and sat with my wife to watch the rest of the officiants and the ceremony. With every one, I felt pulled into the story. Many of the couples cried, some softly, some more dramatically. I felt pulled into everyone’s story, though I didn’t know the stories, I felt the sense of Story, the large story, the journey of their lives that twisted and turned its way to this place away from their homes where they found an opening in the atmosphere to breathe into each other just the way the rest of us who have chosen marriage have, just as everyone who has married has, but in the specific sense of where they came from, where they have been, who has helped who has hurt, the whole catastrophe as the Buddhists say felt weighty and profound to me and I entered into each story as if it was a new story. Because it was — new and old. I knew nothing and I felt everything, knew virtually nothing about every couple and felt the weightiness of their unions.
When it was over, I was exhausted. My wife wanted the closure of filing all the documents before we left Iowa City, which I thought was ridiculous but we went out by foot searching for a post office in downtown Iowa City to mail our part of the marriage documents into the county officials. The streets of Iowa City were wide and inviting, the sun had come out, the rain had passed, it was cool in the late Spring Iowa afternoon and everyone we asked gave us good directions. In a couple of blocks we found a post office branch, we bought the stamps, and mailed off the documents. She was completely correct about that closure, it felt good, good to mail those documents right there, in Iowa City, Iowa.
We then went looking for the restaurant, Devotay, on North Linn Street. It was about four blocks away and we intuited the direction. We were correct and everyone was already dug into the buffet when we arrived. We ate and enjoyed the exceptional hospitality of the owners, chef Kurt Michael Friese and his wife Kim Mcwane Friese. It felt to me as if they were celebrating with us.
The rainbow wedding cake, donated by Jamake Dudley, who had appeared in Ed’s trip to Iowa City to set up the event, was a perfect cap to a remarkable meal.
I found an excellent used book store with a record store attached (great collection of vinyl and a knowledgeable proprietor) on the corner and went in and read some poetry from the stacks, then sat out in the sun with my wife until the bus arrived. I slept most of the way home.
I overslept the next day. I was due at the synagogue at 10 AM, I got up at 11, arrived at the synagogue at 11:15. I never oversleep. I had students all day long, and between each I fell asleep in whatever chair I was sitting in. I was exhausted.
I got to the synagogue that next morning in time to teach the portion of the week. We read a different part of the Torah each week, that week was the portion entitled “holiness” — the same title as the wedding ceremony. G*d says, You shall be holy, because I your G*d am holy. I stared into the text and was pulled into it. I also saw the Levitical injunction against men with men and women with women. There was no time to take up all the subjects that morning, there is a revealed literal text and there is for us always a hidden, secret text, so I told my students where I had been the day before and I read them the poem I had read from the pulpit during the ceremony (this is the end of the poem) and everyone in our circle – applauded.
Congratulations on Your Wedding in Iowa
Easy to get married,
Conventional wisdom has it,
Hard to stay married.
On the other hand,
There might be an Iowa
A state in the Mid-West
To condone marriage
Between man and man
And woman and woman.
You might have to find a sympathetic
Judge in the state of Iowa
To give you a license.
You might have to come in a bus
From another state
Missouri, for example,
You might have to leave at 6 AM.
Hard to get married, I say,
Easy to stay married.
You work the politics,
The complexities of another state
And the management of a team of clergy,
You conclude with the optimistic:
Hard to get married,
Easy to stay married.
This is known as a syllogism
Spelled with a y not with an i
from the root word silly
It is counter to conventional wisdom
All wisdom is counter to the conventional
We know this from the Hebrew masters of the nistar,
The hidden wisdom
Which is really real,
As taught by the old masters of Kabbalah
And jazzmen who once blew saxophone
In St. Louis, Missouri –
In years to come
You might look at each other
You will say
Remember how hard it was to get married?
And you’ll fall in love
Rabbi James Stone Goodman
United States of America
The Death of Miryam
We came to the death of Miryam
how she died by the kiss of G*d;
G*d inhaled her soul so to speak
Moses and Aaron and Miryam
with a kiss.
Inhaled into G*d’s breath through the Divine kiss
from G*d’s perspective they were taken like a sweetheart.
What can we make now of the frustrations of their lives
or our lives for that matter?
