The Commit

The Life of Sarah

Begin the study of the life of Sarah [Genesis 23: 1-2]
with the death of Sarah
she seems alone
Abraham traveling to an unfamiliar place
to negotiate for her burial plot. [23:4]

I returned to the young men
I dwelt at Beer Sheva [22:19]
there are consequences for my behavior
I know this.

I am crying for her [Genesis 23:2]
here at Kiryat Arba
Children of Het —
I will give you everything you ask for —
I want this land.

This land this land
everyone wants
this land.

What remains unfinished in the living
Abraham is working out in the dying
I will give you everything you ask for
name your price

it’s not about the land.

What happened to our family. . .
Sarah wonders
not a duplication of strategies
independent responses to difficult problems,

so much patch-up to do
no hope of resolution without a unified strategy.
Abraham comes alone to deal for the grave
bury his wife and cry for her.

A river of tears will be spilled over this land
but here
it’s not about land —

this family
something unresolved

Though Isaac and Ishmael
come together once more
to bury their father Abraham, [25:9]

And Rebecca is born
before Sarah dies [22:23]
Rebecca is the healing from the next generation
God provides the refuah
the healing
before the sickness
the healing will come from the future.

Days will come to Abraham
Abraham is granted a vision of the All [Gen.24:1]
and long into the future
the generations of Abraham Sarah and Rebecca
will draw a line in the sand and say

this stops here.

jsg, usa

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Chayei Sarah [the life of Sarah]

Maqam Hijaz D E-flat F# G

Each Shabbat is associated with a maqam
A musical figure
Maqam signifying place
Arabic cognate to Hebrew maqom.


The Moon Receives Its Light From Two Sources

Begin with a cup of tea.
Outside the big window over the sink,
the moon full.
Pick the moon up and roll it across the universe.

We need guidance with our tea,
both sources,
the upper and lower.
The upper worlds do not respond
until the lower worlds bestir themselves.

Stir it up.

From the kitchen, wisdom.
Draw down the peace,
that is, quiet beauty,

the lower union,
the deep story.

Flash Kabbalah

Big Hands*

Big Hands gather us up
We are good held by them

And then we are waiting
Good waiting

And righteous
Because we stayed
And because we stayed —

Something happened around us
That would not have happened
If we weren’t so

And yearning good —
We are full with hunger.

jsg, usa

*Deut. 33:27

5 Exercises That Resolve in Hope

Five Exercises that Resolve In Hope

Through this series, we had been discussing the challenge of fear.
On the third night, we gave ourselves to some sort of resolution through hope through a series of exercises in small groups:
5 Exercises that Resolve in Hope.

This is what I created out of the group mind.

james stone goodman

How We Respond A Proem*
*Poem – Prayer

Challenges: natural and human
Responses: prayer and good deeds
How much response>

Assurances – no
Free will – we are choosing How

We begin in sorrow
The familiar journey
This is What We Share

We end in Trust
When ——— Eventually.

Look at me
I survived
Go forward.

The trap: remains difficult
It won’t always be
This way

Hope Fear

This is our daily

Response quiet and calm
Space for —— Fear
Space for —— Processing
The Work

Inner Core-ism
Consider and stop
Too silent – you cannot help me.

We are older
Here are our fears
Attending age
Fear of change
Here is our faith
In our hands
Wonder — smaller smaller
I am young
My fears are difficult
The war of fears
I am too unknown to be afraid
Too unthinking

Forward forward
Give me an opportunity
Potential and possibility
Enough education

Hope delayed is heartache
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life
[Proverbs 13:12]
I am over-coming
Entertaining hope
Recognize fear oh Browning
Fear is fear of LIVING

Face your fears
No illusions
I am here with you
If your worry – you die
Don’t worry – you still die

We live in the dash
In the ellipses
Have a child
Plant a tree
Write a book

Your soul
Your impact on

Give me your hope
My child
My community
My nature
My creativity

Life is worth living

After all.

Plan for Peace*

Joseph discloses himself to his brothers
You sold me out
I am Joseph your brother.

The brothers are going home
To reunite the family
Do not become agitated on the way [Gen. 45:24]
Says Joseph.
What do they have to become agitated about?

Rashi the poet —

Do not occupy yourselves with a matter of halakha [law]
Do not take long steps
Do not quarrel along the way about the matter of Joseph’s sale.
Rashi calls this the pshat [the plain sense].

Rashi’s plan for peace

Don’t get theoretical
Stay away from general principles.
Make peace out of relationships,
person to person, not theory to theory.

Take small steps, one at a time, make peace manageable.
Peace will take time. Start with a treaty.
Start with a cessation of hostilities.

Peace starts now.
Stay out of the past,
out of guilt, recriminations,
who did what to whom,
begin the peace now.
Stay away from blame and shame.

Let the peace begin.

jsg, usa
*From Vayigash (see Rashi to Genesis 45:24)


Blessing from Vayera*

I will bless you and increase you as the earth
as the sands of the seashore as the sea,
the algae and the horseflies.

