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
Send Somebody, part 1
Send him send him send me —
From the narrows I call G-d
G-d answers me with expansiveness —
What did two know
that another ten did not?
Twelve are sent out
Was it safe?
I don’t know.
The other ten were certain
There are giants in the Land –
Scared the hell out of us.
One took a side trip
he went to Hevron
prayed on the graves of his ancestors
and from that drew strength
to be optimistic —
He told his friend.
Now we are optimists, they said
to no one in particular
[but I was there]
What’s an optimist? I asked.
One who fails with enthusiasm —
all my negativity flew away.
I told my children this
and instructed them to tell their children
etcetera etcetera —
far into the future
until there came a generation
that spoke only dark words.
Send Somebody, part 2
In the generation of dark words
we started over —
it was not unexpected
but we didn’t prepare enough
to avoid it entirely.
[I didn’t intend to tell a sad story just now
I didn’t intend to tell a sad story]
Later two more were sent out
a lady stuck her head outside the second floor window —
What’re you boys looking for?
The Land fool. . .
It’s yours, the hearts of all the people
The story concludes with the mystery blue
within the fringes on our garments —
a thread of blue
[to look and remember]
the blue came up once every seventy years —
Nowadays I carry it around in my bag.
A minority story saves us
a thread of blue reminds us now and again
of the essential:
There were twelve
ten of them were full of **it
one of them laid flat down on the graves of the ancestors
got strong there
brought another one in —
From the future
the minority report
Maqam* Hijaz D [1/2] E-flat [1 1/2] F# [1/2] G
*a maqam is a musical figure, a partial scale,
a modal form, cognate of the Hebrew Makom, signifying place.
Each Shabbat has a maqam associated with it.
Teaching: On Exodus 2:11, Parashat Shmot
Mesirat Nefesh: The giving of soul
1) Ex. 2:11 And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brothers, and saw their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brothers.
2) Moses flees from Pharaoh, and goes to Midian. Moses marries and has a son.
3) Ex. 2:23 The King of Egypt died, the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry for help came up to G*d by reason of the bondage. 24: And G*d heard their groaning, and G*d remembered the covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25: And G*d saw the children of Israel, and G*d knew their affliction.
4) Exodus 3:2 And the angel of the Eternal appeared to Moses in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush, and he saw, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was unconsumed. 3: And Moses said, I will turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not consumed. 4: And when the Eternal saw that he turned aside to see, G*d called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses and he said “here I am” (hineini).
1) Midrash asks: what means “he saw” in Exodus 2:11? That he saw their suffering and he cried and he said, woe is me, would that I could die instead of them. . .
2) Then: G*d says to Moses, you have put aside (turned aside) your business/your life/your complacency and have shared the suffering of Israel, and have behaved “in the manner of brothers”–so: I will leave the ones on high and the ones below and will speak with you.
3) Thus, in Exodus 3:4 And G*d saw that Moses had turned aside (from his life) to see, so G*d called to Moses from the bush and said, Moses, Moses. . .
1) S.R.H. Before Ex. 2:24-25 (G*d heard their cry. . .and G*d saw”) G*d was not personally involved (hashgacha pratit) with Israel, as it were, but allowed events to take their natural course. So what moves G*d to enter in a personal way with the children of Israel?
2) G*d is moved to act by Moses’ model. Moses, “in the manner of brothers” turns away from his life, from his standard, from his complacency, and does not a great thing, just the right thing.
3) Mesirat nefesh: Moses gives himself away. He turns away from self. He gives himself to the suffering of his brothers. Only then does G*d hear their cry and is moved to act, only then does G*d hear their cry.
Give ear O heavens and I will speak
and let the earth hear the words of my mouth
May my teaching drop like the rain
my utterance flow like the dew
like storm winds upon vegetation
and like raindrops upon blades of grass. [Deut. 32:1ff.]
Remember the days of old.
G*d is a rock
all G*d’s paths are just.
From his hands Moses picked out a lightning bolt
that had burned itself into his flesh
he threw it to the ground:
Give ear O heavens
let the earth hear the words of my mouth
he plied a thunderbolt out of his teeth
and buried it in the ground,
he began to teach:
G*d was like an eagle
arousing its nest
hovering over its young
spreading its wings
touching and not touching. [Rashi on 32:11]
returning to the nest
not to disturb its young,
covering in flight [Ibn Ezra on 32:11]
G*d covers us flying flying.
Blessing dwells and awakens the life force within
rooted we are
inwardliness – awakening
heaven and earth
the stories and the written text.
Let the teachings drop like rain [Deut. 32:2]
bringing forth fruit,
Remember the days of old.
So you got fat [Deut. 32:15]
G*d would have suckled you with honey from a rock
and oil from a flinty stone
butter of cattle milk of sheep
fat of lambs
but you became thick
and kicked —
Well, you can always come back.
Return, O Israel.
kick and drink the good wine from the grape
unfermented blood of the grape.
Give up your non-G*ds
You’re a generation of reversals. [Deut. 32:20]
Who is a rock
who is perfect
whose paths are just —
what is the climbing vine
the fructifying rain.