At the end to have been loved into death this way –
G*d exhaled soul into Adam [Gen.2:7]
G*d inhaled Miryam’s soul.
What’s not integrated, what’s left undone in the story now
from G*d’s perspective –
How could they have passed with more intimacy and gentleness
than with this holy kiss
returned to one being with G*d?
Death of Miryam on the heels
of the mystery rule of the guidebook –
mystery paradox of the ritual of purification
the very preparation defiles;
Followed by the death of Miryam
the removal of the well that followed us
forty years Wilderness wandering;
As she was inhaled into the mouth of G*d
how to mourn sustenance now?
The water that followed us
the well that accompanied us –
And the Wilderness.
We are moving over the threshold without sustenance
the symmetry of the stories that settle –
They may converge
they may not –
at night you understand them you do.
The elders all of them
they may return to us someday
so we remember them –
Sustaining like Miryam’s well of water
like the water
like Miryam herself.
O holy Shabbes Chukkat
D [1/2] E flat  F  G
Every portion has a musical figure,
Arabic cognate to maqom
Mystery rule of Torah
as if it were understood
we might understand
it all –
The little red cow:
how what purifies can corrupt
what corrupts might purify.
We came to rest
at redemption through learning
suggested by the Sefas Emes –
Every soul has a portion
or a point
that is incorruptable.
At that moment we had become a letter of the guidebook
a dot a vowel a dia-critical a mark on the page
we became a letter of the text –
We arrived at partial
opening onto whole.
D [1/2] E flat  F  G
Every portion has a musical figure,
Arabic cognate to maqom
What We Study When We Become El Aleph
I began with “The Aleph” by Borges. In my mind the story of my friend coming to the lecture at his school early to get a glimpse of his master (sponsored by the Spanish department); there is Borges standing in the hallway. By himself! My friend spending that precious alone time with the Master, Borges wasn’t yet well known around here anyway, must have been mid Sixties Borges about the same born in 1899. But I didn’t tell that story I thought it.
It and discipleship. Thinking of my friend stealing over to the I Am The Rich Man Who Donated Building and finding his mentor his teacher his hero his inspiration standing alone in front of a bulletin board he couldn’t read in a lonesome hallway. I will be your student, you will be my teacher. Who are you? I am nobody, you have been everything to me.
Now how it has filled me up through my life to have mentors teachers to be a disciple to choose correctly rarely practically never conventionally who are these teachers who have stuck their hands into my soft tissues my soul and rearranged everything. Most of them deliriously off script working another scenario. They are generally hacking their way through the densest foliage with nothing but a word scythe or a melody that floats teaching humility and patience always. In spite of themselves. They know who they are. I’ve told them.
The sense that Borges was enchanted with Jewish mythos, particularly the Kabbalah, sensing that somewhere in his background there were Jews. His father growing up in an English speaking home, Borges at home roaming through a dozen cultures. Sharing the Prix International in 1961 with Beckett, and in 1971 winning the Jerusalem Prize, we have claimed him thanks to Kafka. Always pissed that he didn’t win the Nobel and letting people know it.
We didn’t read the whole story (“The Aleph”) though the whole story is maybe five pages and Borges’s longest story is what? Fifteen pages? We began with the beginning and the end. I told the story of the story and a little about Borges, then handed out the two epigraphs, one from Hamlet one from Leibniz:
O God! I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a King of infinite space…
Hamlet, II, 2
But they will teach us that Eternity is the Standing still of the Present Time, a Nunc-stans (as the schools call it); which neither they, nor any else understand, no more than they would a Hic-stans for an Infinite greatness of Place.
Leviathan, IV, 46
The full Hamlet citation something like this:
To me [Denmark] is a prison.
Why then your ambition makes it one. ‘Tis too narrow
for your mind.
O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a
king of infinite space—were it not that I have bad dreams.
Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very
substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
The sense that Hamlet understood his limitation is not in space it’s in emotion or limitation of self, his Denmark is a state of mind, inside a nutshell could be a kingdom.
And the quote from Leibniz, nunc stans the everlasting Now of Thomas Aquinas and the hic stans the everlasting place, the notion that every moment opens onto eternity and every place All Place.