I will make you as great as the horseflies, as the algae,
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 great as the sand and the sea and the stars,
the mud and the dark and the green,
the sticky stuff on the surf,

the “the” and the “and”
the early rains and the later rains
the mud the mud the green the sand the dark.

“And G*d appeared to Abraham,” (Genesis 18:1)
and said nothing —
appeared everywhere.

jsg, usa

G*d Appeared to him

Vayera eilav Hashem
G*d appeared to him (Abraham) [Genesis 18:1]

G*d appeared – then what?

A vision
my eyes opened and my mind lit up like Chinese fireworks
the moon rose over my understanding and I grabbed it
the moon
and rolled it across the Universe.

The whole sequence
the entire portion
a dream an apparition
it was seen or G*d appeared
a dream or a vision
a revelation
the lifting of the eyes
the sudden appearance of three men-angels
no speaking
what is imagined
like a dream

like a vision.

At the end of the portion
so Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up
as an offering instead of his son
And Abraham named that site Hashem–yireh
thus the present saying, “On the mount of Hashem there is vision”

[Genesis 22:14]

There is vision
the entire tale
was or has the quality of
a vision.

The sequence resolves with the same root-words
as it began.

The stories
the silences
the talk
the absence of talk
the visiting
the blessing
the laugh of Sarah
the argument with G*d
the flight of Lot
the trickiness of Abraham
the remembering of Sarah
the circumcising of Isaac
the alienation of Hagar and Ishmael
the terrible trek to the mountain of G*d
all of it a revelation
a vision
an appearance of Go*dliness.

In the blessings, G*d
In the mess, G*d too
through the losses in the mess the G*d-lines
in all of it the holy and the not-yet-holy
through the whole story — vision.
G*d appears and – the entire story – all of it
every part
it’s all over G*d
a vision.

Walk away from the story
take a ride on the moon
look at the whole story from without
take a G*d’s-eye view.

The blessings the curses the deceit the alienation
the resistance the argument the righteous the wicked
the sneaking off the returning the resolutions the black fire the white fire
the spoken the not spoken the blessings the mess –
it’s all G*d.
The whole story, all over,

G*d appeared
appeared in a whole mess of difficult stories.

A vision.
Abraham Isaac Ishmael Hagar Sarah Avimelekh
the people of S’dom the good the bad they can’t leave the story.

The story is G*d –
all G*d, all over.

jsg, usa


So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up
as an offering instead of his son
And Abraham named that site Hashem–yireh
thus the present saying
On the mount of G*d there is vision [Genesis 22:14].

G*d appeared in the niphal form of the “to see” verb
passive — was seen or appeared [Gen. 18:1]
It was seen to him or it appeared to him (Abraham)
G*d was seen by him in the plains of Mamre
as Abraham was sitting at the entrance of the tent
in the heat of the day.

G*d appears but how?
The revelation of the Divine presence is usually followed by the statement
“and G*d said unto him.”

[Rashbam, Rashi’s grandson, 12th c.]

Abraham lifts his eyes and there are three men standing over him
they were angels [Rashi, 11th c.]

the game is on.

it was all a vision
whenever it is mentioned an angel was seen or had spoken
this has happened only in a vision of prophecy or in a dream

[Maimonides, 12th c., Guide, II:42]

I feel Maimonides
Vayera may be a vision
— but it is not prophecy
It is an opening of the eyes

[Nachmanides, 13th c., Commentary on Torah]

Maqam* Nawah

Nawa: C D E flat F sharp G

Every Shabbat has a maqam associated with it, a musical figure.
Maqam is cognate to Hebrew maqom = Place.

Flash Kabbalah [Less More]

Less More

First we are not
Then we belong to —

Sequence of

We become

We become

When first
We diminish.

I am Yours
When I am less —

Less first,


*From Psalm 100:3.
Know that Hashem is G*d, Who has made us, and not we ourselves
[Ketiv: Septuagint and Vulgate]
Or: we belong to Hashem [Keri: Targum].

Read the variations backwards and we get Elul
Hebraists: First we diminish [lo with alef],
then we draw close [lo as pronoun].

jsg, usa

Flash Kabbalah

On Tzimtzum [G*d contracting]

The world is cracked
but the healing happens
in spite of ourselves
no one has the power to interrupt that flow.
Sometimes we experience it at the end
of prayers.
We can’t move.

Tzimtzum is a choosing to not be there
Not a choosing without conflict —
something has to pass for something to be reborn.

Redemption when there is such destruction
dangerous and difficult.
One has to ascend into the darkness
to make the Great Tikkun [adjustment].

The Ari opens that up for us.

We are engaged in the struggle for the heart of the world
that’s what makes it move.
Carry on, what opposes you
drives the world.

We are readying ourselves the best we can
the Great Tikkun.
G*d too is in exile
G*d is waiting to be redeemed.

Let G*d be G*d, with all the attendant struggles,
and don’t you know that G*d is in conflict?

You do know
you are feeling it now in your blood in your bones
G*d turning in
that’s G*d in tzimtzum.

