About Richard Chess

Richard Chess is the author of three books of poetry, Tekiah, Chair in the Desert, and Third Temple. Poems of his have appeared in Telling and Remembering: A Century of American Jewish Poetry, Bearing the Mystery: Twenty Years of IMAGE, and Best Spiritual Writing 2005. He is the Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He is also the director of UNC Asheville’s Center for Jewish Studies.

Receiving “What Is”

15518572787_47930a88ff_zWith gratitude and apologies to Peter Cole

I would like to share this poem with you.

I would like you to receive it as an honored guest. Receive it as one would receive grace.

To receive the poem, we need to release our unrelenting need to understand. We need to allow partial understanding to flourish. We need to allow the poem to not be undone by understanding. [Read more...]

After the Killings in Chapel Hill

UNC_School_of_Public_Health

It’s less than forty-eight hours since Craig Stephen Hicks shot and killed three Muslim students in Chapel Hill.

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It’s nearly four full days since Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were shot in the head.

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When they are not your children, you can turn your attention to other matters: Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness.

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[Read more...]

My God Is Better Than Yours

512px-The_Crossing_fo_The_Red_SeaWhat a miracle! They had been freed, the Israelites, from Egypt, but moments after they set out on their way “home,” Pharaoh changed his mind, whipped his chariots and troops into a fury of pursuit and were fast closing in on the Israelites trapped by an impassable body of water before them.

And then…and then…and then, safe on the far shore, their enemies drowned when the walls of water collapsed over them. They sang, they beat on frame drums, they danced: a victory song and dance, the song of the sea!

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Is My Truth Your Truth?

meditationI do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

—Wallace Stevens

 

Jewish Mindfulness Teacher Training Program instructions for this month:

“Choose a phrase from Psalm 30 or Hallel to begin and/or end your sitting practice every day. Use the same blessing every day. Memorize it. Notice if it changes your practice, if you recall it during the day, if it inspires awe or connection to life.”

How to choose?

Psalm 30: it’s shorter than Hallel, a section of the Jewish worship service, included on particularly joyous days such as the three pilgrimage festivals, in which all the psalms include the word hallel or the concept of praise. I can read Psalm 30 quickly and see if any verse calls out to me, and, if it does, I can work with that verse this month.

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Girl Meets God in the Classroom, Part 2

Rembrandt-The_return_of_the_prodigal_sonContinued from yesterday.

On the first day of my class “Spiritual Autobiographies: Theirs and Ours,” a few students shared that they weren’t “spiritual people.” Why, I wondered, did they sign up for this elective class?

Some of them, I would learn later in the semester, had been deeply wounded by religion. A few said that religion had been forced on them by their parents.

At this moment of emerging adulthood, it was time to turn away, to turn another way. Neither the students nor I realized, as class began in mid-August, that some of their wounds, whether exposed in speech, writing, or—to anyone paying attention—in silence, would become sites of inquiry and that inquiry itself might begin a process of healing.

[Read more...]


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