Honoring Rebbe Nachman

On his histalkus [ascent from the body]
18th of Tishrei
second day chol ha moed Sukkot

The Prince and The Rooster

I ran into Rebbe Nachman in Detroit.
I recognized the wildness in his coal-black eyes,
dark thatch of beard overgrown his face.
He instructed me to take off my shoes daily
and walk through the grass.
He told me that not too long ago he had lost his mind
thought he was a rooster.
Where was this? I interrupted.


Nachman then told me the following story:
I took off all my clothes,
Nachman said, lived under a table,
wouldn’t eat anything but grain and chicken food.
Then Prince came,
took off all his clothes,
got under the table and began to act like a rooster too.
He said, I’m Prince, the rooster, I promise I will never leave you.
We swore friendship to each other,
slowly slowly, Prince began the healing.
He put on a shirt, I put on a shirt.
Prince said just because you dress like a human being
doesn’t mean you have to cease being a rooster.

The next day we ate at the lunch counter in the bowling alley.
Prince ordered a tuna sandwich.
You gonna eat like a person too? I asked Prince.
You can eat like a human being and still be a rooster, Prince said.
You can do anything and still be the rooster you are.

That’s how it worked for me, Nachman said,
Prince saved me slowly slowly.
He taught me I can do anything
and still remain the rooster I am.

jsg, usa

Honoring Rebbe Nachman

Honoring Rebbe Nachman
the Chassdic story master
on his histalkus [ascent from the body]
the 18th of Tishrei

The Prince Wants

Prince wants to do something right
maybe this can help me

He wants to be filled up
Prince wants most
to be significant
he wants to be remembered as having

He sees someone bagging groceries
one night
there is one happy man
thinks Prince

He sees the grocery bagger another night
soon Prince goes back to the store
whenever he is thinking too much
Prince watches the man bag groceries

One night he feels the opportunity
I am watching you, says Prince,
what makes you so happy?

I used to steal from this store
says the grocery bagger
now I work here
now I am giving something back

There is nowhere
I would rather be right now
than here

says the grocery bagger

He looks at Prince to see if he understands
I’ve said enough

jsg, usa

I Love You With All My Broken Heart

I Love You With All My Broken Heart
A Blessing for Sukkot

I was sitting with the truthful linguist, the Gerer, just before he became nifter, er dead, it must have been ‘04, maybe ‘05.

The sukkah is a chuppah, he opened with, we wedded God on the way out of Egypt. I am the Holy One who marries you, he sang quoting Vayikra 22, then he chanted the prayer Who spreads out a sukkah of peace over us.

The truthful linguist stopped and cocked his head sideways, spreads out means to choose a portion, a part of the whole, he said. God is wholeness itself, and part of wholeness. I dwell with the partial, I dwell with the lowly with the humble, he was singing again, quoting Isaiah 57.

Who is a whole person? He was quoting the Book of Splendor now — me, the one with a broken heart. His voice ascended. Wherever God dwells there is wholeness. God makes whole out of half. Who spreads the sukkah of peace over us? He spread out his arms like he was saying come to poppa.

He was bringing down the idea now to its resting place, his voice settled into a whisper, a low hum heard from one corner of the room to the other.

God sets aside the partial, the inner point that is everywhere, the part that is all. A few of us among the many, the wounded, the sick among the well, the partial among the whole.

He closed with this: Everywhere, everywhere God dwells — is whole.

jsg, usa

• From the Sefat Emet Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter,
the rebbe of Ger (near Warsaw), d. 1905.

Kabbalah of the Serenity Prayer

Rebbe Nachman On the Serenity Prayer
— From the King and the Emperor

All the repairs are made from Rosh Hashanah
until the Eighth day of Assembly [Shemini Atzeret]
the unification made on Simchat Torah
when Chava Eve and Adam are united
face to face
after having been created back to back.
The Holy One separated Adam and Eve
to reunite them at the end of the 22 days
on Simchat Torah
the time of the wedding
the dancing like the dancing
the Holy One performed for Adam HaRishon
the first Adam
— the wedding party
of holy angels and chariots
descending for the dance.

Through these 22 days
we each merit
our true matches
each Adam for his Chava
each Chava for her Adam –

So it is on Rosh Hashanah
that Adam and Chava
travel to Uman.
It was there that the chair
the Rebbe saw in heaven was created
the one that held all the matches in the world inscribed on it.
He asked
how wilI I make a living?

