Things I love to do

Fall and the Crescent Moon

Oh. Achy this am. More mitigation. Closing in on all the trees I intend to take down. Maybe I’ll finish today. For sure by the weekend. In between, we’ll have 8-12 inches of snow overnight tonight. It will be gone Friday. The Solar Snow Shovel.

The density of trees in a lodgepole forest means it’s harder to drop a tree without snagging it. I’ve had several opportunities to practice snag cutting techniques I learned on youtube. They work and I’m glad to know them. Snags cause most deaths in the logging industry. Their often strange lines of force make cutting them an exercise in observational physics. The more upright, the more difficult.

One tree I cut yesterday bounced off the stump to land straight up and down about a foot away. Grrr. An angled cut, watch for the cut to begin to close, pound a wedge in the cut, then complete the cut from below. The tree drops straight down, hopefully away from the branches snagging it. My first cut today.

Decided to hire a landscaper to do the five foot ignition zone around the house. Landscape cloth, stakes, river rock. It will affect how the house looks and I’d like a neater job than I’m capable of pulling off.

When this round of mitigation is complete, I’ll have very little of this sort of work left. I’ll miss it. Weeding and thinning. The plants are big, but still plants.

Of course, I have to release the chain on the saw. It bound up on me right at the end of yesterday’s felling. Not sure what the problem is. I worked on for awhile using my wonderful limbing ax from Gränsfors in Sweden. My felling ax and my log splitter from them have not seen as much use as it has.

Went to Tony’s Market again. Love their food. I could shop there all the time, except it’s pretty expensive. Worth it. Always high quality meats, deli salads, veggies and fruit, baked goods. Realized their secret yesterday. Supermarkets make their money off the goods sold along the walls, not so much off the goods in the aisles. Tony’s only sells items sold on the walls.

After that I spent an hour or so on something else I love to do. Research. Read through the parsha for Nov. 23rd again, focusing this time on geography. Where was Canaan? The Cave of Machpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs? What about Mamre and its oak? Found them. Also read the parsha in RJ Crumb’s illustrated Genesis. Mr. Natural goes to the Middle East.

When I first read the parsha, pen in hand, I focused. My mind was right there, engaged. I felt comfortable, excited. Much like getting ready to cut down trees. Or, cook a meal. I’m treating it as myth, a myth that has shaped not only Jewish traditions, but Christian and Muslim ones as well.

Parshas get their names from the first words in them, in this case, chayei Sarah, the life of Sarah. Chayei Sarah recounts the death of Sarah and Abraham, the finding of Rebecca at the well, a wife for Isaac, and the sons of Ishmael, born to Hagar, Abraham’s concubine.

Holiseason

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

Today is the last day of Sukkot. A notice went out for volunteers to come in and take down the Sukkah. Rabbi Jamie slept in the sukkah a couple of nights ago, putting his sleeping bag on the picnic table inside it. He’s an outdoor guy, loves camping, mountain biking, and skiing.

The last day of Sukkot is Simchat Torah. You’ve probably seen pictures of this holiday where the Torah scroll is unwound and folks hold it up in the sanctuary, then dance. It’s a fun, celebratory holiday, putting a punctuation mark on the holiday month of Tishrei and rewinding the scroll to Bereshit.

The parsha for this sabbath is Bereshit. The beginning. The Hebrew name for the book Christians call Genesis. This first parsha is the beginning of Genesis and also begins the reading of the five books of the Torah through another Jewish year.

The month ends on October 29. Rosh Hodesh, the new moon, starts every Jewish lunar month and is a minor holiday of its own. This will be the month of Heshvan.

This year Samain will be under a new moon. As Tishrei begins the Jewish new year on Rosh Hashanah, so Samain begins the Celtic new year. In the Celtic new year the emphasis is on the fallow season upcoming as Samain literally means summer’s end, the end of the growing season. It’s the last harvest festival.

November 1st is the festival of all Souls in the Christian liturgical calendar and the next day, November 2nd, is dia de muertos, the day of the dead.

Diwali, celebrated on October 27th this year, is a Hindu celebration of the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, hope over despair, and knowledge over ignorance. It’s a new moon holiday, too. Hindu new moons come in the middle of the calendar month.

Before my time at CBE, I started Holiseason on September 29th, Michaelmas. Now I start it with Rosh Hashanah. It runs until Epiphany, January 6th. Enjoy this holiseason when so many cultures have feasts, days of prayer and offerings, good times. We need these days which exist outside of ordinary time and remind us of the sacred nature of the reality we inhabit every day.

