Ten pieces ten days, No. 11

Neilah, the closing of gates, No. 11

I was determined never to look at my retirement account until it was time for me to retire and spend it. I applied for the position of oud player to the Court of the King; teaching quiet people to string words together like beads for the sake of heaven.

So – I said to no one in particular – I think I will. That was that year at this time, during the closing of the gates that we call Neilah.

I felt happy. I knew in my bones in my blood that this is the way I was supposed to feel. It was still light as I was returning the tools of my trade back to the Rainbow Village, a cluster of dwellings for the developmentally disabled where the synagogue meets. That was Monday, September 28, 2009. That night I went to bed happy and I woke up happy on Tuesday, September 29, and I’ve gone to bed happy and woke up happy every night and morning since. I am a happy man. Ach Sameach, Torah calls it (Deut.16:15).

Today is Wednesday, September 26, 2012, and I intend to be happy today.

Last year, the guy who lives in the Rainbow Village who hums and clicks was walking by me and it’s not as if he started talking as I am talking, he hummed and clicked as he always does but this is what I heard:

Isn’t it wonderful to be alive
Aren’t you grateful for this day and all the days of clarity you have been given
Isn’t it a privilege to have done your good work today with your mind and your hands
And to be tired in the sun with the added advantage of returning your tools to their resting places

This is what I heard:

Isn’t it good good
To be alive on September 26, 2012 in the afternoon
To be carrying the tools of your trade after having put in a good day’s work
To have taken upon yourself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven
To have put on your yoke of service like all working animals and have actualized your potential and served well your Creator
To have been rewarded with nothing loftier than this perfect day in the sun that you will remember not only from recall
But from your intention to put on your poet’s wild yoke and write stories

Over the internet
Onto the wind
Out to the sea

Amen.

james stone goodman, united states of america

Weep the World Well No. 10b

Saved By Tears

Rav said, “All the ends have passed, and the matter . . . depends only on transformation [teshuvah] and good deeds.”
But Shmuel says, “It is enough for the mourner to stand in his mourning.”
– Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 97b

“I called my project ‘the legend of the hidden Thirty Six,’ ” Todd said, “was it necessary that the 36 be hidden — to redeem the world?”

A young woman with black leather boots emitted a low groan, heard from one end of the room to the other, a deep sigh of sadness, “where could we find such people today?”

There was an old man who came in from the rain with disheveled hair and holding a cup of coffee, he said softly, “they are present in every generation. Present but secret. The difference is then they were manifest, now they are hidden.”

I felt the sadness and the optimism in the arguments of Rav and Shmuel, the necessity for the tears to somehow wash the world clean — not to change it in the common ways — simply to weep the world well, to cleanse it with our tears. A sad redemption, but a redemption. I felt it in my fingers and my fingers played it on my lute. I tried to explain it, but I played it better. I cleansed myself with the music and many times since, with my tears, I wept myself well.

I don’t know how the world is to be saved, unless it is to repair it with tears. To weep the world well.

I recalled the artist I met in Italy and the stories that he occasionally told, especially the tender ones. I recalled the softness, the weeping in his eyes when he told them.

I was talking with J. on Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of teshuvah transformation between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He was telling me about a friend of his son who had died in a car accident. “I was in New Jersey with a big big client,” J. said. “I live for this stuff, but I didn’t want to be there.”

“You don’t live for this stuff,” I said, “not for this, not for that, but for everything that issues from the mouth of G*d.”

“My head hurts,” J. said.

“You’re saving the world,” I said, “you’re saving the world with your tears.”

Again, it was the weeping that drew me to these stories. When I returned home, one day while playing music with Will, I began to weep, quietly and inwardly. I had learned how to cry in such a way that no one noticed.

The world would not be saved in the common, obvious ways; it may not be saved even by the righteous, there may be too few of them, nor by sincere acts of repentance.

It would be saved only by our tears.

All Vows, No. 10a

Kol Nidre, No. 10a

I am an imperfect perfection
G*d has blundered more than once
in creating me whole

with broken parts.
I have learned
that all my broken parts are whole

and even if not —
none of us are partial
we are all miniatures of Hashem

in some inscrutable way
that will clarify if not in this world
in the next.

I apologize
for anything I have said or done
intentionally or inadvertently

in the past year
or I may do or say in the year to come
that has hurt or may hurt

in any misconstrued way —
forgive me.
I need you more than you know,

your friend
always,
jsg, usa

If I run into the angel Gabriel
I will tell him how fine fine super-fine
you are.

Why I Wear A Tallit At Night, No. 10

Why I Wear A Tallit At Night

My tallit is white Wool [TZeMeR]
I wear it in the night time Once a year
When I am drawing down G*d’s complete mercy
On my little Life.

Out of the narrowness I call on You [MeiTZaR] Narrow
When I am in Meitzar I need compassion
Drawn down from within My cloak of Tzemer
My sins turn white the nature of my deeds Transformed —

Narrowness to Wool Meitzar to Tzemer
That’s why I wear
A tallit
White

At night.

jsg, usa

Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall become like wool Is.1:18
From the narrowness I called G*d Ps.118:5

The Great Listening, No. 9

The Great Listening [spoken on Yom Kippur]

I climb up that large ayin
slide down the big dalet
can I be a witness
I turn it in dyslexia
plow the language like a palindrome
Da’ – know.

I climb up the Hebrew running right to left
jump it back left to right
let all directions rocket into the ascent of letters
into Da’ – knowing:

HaShem Eloheinu
HaShem Echad

G*d is one
G*d alone
only Go*d
lonely G*d.

Tell G*d in your prayers to lose that loneliness
— we are witnessing;
at least along for the ride
trying to know something
when knowing is not everything.

