Lodging: Graveyard and Desert

One of the very few endnotes to Open Closed Open, the English translation of Yehuda Amichai’s Patuach Sagur Patuach, is provided for “My Parents’ Lodging Place.” It reads

[Moses] Ibn Ezra (c. 1055-1135): one of the leading poets of the Golden Age of Hebrew Poetry in Spain. The phrase “lodging place” in Ibn Ezra’s poem “My Thoughts Awoke Me” alludes to Jeremiah’s yearned-for refuge, a “lodging place in the wilderness” (Jeremiah 9:2)** — p.177 Open Closed Open (citation)

**For more on verse numbering, see below.
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Chant it everyday, Chant it everyday

“Rabbi Akiva said: ‘Chant it every day, Chant it every day’” (San 99b). This blog invites you to consider some electronic and print “chants” as part of a daily or occasional practice of learning:
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Balak: Language and Translation

When Balaam speaks poetry given him by God — 23:7, 23:18, 24:3, 24:15 — the text says he “va-yisa m’shalo.” Alter and JPS (and The Women’s Commentary) say, “took up his theme.” Stone has it, “declaimed his parable.” Fox says, “took up his discourse.” (For references, see Source Materials.)
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Shelach: A Path to Follow

The portion “Shelach” [“Send out”] — Bamidbar/Numbers 13:1 – 15:41 — contains the famous story of the spies sent out to scout the land of Israel and the aftermath, resulting in most Israelites doomed to death in the desert. It also includes the passage about wearing of fringes [tzitzit] (Bamidbar/Numbers 15:38), well-known as the final portion of the Shema reading in most prayerbooks.
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“Thus they pass, the Psalms”

Yehuda Amichai’s poem, “One I Wrote Now and in Other Days: Thus Glory Passes, Thus Pass the Psalms,” includes — not surprisingly — much language that comes directly from or alludes to the Psalms. For the stanza which begins “Thus glory passes. Thus they pass, the psalms,” the following references might be helpful. (See Temple Micah’s webpage for Hebrew and English text citations and more information.)

Ashrei ha-ish — happy is the man — Psalm 1:1
[only such reference, I think: other references I found are to a happy “adam,” rather than an “ish“]
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(Re)counting: Amichai’s Perfect Rest

Temple Micah’s Hebrew Poetry group (aka Amichai Study group) is currently reading “Once I wrote Now and in Other Days: Thus Glory Passes, Thus Pass the Psalms” from the book Open Closed Open. (Visit Temple Micah’s webpage for links to the text, the group and more.) This past Shabbat, we read the stanza beginning “I want to live till even the words in my mouth are nothing but vowels and consonants…” (#7 in the English; #8 in the Hebrew), and I found the connections to Psalm 19 striking.
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(Deeply) in the Beginning

Every fall, I find myself somewhere different, “in the beginning.”

The Torah cycle carries Jews from Eden, one autumn, through to the edge of the Promised Land the next fall; then the scroll is re-rolled, and we start again. Forever rolling through that same five-book story complicates the concept of “beginning.”

And the idea of “new year” sort of rolls along for Jews:

  • One new year — once a sort of fiscal birthday for animals — begins with the eleventh month of the calendar, Elul. Elul has become a time of introspection to prepare for the much more widely heralded new year for years, Rosh Hashanah.
  • Rosh Hashanah, literally, “head of the year,” is part of a longer period of observance bringing folks from Elul, through the Day of Atonement, to Sukkot, known as “The Festival” in ancient times.
  • Sukkot, the booth-building, redemption-themed fall harvest holiday, AKA “time of our joy,” became, at some point in Jewish history, linked with renewing the Torah cycle. Where Jews once closed a harvest festival by praying for rain for the following year’s bounty, Simchat Torah (“Torah Joy”) closes and renews the reading cycle.
  • The fall holiday cycle ends with a reading of Moses’ death on the west bank of the Jordan and, immediately after, continues, “in the beginning of Elohim-God creating the heaven and the earth…”

So, last Saturday, we started the year’s reading cycle again: “…and there was evening and there was morning, a first day.”

By the end of that first reading, Eve and Adam have already been evicted from the Garden. The Eden episode, however lasting in imagination, lasts a total of 40 verses. Tomorrow, in the second reading of the year, God is already disheartened enough by the whole human experiment to consider destroying it all, finally leaving Noah and company to try again.

In our backyard the wooden skeleton of our sukkah — the fragile structure erected to help us celebrate the holiday of Sukkot — still stands. The walls are gone, packed away for next year, but no one has yet found the time or energy to completely dismantle last year’s structure.

And so it begins.
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