A small c convert

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

I had a dream awhile back. Don’t remember much, but I do remember being around the table at CBE. Rabbi Jamie was there, I don’t recall who else. At some point, I said, “I’m a convert.” And, I suppose it’s true enough in some ways.

Definitely a convert to CBE. Both Kate and I are members. She, who is a convert, with her Jewish identity and me, a pagan “suckled in a creed outworn.” to quote Wordsworth in “The World Is Too Much With Us.”*

This community is diverse in its way: Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist flavors of Judaism show up in conversation and have persons who either identify with them or used to. There are transgender folk and there must be some gay folks. One or two people of color, rare for the Evergreen/Conifer area. Politically conservative, liberal, and radical. I’ve not met a libertarian, but I imagine there are some of those, too. A lot of former East Coasters, but a number of native Coloradans. Some come from Evergreen, Conifer, but many live in Denver or its burbs. A few from Israel, others who’ve lived in other countries for some period of time.

Nearly all though are at least well enough off to own a car, a home. I don’t know the average educational attainment, but it’s high. Might even tip over into the post-graduate level. Almost all are white. Almost all are Jewish. I’m the only outlier who is a member, as far as I know.

CBE reflects an old immigrant motif in America where folk of similar religion and, often, of country of origin, gather in a religious community. Polish Catholics. Shinto Japanese. Muslims from many countries. Irish Catholics. Puritans. Buddhists from many Asian lands. Up here in the Front Range there aren’t many options if you’re Jewish. You come to CBE or go into Denver which has a large Jewish community. (There is one other small Jewish congregation up here.)

But the dream notion of conversion goes deeper than just the community for me. I’m a convert to the reconstructionist way of approaching religious questions. That is, if it’s working, keep it. If it’s not, change it.

In my pagan turn, which came many years ago when I started researching Celtic lore, I have found most of what passes for pagan these days just plain silly. Much of it comes from rehashing, in not very careful ways, 19th century Victorian fantasies, or grabbing parts of other auld faiths, like Nordic mythology. See Asatru, for example. Some of it tries to revive the Olympic deities in various ways. There’s even a clever Satanist twist which has claimed Lucifer’s rebellion as a model for standing against the established order.

At CBE I’ve found a series of parallels with my own (possibly silly to you) approach to paganism. Jews use a lunar calendar, for example, and much of their liturgical year has its grounding in agricultural practices. In fact tomorrow at CBE a Sukkot ritual will celebrate the harvest, out doors, in a structure that by tradition is open to the sky. There is a ritual for each new moon, not often observed, but it’s there.

There is also in Judaism a distinctive body positive attitude that encourages good eating, good sex, good self care. Asceticism is not Jewish. One of the aspects of Judaism, related to this, is a candor about death, a way of including mourners in the community through sitting shiva, care of the body immediately following death, and including mourners in every worship service.

With the horrible turmoil after my mother’s death I find this approach soothing. Wish we’d had it then. This is, btw, the 55th anniversary of her death this month, her yahrzeit.

In the kabbalah, which I have studied a bit, there’s a universalism that comes from believing that every bit of the universe has a shard of divinity, of ohr the divine light. I can move from this understanding to an animist position very easily.

Here again I’m a convert to CBE. I don’t have to give up or alter any of my beliefs to be a full member. In fact I lead adult education, taught middle-schoolers, and participate as an “out” pagan in all parts of CBE’s life.

Jewish tradition and Jewish civilization has much that is humane, justice oriented, thoughtful. It is, like many faiths, a repository of human wisdom, of poetry, of answers to the big questions. I’m learning a lot at CBE and am glad for the particularity of its Jewish life. So, yes, I’m a convert. A small c convert.

* The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. – Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn. 1802

Days of Awe

Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon

Here we are, paused between the New Year and the Day of Atonement. The book of life is open, waiting for your next year to be inscribed. This is a new liminal space for me. A holiday(s) in which repentance and forgiveness are the focus, both at the beginning of the new year. It’s location in the early fall (a lunar calendar) makes it a part of the Michaelmas springtime of the year and part of the harvest festivals that end with Samain on the 31st.

