2010 Kavanah: Our Spiritual Intention

Shalom Haverim,

It's cold and rainy this week in Los Angeles, the mud is sliding and the wind is blowing, and that means . . . it's time to start thinking about our upcoming 15th annual Passover Village retreat. This year we will again be returning to our "home field" in Joshua Tree National Park, thanks again to Dan's loving care and uncanny ability to reach the national park reservation line to reserve campgrounds. The rocky amphitheater of the land beckons us to return for another year of earth-based ritual, prayer, camping, and being together.

Once again, we remember that Pesach is a time to renew our connections with our ancestors as we explore our ancient roots in ritual fashion. We will again tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt as if we ourselves had gone out from that "narrow place" over 3000 years ago. We will reflect again on the meaning of slavery and freedom, oppression and transcendence, repression and growth, celebrating what it means to be a people dedicated to service of HaShem.

In addition to these general themes of Passover, our particular group seeks to explore the connection to our people's past as an indigenous people. That is to say, what does it mean to be a Hebrew - an Ivri, a boundary crosser - one of the Children of Israel, a tribal people who lived day to day connected intimately to the land and to nature? This was our group's initial motivation for holding Seder on the land, in the desert, much as our ancestors must have experienced it. Each year we establish our " Passover Village" for the weekend, where we enjoy each other's presence and spirits in a cooperative, and heart-felt endeavor. Our vision is to create a place in which we all dwell together as Brothers and Sisters, in which each Soul is fully seen, recognized, and acknowledged, creating a lattice of contribution, in which each person serves a different role, a vital role in the community aligned as much as possible to his/her core self.

Each year we also add a bit of extra kavanah (spiritual intention) to our Seder weekend to explore our tribal history together. Last year, again setting up our Seder ritual space in accordance with the dimensions of the ancient Tabernacle, surrounded by the flags and banners of the 12 Tribes, we experienced deep and very personal teachings about the character and nature of Joshua, and the story of the entry into the Land of Israel after 40 years in the wilderness. We each took home from our Seder weekend our own very particular lesson and understanding of these stories, and ourselves.

For this year's kavanah, we want to further explore the archetypal nature of our ancestors, to see what lessons we can derive from their lives that will inform our own lives. During one of our community councils last year, there was a strong objection made to the masculine-leaning nature of most of the stories in our sacred texts. What about the women!? It was therefore decided our kavanah this year would be to explore a story of and about women - the story of Ruth. Over the past nine months, a group of your fellow Villagers have been meeting each month to study the Book of Ruth, seeking teachings and understandings of Ruth, the person, as well as the events of her time, which could inform our gathering this year. Some of the questions raised in our study of Ruth which we will explore this year include:

* What examples of the Feminine archetype in the Hebrew tradition are illustrated by the story of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi? How can these stories help modern Jewish women connect more deeply to their ancestral roots? How can these stories empower the psychospiritual growth of all women, whether Jewish or not?

* Historically, how did we as Hebrews relate to and ultimately accept people from other traditions into our tribe? What can we learn from this story that can help bridge gaps between groups in our modern culture?

* How did our ancestors live together in the Land of Israel during the time of Ruth, a time of loose tribal affiliations in the period of the Judges between Joshua and David? What lessons can we learn for modern day living by studying the lives and social structures of those ancient times?

We know that we are indeed a fortunate People to have so much of our ancient history written and available to us. As we gather this year among the stones of Joshua Tree, and among the memories that we have built over the preceding 14 years, we will celebrate the freedom that we hold so dear, and again learn from one another what it means to be a people connected to the earth, to our ancestors, to Spirit, and to the best within each of us and each of our fellow human beings.

Join us among the rocks and earth, under the warm sun and starry night skies, as we again gather together to celebrate in our Passover Village.



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