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

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.


Blessing [from Re’eh]

I will bless you and keep you as the written laws and the unwritten ones,
the ones that I have spoken and the ones you have interpreted, laws and the statutes, universals, and the inferred rules — I will bless you with them
and you will keep them because you live with the life of all Life.

You will be a kingdom of priests and a holy people. Priest kings,
holy men and women, in other words, men and women of flesh and bone.

I will bless you and increase you as the earth, as the sands of the seashore
as the sea, look at the algae now and the horseflies buzzing around your face,
I will make you as great as the algae, as the grasshoppers.

Look up now to the sky, you will be as great as the stars,
as the darkness too, you will be as great as the darkness,
as the sand and the sea and the stars, the mud and the dark and the green,
the sticky stuff on the surf, the early rains and the later rains,
the mud and the mud the green the sand the dark.

You will be a blessing, as great as the dark as the sea the sand the green.

I will restore the broken vav in briti shalom,
the covenant of peace, a covenant of salt to preserve and protect.

When you dream you will dream up. Look up —
you will become as great as the stars. Look down, you will see before you.

You will be blessed with both – the world as delivered to your understanding
and your slant individuality.

You will be a blessing — attached to the life of all lives,
heart of the world, essence to essence.

Now listen. Cover your eyes.

Now take out the I’s entirely, pray –

the covenant of peace
we need it


jsg, usa

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

We Need You But We Need You Whole

Covenant of Peace

We are dreaming peace all the time now
the evidence of that broken vav
in shalom of brit shalom [Numbers 25:12]
— that may be what’s holding it up.

Let’s fix the vav in the brit shalom
the covenant of peace
this reward that is given to your loyalist Pinchas.

You rewarded him the priesthood
for that unseemly act [Numbers 25:7 ff.]
so what is it — this covenant of peace —

the near peace and the far peace [Isaiah 57:19]
with the far peace you have confidence in the future
the near peace is more elusive

but HEY –

The near peace the inward peace
also elusive
the far peace —

they’re negotiating a world away
here we are praying
working our gardens and our abs.

I have to ask Pinchas
son of Eleazar son of Aaron
what kind of peace maker might you be
priest-man you ran them through
— that man and his girlfriend —
killed them both.

You love an argument
your reward the priesthood
what about that diminished yud in your name? [Numbers 25:11]

Something unfinished in you Pinchas [K’sav Sofer and Ha-amek davar]
we need you but we need you

Hey Pinchas
the vav in shalom seems so broken right now
K’TIA!! I holler. [K’tia = broken]

Remember the perfect vav before its brokenness
the sign of connection —
sometimes I feel so hollow and broken too
K’tia! on me.

Restore me because I am not that broken
use your language to integrate —
the power of blessing.

Use your words to make peace out of the pieces
lift up the lower union to join the upper union
that’s vav in its complete form
the connector.

It connects in form
up and down the straight line vav
heaven to earth
the vertical link.

It connects in context
the horizontal, the holy and
vav ha-chibur
the vav meaning and
the most conjunctive humble word.

Pinchas – fix that vav
restore the brokenness between us
within us
the and relational horizontal
the vertical spiritual
this will be your priestliness of the future.

Oh priestliness fix it all
if you can’t I will
I’m* working on it
me and all my pals
we are whole and ready
deputize us.

I’m trying to end this prayer
but I can’t.

I’m waiting for new language
something horizontal
[vertical too]
connective —

the repair of the near and the repair of the far
suggesting something new out of the old might rise
something like –


james stone goodman*

*I am no Pinchas
maybe the son of a Pinchas

O Holy God of Shabbes Inspiration Pinchas
Maqam Saba

**in Sefer haZohar, Pinchas is identified with Eliyahu HaNavi, Elijah the prophet

A maqam is a musical figure.
Each Shabbat is associated with a particular maqam.
Maqam Saba is associated with children, birth, brit. Covenant.

D [3/4] E half-flat [3/4] F [1/2] G flat

Third Treasure


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 went searching for the third treasure
In my dreams I was directed to Prague
Then in Prague by a bridge
You know the story —
A guard sent me home
But not before I asked him –
Do I qualify?

No way, he said,
Go home and look anyway.

I went home, dug up my back yard and found a document
Written in Hebrew with a little Arabic –
It read:

Ten miracles created bein hashemashot
bayna shumus
between the suns at twilight
outside of time as it were
built into creation at the end of the first day
before the Shabbat
created for the world to catch up
so to speak –

The mouth of the earth that opened
the mouth of the prophetic donkey
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/the jinn
and the grave of Moses and the ram of Abraham
some also say the tongs
made from the tongs — [Avot 5:9]

I showed this to my friend the surgeon
technology where there is no technology
stem cells
the arc of discovery that we follow with hope
the saving of lives in ways we cannot quite 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
when at the right time
the right time

the mouth of the earth will open
and we will assume

Soon — the hidden moon of Tammuz
concealing the future
all the hidden possibilities that could save one of us

or all of us

some day.

jsg usa

Maqam Nahawand
C D E flat F

Every Shabbat is characterized by a maqam
A musical figure
Hebrew cognate maqom
Signifying Place.


O holy men and women of flesh and bone

If [Im] you follow my laws (Bechukotai)
Hkk the root
The kind of laws that are beyond nature so to speak
These are the laws of God
The consequences for not walking by them?
That’s the verb — walking — [Leviticus 26:3]
The consequences for not walking by them
Are worldly catastrophic
The rains will not fall in their seasons
The earth will crack
It will get hot everywhere
The poles will melt
And we may not be saved —

Because we violated the
Secret Hidden Contract
Between human being-li-ness
And God-li-ness
The world broke apart
And we had been warned.

But if we do
If [Im]
If we honor and walk and keep and protect
Then nature will respond with order
We will be grateful for keeping this mysterious law of God
Familiar to everyone on the planet
Though none of us can say just What
That law is.

We all know the world is Cracked
But we don’t know

Maqam Saba or Nawa
Saba: D E half-flat F G flat

Nawa: C D E flat F sharp G

jsg, usa

After the Weekend

After the weekend
We were talking
Pharaoh had a few questions for me
I answered them the best I could
Buying and selling in a daily schedule
Gauging the market
The obvious buy low sell high, etc.,

I spoke about wanting to return home
Because the buffet
At Pharaoh’s affair
Was meat meat
I have a softness for the misunderstood beasts
I would never think of eating one
We owe the working animal so much
Her willingness to serve —

We turned to the personal matters.

The women and the conspiracies
The desperation of flotation devices
Concealing our real motives and desires
The hunger within for competence
And primacy
Of course love —

Filling the unformed and empty
With love.

We discussed first the market
Then the family
Then the personal

We were about to arrive at politics
At the intersection

Wait – let me make a list.
I took out a stylus, a fine one made in Babylonia,
And I made a list.

These are the problems I will solve first\second, etc.

Let me take these one by one
And I began to repair each broken shard of the world.

— Joseph