From the third floor: commit

Hello. I am starting this blog. I like the way it looks and that I owe to my man Jeff Hirsch, who has also done all my CDs as well as my web site. He does so much for me. He makes my product look great because he gets what I am doing. He took that picture above of me playing my beloved oud. On my front porch. I hardly have to leave the house.

Everything I post will be at least three generations old, which is nothing for me. I rewrite constantly. I have a rule never to post or send anything without letting it sit a while. I have certain interests [obsessions] that I write about, feel free to respond. I think you have to register to do that. This is new to me, thanks.

Now the first piece I will share. It comes from a commitment I’ve taken on, to write a long piece every week based on the Torah of that time. I am about five weeks into the commitment as I write this, and so far the pieces have been successful. What it means to be successful, etc., I have thought about so I’ve written about that too. That piece is called Night Vision.

I bring these pieces out on Friday night in some form or other. I revisit them in our learning on Saturday morning for discussion of sources and such, then I rewrite them again that afternoon. I discern the sources, by the way, after I have written the pieces. Always.

I have learned from playing music about making the commit. I have also learned from Exodus 24:3 and following: the tell — write — read [re-read] sequence. I try to create an oral environment on Friday night. And with music, you make the commit as intention, you give yourself to it the hands follow. Here’s the piece about the commit [first a Prelude]:

Six weeks into the commit
I am sharing with you my offerings
this one different not the piece itself written for the week
but another piece that came out of the piece written for the week
one act of creativity engages another and this is the other
it arose yesterday after studying and learning
and feeling myself being inhaled into the text itself
becoming a letter a vowel a dot on the page
here is the piece
it’s called Night Vision
or it’s the night vision itself

Night Vision

We are six weeks into the commit
the commitment to offer up something good
every Shabbat from our holy guidebook

The necessity to make the commit
whether it be music or life of some other kind
the willingness to fail at it maybe more than to succeed
to fail and to fail and to fail and then to SUCCEED
both failure and success understood by its internal standard
which is demanding in an excellence way not an approval way

Not even an entertaining way only excellence
something good is what I said and I meant it
to call it what it is so that the success or failure with the commit
rises before me
also the success of failure
not a matter of subjectivity but what is known through a standard
familiar to the artist or the life-lived-thoroughly person
you know the one I mean the one attached to the tree of life

As we were discussing the mystery rule of Torah
the mystery mitzvah as it were if it were understood
we might understand

And the question became how do we understand
the un-understood or maybe we should call it the
we came to rest in a place none of us imagined before
we opened a sense of redemption through learning
through guidebook Torah I suppose in a way suggested by
the Sefas Emes* that applied to us more
than to the text itself

At that moment we had become a letter of the guidebook
a dot a vowel even a period a mark on the page
we became a letter of the text and it released us
from literal
the commentators we had come to understand
had not been so released
they were searching for symmetry
we arrived at a-symmetry

They explained in a perpendicular way why Moses deserved
or did not deserve to die the way he did
gazing into the Land from the distance
thinking it should have been me

Instead he died we are taught — there —
not a place, not a location but a how
how he died – he died as Miriam died in the guidebook
by the kiss of God
God sucked up their souls so to speak Moses and Miriam both
with a kiss

In God’s world they died a sensual death
they got inhaled into God’s breath through the Divine kiss
n’shikat Hashem
from God’s perspective they were taken to the heart like
a sweetheart

What can we make now of the frustrations of their lives
or our lives for that matter?
How frustrating at the end to have been
loved into death this way

What’s not integrated, what’s left undone in the story now
from God’s perspective
how could they have passed with more intimacy and gentleness
than with this holy kiss
through which they became one being with God

With the death of Miriam following on the heels
of the mystery rule of the guidebook
the mystery paradox of the ritual of purification
the very preparation of which defiles
how does the defiling action
this followed by the death of Miriam
gone the well that followed us through forty years
of Wilderness wandering
with the death of Miriam
as she was inhaled into the mouth of God
do we mourn the absence of sustenance
the water that followed us the well that accompanied us
the Wilderness the Wilderness

We are moving over the threshold
without our sustenance
with the a-symmetry of the various stories that settled this week
not into harmony they are not logical these stories
they are not entirely mysteries either
they are a-symmetrical stories they do not converge
they perch a-symmetrical
we will not figure them
they will not unlock the secrets of the guidebook

They are the category of recoverable wisdom
gone for a moment
undeciphered for now
but understood known in night vision
at night you understand them you really do
at night you know what it is
not to penetrate this secret
it will not unravel
it is not entirely mysterious either

We are always waiting
for that recoverable wisdom
the elders all of them
they may return to us someday
with their recoverable wisdom
carrying it this their function
to carry that sacred load through our lives
so we remember them
the bearers of our recoverable wisdom

Sustaining like Miriam’s well of water
Like the water
Like Miriam herself.

shabbes chukkat

* the Sefas Emes, named after his book of commentary [Language of Truth], Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter the rebbe of Ger (near Warsaw), 1847 – 1905.