Sixth Portion of Leviticus

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Acharei Mot
Maqam Hijaz* D E-flat F# G

*a maqam is a musical figure, a partial scale, a modal form, cognate of the Hebrew makom, or place, used this week to mark sad occasions, on this, the death of Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu

We have to begin with sadness I suppose
in the maqam
the hijaz
it’s always reserved for sad stories
the death of Sara
the shame of the golden calf
the spies and their failure to understand
the Sabbath before Tisha B’Av (first portion of Deuteronomy)
the saddest day of the Jewish year
all maqam hijaz.

There’s plenty to be unhappy about
consider the mother of the pitiful Nadav and Avihu
who die too close to the Source
with their strange fire
they brought something unfamiliar
in another generation they would be kings for it
their mother is not mentioned
Elisheva bat Aminadav
everyone in her family has ascended
her brother in law Moses like a king
her brother Nachshon like a prince
her husband to high priest
her sons —
we have no sense that
loss of our loved ones is God’s gain
we have no sense that this is consolation
we are hollering for our beloveds
whenever they leave us

Elisheva bat Aminadav is not happy

She chooses silence. [Lev. R]

Get up I tell her.
Rend your clothes then howl out of your silence
throw up your disgust into the dust
let everyone know how you feel
some with words some without

let them know what you think of their successes
the positions they hold
their responsibilities

Elisheva bat Aminadav
is howling for all the mothers
and the fathers who are mothers
who love no crown more than the crown
of motherhood

tell them you are not getting on with it
until the muscle of this sadness is gone from your hands
and the music gone from your mouth
all sound gone from your ears

only when there is no memory
of loss

will your loss be quieted.

jsg, usa

Three Secrets

The Secret of the Pesach

Rabban Gamaliel used to say,
whoever does not discuss these three things on Passover
has not fulfilled the obligation, and these are:
Pesach, Matzah, Maror.
We begin with the Pesach, the offering itself.

The Pesach, the paschal lamb,
what my ancestors ate when the Temple stood
— what does it mean?

Because the Holy One passed over (pasach)
my ancestors’ houses in the land of Egypt
this I tell my children.

Because God leaped or jumped over our houses
so should we leap or jump, in everything we do
this from Rashi.

You need a leap a jump every now and again,
a breakthrough, a reminder
what we are all about, said the musical Shlomo.

Because God jumped in (pasach)
jumped out of our story.
In Egypt we were feeling far away from the Holy One,

but Moses whispered to us
the secret of the Pesach and we came to understand
near and far

leaping in leaping out, it’s all the same
so we sacrificed our lowliness
we offered up our distance

with the Paschal lamb,
the fragrance rose up high and God,
as it were, descended into the pit of Egypt.

Near and far, jumping in jumping out,
we came to understand the secret
of the lamb,

that’s when we became free
when Moses whispered the secret.


Now we turn to the matzah,
what we call the bread of poverty
we also call it by the Zohar
the bread of faith.

two concepts
one honors memory
the other commitment.

The bread of faith
redemption through transformation.
What is matzah but chometz
in arrested development,
bread without ego.
What is chometz but the inner puffiness
that separates us from God
and all we love the most.

Matzah chometz
bread of poverty leavening
the same substance;
somewhere along the continuum of rising
the matzah becomes bread
the bread remains matzah if the
rising is interrupted —
a symbol of transformation
without a change of substance.

Matzah chometz practically anagrams
the difference in the opening of the hay
it opens up into transformation redemption
the chet opens downward —
the difference in the smallest of exits.
So easy to abandon yourself to gravity
to spiral downward
when the redemption
is the squeeze through the open hay


Maror, the bitter herb,
because Pharaoh embittered
our lives in Mitzrayim [Egypt].

What is the challenge of Pharaoh?
Why haven’t we left him behind?

is not every ceremony
a celebration of cosmic union?
Set against this is Par’oh, to rend, to split,
the separator, the dis-integrator.

Every time we meet: union,
integration, wholeness.
We separate from the Other Side
that’s why
we had to leave Pharaoh
to become one with ourselves.

The bitter herb is memory,
set against the memory of Pharaoh
who separates us from God
and all we love the most
is matzah, redemption, the bread of faith.
Matzah redemption
maror memory,
no reclining with maror.

Hillel used to combine
the matzah with the maror.
The bitterness of memory cut
with the redemption of matzah
don’t we know this about life?

The hurt and the redemption bound up,
G*d gave us the remedy before the malady,
we eat maror and matzah as did Hillel
reclining becoming free.

jsg, usa

Night of Conscious Watching

The Night of Conscious Watching

Egypt [Mitzrayim – the dual form], Night Before Leaving

What we do the night before –
knowing we are leaving by morning.

The night before
we paused in our preparations

leil shimurim
the night of conscious watching
used only here
in this verse

It was at the end of four hundred and thirty years,
and it was on that very day
that all the legions of God
left the land of Egypt.
It is a night of conscious watching
for God to take them out of the land of Mitzrayim
this was the night for God
a conscious watching for all the children of Israel
for their generations. [Exodus 12: 41 – 42]

On Shabbat HaGadol one year
the Great Sabbath before Passover
it was disclosed to me
this night conscious watching

what we know from the verse –
A conscious watching
reciprocal [dual]
God for us, we for God –
a spiritual intimacy
something left undone, done.

That from the verse.

From the past –
Every year just before Passover,
I ask myself
who am I waiting for?
For what?

What undone?
Who speaks from the past?

Tell me.


What We Do On Shabbes

What We Do On Shabbes

We say a prayer

over tea

a tea with an essence of chocolate

everything created to your word

and a prayer over study

make it pleasant


on our lips

then we read a little Bialik

who read a little Nietzsche

we then ask Nietzsche to turn his attention

away from the Greeks for a moment and apply

himself to the Hebrews.

We then thank the Hebrews in the room

for their continued existence.

We then read the New Talmud

about the Pesach itself

the offering

and we offer up our sense of separation

and alienation from everything

we love

the most.

We then try to be silent and allow

the essential beauty of the chocolate

and the proximity

to settle within us.

We then adjourn

go over to Trader


and see what’s new.

jsg, usa

Did I mention we discussed

Aaron on the eighth day

from O holy Shabbes inspiration Shemini (eight) —

Aaron the tender of souls
on fire he was
he loved all creatures
and drew them near to Torah

so it was
Moses knew it would be through Aaron
that the Shekhinah would come to rest
in our Sanctuary

my brother is more excellent than I
said the heilege Moses
through his sacrifices
and his service
the Shekhinah will rest among you.