O holy G*d

We are trying to do something
Right
after all.

[Oh, that Name —
That Name
Always].

jsg, usa

Unstuck And, No. 8

Day 8: How the Baal Shem Tov* Taught Teshuvah

This way,
said the Rav**
he shuffled into our meeting
introduced us to the teaching
he brought down from the Baal Shem Tov.

Exodus 3:3, the Rav said, G*d speaks to Moses
the bush burning but unconsumed.
Moses turns away,
I will turn away now
and see about this bush
how it remains unconsumed
.

Turn away?
Check the Rashi.***

Rashi say, I will turn away from here
and approach There.

That’s how the Baal Shem Tov taught teshuvah, said the Rav.

Process not performance
journey not destination
not sin-based:
change-based.

Not goal-taking
movement.

Unstuck and
coming-to.

jsg, usa

* Master of the Good Name
** Rav Sholom ben Neiche Feige
*** Rav Shlomo Yitzchaki, vintner and thinker

Ten days ten pieces No. 6

John Told Me A Story, No. 6a

Then John told me a story that he had heard from his friend Janet.

There is an old man in summertime who sits on the bench in front of the court building every day and says hello to her. He is always there, nattily dressed, a skimmer hat perched on his head. He always smiles, always nods hello to her. Then one day he isn’t there. And the next day, and the next. Janet looks for him. A few weeks of summer passes and Janet wonders what happened to her man.

Then one day he returns. He nods and smiles and for the first time she says something to him. Where’ve you been? I thought you had gone away.

No, missy, he says. It’s been too hot out here lately, so I’ve been sitting over there, across the street, inside the lobby of that building. I could see you from there, the whole time. He smiles and Janet imagines him watching her, smiling at her from within the lobby of the air conditioned building across the street. She pictures herself looking for him the days he didn’t appear and imagines him watching her frustration and sadness at not seeing him. I’ve been watching you. He smiles.

Yeah, said John, that’s what happened to me. That’s just the way it was with me.

jsg, usa

Saved by Tears; ten pieces ten days; no. 5b

Saved By Tears

Rav said, All the ends have passed, and the matter . . . depends only on transformation [teshuvah] and good deeds.
But Shmuel says, It is enough for the mourner to stand in his mourning.
– Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 97b

“I called my project ‘the legend of the hidden Thirty Six,’ ” Todd said, “was it necessary that the 36 be hidden — to redeem the world?”

A young woman with black leather boots emitted a low groan, heard from one end of the room to the other, a deep sigh of sadness, “where could we find such people today?”

There was an old man who came in from the rain with disheveled hair and holding a cup of coffee, he said softly, “they are present in every generation. Present but secret. The difference is then they were manifest, now they are hidden.”

I felt the sadness and the optimism in the arguments of Rav and Shmuel, the necessity for the tears to somehow wash the world clean — not to change it in the common ways — simply to weep the world well, to cleanse it with our tears. A sad redemption, but a redemption. I felt it in my fingers and my fingers played it on my lute. I tried to explain it, but I played it better. I cleansed myself with the music and many times since, with my tears, I wept myself well.

I don’t know how the world is to be saved, unless it is to repair it with tears. To weep the world well.

I recalled the artist I met in Italy and the stories that he occasionally told, especially the tender ones. I recalled the softness, the weeping in his eyes when he told them.

I was talking with J. on Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of teshuvah transformation between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He was telling me about a friend of his son who had died in a car accident. “I was in New Jersey with a big big client,” J. said. “I live for this stuff, but I didn’t want to be there.”

“You don’t live for this stuff,” I said, “not for this, not for that, but for everything that issues from the mouth of G*d.”

“My head hurts,” J. said.

“You’re saving the world,” I said, “you’re saving the world with your tears.”

Again, it was the weeping that drew me to these stories. When I returned home, one day while playing music with Will, I began to weep, quietly and inwardly. I had learned how to cry in such a way that no one noticed.

The world would not be saved in the common, obvious ways; it may not be saved even by the righteous, there may be too few of them, nor by sincere acts of initiative.

It would be saved only by our tears.

jsg, usa

Ten pieces ten days no. 5a; Wash the World Clean

Wash the World Clean

Abbaye said, there is not less than thirty six righteous persons in each generation who receive the Shekhinah [the inner presence of G*dliness], as it is said, fortunate are all who wait for him, and the word for him [lo] has the numerical value of thirty six.
— Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 97b

Rav said, all the ends have passed, and the matter depends only on transformation [teshuvah] and good deeds.

But Shmuel says, it is enough for the mourner to stand in his mourning.
— Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 97b

In Abbaye’s teaching on the thirty six from the Talmud, the world required a minimum of thirty six righteous individuals, but for what, to exist? To be just? To be authenticated somehow? Thirty six who draw down G*dliness into the world, without them, what?

After a gig one night in Arizona, Sam said, “there are not less than 36 righteous persons in the world, that’s it, it’s a minimum.” Sam had been carried out of Auschwitz after the War.

Someone I did not know, someone who wandered in off the street, said, “It’s a minimum, as if to say, there may come a generation, there may have been, that does not contain thirty six righteous individuals.” She was wearing thick glasses and her glance moved from face to face in the circle when she spoke.

“That’s the problem, what happens if there are not enough good people in the world, what then? It happens, again and again: Auschwitz, Sarajevo, Rwanda, not enough righteousness. It’s not theoretical,” Sam again.

Ida sat next to Sam. She put a tissue to her eyes and only then did I notice her. “What then?” said Ida.

“Some sort of complete transformation, a radical overthrow,” said Rick.

“Tears,” said Sam, “weep the world well. That’s what it takes. I’m still crying.”

jsg, usa