Remember the days of old
understand the years of generation to generation.
Return O Israel to your G*d [Hosea 14:2]
I will heal their disloyalty
I will love them freely. [Hosea 14:5]
they can always
Moses spoke all the words of this poem
into the ears of the people
Moses and his successor
Hoshea son of Nun.
Then G*d spoke to Moses on that very day
apply your hearts to all these words [Deut. 32:46-47]
for it is not an empty thing
it is your life.
An angel came to me and brought Torah Haazinu
Maqam* Bayat (D E half-flat F G)
*The Oriental Maqam gives a distinct musical character to every Sabbbath.
I Was There
Mose spoke to Joshua, his successor:
He told him a couple of things but what I remember most
is the phrase chazak v’ematz —
Be strong and courageous;
I loved it when Mose talked about courage
he was one of the few who did.
Mose said not to be afraid
G*d would accompany us;
G*d would not have brought us this far
to let us go on alone, Mose said.
Then Mose did something really important:
he sat down and wrote the Torah.
He wrote the entire document so we would have something
to tell the future.
He wrote it down for us
the whole thing.
When Mose was done writing, G*d began to speak with him.
Your days are drawing near to die,
G*d said to Mose,
Go get Joshua and stand in the Tent of Meeting —
So I can give Joshua final instructions.
That’s what they did;
Mose and Joshua stood in the tent of meeting
and G*d appeared in a pillar of cloud —
so we didn’t catch everything.
What we heard was difficult:
it was about the future
and what we would forget and how someone
would have to remind us now and again —
what we are all about.
So Mose wrote out the Torah
then he made up a song
Mose taught us the song that day
it was a song, or a poem —
and some of it was heard and is known —
And some of it
There is a known song
and a secret song;
a known poem and a secret poem.
One is flesh and form
the other bone and spirit.
check my blog for new pieces
D E half-flat F G
Every Shabbat is associated with a musical figure, a maqam,
Arabic cognate of maqom = place.
9/11, Prayer #2
the sedra of 9/11/2001
We are standing today
all of us
the big shots
wives and sweethearts
–and the stranger that is within all of us
before Hashem The Name
–from the hewers of wood
to the carriers of water
all of us
To cut a deal with You
So You will remember the deal You cut with our ancestors
eager covenant cutters.
But not for us alone do You keep this agreement
not for us who are here today
but for those of us who are not here today.
This deal that I set before you this day
(You know which one I mean)
it is not too far from you that you should say
who shall go for us
nor is it too hard for you that you should say
who will do this for us.
It is not in heaven
and it is not hidden
and it is not distant
but right here
under your nose
it is in your mouth
and in your heart
it is sitting next to you on the bench
waiting for the bus
it is standing on the corner
in front of Starbuck’s
watching for the light to change.
that you should do it.
I have placed before you
the life and the good
the death and the not-good.
walk like God
do the right things
the simple things and the complex things
figure out what you can for yourself
and be wise together
then you will multiply and God will grow you
and bless you.
But if you don’t listen
and fly away
I tell you
I surely tell you
you will be lost
and your days will not be lengthened
on the land.
So I call heaven and earth together
to witness for you and against you
I have placed life and death before you
blessing and curse.
glue yourself to God
for God is your life
and the length of your days —
God promised your ancestors
God promised them
Last week we left, when we ki teitzei’d left our expectations, etc., we were free to come this week, last week we left singular it always feels singular when you make that break with expectations. You think you’re the first the only one to have to push on that way in your courageousness you have to go this alone, this leaving that we all have to strike in order to make freedom.
This week we join with a great mess of similar pilgrims, they all had to ki teitzei they all had to leave their expectations their complacency behind they had to get up off that thing and get on with it – you did – you got up off that thing and got on with it and when you did you arrived at this week in the great swirl the movement of time the flow you entered the flow and you ki tavo’d you came into, you came somewhere, then you became plural, came into a place you could not have predicted you did not expect you could not have imagined because you were bold and went ki teitzei’d by yourself and once you did you become a part of the great freedom walk of human beings you all ki tavo’d and came into something. You arrived somewhere and you were not alone.
O human being, you are strong strong by your getting up off that thing and you believed for a while maybe a long while you could not do it but you could do it and you did it and once you did – you have a whole mess of an army joining you in that journey and you came into something.
Here we all are this week, we became plural in a week’s time and don’t you dare think for a moment that it is not significant. I have been told by the smartest people I know that if they had stayed singular they would have stayed dumb. If they had remained singular they would have remained sad and alone in the rathskeller of the spirit where individuals stew in their uniqueness in desperate and insoluble places, people begin to stink there from their own listlessness and inability to get up off that thing and be someone different than destiny.
Hell, I have been told by the boldest person I know that there is no destiny. Everything is foreseen but free will is given, get up off that thing and make it happen, I have been told.
Get up out of that cellar, it’ll take you a good week, you can make that trip from when you leave singular to when you come into something, you become plural get up off that thing and get on with it.
This is what the Torah says.