Let G*d be G*d,
waiting for us to redeem the world.
I am always waiting,
G*d speaking.

jsg, usa


I had a dream. G*d was sitting in front of the Big Book, gazing into my life, chewing on the end of a pencil. I heard a voice, a specially created voice, unlike other voices yet the words clear. G*d asked me this question: “what are you going to do?” “About what?” “About everything.” “What … Continue reading “Basketball”

I had a dream. G*d was sitting in front of the Big Book, gazing into my life, chewing on the end of a pencil. I heard a voice, a specially created voice, unlike other voices yet the words clear. G*d asked me this question: “what are you going to do?”

“About what?”

“About everything.”

“What can I do?”

In my dream, I was laying on my couch in front of the television. I switched on the tube, remote control so I didn’t have to move (America is so great). It was time for Ted Koppel, I was expecting Ted Koppel but it was Rabbi Tarphon (first century) in robes and sandals. He was standing behind Ted Koppel’s desk and he explained to me from out of the tube: you do not have to do everything, but you do have to do something. His more precise words were “it is not your duty to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”

I rolled over on the couch, popped another fat free fig newton into my mouth, changed the channel to something safe and thought, “what can I possibly do by myself?”

The great Hillel (first century) was staring at me from channel five; he was nineteen inches long and he answered me from out of the tube, “in a place where there are no human beings, strive to be a human being.” I picked up the remote control and shut him off but his words lingered in the air, like a ribbon of light they drifted through the air space of my living room, “in a place where there are no human beings, strive to be a human being.”

I turned off the tube altogether. “Leave me alone,” I muttered and I headed for my favorite city of refuge, Schnucks (the local supermarket chain) for a little late night shop. I pulled into the west lot at Schnucks and parked in the same spot I always park in. The lot was almost full, as usual, only this time the doors did not open. Schnucks was closed. This Schnucks is never closed.

I began to panic, I depend on Schnucks for a lot more than food, and I returned to my car. In the parking lot I noticed the other cars, I wondered what all these cars were doing here if Schnucks was closed. In the cars I saw them all, Hillel, Tarphon, the Rambam (Maimonides, thirteenth century), Yosef Caro (sixteenth century), sitting behind the wheels of shiny new Mustangs and Chevies, Yochanan ben Zakkai (second century) looming over the others in a Dodge pick-up truck, like it’s a drive-in and I was the show. They were all looking at me, smiling and waving.

“All right, already,” I said to them. “So what am I supposed to do?” Hillel got out of a tan Mitsubishi and said, “love peace, pursue peace. Love human beings, and draw them near. . .” He was holding a basketball and wearing pump Nikes. Rabbi Tarphon stuck his head out of a Ford 4 X 4 and said, “the day is short, the work is great, the laborers are sluggish, the reward is much, and the Master is pressing. It is not your duty to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”

“Yalla,” he said, which means “get on with it” in Arabic street slang.

“Yeah, but, the days are long, longer, it seems, every vision fails. There is no more any prophet, and everything is shut up before us, shut up and sealed.” I was quoting a poem.

“Sha!” Hillel said. He looked so funny holding a basketball. “Sha! Don’t separate yourself from your community. . .and how dare you judge another human being until you stand in that person’s place?” Rabbi Tarfon stretched his arms out towards me and asked, “how long will you rake words together and use them against us?”

Sitting in the car with Maimonides was my daughter D, she got out of a Jeep Cherokee and Maimonides gently helped her to the ground. She came over to me. She was holding a turquoise blue bubble gum cigar that had written on it “it’s a boy.”

“Where did you get that cigar?” I asked D.

“One of the guys gave it to me. He wanted to share his happiness with us,” she said.

“All my life I’ve been wondering what happiness is,” I said, feeling very philosophical no doubt due to the company.

“Me too,” D said. She was nine years old — how I love the way she talked. “He had a baby,” D said. “He’s passing out cigars. The Talmud says a person should do three things in their life: plant a tree, make a baby, write a book. If you can’t do them all, do one of them. They’re all about leaving something behind, so even if you don’t have a baby, you can make something that stays.”

“How do you know this?” I asked her.

“That guy over there told me,” she pointed to the Jeep where Maimonides was behind the wheel. “Yalla,” she said, “do you know what that means Daddy?”

“Yes,” I said.

They all started their engines like it was a road race and they zoomed off down Hanley Road.

Make something, leave something, yalla, I recalled what a dangerous place Schnucks is for me at night, and we were going home. I was thinking about all the oases of peace that mark out small territories and claim them for the future, and the conviction that something is worth making because we believe in it.

“Daddy, are you afraid of the future?” D asked me.


“Then, yalla, let’s get on with it.”

Nine years old, having picked up a little street Arabic from Maimonides, she gave me what I need to get on with it. Yalla. I awoke not knowing whether it was day or night, whether I was awake or still dreaming, but with a feeling of such clarity and recall that I now wonder whether it was a dream at all. Perhaps I imagined them, all the great teachers, or they imagined me.

jsg, usa