You will be a matchmaker
and so every year in Uman
Rosh Hashanah
they go searching for their soul-mates.

We are taught even after we find our soul-mates
and marry them
we spend our lifetime searching
even after we marry
we spend a lifetime searching out
our beloved’s uniqueness.

We are gathering Chesed [mercy]
these days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot
from the bottom up
the Chesed within Hod [beauty]
the Chesed within Netzach [victory]
until we merit Chesed within Chesed on Sukkot —
we call this
gathering down the Chassadim.

Then the light of Chesed is completely revealed
and it sweetens all the judgments.
Something new drawn down during the Days of Awe.

Now, through Sukkot, we merit new ideas
and those dinim those laws of life
written and sealed through Yom Kippur
are sweetened now with the light of Chesed.

We have drawn down so much new in these days
we are making the adjustments
and separating the ones we can
from the ones we cannot.

God, Chesed in Chesed, master of the Chassadim,
grant me the shalvah [serenity]
to accept and make the adjustments
the courage to separate the ones we can make from the ones we cannot
and the wisdom to know the ones we can make
from the ones we cannot make.

Let us make the adjustments
separating the ones we can
from the ones we cannot.



An Intention for Yom Kippur

You Smell Good But You Don’t Have To

A message for Yom Kippur

In the Yom Kippur Siddur[prayer book], there is a well known prayer that begins the erev Yom Kippur liturgy: in the yeshivah[academy] on high and the yeshivah down below, al daat ha makom, with the knowledge of the Holy One, we are free to pray with those who have transgressed, sinners, outcasts, strangers, losers. We are free to pray with them on this night, so, on all other nights, we are not free to pray with them? We don’t pray with them? We don’t associate with them?

Everyone is present tonight, everyone whether in or out we are all in tonight, or we are all out. We are all strangers tonight, or none of us are strangers. But tonight, we are together. There is no other tonight, or we are all Other tonight.

In Israel, the doors to the synagogues are left open, so that even the most secular Israelies can pass by, sit on the steps or stand on the streets and hear the sound of Kol Nidre being chanted in the synagogues. It is truly the closest thing we have to one people, this night, in Israel during the chanting of Kol Nidre.

No one is outside the camp on Yom Kippur. There is another prayer on Yom Kippur, what I have named my Yom Kippur prayer book after: Ketoret. It means incense. In the traditional machzor, or High Holiday prayerbook, there is a chapter about the laws of incense that was prayed in the morning liturgy. There was great significance attached to this section of the liturgy. The Arizal taught that careful praying of the section on incense alone brings a person to teshuvah-transformation. In the Zohar, there is something about incense in the prayers that is purifying.

Incense was blended with great precision in the Holy Temple and burned on a golden altar morning and evening. There were eleven spices in the blending of the ketoret, including one called the chelbenah, a foul selling spice. The chelbenah teaches the necessity to welcome the stranger, the sinner, the outcast, the other, into our prayer community, especially on Yom Kippur. There is no other. Or we are all other.

There is a personal dimension — each person too has an emptiness, a space, a darkness, a brokennesss that needs to be healed, to be integrated, to be included — it is our chelbenah, and when we integrate the chelbenah it is the key in finding our wholeness. Who is the whole person? The one with the broken heart, said Rabbi Nachman (he knew).

This is the transformational healing that we pray for on Yom Kippur, that no part of the self, nor anyone from the community, be separated from the whole.

When there is no other we are all other and whatever separates us diminishes, or whatever insulates us from the heart of suffering dissolves. We become the heart of suffering. We are the heart of suffering, all of us.

We have five prohibitions on Yom Kippur, taken from the directive in the Torah to afflict our souls. We do not wash, we do not wear leather, we do not have physical relations, we do not eat, we do not perfume ourselves. We afflict our souls, we move ourselves symbolically towards suffering because we soften to the heart of suffering, we are the heart of suffering, we are all other, we are all strangers. We are, none of us, outside the camp.

There is no outside the camp tonight.

jsg, usa

Shofar on the New Moon

Shofar on the New Moon

Tiku va-chodesh shofar—

bakesseh –
le-yom chageinu

Make a tekiah on the month with the shofar

when it’s hidden/bakesseh

on the day of our chag [Sukkot] — Psalm 81:4

The moon is the image of the growth arc this time of year. It begins with Rosh Hashanah, the new moon, the first of Tishri. The new moon is barely discerned; that’s the nature of what we draw into the world — every Rosh Hashanah — something entirely new, dimly discerned, but something Godly.

