Haazinu, Small Alef; poetry


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

G*d is a rock
all G*d’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
let 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:

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

Compassionate eagle
returning to the nest
not to disturb its young,

Protecting eagle
covering in flight [Ibn Ezra on 32:11]
G*d covers us flying flying.

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

Remember the days of old.

So you got fat [Deut. 32:15]
G*d 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-G*ds
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 G*d [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 poem
into the ears of the people
Moses and his successor
Hoshea son of Nun.

Then G*d spoke to Moses on that very day

apply your hearts to all these words [Deut. 32:46-47]
for it is not an empty thing
it is your life.


An angel came to me and brought Torah Haazinu

Maqam* Bayat (D E half-flat F G)

*The Oriental Maqam gives a distinct musical character to every Sabbbath.

Ten pieces ten days, No. 11

Neilah, the closing of gates, No. 11

I was determined never to look at my retirement account until it was time for me to retire and spend it. I applied for the position of oud player to the Court of the King; teaching quiet people to string words together like beads for the sake of heaven.

So – I said to no one in particular – I think I will. That was that year at this time, during the closing of the gates that we call Neilah.

I felt happy. I knew in my bones in my blood that this is the way I was supposed to feel. It was still light as I was returning the tools of my trade back to the Rainbow Village, a cluster of dwellings for the developmentally disabled where the synagogue meets. That was Monday, September 28, 2009. That night I went to bed happy and I woke up happy on Tuesday, September 29, and I’ve gone to bed happy and woke up happy every night and morning since. I am a happy man. Ach Sameach, Torah calls it (Deut.16:15).

Today is Wednesday, September 26, 2012, and I intend to be happy today.

Last year, the guy who lives in the Rainbow Village who hums and clicks was walking by me and it’s not as if he started talking as I am talking, he hummed and clicked as he always does but this is what I heard:

Isn’t it wonderful to be alive
Aren’t you grateful for this day and all the days of clarity you have been given
Isn’t it a privilege to have done your good work today with your mind and your hands
And to be tired in the sun with the added advantage of returning your tools to their resting places

This is what I heard:

Isn’t it good good
To be alive on September 26, 2012 in the afternoon
To be carrying the tools of your trade after having put in a good day’s work
To have taken upon yourself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven
To have put on your yoke of service like all working animals and have actualized your potential and served well your Creator
To have been rewarded with nothing loftier than this perfect day in the sun that you will remember not only from recall
But from your intention to put on your poet’s wild yoke and write stories

Over the internet
Onto the wind
Out to the sea


james stone goodman, united states of america

Weep the World Well No. 10b

Saved By Tears

Rav said, “All the ends have passed, and the matter . . . depends only on transformation [teshuvah] and good deeds.”
But Shmuel says, “It is enough for the mourner to stand in his mourning.”
– Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 97b

“I called my project ‘the legend of the hidden Thirty Six,’ ” Todd said, “was it necessary that the 36 be hidden — to redeem the world?”

A young woman with black leather boots emitted a low groan, heard from one end of the room to the other, a deep sigh of sadness, “where could we find such people today?”

There was an old man who came in from the rain with disheveled hair and holding a cup of coffee, he said softly, “they are present in every generation. Present but secret. The difference is then they were manifest, now they are hidden.”

I felt the sadness and the optimism in the arguments of Rav and Shmuel, the necessity for the tears to somehow wash the world clean — not to change it in the common ways — simply to weep the world well, to cleanse it with our tears. A sad redemption, but a redemption. I felt it in my fingers and my fingers played it on my lute. I tried to explain it, but I played it better. I cleansed myself with the music and many times since, with my tears, I wept myself well.

I don’t know how the world is to be saved, unless it is to repair it with tears. To weep the world well.

I recalled the artist I met in Italy and the stories that he occasionally told, especially the tender ones. I recalled the softness, the weeping in his eyes when he told them.

I was talking with J. on Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of teshuvah transformation between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He was telling me about a friend of his son who had died in a car accident. “I was in New Jersey with a big big client,” J. said. “I live for this stuff, but I didn’t want to be there.”

“You don’t live for this stuff,” I said, “not for this, not for that, but for everything that issues from the mouth of G*d.”

“My head hurts,” J. said.

“You’re saving the world,” I said, “you’re saving the world with your tears.”

Again, it was the weeping that drew me to these stories. When I returned home, one day while playing music with Will, I began to weep, quietly and inwardly. I had learned how to cry in such a way that no one noticed.

The world would not be saved in the common, obvious ways; it may not be saved even by the righteous, there may be too few of them, nor by sincere acts of repentance.

