In the First Month of the Second Year
After extensive check-ins where we all caught up with where we now found ourselves in the new calendar year (pursuing job changes, being esteemed, non-collision collisions, relationship growth and change, much more . . .) we turned to Torah. Intending to study today’s actual parashat Vayehi, where Jacob blesses his sons and establishes the character of the future 12 tribes, we were turned instead to complete our study of the Tabernacle at the end of Exodus.
Exodus 40:17-18 “In the first month of the second year . . . the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was erected. Moses erected the Mishkan. “
Reflect for a moment on how much had happened in that one short year since leaving Egypt: the crossing of the Sea, the sweetening of the waters of Marah; the revelation at Sinai; the incident of the Golden Calf; the giving of the Tablets; the extensive preparation of the Mishkan. The people were now poised to establish the dwelling place for God’s Presence to travel within the midst of their encampment – a perpetual, movable, Sinai. “Moses spread the Ohel (tent) over the Mishkan” : the significance of the “Ma Tovu” that we sing on Erev Shabbat became evident - the ever-present combining and living in both the spiritual realm and physical realm simultaneously. Ohel - here specifically referring to the coverings of the Mishkan made of woven fabric (purple, turquoise, and scarlet) and linen, goat’s hair, and animal hides – refers to the physical structure. Mishkan – literally meaning the place of dwelling – has the connotation of the spiritual awareness contained within the physical structure.
Exodus 40:22-24: “He put the Table in the Tent of Meeting on the North side . . . he placed the Menorah opposite the Table on the South side”
That there is significance of the placement in the specific directions is evident. Having just left urban Egypt, the 4 directions were no doubt of critical importance to the Children of Israel, to orient themselves in the wilderness. Tzafon (North), Negba (South) – what is the significance of the 4 Directions in our indigenous tradition? North, the place of mystery, Eagle, fire . . . South, the place of clarity, Speaking Beings, water. There are many deep teachings in our tradition regarding these directions, the qualities they contain, the meaning of their qualities, the place in our lives in which they manifest. Through our discussion today, it was evident we wanted to bring the intention of Direction to Joshua Tree this year, to really seek an understanding of our place within those 4 Winds, of being firmly grounded and surrounded in the foundation of these spiritual directions as we move into the period of personal and societal challenge we all feel coming. Ways to utilize this Kavannah at our seder: awareness of the time of day and it’s relation to the directions; specific rituals being held with awareness of the direction involved (e.g. Rahatz – the laver was placed to the East of the Mishkan); placement of the tribal banners to the 4 directions as we’ve always done, but connect them with posts and string to invoke the courtyard around the Mishkan; have our Mediation Walk stations at those banners, carrying the meaning of the directions with us on the walk.
Exodus 40:36: “When the cloud was raised up from the Mishkan, the Children of Israel would embark on all their journeys.”
How do we know when to move in a new direction, when to start a new project, when to make a change in the direction of one’s life? The Torah teaches us here to pay attention to Spirit, and let spirit guide us on such journeys of import. This concept is repeated throughout our sacred teachings. As when David inquired of HaShem as to the right time to attack the Phillistines and was told to wait until he heard the wind move through the tops of the trees, the sound of HaShem moving out before them (Samuel 2, 5:22-25). How often do we move forward based only on a momentary thought, a whim of the ego, without a deeper knowledge of the timing of our action? Though we can’t always be perfect, Torah tells us to pause for a moment before acting, listen for the wind, the sound of HaShem moving before us, watch for the cloud to lift – then our way is clear and our success assured. Of course our ability to really do this is flawed, limited by the quality of our connection to Spirit. It’s when we try too hard, jump the gun, even with good intentions, that sometimes things don’t work out. But to work to develop ourselves and our connection to spirit, seeking to attain the level of connection of David or Moses, is a worthwhile goal, as long as it always remains held by an ever-present humility.
Free-form discussion continued into more ideas about April:
· Set up the welcome tent again to bring us into that mindset of walking in both worlds simultaneously from the moment we step out of our cars and onto the desert floor;
· What does it mean to be in the Mishkan? Why have a Mishkan? What are we trying to do?
· We may be at a new state of cohesive spiritual development of the community
· Not so important what we do, as that we do something with the intention of “community-making” – that we come together by sharing Kavannah
· Reconnecting with the Great Mother, Earth, so important in all we do
Chazak! Chazak! V’nish’Chazeyk!
(Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!)
Shamoah Tish’mah l’Kol HaShem Elohecha
(Really listen for the voice of HaShem, the Source of your power)
Time and Location: To be determined