In the story, Borges loads these ideas into the Aleph which is hidden in the basement among some canvas sacks, an inch in diameter, the aleph in the cellar of a second rate Argentine poet who the narrator thinks is mad. Borges, a character in his own fiction, goes to see it. This, from the postscript at the end of the story:
For the Kabbala, the letter stands for the En Soph, the pure and boundless godhead; it is also said that it takes the shape of a man pointing to both heaven and earth, in order to show that the lower world is the map and mirror of the higher;
In the Sefer Bahir, the aleph precedes all the other letters. Borges makes the link to ein sof from aleph, aleph is the first letter of ein soph and ein soph is that highest potentiality of G*dliness that precedes, as it were, the sefirotic system, ein sof “without end.” We discussed how Hebrew is the least snooty of languages, loves to embody the noblest notions in the simplest language, here a good example: infinity as without end.
The idea that all depictions of the intra-Divine is radical, the language itself of the constituent energies generally given with a disclaimer, a nod, a kivyachol or an expression such as as it were or as if you could say or so to speak acknowledging that once you enter into the interior of G*dliness, so to speak, language loses all sense of the literal and whatever you say is superfluous — as if you could say, as it were — so it goes. Enter there and leave your language elsewhere. And the added irony: You have entered and your language enters with you; let me now release it from substance and give it over entirely to nuance. As if you could say.
From Borges I came to think of the aleph this way:
it is also said that it [the aleph] takes the shape of a man pointing to both heaven and earth, in order to show that the lower world is the map and mirror of the higher;
From there we went to the meditation on the aleph in both form and content. We looked at the aleph meditation, we exploded the aleph and examined the vuv – the holy and the loftiest of conjunctions – and in its form the connection between heaven and earth, Borges “pointing to both heaven and earth” in his sense of in the particular, the All, in the Now the eternal, through the here Everywhere. Nunc-stans and Hic-stans.
We of course became alephs, all of us.
It is Borges that led me to the Aleph meditation. After the Aleph meditation, we turned to the similar notion in the Sefat Emet’s version of the three-fold blessing for the purposes of this piece jump to shleimut, the third fold, shalom shleimut the sense that in the particular the wild ride to the universal, the one to the many, the particular to the Whole; the inner point which is shleimut which is shalom which is the monad from Leibniz that opens onto Everything which is Hamlet in his nutshell.
In the Sefas Emes version, he three fold blessing is given in the singular opening onto the whole, the individual as it opens onto the universal the universal always sheleimut, shalom, 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 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 as 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. It is wildly internal.
I am you and You are me And we are all Together.
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.
There is more but I cannot give it over. Right now.
What We Learn When We Learn the Holy T
We began as always dedicating the first teaching to Zohar of blessed memory who added so much to our circle. I spoke the holy prayer the notion of studying for no benefit but the pure pleasure of it. We were a mighty group: the legendary Mississippi gentleman (you would fit nicely in Aberdeen Mississippi, he said by way of fashion acknowledgement; I was wearing a tasty seer sucker suit – made at Sears bought by suckers said one of the Covenant House jokesters last night — and a panama fedora, I think it’s not untoward to wear a nicely tailored suit two days in a row I will check on that), the prescient L who comes in and out now that she is seasonal, and D who is new with us and is eager to absorb and the rest the gang of regulars who show up and put their heads to the texts –- we go deep. Full table.
After the prayer in honor of our beloved Zohar I hatch a couple of new pieces from the poesying experiment I am engaged in accelerated by the internet driven possibilities — one of the ten things created between the suns we will get to that later — this:
Out of a world of chaos
The highest repair
Me and no one Else
No peace within
Every action Every thought
Called peace called light
Ocean of light
Eyn Sof Without End
The suffering dear
The soul spiced
The highest dwelling
Everyone stuck with glue
We talked about the language in these pieces; the vocabulary that I particularly love (of course the light imagery), the sense that some suffering is dear not precious and the language of smell as in the soul spiced with knowing, and the concept of being glued, attached, stuck in our holy language that finds its way into these poems and into directions on songs and into the spiritual sense of reach and finally the notion that yearning is as fundamental to the spiritual pursuit as accomplishment as arrival, that sense of spiritual life so often missing in the spiritualists these days who insist on certainty but here in these pieces there is the sacred hunger that eclipses certainty, more passion hunger thirst lust for what – for peace. Yeah.