Sukkot follows the Days of Awe, coming three days later. Rabbi Jamie says that Sukkot used to be the primary festival at this time of year with the Days of Awe sort of a preparation for it. Sukkot is the big harvest festival in the Jewish liturgical year. It’s fun, ending with Simchat Torah. “Sukkot through Simchat Torah is nine days long. The first two days (Sukkot) and the last two days (Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah) are full-fledged festival days, and the middle five days are Chol Hamoed.” chabad.org

The Jewish month of Tishrei is a holiday filled time for Jews. And, they vibrate between profundity and joy. This feels congruent with the turning of the Great Wheel which has three harvest festivals over the same time period. The middle one, Mabon, on the fall equinox, is a celebratory time followed by Samain, the end of summer when the veil between the worlds thins and the dead can walk among us. (where all the goblins and ghosts and ghouls come from at Halloween)

At least in the temperate latitudes temperatures begin to cool, leaves change on deciduous trees. Farmers and gardeners harvest fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, then prepare gardens and fields for the fallow season. The days grow shorter, frosts and freezes mark, then kill many plants. The bare trees give forests a stark look. A friend was of the opinion that the thinning of the veil came from being suddenly able to see through forests.

Kate and I need all of the spiritual juice available right now and these two holiday traditions, Jewish and pagan, fill that need.

The Equilux

Fall and the Harvest Moon

I’m changing seasons on the equinox, which is today. Learned a new word reading some material for this post: equilux. An equilux happens after each equinox and occurs this fall on September 26th. If you look at a table of sunrise/sunset, on September 26th, at roughly our latitude, the sun rises at 6:59 am and sets at 6:59 pm. After the equilux, for 172 days, until the next equilux on March 17th, the sun will shine for less than 12 hours.

Yeah! Though born in Oklahoma near the Red River, almost to Texas, I’ve always been a child of the cold and snow, influenced by too many Jack London novels. And, Renfrew of the Royal Canadian Mounted. Moved to Appleton, Wisconsin in September of 1969 and lived up north until the Winter Solstice of 2014. In our particular location on Black Mountain Drive, just east of 14er Mt. Evans, we get lots of snow, some cold, but easier winters. Better for septuagenarian bones.

from “What is Michaelmas?”

Six days from now is the 29th of September, the Feast Day of St. Michael the Archangel. It is, as regular readers of ancientrails already know, the springtime of the soul. At least according to Rudolf Steiner.

Rosh Hashanah, September 30th this year, the Jewish new year (one of four), begins the month of Tishrei in Judaism’s lunar calendar. Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, follows ten days later on October 9th. 5 days later on October 14 and 15 is Sukkot, a harvest festival. A week after the second day of Sukkot is Simchat Torah, joy of the Torah.

On October 31st, 6 weeks from last Friday, the next Celtic holiday is Samain, or Summer’s End. The Celtic New Year comes at the beginning of the fallow season.

I am the hallow-tide of all souls passing,
I am the bright releaser of all pain,
I am the quickener of the fallen seed-case,
I am the glance of snow, the strike of rain.
I am the hollow of the winter twilight,
I am the hearth-fire and the welcome bread,
I am the curtained awning of the pillow,
I am unending wisdom’s golden thread.
~ Song of Samhain, Celtic Devotional:
Daily Prayers and Blessings, by Caitlín Matthews

The transition from the growing season when farmers and gardeners harvest its fruits to the fallow season when plants in mid and northern latitudes rest has ultimate significance for non-tropical humanity. Not so long ago a failed growing season would lead to a limited harvest. Unless adequate stores from years past were kept, starvation over the winter was a real possibility.

7 Oaks garden, 2014

Oh, you might say, well, that doesn’t apply to us in the modern age. Think not? Perhaps one really bad harvest could be accommodated by trade and stored foods. Maybe even two bad harvests. But if the world saw several bad harvests in a row, say because of a dramatically changed climate, starvation over the winter could become a real possibility even in the developed world.

Mabon, Sukkot, Samain. With Lughnasa on August 1st, the first harvest festival, the months August through October have evoked human expressions of gratitude, of thanksgiving for soil, seed, and sacrifice. Certain animals and plants become offerings to feed others, including the now unwieldy population of humans.

The heart of the harvest season, right now, is a deeply spiritual moment. The complex web of life bares itself to our witness. Any Midwesterner is familiar with trucks of yellow corn, soy beans, golden wheat, rye, rolling down highways to grain elevators. Hay gets mowed perhaps a third time and baled either in rectangular bales or huge round ones.

