Blessing for the Holiday

I Love You With All My Broken Heart
A Blessing for the Chag

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

The Sukkah is a chuppah, he opened with, we wedded G*d on the way out of Egypt. I am the Holy One who marries you, he chanted 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. G*d 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 G*d dwells there is wholeness. G*d 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.

G*d 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 G*d dwells — is whole.

James Stone Goodman

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

Sukkah: temporary booth of the wilderness
chuppah: wedding canopy

Fire Fighters of New York City

In every event of significance, every catastrophe, every jubilation, there are a certain number of stories — thirty six, thirty, one, ten thousand, thirty six stories — that define the catastrophe.

The defining story for me of Nine Eleven is the story of the fire fighters of New York City, and a particular account of those fire fighters given by a Board member of the Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Vena Drennan (sp?). Her husband Capt. John Drennan was killed on the job in 1994.

She was interviewed by Noah Adams on All Things Considered (National Public Radio), this is what I heard listening to it on the radio (pardon mistakes, I transcribed it myself):

Mrs. Drennan: We went down to the firehouse which is below Fourteenth Street. I went to the wake of one of the firefighters. They have a sense of optimism.

They had decided to pray to my husband who they feel still watches over them. And they said, Capt. Drennan — show us where the eleven [missing] members are. And one young one said, I knew just where to put my shovel. Ladder Five is so comforted that they were able to find five of their own and return their bodies to their families and honor their deaths in a proper and magnificent funeral.

ATC: Mrs. Drennan — are you saying that those on the scene believed that the spirit of your late husband helped them to find those who were fallen?

Mrs. Drennan: Yes, you lose your religion after a large crisis but you sure get a spirituality about it.

ATC: There’s a photograph of something you don’t often see in the magazines in the recent US News and World Report, of firemen carrying a dead man, the Reverend Mychal Judge fire department chaplain you know him, sixty eight years old . . .

Mrs. Drennan: He was one of my best friends . . .

ATC: As you know he was administering last rites and was killed by falling debris.

Then she told the story of Mychal Judge and how he had comforted her after the death of her husband, and how he had remembered her on her anniversary every year thereafter.

Mrs. Drennan: When he prayed, it was the most blessed thing,
you felt that his prayers were a direct hotline to God.

ATC: He was a Franciscan priest.

Mrs. Drennan: Mychal was administering last rites to a firefighter that had just been hit by a body of a woman. People were falling out of those towers so they wouldn’t burn.

In the midst of this here he is kneeling and giving last rites. The firefighters when they realized he had perished they carried him up to St. Peters church and they laid out his body on the altar and they put his rosaries in his hand and they pinned on his fire department badge and they prayed over him. Later that night they wouldn’t let his body go to the morgue.

They brought him to their firehouse and they laid him in the back room and the friars across the street of St. Francis of Assisi came and they lit candles and said a vigil.

He was beloved by every firefighter in the city and the fire department will grieve many many years for the loss of his beautiful life.

There are a number of stories that define an event — thirty six, thirty, maybe one, ten thousand — and one of them, one of those stories, may be the one that saves us.

This is the story that is saving me.


Where Are Your Ears


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 Maqam gives a distinct musical character to every Sabbbath.

Oh These Days of Awe an Intention a Prayer

Oh These Days of Awe a Day at a Time

The transformative days of awe preoccupation
I will turn away from here and approach There [Rashi]
Teshuvah – to be unstuck.
Not arrival but journey
Not destination but pathway
Not there but here
Movement —

The story is told with the daily transformation in the
Night sky
The moon is the image [Zohar Emor and Kuntres Uma’ayan Ma’amar 18]
The growth arc this time of year
The moon when it’s hidden at the beginning of the month.

Go outside and watch the dim image of the new moon Tishrei
We draw something new into the world
Something entirely new
On Rosh Hashanah it’s hidden
Like the moon
And not revealed fully understood
Until the full moon of Sukkot the 15th of the month,

Make a tekiah with the shofar awakening something new [Ps.81:4]
It may not clarify right away
Each day it reveals more
Like the moon
From the first to the fifteenth of the month
This is the time of the season
To pay attention
The growth arc this time of year.

This year is the year of the good intention
The year of Iyyun
The year of Ayin and Dalet
Iyyun – focus
This year: the focus on the elusive dalet
The fourth letter
The door the doorway the passage the opening.
You are the door opening the delet
Moving through and into
Opening pausing in the passageway
Now: entering.

The words this year are the noble prepositions
To toward through –

The doorway the next
The passageway
The opening
Through you
Is you.

Let all the signs
The stars too
All the angels and energies totems and intentions
Conspire to be the year of the good intention
The focused action
May it be the year —

It is supposed to be.

Ever year A prayer for the future.

We meet the challenge of the future
With more than a wish —
With more than happy new year.

I give to you a gift, an intention, an understanding between us
We are trying to know something —
The transformational images
We share these Days of Awe,
5774 since the creation of the world
A day at a time.


james stone goodman