Jachin and Boaz: Preparation and Inner Strength

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Preparation and Inner Strength . . .

Chanukah 2013, aka Thanksgivukah, brought us together to learn on a Sunday afternoon followed by an evening of latkes, candles, and deep sharing.

I Kings I, 7:21  “Jachin . . . and Boaz”
Solomon appointed a master coppersmith, Hiram, to work on the temple ornaments and utensils.  Hiram was to Solomon and the building of the temple as Bezalel was to Moses and the building of the Tabernacle, a master craftsman embued with Hochmah, Binah, and Da’at – the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge that could translate the primordial Divine thought into physical manifestation of art and beauty.  He built 2 massive columns of copper over 30 ft high (18 cubits to be exact), with ornate tops or capitals, copper meshwork, and designed with images of pomegranates and flowers.  In architectural history, columns were a major invention, and the Egyptians were the first to use them and use flower motifs to adorn them.  This implied connection to Egypt in the Temple architecture is interesting, as we had of course come out of Egypt almost 5 centuries earlier, and Solomon’s first wife was the daughter of the current Pharoah of Egypt. 

Hiram named the 2 pillars.  The one on the right, to the South, the side of the Menorah, he named “Jachin”, meaning establishment or preparation, from the root of the word Kavannah, intention.  The pillar on the left, North, the side of the Bread Table, He named Boaz, meaning “strength is in it”.  Thus, in entering the sanctuary, the part of the Temple just outside the Holy of Holies, one passed through this portal of intention and inner strength, perhaps homiletically acknowledging that establishing and maintaining the intention to Divine connection brings an inner strength, to the individual and to the people who carry that intention.

I Kings, 7:25.  “It (the Sea) stood on 12 oxen, 3 facing north, 3 facing west, 3 facing south, and 3 facing east”
Hiram next built a huge, round copper “sea”, 10 cubits (~20 feet) in diameter, one handbreath thick, supported on the backs of 12 copper oxen.  This sea of Mayim Chayim would be used for the Cohanim to wash and purify themselves for sacred service (Avodah).  The structure replicates the directions occupied by the 12 tribes during the journey through Sinai, suggesting the waters are only held aloft for their sacred purpose when the entire community is involved.  And the ox, or water buffalo, is the totem of the tribe of Joseph (as well as the tribe of Ephraim, once Joseph split into the tribes of Ephraim and Menasheh, whose totem was the oryx).   The Buffalo in general holds the direction of the West in Hebraic indigenous cosmology, based on Ezekiel’s mystical vision of the Chariot (Ezekiel, Chapter 1), as well as Ephraim/Joseph’s position in the wilderness.  This suggests the healing role of the water being held in the Sea, as West is the direction of healing, the place of Raphael (“healer of God”).  And calling this structure “sea” brings to mind the crossing of the Red Sea 840 years earlier, that healing moment in the life of the Hebrew people when we stepped out of the narrow limitations of physical oppression and towards the path of Spirit.  Copper is an element of passion in our tradition, thus these waters in the copper sea were embued with the passion for life, for relationship to Spirit, that would cleanse and heal those who would wash in it. 

It is noteworthy that the text describes the positions of the oxen in the counterclockwise direction, starting in the North, the place of mystery; moving to the west, the place of blending, merging, and healing; then to the South – place of clarity; and finally to the East – place of new beginnings.  This counterclockwise movement can also be seen as the unfolding path of our life journey: receiving some new influx of mystery from Spirit (North), blending it into ones being  (West), clarifying the meaning of the new piece one has received (South), leading to a new integration, a new beginning, a new way of being in the world (East), only then to begin another cycle of the journey with a new piece of mystery unfolding from the North (see Winkler, “Magic of the Ordinary”, pg 55).  Perhaps then, the Cohanim approached the Sea each time to wash knowing they were about to do ceremony with the kavannah of bringing the people closer in connection to their Divine wholeness. 