This is also a traditional time for the slaughtering of animals. Now slaughterhouses and intensive livestock farming have allowed slaughter throughout the year.

I’m grateful that farmers and ranchers are able to feed us still. I’m grateful that the soil, that top six inches especially, feeds and stabilizes the foodstuff that we grow. I’m grateful that photosynthesis allows us to harvest the sun’s energy by transforming it into vegetables, fruits, grasses, grains, nuts. I’m grateful for each and every animal that dies for our table. I’m grateful for the grocers who buy and display the food for us to purchase.

It is a time of thanksgiving followed by an increasing darkness. That darkness is fecund, for me at least. Steiner’s idea of Michaelmas as the springtime of the soul, the placement of so many Jewish holidays, in particular sukkot, during this harvest time, and the major Celtic holidays of Lughnasa, Mabon, and Samain offer us many chances to open our hearts to the wonder of this world and its blessings.

Slightly outside of these three months is the Day of the Dead celebrated throughout Latin America and the Feast of All Souls.

WINTER SOLSTICE by Willow, Celtic Lady

As the harvest wanes and summer ends (Samain), we have time to take stock of our lives, of our hopes and dreams. We can lean into the darkness after the equilux, celebrate its fullness on the Winter Solstice. It is in the fallow season that we learn the why of death. In this coming season we can make our peace with mortality.

Mabon

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Autumn days come quickly, like the running of a hound on the moor.
Irish proverb

Mabon grasses, ripe with seed. Hwy 285 near Morrison

Getting close to the fall equinox. It’s late this year, Sept. 23rd. Meteorological fall began on September 1st. Mabon, the second of the Celtic harvest festivals, is today. And, the whole next week.

Here the last several days have been dry, low humidity and higher temperatures. A red flag day yesterday. Fall colors are running behind, about a week or so. The trees with color have slightly withered leaves and the fainter coloration of moisture deprivation. Makes this old horticulturist sad because it means stressed trees.

Felt worn out, exhausted yesterday. Couldn’t get up the energy to go to Gabe Herman’s shabbat last night. His dad, Dan Herman, is the President of the congregation and a bee keeper. Gabe had his bar mitzvah in Israel this summer; this was a night for him to sing the parshah and give his dvar torah, literally the words of torah. Each bar or bat mitzvah must learn their parshah in Hebrew, sing it, and comment on it. Kate represented both of us.

Drove to Baily in the a.m. for our monthly supply of indica chewables. Met Dana, my budtender. I think budmonger would have been better, classier. Sell cheese too and you could have a cheesemonger and a budmonger working together. Not sure why that appeals to me, but it does.

Later, we finally got the O2 concentrator in the mail to Georgia for warranty work. And the illuminated manuscript page on vellum off to Idaho for BJ’s house there. Birthday gift.

Could have just been a long, engaged week. Or, could be the Lupron. Maybe both.

Soul Doesn’t Have Fear of Dying

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

As friend Tom Crane said in an e-mail, the carnival ride here continues with Gabe’s glove and Kate’s crash. Geez. I’ve never been a fan of karma as anything more than a metaphor, but I’m beginning to wonder…

Read an excellent interview with Ram Dass in the NYT. Ram Dass Is Ready to Die. “Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts: Those are the daily attention-grabbers that make it so that you can’t come from your mind to your heart to your soul… Soul doesn’t have fear of dying. Ego has very pronounced fear of dying.”

Hadn’t considered it that way before, but it seems right. The carnival ride is just that, a contraption meant to cause fear and anxiety. If you can step aside, witness it: Oh, that guy from Denmark ran into Kate. and Oh, that Gabe. Swallowing a rubber glove; you can stay engaged, but not captured.

Yamantaka and my soul

My time with Yamantaka contemplating my own death must have helped me with step aside, be a witness. Not perfect at it, of course. Anxiety and fear about certain things still creep into my life, into our life here on Shadow Mountain. During the most intense days of the last year I really wanted respect for the work I was doing with Kate, with our life. When I felt I wasn’t getting it, I got mad. Demanded it.

In retrospect I can see the flaw in my response. The need for recognition took me away from my love for Kate, the why of my care. It negated the very stimulus that made me stay in the heat, rather than pull away. So, far from perfect.