It’s ba-kesseh, hidden, on Rosh Hashanah and is somewhat hidden until Sukkot, when it becomes fully plumped, like the moon.

Something new, there is so much hope in that. Every Rosh Hashanah we draw something new into the world. Like the moon, on Rosh Hashanah, the new moon of Tishri, we do not discern it. The newness, the wisdom that we draw into the world, begins to plump just as the moon. Through Rosh Hashanah, during the deep inner work of ten days of teshuvah-transformation, through the atonement of Yom Kippur, still not fully realized, plumping with the moon but still not entirely revealed until Sukkot.

On Sukkot, the newness that we draw into the world is fully expressed. Like the full moon of Sukkot, the fifteenth of the month Tishri, that which was partial, unexpressed, hidden, not quite actualized, becomes visible and realized with the full moon of Sukkot. Sukkot is the culmination of the growth arc that we celebrate during these Days of Awe.

From the kitchen
wisdom will rise
from the dinner table
the true peace
integrative peace
from the hidden sources of wisdom
knowledge will plump like the moon.

This could be the year.


R. Eleazar said, “this day is called
‘the concealing [keseh] for the day of our feast:
tiku va-chodesh shofar, bakesseh, l’yom chageinu [Psalm 81:4]

Because the moon is still covered and does not shine. Through what then will it shine? Through teshuvah and the sound of the shofar, as it is written, “Blessed is the people that know the trumpet sound, because, O God, they shall walk in the light of your countenance” (Psalm 89:15). On this day the moon is covered, and it does not shine until the tenth day, when Israel turns with a perfect teshuvah, so that the supernal Mother gives light to her. Hence this day is called the day of atonements (kippurim), because two lights are shedding illumination, since the higher lamp is illuminating the lower. For on this day the moon receives illumination from the supernal light and not from the light of the sun.

Zohar, 13th c.
100b – 101a

Every Rosh Hashanah new light issues from Ein Sof into the attribute of Malkhut for the entire year, to give life to the worlds Beriah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah (the three lower worlds), to nourish them, to sustain them. This light and life force contains the life force of the world, the year, the soul of the entire year, however, on Rosh Hashanah, it is still in a state of “bakesseh.” [Psalm 81:4, Tik’u va-chodesh shofar bakesseh l’yom chageinu”, Blow the shofar in the new moon, in the time “appointed” on the day of our festival, the world bakesseh means also “hidden” as well as the time “appointed”] On the new moon, what we seek is still hidden and obscured.

On Yom Kippur, it comes forth as revelation in the higher realms, and on Sukkot it is “of our festival” there is more revelation at the level of makif, and on Shemini Atzeret it comes to the level of penimi, inwardliness, and that is the meaning of the gathering on Shemini Atzeret. And after that it flows through malkhut day by day in a revelation below in the worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah. And this is how the most high chesed from the level of keter is drawn into the kindnesses of atik and malchut on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and from malkhut into all the worlds.

From Kuntres Uma’ayan
Ma’amar 18
R. Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe

A Blessing On the New Moon

Master of Mirrors,
let me see with the unclear mirror, the dark images,
the images that are only discerned at night,
by moonlight.

God of the light and the dark,
release me from distractions,
bind me with invisible fibers to the deep story —
the right words, not the simple words
not the easy ones not even the sweet words
I want the true ones.

God of the right and wrong
don’t sweet talk me, draw me into the deep.
Carry me not in your pocket but 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 —

jsg, usa



When he [Aaron] is finished atoning for the Sanctuary, the Tent of Meeting, and the Altar, he shall bring the living he-goat near. Aaron shall lean his two hands on the head of the living he-goat and confess upon it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their rebellious sins among all their sins, and place them upon the head of the he-goat, and send it with a designated man to the desert. The he-goat will bear upon itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land, and he should send the he-goat to the desert.
— Leviticus 16:20 -22

And the he-goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be stood alive before Hashem, to provide atonement through it, to send it to Azazel in the Wilderness.
— Leviticus 16:10

I am writing this sitting on a hill in a Wilderness somewhere in the United States of America. I am here for purification, I think, maybe rededication, yes, that is exactly what I have come here to do. I haven’t spoken for days.