I Kings I, 7:27: “He made 10 copper stands . . . ”
Having made the Sea, Hiram next constructed 10 ornate copper stands to carry 10 lavers, smaller water-containing vessels.  These stands are clearly physical manifestations of the images of the Chariot, seen by Ezekiel in his vision over 300 years later, with images of lions, oxen, and embracing human figures.  The latter are described cryptically in the Hebrew, and imply the embrace of lovers, alluding to either intense human love, the archetypal unification of Masculine and Feminine, or the d’vey’kut (intense connection) of the Divine with Israel.  All of these themes are expressed in Solomon’s opus, the Song of Songs, and were manifested in this instance in the passionate copper of the 10 laver stands.  Why 10 stands?  No doubt a desire to include within the physicality of the Temple the 10 Sefirot, Divine Emanations, described in Sefer Yetzirah and much later by the Kabbalists of the Middle Ages. 

It is awesome to read these passages and experience directly the power of the sacred symbology of the Hebrew people, manifested from our very inception, grounded in indigenous wisdom, transmitting through the ages the energies of Spirit in the forms of animal beings, plant beings, human beings, minerals, water, earth.  We are therefore the beneficiaries, those who can receive these transmissions from our ancient ancestors, and gain an understanding of their connection to Spirit, how they understood YHVH from before a time when our people were physically removed from our land, displaced, oppressed and disconnected from our roots.  These symbols of Divine relationship have survived in our texts, hidden in our prayers, offering a path to reconnect to the energies of our ancient ancestors and prophets, a way to reclaim our indigenous, original connection, a Great D’vey’kut, to the Holy One. 

I Kings, 8:3 “All the elders of Israel came, and the Cohanim carried the Ark . ”
Once the building of the Temple was completed, after 7 years of construction, in the month of Eitanim (“the mighty ones” – the month of Tishrei), there was a great procession and inauguration of the Temple.  This was held just before Sukkot, the autumn harvest festival, so many people from all over the land were no doubt there on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the festival.  This was the Sukkot of Sukkots, as Solomon sought to harvest all that he had been spiritually planting for the past 7 years.  All the leaders of the people were there: “the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral familes.”  All the sacred implements from the Tabernacle were brought into the Temple – the Ark, the utensils, the sacred vessels – and there were offerings made “too abundant to be numbered”.   Like father like son, this procession of Solomon is reminiscent of the procession that occurred when David first brought the Ark into Zion (2 Samuel 6:12-19).  The Ark is placed in the Holy of Holies, under the “wings of the C’ruvim”, the 10 cubit wingspan between the 2 golden Cherubim Solomon had built.  It is quite something to close your eyes and imagine yourself back in that Jerusalem, experiencing the joy and expectations of being in that procession, witnessing that momentous event.

I Kings, 8:10-11: “the cloud/glory of YHVH filled the house of YHVH ”
The Shechinah, the Feminine, intimate, in-relationship manifestation of Spirit, described here as a “cloud” in one verse, and as the glory of YHVH in the next, fills the Holy of Holies.  The Cohanim had to flee the space, not able to be present as the Cloud entered and dwelt there.  She’hech’eh’yanu - Solomon has completed his preparations for just this moment.  All the building in the past 7 years, all the preparation, the use of the best materials, the best artisans, the best and most intentional building methods, have been for this moment.  And even up to the procession and the bringing of the Ark and implements to the Temple – one wonders what Solomon was thinking about.  Could he be sure it would all be acceptable to Spirit?  Hadn’t David stumbled in his first attempt to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, resulting in human deaths?  Hadn’t Nadav and Abihu, the well-meaning, priestly sons of Aaron, stumbled in their over-eagerness to offer incense to YHVH resulting in their deaths?  Hadn’t even as spiritually evolved a person as Moses misconstrued the way God wanted him to make His/Her Spirit present by striking the rock, and thereby lost the honor of entering the Land?  It is not a trivial thing to make a home for Spirit, to make a proper offering, to be truly pure in your intention.   There are many places where ego, arrogance, narcissism can trickle in and mess things up.  Solomon, Hiram, the Cohanim, and all those involved in this procession must have been quite pure in their Kavannah.  Offering a home, a Bayit, for Shechinah to dwell, offering it in the right way, in the right relationship, She comes in as a mist.  And the Temple from that point on becomes a focal place for the Hebrew people, the kingdoms of Judah and Israel unified as one kingdom under Solomon, to come and be in relationship with Spirit. 

Next Meeting: Saturday, January 4 

Each Under His Fig Tree

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Each Under His Fig Tree . . .

