Share the Wealth: Writing with Yael

Last Night’s Email from Jessica Flier

I write, because
First and foremost, I must!
But also – because,
Of you.
To take the broken heart and expose it
bring the carefully concealed underbelly to the surface
resisting the urge to hide and cower.
You tell merry
We need it
You need it
The world suffers, otherwise, you say
Scrawl it across post cards and napkins and walls and bathroom stalls
Get out the grief love broken scars HOPE –
“By any means necessary.”

Email Exchange


I wanted to ask you so many followup questions after your introduction in today’s class.

Like, have you ever heard of Tikkun? If so, what do you think of it?

Or, do you read the Israeli press, like Haaretz?  Ever heard of  Amira Hass?

Or, ever read any novels or commentary by David Grossman?
And I just spent part of the fall & winter in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, so I’m curious:  what do you make of the current situation over there?

So, if you would ever have time for a cup of tea in the weeks ahead, I would enjoy chatting with you. 

I’m happy you are in this class.

Dr Chmiel

Subj: Re: your class 
Date: 1/24/2004 9:21:07 AM Central Standard Time


Sent from the Internet (Details)

Wow! Dr. Chmiel,

I’m sincerely touched by your familiarity with my
culture, and I Thank You for it.

I too have so many questions to ask you.  When Gail told me about you and your trip toPalestine, I felt very uncomfortable. I wanted to take
your class just so I could challenge you :-)…but
then…I went home to Israel, and saw the reality
there with new eyes.  I found a whole country
encapsulated in fear. 

How can we make a shift towards peace (which is an act
of love) from a position of fear (which is the exact
opposite of love)?  This is why, at this point, non of
the suggested solutions, (and definitely not the
exercised ones) make sense to me. 

During my visit I realized that the only solution that
makes sense, will require a tremendous shift in
spiritual and intellectual conception within the two
nations.   I also realized that I have to make this
shift in myself.  (This is my new year’s resolution.) When I returned to the U.S, I was hoping to take your class so I could learn how to make this shift.  

Here is my resolution:
i will bridge peace as a Yogi

First i will wear a kahfiah* around my neck 

To be mindful of you, my brother, my enemy

of your existence, and of your right to exist
i will take a deep breath and listen to all the voices

i am so afraid to hear
i will meet our God in your house of worship
i will learn your language
i will come to your house and invite you to mine
i will meet your daughters, your mothers, your sons

i will introduce you to my friends, my family
i will let the pain of these introductions flow,
subside, and turn to bliss
Then I will wear a kahfiah around my neck
To be mindful of you, my brother
And this will only be the first step
with which I will bridge myself to peace

* The traditional head cover of Arab men

I know I didn’t answer any of your questions.  I’m
hoping that after all this you are still interested in
having tea 🙂 If you are, please say when.


Dear Teacher

I Remember/1

I Remember/2

Yoga Sutras

Yesterday I decided to work with the mantra proposed by Sri Swami Sachidananda: “I’m Thine, All is Thine, Thy will be done.”  Immediately, the inner war began.  On one hand I can feel it within me, it guides my politics, it helps me overcome uncertainty and personal adversity, but I depart from it regularly, especially when I feel unsafe in some way.  There is no devotion to the idea.  There is no surrender.  It is more of a principle that feels right – but I never consciously committed to it, because my brain/ego has its own rationale about it.

Well, so I take the mantra for a spin.  As Bill and I go on our trash-picking walk around the neighborhood (2 bags of trash collected from the sideways of our path) I try to recite the mantra in my mind.  Trash picking has become a spiritual practice, why not add a mantra to it?  I find that I feel the energy of the trash picking much more effective than the mantra.  In fact, I’m slightly forgetful of the mantra, I have trouble remembering the thy will be done part.  There is resistance in me to seeing my daughter and grand babies today.  There is a big toddler inside me that throws a temper-tantrum about being a grandmother.  Whaaa, she cries and stamps her feet, whaa-haa, not ready to be a grandmother!  She obviously not into any kind of devotion at all.  The mantra irritates her.  It gives her no choice but to go along with the plans.

When we get back to the house I linger in the garden in front of the house, to pick some weeds and remove wilted flowers.  I’m covered in sweat and feel a bit filthy because of the trash handling.  I notice a bearded man followed by three little blond headed boys – all dressed in their Sunday best, even though it is Saturday, approaching my neighbor’s house.  I find it a bit weird, but not worthy of my interest, and I proceed with bowing to the plants in my garden, as I unwittingly protrude my ass towards the rest of the neighborhood.  When I finally straighten up and proceed to go up the stairs to the house, I notice the man with his eighteen blond boys going down the walkway to my house.  The man is holding something – shit, these are pamphlets! He is smiling.  Shit.  I know what this is.  He is here to save my soul.  But he is smiling, and in the back of my head there is a muted echo of the words “all is thine”, so I attempt to smile too.  He introduces himself as Brian (or Bryan) – and as my nervous system begins to go into fight AND flight – I hear something about some Church and Pastor and two of these boys are mine and the third…something… something.  I continue to smile my frozen smile and to sweat profusely.  Brian or Bryan asks me if I have a church…something something…and I say, in a fashion that I hope to be as calm as a cucumber “I am Jewish”.  And he says something about it being good.  Than he asks me if I converted or grew up Jewish.  And I reluctantly continue to answer his questions – I’m from Israel.  He continues to try to engage me in a conversation by asking me about what part of Israel, and telling me he always wanted to go there, and I attempt to be cordial and crack jokes and invite him to contact me when he wants to go…but than he asks me how long I’ve lived here, and I say a long time, and I can tell in this moment he realizes I’m closed off.  He extends kind words about our garden and pleasant something-somethings, gives me one of his pamphlets for the Zion Baptist Church, and disappears.  

I go into the house with the pamphlet in my hand.  I feel like a complete scam bag.  Who would I be with this man and all those children if “I’m thine, all is thine, thy will be done” was already integrated fully in my consciousness?  I would stretch out my hand even though no-one does it anymore.  I would ask him to sit and chat on the front porch and serve some refreshments, and smile genuinely, and say, let’s talk about God.

Renewed, Heartened, Energized

Shabbes 29 July 2022

”A whole world collapsed before my very eyes, but you, my favorite author, are bringing it to life again.”—Miriam

In light of our Zoom earlier today—this just came to mind as I was browsing your name at my web site—
Your “I Remember”  is in my personal canon, alongside Levi, Shabtai, Hersh, among others. For yourself alone (or maybe with Bill), do another I Remember about relocating to Union—personally, professionally, socially, see what needs to emerge.

Of course, the book you can write (and have written 70% of it already) transcends the usual genres—of course, I am glad to assert this to you—memoir, poetry, history, fiction, stand-up (A Horse Walks into a Bar), and if it ever comes to the light of day, the denizens of Union and Washington, MO will have their minds blown more than by the best acid of Ram Dass’s  1963 dreams.

Looking at the various big pictures, of course we are totally meshugah as hell.  But looking at you and contemplating your stories in this littlest of our little worlds, I am renewed, heartened, energized.


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