A discussion might have followed here of what the best use of yeah is in pop songs of the last fifty years (it didn’t but I’m thinking about that as I recall the morning), I would be voting for the Young Rascals Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore, I only mention my opinion this is my piece.
We then turned to the text of the week. We began with the hidden moon of Tammuz that corresponded with Korach this year, tonight: the new moon of Tammuz called the hidden moon from the Sumerian shepherd-god Dmuzid or Dmuzi the Babylonian Tammuz the summer solstice making the transition from lengthening days to shortening days, the decline in daylight hours in the ancient middle east a time of mourning. We cited this from a Sumerian tablet:
She can make the lament for you, my Dumuzid,
The lament for you, the lament, the lamentation, reach the desert —
She can make it reach the house Arali
She can make it reach Bad-tibira
She make it reach dul-suba
She can make it reach the shepherding country
The sheepfold of Dumuzid. [Ni 4486 from Nippur]
We talked myth-mind for a moment and found our ancestors suspicious of the background mythos in the book of Ezekiel:
Then he brought me to the door of the gate of God’s house
which was toward the north
and behold there sat women weeping for Tammuz.
Then said he to me, Have you seen this, O ben-adam?
Turn you yet again, and you will see greater abominations
than these. [Ezekiel 8.14-15]
Why such an abomination? We discussed myth-mind and the ability inability to enter it as moderns, how difficult that is, we talked a little Freud and his assessment, we talked goddesses and gods and by the terminus of this thread I think we all came to Joseph Campbell’s realization that the latest incarnation of Oedipus is standing on the corner of Hanley and Wydown, waiting for the light to change.
We then told the stories of Korach and his challenge and the particular force of that challenge that cannot be easily dismissed. He might have made sense if it wasn’t for the detail that the argument was about him, the durability of self that separates the legitimate from the illegitimate controversy and I think we all came to the conclusion that the latest incarnation of Korach is sitting in the city council meeting waiting for the cameras to arrive.
We turned to Bar Bar Hannah telling his stories in the Talmud in this local version:
Once I was traveling in the Sinai when the mouth of the earth opened. One of the miracles created between the suns; the right time the right time out-spin the future. O maqam nahawand O hidden moon of Tammuz O Sumerian shepherd god she can make the lament for you she can make it reach the door of the holy Temple where the north wind blew through David’s singing harp in the palace of the King. O hidden moon of Tammuz concealing all the possibilities that could save one of us — or all of us — some day. We will assume: discovery.
The mouth of the earth that opened to us the discussion of technology, of the right time the right time and this version, local:
The mouth of the earth that opened
is one of ten miracles created bein hashemashot
between the suns at twilight
the end of Creation
outside of time so to speak
built into creation
at the end of the first day
before the Shabbes
created then for the world to catch up to
so to speak
like the mouth of the prophetic donkey
like Miriam’s well
the rainbow the manna the staff of Aaron
the shamir the writing and the pen and the tablets
some say the evil spirits
and the grave of Moses and the ram of Abraham
some also say the tongs
made from the tongs, [Avot 5:9]
like stem cells
like the saving of lives
in ways we cannot quite imagine
because the world is spinning fast fast
and what we know will in some dimly discerned future
out-spin the world
then we will know
what we could not know
at the right time
the right time –
It is the hidden moon of Tammuz tonight that hides the future this way; all the hidden possibilities that could save one of us — or all of us — some day.
We discussed other versions: the tzefat b’tzefat asuyah – the prongs made from prongs this wonderful word that my teacher took for his name hiding among the stacks having run away from the Germans, he’s a genius! And what he taught us about the Psalms and what his name teaches about invention: present but not discovered, tapping the mind of G*d as it were – the right time, the right time, and we had an inventor sitting among us:
Is that the way it is, discovery?
We all stand on the shoulders of others, he said.
We then went to work on that in-between period, between the suns we called it, given so much print in Berakhot, after the day ended before the night began. That between-two-worlds period not the six days of Creation not yet night, during which these ten things were created. The passageway between worlds, but in time. Of course I live there.