Kings I, 4:1  “So King Solomon was king over all Israel”
The next several verses name Solomon’s advisors, cabinet, military leaders, and priests.  This seems to be a new stage of development of the Jewish people, as they consolidate into a unified, national government rather than as the confederation of independent tribes or relatively loose structures characterized under the rule of Saul and David.  The people were taxed to support the centralized government which required a lot of wealth to run the affairs of state (detailed in Chap 5:2).  The country was divided into 12 federations, not aligned or affiliated with the previous divisions of 12 tribes, each of which provided crops and funds to fund the national government for one of the 12 months of the year.  This represented an economically-based social structure of sharing, crop rotation, and division of labor for the sake of the whole. 

Kings I, 4:20.  “Judah and Israel were numerous . . . eating, drinking, and rejoicing.”
Kings I, 5:5: Judah and Israel dwelt in tranquility, each man under his grapevine and under his fig tree, from Dan to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon.” 
Freed of other demands by the sharing of responsibility, with a sense of security provided by Solomon’s truces with neighboring peoples, the people had time to party.  These were the “good old days” of the Hebrew empire, the golden years, with   visions of fulfillment, a beautiful visual, after all the previous wars and battles and strife of David’s period of rule.

Kings I, 5:1: “Solomon was ruler over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines”
The Hebrew used for “ruler” is the word “Moshel” rather than “Melech” (king).  We sense this has to do with ruling an empire, from a distance, like a chairman of the board.  This was how Solomon ruled his vast empire.  This contrasts with the Melech, the king, who takes the knowledge from above (Mem), teaching through himself (Lamed), to ground it in Earth for the sake of his subjects (final Chaf).  There is a sense of a bit more intimacy and familiarity, or at least proximity, of the Melech to his subjects, versus the distant administrator represented by the Moshel.

Kings I, 5:9 “God gave wisdom and great understanding, and an expanded heart  . . . ”
This is the manifestation of the “listening heart”, Lev shomeah, that Solomon had  asked from HaShem in his prior dream. So Solomon is gifted with a heart that perfectly balances wisdom, Chochmah, the formless influx of wisdom from Spirit, and understanding, the structure of Binah, that gives that formless wisdom the structure it needs to move further into the world.  Solomon is thus the model of a leader with a brilliant mind, one that balances both left and right brain.  This was the wisdom that “spoke 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs” (verse 5:12), giving us the wisdom teaching books of Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Kohelet (Ecclesiastes). 

Kings I, 5:15: “for Hiram was beloved by David . . . ”
Solomon begins the building of the Temple, asking King Hiram of Lebanon to provide the cedar trees that would be needed for building material.  Hiram was on great terms with David, and extends the alliance to David’s son.  Although he had wanted to build the temple, David was not able to.  He was a man always at war, probably had few preserved resources, and was spiritually not the one to build the temple.   Solomon on the other hand had consolidated the kingdom, brought peace and plenty, and had the spiritual wisdom needed to transfer the nation’s place of worship from the desert-built Tabernacle to the more permanent structure that would be the Beit HaMikdash. 


A Listening Heart

A Listening Heart . . .

Meeting in the Valley, we welcomed 2 new members to the group, checked in, then read the meditation on Shofar for the fourth day of Elul, written by Michael Chusid in his book “Hearing Shofar” (http://www.hearingshofar.com/book.htm).   To paraphrase and crystallize: in contrast to the cacophony that was the Tower of Babel, or perhaps the cacophony that is all the Tweets, Email blasts, and cable news soundbites of today’s culture, the shofar blast is a universal language of Spirit, like art, like music, like prayer.

“As you hear shofar today, quiet the flood of words in your mind and simply hear sound.”

Kings I, 3:1  “Solomon made a marriage alliance . . . he took Pharoah’s daughter in marriage”
Wait a minute!  After all the assassinations, palace intrigue, and power politics we read about last time, this represents a sudden, jarring shift in tone.  As if to say, that was before, now let’s get on with it.  The violence of the preceding chapter describing Solomon’s consolidation of his rule is left in the dust, as our soap opera suddenly shifts gears and Solomon begins to expand his kingdom through marriage alliance.  This was in contrast to his father David, who built his kingdom through war and conquest.  Solomon’s propensity to make such political alliances through marriage is famous in our people’s legends, that in this way he built community through marriage rather than violence.  It is said that Solomon had 700 wives, and that this was, in fact, his ultimate undoing.  But that’s for a later chapter.  And what ever happened to Bat Sheva and Avishag?  Two beautiful heroines left behind in yesterday’s news. 