It would be saved only by our tears.

All Vows, No. 10a

Kol Nidre, No. 10a

I am an imperfect perfection
G*d has blundered more than once
in creating me whole

with broken parts.
I have learned
that all my broken parts are whole

and even if not —
none of us are partial
we are all miniatures of Hashem

in some inscrutable way
that will clarify if not in this world
in the next.

I apologize
for anything I have said or done
intentionally or inadvertently

in the past year
or I may do or say in the year to come
that has hurt or may hurt

in any misconstrued way —
forgive me.
I need you more than you know,

your friend
jsg, usa

If I run into the angel Gabriel
I will tell him how fine fine super-fine
you are.

Why I Wear A Tallit At Night, No. 10

Why I Wear A Tallit At Night

My tallit is white Wool [TZeMeR]
I wear it in the night time Once a year
When I am drawing down G*d’s complete mercy
On my little Life.

Out of the narrowness I call on You [MeiTZaR] Narrow
When I am in Meitzar I need compassion
Drawn down from within My cloak of Tzemer
My sins turn white the nature of my deeds Transformed —

Narrowness to Wool Meitzar to Tzemer
That’s why I wear
A tallit

At night.

jsg, usa

Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall become like wool Is.1:18
From the narrowness I called G*d Ps.118:5

30 second sermons: Fear and Love

There is a fearfulness associated with Being. I feel it. If I replaced fear with love then my sins would be transformed into Merits. They would work for me (my sins). After all, my sins are lucky to have me; my devotion to them is strong.

The spiritual work: big floppy hands moving the past deeds around, only G*d subverts Time this way.

From one person to another: You can’t hurt me, I am not renting space in my life to do that.

So I will keep a tally, jot down a little chart: those who have forgiven me, those who have not forgiven me, those who don’t know what I am talking about and — those who think I am nuts.

jsg, usa

30 second sermons: Sauce

Great is Teshuvah [Transformation]
Because it brings sauce to the world

I mean the perfect red sauce
the superiority of red to white sauce
(white sauce an inherently flawed concept)
the perfect red sauce
that elevation of the lowly tomato to holy consequence
the interpenetration of spices, herbs, flavors, tomatoes
the sauce the identity of its ingredients but the ingredients not
the identity of the sauce —
as if there is something that makes it sauce that is larger
more consequential than its constituent ingredients.

The perfect red sauce, when it’s made right,
you cannot pick out the individual tastes,
unless it’s a wrong sauce
then you know there’s too much basil
or it’s too heavy with oregano, or bay leaf, too sweet,
or too olive oily
but when the sauce is right
it’s a perfect blend
and it just is, not this or that
it just is
the perfect red sauce.

It is many and it is one
many ingredients one perfect taste
not a combination of independent tastes
but one glorious irrefractable, irreducible taste.

The perfect red sauce.

jsg, usa

The Great Listening, No. 9

The Great Listening [spoken on Yom Kippur]

I climb up that large ayin
slide down the big dalet
can I be a witness
I turn it in dyslexia
plow the language like a palindrome
Da’ – know.

I climb up the Hebrew running right to left
jump it back left to right
let all directions rocket into the ascent of letters
into Da’ – knowing:

HaShem Eloheinu
HaShem Echad

G*d is one
G*d alone
only Go*d
lonely G*d.

Tell G*d in your prayers to lose that loneliness
— we are witnessing;
at least along for the ride
trying to know something
when knowing is not everything.

O holy G*d

We are trying to do something
after all.

[Oh, that Name —
That Name

jsg, usa

Unstuck And, No. 8

Day 8: How the Baal Shem Tov* Taught Teshuvah

This way,
said the Rav**
he shuffled into our meeting
introduced us to the teaching
he brought down from the Baal Shem Tov.

Exodus 3:3, the Rav said, G*d speaks to Moses
the bush burning but unconsumed.
Moses turns away,
I will turn away now
and see about this bush
how it remains unconsumed

Turn away?
Check the Rashi.***

Rashi say, I will turn away from here
and approach There.

That’s how the Baal Shem Tov taught teshuvah, said the Rav.

Process not performance
journey not destination
not sin-based:

Not goal-taking

Unstuck and

jsg, usa

* Master of the Good Name
** Rav Sholom ben Neiche Feige
*** Rav Shlomo Yitzchaki, vintner and thinker

Azazel, ten pieces ten days no. 7

Azazel, No. 7

When he 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 upon 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.
— Lev. 16:20-21

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 seventh 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 G*d and all that 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