What’s the significance of this part of the tale: created but not present until they are needed, when it’s time when it’s time. We all pray that it’s the right time because we need these technologies these breakthroughs this science now. The well of Miriam, we needed it on that long trudge through the Wilderness. The mouth of that donkey, we needed that message to advance the story and receive the blessing when the prophet delivered it – the right time.
We left the implications of life saving cures in the background of the discussion (it is always present for me) I have lived this tale waiting for science or technology to out-spin the diagnosis and the supposed future; if you’re alive for the right time, you live, if not you perish.
The right time is code to stay alive long enough for the inventors the technologists the scientists the surgeons to tap the mind of God as it were or stand on the shoulders of the predecessors and it’s time it’s time and what we pray for saves some of us or all of us and we claim discovery.
We had a table full of people that morning, if we had more we might not have gone so deep, and if you were there this should make perfect sense to you, and if you were not there – this should make perfect sense to you.
O Hidden Moon
let me see with the unclear mirror the dark images
let me see the moon in the darkness
the images that are discerned at night
God of the light and the dark
release me from distractions
bind me with invisible fibers to the deep story –
the dark story the hidden story
the right words not the simple words
not the easy ones not even the sweet words
I want the true ones.
Don’t sweet talk me –
draw me into the deep.
Sling me like a satchel
over your shoulder.
Let the truth plump like the moon
the dark moon the dark candle
the candle at the hearth with all its shadows,
it’s the moon, it’s the moon, the dark candle,
the reflected dark dark dark —
from prayer on the hidden moon of Tammuz
The Right Time
Joseph hid three treasures in Egypt
one was revealed to Korach
one revealed to Antoninus son of Asviros
and one hidden away for the righteous
in the world to come. [BT, Pesachim 119a]
I showed this to my friend the surgeon
technology where there is no technology
the arc of discovery that we follow with hope
the saving of lives in ways we cannot quite yet imagine –
The world is spinning fast fast
and what we know will catch up
outspin the world in the future
then we will know what we could not know
the right time the right time –
the mouth of the earth will open
and we will assume
Soon — the hidden moon
concealing the future
all the hidden possibilities that could save one of us
or all of us
Small alef; poetry Korach
C  D [1/2] E flat  F
Every Shabbat is characterized by a maqam
A musical figure
Hebrew cognate maqom
Nowadays the Blue Is Hidden
The blue was taken from a snail found in the Sea.
The snail comes up once every 70 years.
– Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 26a, Menachot 44a
There is a street in Paris* (11th arrondissement) called
“The Street of Tailors.” I visited my friend who
lives near the street of tailors. We went to eat at a café
around the corner. The first day we passed the street of tailors,
I asked him, “What is this street?” “Don’t know,” he said.
The next time we passed it, I asked again,
“Where does the name – street of tailors – come from?”
“It once was a street of tailors,” he said.
We passed it again the next day,
“What is the street of tailors?” I asked.
“I heard that there was a street of tailors working there,
then the Germans took Paris, June 14, 1940,
and they all disappeared.”
A street of tailor artists, fifty years of ghosts, they have not changed
the name of the street. A chasid on the sixth floor
descends and ascends silently
to make the evening prayers.
The street of tailors.
He knows fabrics but is a failure at freedom. Fingering the coat
he peers over his glasses, “Nice merchandise,” he says.
Expert in drapes and Torah. hands stained
with experimental dyes, he mixes a perfect blend
for a priestly tunic. Expatriates tell jokes
in a café, they order intestines all around,
it smells like an insult. Later they fuss
and pass the street of tailors.
The tailors sewed in secrecy
to recover the lost blue thread.
Mystery blue, a deceased mollusk
carried it into the deep
where it gave birth
to the sea.
Speak to the Children of Israel and bid them that they make fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of each corner a thread of blue (tekhelet).
Tekhelet was taken from the hilazon, a snail found in the Sea between Tyre and Haifa.
– B.T. Shabbat 26a
The hilazon comes up once every 70 years.
– B.T. Menachot 44a
Nowadays we only have the white [fringes], the blue has been hidden.
– Numbers Rabbah 17:5, Midrash Tanhuma Shelakh
Tekhelet [blue] resembles the sea, the sea resembles grass, and grass resembles the heavens.
– TJ Ber. 1:5, 3a
James Stone Goodman