Kings I, 3:3.  “Solomon offered up a thousand elevation-offerings on that Altar.”
The text spends the next couple sentences describing offerings by the people in the “high places” – these were personal sacrificial offerings that anyone could make on a personal altar (the high places).  While verse 3 states that Solomon did this as well, as did David before him, now verse 4 says he went to Gibeon, the location at that time of the Tabernacle, and offered the thousand offerings on “the Altar” – this is the copper altar built by Bezalel and Moses in the wilderness.  This represents a shift from the personal to the communal, from Solomon’s own personal interests to those of his community, foreshadowing the coming period of the Temple when communal offerings were the norm.

Kings I, 3:5: “YHVH appeared to Shlomo in a dream of the night”
Previously God had appeared to our ancestors directly, but to Solomon He comes in a dream.  Our sages teach that a dream is 1/60th of prophecy.  Interpretation of a dream is tricky: while it may very well be, particularly in indigenous cultures and villages, that the dreamer receives the dream for the sake of his/her community, one must also be careful to sort out that part of the dream that may relate to the dreamer on a personal, psychological level.  Dreams are stonger than awakening realizations, have a stronger emotional impact, yet an inherent ambiguity.  Though any dream can be interpreted in multiple ways, the Talmud tells us we should never interpret a dream in a negative way.  So, Shlomo, like his ancestors Jacob and Joseph before him, is a dreamer, and the fact that he is having this dream, this particular dream, says much of his nature and spirit, whether it is a dream of a personal or collective nature. 

Kings I, 3:9: “a listening heart, to judge Your people, to distinguish between good and evil”
In the dream, HaShem asks him what he wants, to which Shlomo responds  
“an understanding heart” (literally, “a listening heart”, Lev shomeah).  It is said that a prayer within a dream is the truest of prayers.  Lev – a pure heart; shomeah – listening, from the same root as Sh’mah. Sh’mah, listen, such a core concept in Judaism.  To listen, for the still, soft voice of the Holy One speaking to you, directly to you.  An empathetic approach to life, with heart wide open.  Shlomo asks to bypass all the noise that the brain/mind can place on the message – give it straight to my heart.  He is asking for an empathetic heart from which to rule.  He asks to be able to judge the nation with this gift, to understand between goodness and evil.  The Hebrew grammar here is slightly different than in Genesis, where Adam and Eve are told by the Nahash that if they eat the fruit they will “know good and bad”, whereas here Solomon asks to “understand (the difference) between good to evil (the whole gamut). 

In granting him his wish, HaShem gives him a “pure heart of wisdom and understanding”, alluding to a balancing of the Sefirot of Chochmah (wisdom, intuitive right brain) and Binah (understanding, rational left brain) with a direct pipeline to the Heart.  This is the place of true empathy, from which Solomon will rule.  This is the model of what a king should be, and stands in stark contrast to the place of power and self-interest from which most kings, both before and after this point., rule.   It is clear now that we are entering into a study, not only of Solomon, but of kingship. 

Kings I, 3:16: “Then 2 women, innkeepers/prostitutes, came to the king . . . ”
This is the famous story of the 2 women, each claiming the same baby as theirs, and Solomon’s decision that decides the question.  We are struck by the description of the women as “prostitutes” in one translation, “innkeepers” in another.  Does the text mean to imply they are of little consequence?  The Hebrew word “zonah” usually is translated as prostitute, but may mean much more than our modern, secular understanding of this word.  We recall 2 such “zonots” who played critical roles in the history of the Jewish people: Tamar, who slept with her father-in-law Judah and thereby gave birth to the line of David and Solomon, and all the kings of Judah;  and Rahav, who hid the Hebrew spies in Jericho before that classic battle, and who strung the crimson thread from her inn’s window so that her family was saved and became part of the Hebrew people. 

A hint to the more raised and respected status of the zonah, compared to the modern day prostitute, is apparent in that the root of the word is the same as that meaning to provide for, or to feed, as we see in the Bircat HaMazon, the blessing we say over the food we’ve eaten.  And of course in ancient cultures the ritual prostitutes were often regarded as bridges to the divine. 