If I look back over my life, using, as Kate calls it, the retrospectoscope, I can see that need for recognition as a stumbling block. Often. When Dad wanted me to cut my hair or leave, I chose to leave. Why? Because he wasn’t respecting my choices about the war in Vietnam. Big loss for both of us and, from this perspective, unnecessary.

I’ve been stubborn in wanting to live my life my way. Not wanting to be shaped, molded by convention or usual modes of thought. Question everything could be the Latin inscribed on my personal crest. As long as that leads me to step aside from the received way of doing things and question them, decide on my own response, it’s beneficial. When it makes me dig in my heels, be reluctant to change, it’s not. Ram Dass might say when it concentrates on my ego.

Come from your mind to your heart to your soul, Ram Dass says. This, too, feels right though that last move, from heart to soul, is hard to grasp. At least for me. Soul. A big, big idea in my current inner work.

Mind. Sure. My mind has written most of this. It’s active and a source of pleasure for me. Moving to the heart response, compassion for Gabe and his glove, Kate and her crash, Tom and his colonoscopy today (with you in my heart, guy!), I get that, do that. Perhaps not as effortless as thinking, writing, but getting to the heart is a natural move.

On the other hand the move from heart to soul, from engaged actor to witness, to the deeper, the eternal? Harder. Hard because I jettisoned the idea of a soul for so many years. Existentialist, all there is, is right here, right now. Mind and heart, yes. But nothing escapes death. Nothing remains except memories in the hearts and minds of others still living. Over the last year or so I’ve been questioning this nihilist conclusion and that questioning focuses on the soul.

Not saying I’m back to believing in an afterlife, neither heaven nor hell, reincarnation resonate for me. Not at all. But the sense that their is a core part of me, a grain of sand around which the pearl of heart and ego grow, yes, I can see that now.

Why? Namaste. The god in me bows to the god in you. Yes. There is, in you, a god, and I can sense it. Namaste’s reciprocal claim, the god in me, has lead me to nod.

Love your neighbor as you love your Self. (my capitalization) Yes. Love you, because you are in the image of the divine, as I love my own divine image. Yes.

Maybe all the grains of sand, from trees and sharks and eagles and even Donald Trump, roll down the great river of death into the Gulf of Silence, creating there a sandbar, a shifting stretch of land in the water of eternity. Is there a simulacrum of life there? No idea. But I can imagine us all together, equal to each other, all who’ve lived. In some strange way substantial. So, who knows?

Transmutation

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

painting on the near side, sumi-e on the other

Reorganized my art cart (Jon’s name for it) so I could do sumi-e on one side and oil painting on the other. Finding myself more willing to engage physical tasks like this reorganizing, the fire mitigation, making art than writing. Is this my ikigai trying to surface? Don’t know. Waiting. Going with the flow of my life.

Phone appointment with Dr. Gilroy. Spoke with Amanda, his nurse, and Carmela, the friendly receptionist, too. A follow-up for side effects. Some mild urinary urgency, nocturia ( getting up more than once at night to pee), and hot flashes. None of them bad.

After telling me to make an appointment for eleven months from now, Dr. Gilroy suggested that I might be on the Lupron for a year, not six months. Sigh. Of course I want to do what gives me the best chance of a cure. Silly to resist. But. I’d like to know whether this is over or not. A year of Lupron would mean I couldn’t get that defining PSA until mid-September of 2020. I feel cured. I’d like to find out if I’m right.

Ah, it only two paragraphs for me to stop going with the flow. Again, sigh. Good lesson. I’ll wait.

After talking with Dr. Gilroy, I left for Evergreen and a bowl painting party. What’s that? We go to this crafty shop where they sell blank ceramic objects from bowls to plates to teapots to bumblebees. The nice lady there explains how the various glazes work.

After finishing. Kate and Marilyn, the organizer (the green one is Kate’s bowl)

The bowls raise money for the Mountain Resource Center, a multi-pronged social service agency that serves the Conifer/Evergreen area. Volunteers like our mussar group get together and each person creates a bowl of their own design. The craft shop fires the bowls. Later on a silent auction is held at two gatherings.

My appointment made me a bit late so I chose basic black for my bowl. From the bowl painting we went on to CBE for our regular Thursday mussar group. Fran, women in the black t-shirt above, led a discussion on aging.

In the conversation I introduced my third phase idea, ikigai, and a thought I had after an e-mail from Charlie Haislet. He’d been to several funerals of late and said, “The golden years suck.” “Yeah,” I wrote back, “often more lead than gold.”