I have brought an instrument to make music with, a notebook to write in, a book.

There are many animals here, it is a wild place. I am a guest here, the Wilderness, this is clear to me. I asked the goats, the horses, the brush rangers, the bottom dwellers to allow me to squat on their ground, to pray here, to play my instrument. It was pretty, but it was not why I came.

On the fourth day, this day, I began to ask for forgiveness. I sank deeper into silence and an animal I cannot identify (it had somewhat elaborate horns, I am not an outdoors man) wandered by and nibbled from a loaf of bread I carried with me. I spread a piece of bread with peanut butter, Jif smooth, and the animal signaled to me in some abstract, trans-species way its approval.

Then the animal spoke. It’s about forgiveness, isn’t it — the animal said.

Yes, it’s about forgiveness.

Give me your burdens, the animal said, I am a load-bearing animal, I am a yoked animal, I submit to the yoke of your burdens and I carry them gladly into the Wilderness.

So I took my burdens — my self consciousness, my separation, my isolation, my flight, fear, especially my fear — everything that separates me from God and all I love the most, and I laid them on the shoulders of the animal. On the back of this beautiful yoked beast I gave up my fear, and I watched as the animal disappeared into the hills.

I lifted up my hands and said, to the trees, to the sky, to the stones, to the dirt, to the dirt especially, to the mud:

Is this the way it works?

From a distance I heard,

Yes, this is precisely the way it works.

jsg, usa

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Haazinu

O Holy Shabbes Inspiration Haazinu

Give ear O heavens and I will speak
And may the earth hear the words of my mouth
May my teaching drop like the rain
May 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.

God is a rock
all God’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
may 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:

God was like an eagle
arousing its nest
hovering over its young
spreading its wings
taking them
carrying them
touching and not touching. [Rashi on 32:11]

Compassionate eagle
gently returning to the nest
not to disturb its young.

Protecting eagle
covering us in flight [Ibn Ezra on 32:11]
as God covers us flying flying.

Blessing dwells and awakens the life force within
where we are rooted
inwardliness – awakening the life force
let the teachings drop as rain [Deut. 32:2]
heaven and earth
rain bringing forth fruit
the stories and the written text.

Remember the days of old.

So you got fat [Deut. 32:15]
God 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-gods
become real.

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 God [Hosea 14:2]
I will heal their disloyalty
I will love them freely. [Hosea 14:5]

Tell them
they can always

come home.

Moses spoke all the words of this song
into the ears of the people
Moses and his successor
Hoshea son of Nun

God spoke to Moses on that very day

apply your hearts to all these words
for it is not an empty thing
it is your life.

jsg, usa

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Nitzavim

On Parashat Nitzavim,
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,
good people
eager covenant cutters.

But not for us alone
do You keep this agreement
not for us who are here
but for those of us
who are not here

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 with you for the bus
it is standing on the corner
in front of Starbuck’s
waiting for the light to change.

that you should do it.

look see:
I have placed before you
the life and the good
death and evil.

Love Hashem
walk like God
do the right things
the simple things and the complex things
figure out what you can for yourself
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.

Choose life
choose blessing
love God
glue yourself to God
for God is your life
and the length of your days.

Who are you?
I am.
Who am I?
I am.
Let us both be I am
for each other.

God promised your ancestors.
God promised them.
I swear.

jsg, usa


The Sounds of the Shofar

from “It’s a Sad and Beautiful World”

Tekiah — sustained note of the shofar
Original unity, before all exiles

Tekiah — the universal, metaphysical and musical
Against the tekiah sounds the teruah
The relative

Tekiah — the universal in the ensemble
The drone the tonic
Against which the relative shudders with melody

Shofar begins and ends in Tekiah
Original unity
Where we come from, where we return

Teruah –the sound is separated
Exiled into teruah
Crying, longing to return

Three yevavot three wavering crying blasts*
Trembling quivering yearning to return
When we lose our way, the roads go into mourning

Teruah — crying weeping longing yearning for return
Tekiah the universal
Teruah the relative

It is a sad and beautiful world
Sad so far away
Beautiful so hungry are we to return

End always with Tekiah G’dolah
The Great Tekiah
The sustained universal tekiah

We yearn for it
Hunger for it
Believe it

*(Mishnah RH 4:9)