Kavanah 2012: Building Sacred Community

Each year, the Village creates a Kavanah, an intention, to help guide our Passover Village. Here is one from a few years ago.
Shalom Chaverim,
It’s that time again . . . time to start thinking about our upcoming 17th annual Passover Village retreat. This year we will again be returning to Joshua Tree, where the rocky amphitheater of the land is calling us to another year of earth-based ritual, prayer, camping, and being together.

Once again, our community remembers that Pesach is a time to renew our connections with our ancestors as we explore our ancient roots in ritual fashion. We are instructed to tell the story of the communal Exodus from Egypt as if we ourselves had gone out from that “narrow place” over 3000 years ago. It is a time to reflect on the meaning of slavery and freedom, oppression and transcendence, repression and growth. We celebrate what it means to be a people dedicated to service of Hashem/Elohim, and renew our connection with the story and the people with whom it all began.

In addition to these general themes of Passover, our community 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, an indigenous, tribal, aboriginal people who lived day to day connected intimately to the land and to nature? This was our initial motivation way back in 1995 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 an extended weekend, where we enjoy each others’ 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.

Every year we also add a bit of additional kavanah (spiritual intention) to our weekend, to help us explore more deeply our tribal history together. This year, our spiritual intention will be “Building Sacred Community”. To fulfill this kavanah we invoke the words of our great sage of the first century BCE, Hillel the Elder:
  • If I am not for myself, who am I? Im ayn ani li, mi li?
  • If I am only for myself, what am I? U’c’sheh’ani l’atzmi, ma ani?
  • If not now, when? V’ im lo achshahv, aymatay?
Hillel’s words speak directly to the need to balance the needs and desires of the individual with those of the community. These are words by which to build sacred community. This year our intention is to gain insight into what our tradition teaches us about building conscious community through the exploration of our people’s early journeys through the Sinai wilderness after leaving Egypt:
  • How did we acquire community consciousness?
  • What served as the common focal point of the community?
  • How did we delegate duties and responsibilities?
  • How did we find the proper balance between community and personal pursuits?
  • What processes did we use to resolve conflicts?
These are just some of the possible teachings that might flow from a study of the nascent days of the Hebrew nation. We hope that learning the lessons of the formation of B’nai Yisrael (Children of Israel) may guide our efforts at building heartfelt community in our current, chaotic times. In our Western “culture of the individual”, can we remember what it is like to bathe in community consciousness? We look forward to what we will discover together at Joshua Tree under the sun and moon of the month of Nissan, through our prayers, discussions, songs, rituals, and general interactions as modern-day builders of community in the wilderness.
A very special request this year:
Following the lead of our ancestors in the wilderness of Sinai, who were just getting their bearings on what to do to create the foundation of the Hebrew community, we have a special request of all who will be attending this year who are of willing heart: bring an offering that will be used to decorate our Mishkan tent, the dwelling place for Spirit that we create each year together. This request stems from the following verses:
Exodus 35:5: everyone of willing heart shall bring it (materials to build the Tabernacle)
Exodus 35:10: . . . every wise-hearted person among you shall come
As in the days of Moses, we ask you to bring – if your heart so moves you - any of the following: items of gold, silver, copper; fabrics of purple, scarlet, and turquoise cloth, white linen . . . and any other items of beauty that can be used to decorate our community tent and surrounding spaces, or that can be used in ceremony.

From our Torah study this year:
The materials required to construct the Mishkan – gold, silver, copper, fabrics of turquoise, purple, and scarlet – are at the same time royally ornate and yet very mundane. These are materials that were known, that the people had with them, having left Egypt with gifts of jewelry and gold and all sorts of implements. Copper, a mineral symbolizing passion, was used to fashion mirrors. The scarlet was no doubt an earthy red dye. This was to be a tent for a chieftain, no ordinary tent. Still it was not magical and miraculous, but was to be built of known stuff, not beyond the grasp of common folk, of stuff they already had. This is in line with our overall tradition: elevate the worldly around you to its spiritual level. The people would turn this tent made of small bits of precious yet worldly items, into a sanctuary, which would continuously recreate the experience of Mt Sinai, where HaShem would constantly dwell and dialogue with us. Ma Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov Mishkanotecha Yisrael . . . . (how wonderful are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel . . . )

We are indeed a fortunate People to have so much of our ancient history written and available to us in our sacred texts. Gratitude to the scribes!

As we gather this year among the stone beings of Joshua Tree, among the memories that we have built over the preceding 16 years, we will celebrate the freedom that we hold so dear, and again learn from one another what it means to be a community connected to the earth, to our ancestors, to Spirit, and to the best within each of us and each of our fellow human beings.

Please feel free to E-mail with any questions, comments, etc. If you want to read over the notes from our studies this past year on the topic of building sacred community, visit our blog at http//passovervillage.blogspot.com.

Shalom U’L’hitraot – see you in Joshua Tree!


Save a seat at our seder table

Spring is rapidly approaching. Soon it will be Purim and then Passover will be upon us.  We look forward to greeting friends, both returning Villagers and newcomers.

Passover Moon
Passover begins on a full moon. This year, however, we begin our seder at the end of Passover week, and will be camping under a waning moon. In the desert, it will still be bright and wonderful.

The size of our community is limited. This is to protect the fragile desert landscape and to allow to allow us to get to know each participant. We especially encourage young adults and families with children to join us this year.

Look at the START HERE section of this blog to learn more about our gathering. Several new policies have been advanced; be sure to read them.

We look forward to renewing our liberation with you.