Kings I, 3:28:  “All Israel heard the judgment . . . and saw that the wisdom of Elohim was within him, to do justice”
Shlomo’s “decision” to cut the baby in 2 and give each woman half is successful in ascertaining which woman is the true mother.  Or is it?  At the very least it identifies which woman has the child’s best interest at heart, and she is awarded the child by the king.  And the people “heard and saw” how the new king handled this major test of his ability to judge disputes.  There is a teaching that Ruth was in the court of Solomon at the time of this event, and that later this played a role in her giving up her baby for Naomi to raise.  This “courtroom theater” by Solomon may also have been a political metaphor, with the message that you don’t divide up the 2 kingdoms (Israel and Judah) if you want to keep them alive. 

And all Israel “heard and saw”.  This takes us back to the revelation at Sinai, where the people likewise heard the lightning and saw the thunder of HaShem on the mountain.  This then is the role of the king in Israel: to be a physical manifestation of the ongoing revelation of Spirit for the people.  So in this way, and no doubt not the only way, the direct connection of the people to the Holy One is meant to be maintained through its leaders, as it was at Sinai. 

 We closed with a remembrance of the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki.     Tekiah Gedolah.

Next Meeting: Saturday, September 7 – Shabbat Shuvah, between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.  We will hike in Encino to “The Trees”, hold Council, learn.

Save the Date (tentative): Sunday, September 22, Sukkot at Devorah’s.  Gathering, ritual, build sukkah, potluck lunch


Passover Village and My Levite-ness

A blog entry from Bill Finn (this and other offerings fro Bill can be found at (http://unorthodoxtorah.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/1260/#more-1260)

“In this physical world, they serve the invisible”

