I Keep Three Weeks

I keep three weeks

There is a hilltop in Jerusalem
Where heaven and earth touch
After the destruction the bride began to weep
The ground wept too
The bride returned as a bird perched

At the wall
For three summer weeks I sat low in sadness
I planned to bleed
To wash myself clean

This I have been taught:
After a legacy of tears
Expect the messiah


O Holy God of Shabbes Inspiration Pinchas

Maqam Saba

*in Zohar, 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 E half-flat F G flat

You know 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.

Ahhhh — sometimes I feel so hollow and broken too

K’tia! on me.

When I feel this way —

restore me because I am not 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



the vertical


this will be our priest-man.

Oh priesliness 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]



the repair of the near and the repair of the far

suggesting something entirely new out of the old might rise

something like –


james stone goodman*

*I am no Pinchas

maybe the son of a Pinchas

Inspiration Chukkat

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Chukkat
Four Mysteries Five
Maqam Hoseini
D E flat F G

There are four great mysteries
in our holy Torah
one we are reading on Shabbat Chukkat
the little red cow.
About the little red cow
it’s a mystery
how do the ashes purify
when the touch of the dead cow corrupts?
How can what corrupts purify?
Well, I get that one.
The ashes do not purify
death does not corrupt
this from the Talmud.
And this:
what you think corrupts
may purify
what you think purifies
may corrupt.
That’s the mystery,
it’s the mystery of discernment.

The second mystery is shatnez
the prohibition of mixing linen and wool
in the same garment.
I get that.
There are certain prohibited mixtures
certain things you must keep pure
they are corruptible
— don’t mix,
that is,
Protect the delicate
some purity that must be guarded.
I get that.

The third mystery is —
if your brother dies, God forbid
you are supposed to marry
your brother’s widow.
I get this.
You keep the family
if you can
you are bonded in some mystery way
to the wife of your brother
because you are family
remote by blood
but by history
you belong together
even when death separates.

The fourth mystery is the goat we sent into the wilderness
the sins of the community on its back.
I get this.
It’s about forgiveness
give me your burdens
the animal says
I am a load-bearing animal
a yoked animal
I submit to the yoke of your burdens
and carry them gladly into the Wilderness.
So I take my burdens
my self consciousness
my separation
especially my fear
everything that separates me from God
and all I love the most
I put them on the shoulders of this animal
on the back of this beautiful yoked beast
I give up my separation
and I watch as the animal disappears into the wilderness.

I get this.
I get these four mysteries.
Tonight anyway,
when we are reading the portion of the little red cow,
the Shabbes of Chukkat
during which the mystery of the little red cow clarified.

Oh, the fifth mystery.
It rests deep in the secret of this preoccupation
with ideas images symbols
the oracular incantatory expression
of words and pictures
they obsess us
until they clarify
that one moment of clarity
tonight for example as the four mysteries
might open up and we unpack them
in a way that will never quite
happen again.

jsg, usa

Ninth Night

I ran into the chicken man at the Detroit airport. He told me the following story:

Eight Angels Came to Me On Eight Nights
Each one told a story

On the ninth night
an angel came to me in the form of the chicken man.
He told a story about a customer who came to buy —
the chicken man wouldn’t let him in.

He makes me nervous, said the discerning chicken man.

Why are you telling me this story
and why on the ninth night?
I asked.

You thought there were eight nights
, said the chicken man.
This year there are nine.
You assumed ten energies
there are eleven.
You learned four ways of reading —
there are five
— four levels of the soul
there’s a fifth.

What kind of chicken are you selling
chicken man?

The kind you live for, he said —
everything that issues from the mouth of God

— the kind you can’t do without.