Light bulb went on. The main task of the third phase is alchemical. We must somehow transmute the lead of anxiety, illness, slowing down, deaths of our friends and loved ones, into gold. How? Different for each of us, but some tools for the aging alchemist: acceptance, wu wei, gratitude, greeting one’s own mortality as a friend and not an enemy, friends, and family.

Kate was out and about with the bowl painting and mussar. Her stamina has improved a lot. She did get short of breath near the end. We’re both looking forward to the National Jewish appointment next week. She needs a diagnosis, a treatment plan, and a prognosis.

Flaneur

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

One of our O2 concentrators, Kate’s for night time, has a problem. Not sure what, but it was not producing enough O2. Her O2 saturation dropped and she could tell. Had to switch her onto the machine I use at night. This morning. O2 concentrator store service call.

Saw Alan yesterday. Breakfast at the Wildflower in downtown Evergreen. Even during the week after Labor Day and at 10 am the place had lots of customers. Alan’s got play rehearsals, a recycling day for the Rotary, a big deal, prep for the High Holy Days. He’s singing. A friend.

After breakfast I wandered down the board walk, a flaneur in a mountain town. Don’t often go in stores along the way. They don’t open until 11 for the most part. A tourist schedule. I’m rarely there after 11. Today I was.

The Evergreen Boot and Shoe Service has knives. The owner, Steve Repaz, is a collector. Pushed open the door next to the shoe shaped open sign. The familiar shoe repair smell. Leather, shoe polish, glue, a metal tang. Steve was polishing an oxblood slipper with a small piece of cloth. He lifted something, glue?, out of a volcano shaped mound on his worktable. Applied it.

I’m just here to look at the knives. Where you from? Conifer. Oh. I’ve been here 41 years and 10 months. Wow. Bet you’ve seen a lot of changes. Yes and no. I can’t really see out.

His windows had thick wooden blinds, half closed. The shop was its own small universe.

We talked for 20 minutes or so. Rather, Steve talked. He told me his family history. Swiss. How his ancestors fared in the Civil War. Pickett’s brigade. Cousins killed at Manassas. He warmed to his tale. Oh, this is a good story.

The bell on the door sounded. Steve mentioned Allentown, Pennsylvania. Oh, that’s where I’m from said the stocky man who’d just come in with his friend. I eased myself out the door.

Did some more work on my bagel table. Happening on the 14th. It will be different from Steve Tick’s. Writing and introspection, dealing with the purpose of revelation and how we experience revelation ourselves. How does sacred scripture model revelatory experience? What’s the purpose of revelation? Could we write sacred scripture ourselves? Looking forward to it.

What Torah Might We Write?

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

sumi-e Hebrew script

Went to a bagel table at CBE yesterday. Steve Tick, a congregant and a lawyer, presented on the parshah for the week, Deut. 7:12-11:25. We read all the way through it, taking turns. He’s got a lot of torah knowledge, having studied with a scholar/rabbi for over 25 years.

A bagel table is done in lieu of a Friday night service and usually involves discussion of the week’s parshah. The congregation buys bagels, lox, and shmear. Steve brought coffee, Starbucks in four tall paper cups. He led us through the parsha with his own commentary, asking questions as we worked our way through the text.

My bagel table on September 14th has a parshah much further along: Deut. 21:10–25:19. Torah portions have names, their first words. In this case Ki Teitzei, which means when you go out. Not sure how I’ll use the parshah.

Torah as the first five books of the Tanakh, written by Moses in the traditional understanding, are read and re-read each year. The Jewish lectionary runs from Simchat Torah to Simchat Torah, the joy of the Torah, when the annual cycle of public torah readings finishes and a new one begins with Gen. 1:1.

Torah, or to instruct in Hebrew, can mean all the books of the Tanakh. It can also mean the whole body of Jewish law and teaching. This broad sense of the torah is where most Jewish scholars stop, the broadest sense then.

Rabbi Jamie goes beyond even that. He sees torah as anything that instructs us, anything from which we learn what it means to be (become) human. Nature. Other people. Animals. Thought. Literature. Poetry. Our own life history.

At the bagel table on the 14th we’ll use ki teitzei as a sample text for Rabbi Jamie’s expanded sense of torah. With Emerson’s introduction to nature, we’ll explore how revelation comes to us now. What torah might we write?