Pho­to­graph by Mar­tin Vorel

per­haps I was think­ing of

Lawrence Fer­linghet­ti

John Dos Passos

Gre­go­ry Corso

Ed Dorn

How would they read Torah

The Dust Brothers

DJ Shad­ow

What would they do with Torah

So I wrote a book

or i pro­duced a book

or a book hap­pened around me

through me, i don’t know

anokhi lo yada’ti אנכילאידעתי

Name of book:

These Are the Devel­op­ments of the Human

i don’t know

what can i say about it

If it is an expression 

of some law,

it can be measured:

It is four-hun­dred-some­thing pages. From a two-dimen­sion­al per­spec­tive, it is a few inch­es taller than it is wide. How thick is it? In oth­er words, how deep is it? That’s a dan­ger­ous ques­tion. What­ev­er answer I give will cer­tain­ly be embarrassing.

Many pages have more

blank space than

writ­ten words.

In fact,

I imag­ine

that the ratio of empty

to text is

quite high.

The text that there is

is all cut

into a bro­ken kind

of poet­ry:

A bro­ken poet­ry of Torah

A col­lage of Torah

Orig­i­nal­ly — some­time real­ly at the very begin­ning — I thought I could express all sorts of Torah thoughts in Twit­ter-length pack­ets of quan­ta — some­thing like Hil­lel the Elder answer­ing ques­tions while a guy stands on one foot — but I very quick­ly real­ized that Hil­lel is much bet­ter with Twit­ter than I’ll ever be

So I cut up the Torah and the Tal­mud and the Tradition

into small pieces

quarks of Torah

Lep­tons of indi­vid­ual letters

and I threw them up into the air

And they land­ed as

a pile of Torah potential

a prob­a­bil­i­ty cloud of Torah

a prob­a­bil­i­ty cloud of Judaism 

and I stitched it back together

I dis­pensed with 

most gram­mat­i­cal convention

Thus far, I have described this work from my van­tage point dur­ing one of its phas­es. But I also feel that, as with many texts, it can exist in a super­po­si­tion — many phas­es or states simultaneously. 

Relat­ing to this book as it now exists in anoth­er phase, I see that it is a col­lec­tion of notes from var­i­ous chavrusas of which I’d been part. I had been think­ing for some time that I should orga­nize all these notes, which spanned more than a decade. When the Covid lock­downs began here in Detroit, I real­ized that I now had no excuse not to do so. As I got into it, a few themes seemed to emerge. Prin­ci­pal­ly, Jew­ish ideas about how we come to more ful­ly actu­al­ize our­selves as human beings, how we indi­vid­u­ate from our par­ents and the con­text into which we are born, how we might return home, and how we live with uncer­tain­ty and vulnerability.

With this in mind, it also seemed appro­pri­ate to include some per­son­al sketch­es of my time liv­ing in a remote Alaskan bush com­mu­ni­ty, my life on the road as a tour­ing musi­cian/per­for­mance-philoso­pher, and my adven­tures trav­el­ing the oceans of the world on car­go ships.

Any­way, I wrote the book for my kids. 

I want­ed to give them some kind of an account of where I have been on the road, on the derech, my derech, our derech … and I hope they will fill in the blank spaces on the pages with their own accounts …

And if you want a copy,

if you think this sounds worth your while

We’ll find a way to get one to you

And I hope you’ll enjoy it

And I hope you’ll fill in the blank spaces

Thank you for your time and consideration

Author, musi­cian, and phil­an­thropist Ethan Daniel David­son has record­ed 11 albums and toured through­out North Amer­i­ca and Europe. In 2005 he left his tour­ing life and returned to his Detroit roots where he helps run the William David­son Foun­da­tion estab­lished by his late father, Bill David­son. The pri­vate fam­i­ly foun­da­tion strives to ful­fill its founder’s lega­cy by advanc­ing the eco­nom­ic, cul­tur­al, and civic vital­i­ty of South­east Michi­gan, the State of Israel, and the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty for future generations.

Fol­low­ing his father’s pass­ing in 2009, Ethan began par­tic­i­pat­ing in minyans (Jew­ish dai­ly prayer) every day for a year as part of the tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish mourn­ing process. That led to chavrusas (study part­ner­ships of Jew­ish text) with locals in Detroit and with famed rab­bis across the coun­try today, includ­ing Arnie Eisen, Ben­ny Lau, Ash­er Lopatin, Amichai Lau-Lavie, and others.

Ethan serves on numer­ous boards in the Detroit area includ­ing at the Motown Muse­um and as the Chair­man of the Michi­gan Opera The­atre. At the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, he earned a degree in Eng­lish along with grad­u­ate work in Mid­dle East­ern His­to­ry and Islam­ic Law. He has also stud­ied Jew­ish Phi­los­o­phy at the Jew­ish The­o­log­i­cal Seminary. 

Ethan and his wife Gretchen live in Metro Detroit with their 3 boys.