In the spring of 2013, Linda and I ventured into Joshua Tree.  It was our third year at Passover Village.  A bunch of people go camp in the desert and do Seder.   The first year we enjoyed ourselves immensely.  Wonderful people and beautiful desert.  The second year was calamitous.  A never ending wind destroyed my tent and made us sick.  I was anxious.  What would our third year be like?
Our first day at the campsite went pretty much as expected.  After packing and driving for hours in the morning, we arrived at Joshua Tree.  Once we scouted out a campsite, we hauled bedding, firewood, food, cooking utensils, a propane stove, as well as an ice chest full of food and medicine.
And 15 gallons of water.  Every minute, for the entire 4 arid days I was there, I was either drinking water or carrying a bottle of water someplace.
We also carried two shelters: a tent for sleeping and a free-standing shade that we usually use for our car.  Once our kitchen, chairs, emergency supplies, shade, and sleeping space were set-up, we nailed tarps to the ground for a clean dressing area. We unpacked warm clothes and flashlights for when it was dark and cold; hats, light clothes, umbrellas, and sunscreen lotion for when it was hot and sunny.
Linda and I are many things, but we are not light campers.
Sometime during the afternoon of the first day, we had reached a point when we could relax.  Our essential survival needs were taken care of.  I sat down on a chair by my tent, too exhausted to move. Our tent was nestled at the foot of a small steep mountain that was covered with huge round boulders.
Above the mountain, a large high-altitude ice cloud floated.  Illuminated by the setting sun, it glowed with a variety of neon colors.  The mountains hid in dark adobe shadows. It took me a while to realize that the stones of the earth and the radiant cloud actually shared the same color palette.
When the ice cloud grew and spread its wings like a bird, I thought of eagles.
A few months earlier I had seen a video about the band Eagles. Early in the band’s history, sometime in the wee hours of a morning, after they had finished a music set, they decided to head out to Joshua Tree, with nothing but, “peyote, tequila, and a bag of trail mix.”  It says a lot about the zeitgeist of that era, that a group of adults thought this qualified as a “good idea.”
Once in Joshua Tree, they built a fire and sat around. To their astonishment, they saw an actual eagle, the namesake of their band, and their presumed totem. One of the band members was taking a dump in the desert, and pulling up his pants when he saw the lordly eagle. To him, the soaring raptor was disdainful and mocking. The musician fantasized the lofty, magnificent eagle sneering, “Huh, you guys are eagles? Right.”
They had gone out into the desert on a vision quest.  The message they received was one of awe and humility.  That seems to me a pretty legitimate message.
Now, here I was sitting in Joshua Tree, looking at a magnificent entity in the sky.  I had come to the desert and had seen my eagle.
It was above me in every sense of the word, floating through levels too rarefied to support a mundane creature, such as myself.  Without a thought, it rendered all around it into insignificance. I felt that I was in the presence of an immense being that was way beyond my personal self in size, scope, and beauty.
Like the eagle, the solitary ice cloud existed at levels beyond my comprehension.
I thought of the conflict that I had seen between the life of the spirit and the demands of the physical world.  So many people struggle to be as high as the cloud, but are dragged down to earth.  The few that succeed, pay a price. The eagle flies high, but he flies alone.
Not bad, I thought.  I have been at Joshua Tree for only a few hours and, already I had a revelation.  That night, I lay on my back for hours, watching the full moon transit across the width of my tent’s doorway.
My third year at Passover Village was off to a good start.
The theme of this year was tribes.  We had spent the entire year studying the various tribes of Israel.  We were asked to pick a tribe and represent it at the Village.
For me, there was never any question about my choice of tribe.  Unlike many Jews, I actually know what my tribe is.  I do not recall when my father told me that we were Levites, but it was sometime when I was very young.
These days there isn’t much to being a Levite.  I get called second to read at the Torah. Twice a year at the western Wall, Cohens say a blessing for the nations.  Levites, such as myself gather at the washing stations in the plaza and wash the hands of the Cohens.
I did this when I lived in Israel. It is not a particularly dignified experience.  The Levites shout “Bo Cohaneem!” (Come Cohens) like vegetable sellers shouting “tomatoes!” in a shuk (marketplace).
Genetic research has demonstrated a Cohen gene.  It is amazingly persistent, occurring in Jewish communities located in areas as diverse as Africa, Asia, and Europe.  As we stood around the washing station in the Western Wall plaza, I gazed at my fellow Levites, and wondered if we too shared a mutual gene.  I knew a few of them personally and definitely saw commonalities. For one thing, we were all wise guys, smart alecks, the kind of guy who would interrupt you telling a joke, because he already knew it and could tell it better.
Over the years, I have linked a few of my personal traits to my Levite-ness. Explaining my quirks through my Levite-ness is not rational.  However, I do not see it as less valid than an astrology sign, or even a psychological profile.
As befits someone who is descended from temple servants, I frequently ended up in supportive positions for rabbis.  For example, in the 1980’s, I met Daniel Lev in jail, while we were protesting Diablo Nuclear Power Station. Daniel told everyone that he was Abraham Herschel and needed to do a Rosh Hashanah service.
I moved heaven and earth to get that service together, not a simple task when incarcerated. After monumental efforts, we succeeded and arranged for a service.  Although, I enthusiastically helped Daniel with preparations, I was indifferent to the actual service itself.  This experience of spontaneously assisting a spiritual leader is fairly typical for me.
Another trait that I associate with my Levite-ness is my ability to move stuff.  Levites carried the ark through the desert. When I was younger I was a world-class shleper.  Once, when I was a chiropractor, working for another chiropractor at a new office, I became impatient with waiting for workmen to move some furniture.  Without a thought, I moved large desks, treatment tables, and filing cabinets through narrow hallways into tiny rooms.  My boss and the chief admin came into the office and stared at me in disbelief.  “You did that by yourself?” they asked.  I was astonished by their astonishment.  To me, it seemed easy.
Levites were also guards.  Some part of me, especially at night, is always on the lookout, always listening.  When I lie down at the end of the day to go to sleep, my hearing becomes acute; I hear the hums of electronics, as well as the ticking of a clock in nearby rooms. If a dog is barking anywhere within several blocks, I don’t fall asleep. Once, I was woken up by a ringing telephone, which in and by itself isn’t unusual.  However, this telephone was located several houses down the street.
I had not expected to learn anything about my Levite-ness at Passover Village. For one thing, I was spending most of my energy on basic camping survival tasks.  For another, it seemed irrelevant to the challenges of my everyday life.
To my surprise, while at Passover Village, I discovered another Levite part of myself. A personal trait that has puzzled me can be explained by characteristics of my tribe.
I found time to read The Twelve Dimensions of Israel by Nechama Sarah G. Nadborny.  The book looks at the “deepest meanings of the twelve tribes of Israel.”
As I mentioned before, one of the significant mitzvahs of the Levites was the carrying of the Ark through the desert. Nadborny’s book explained that the Cohens fashioned the contents of the Ark, but the Levites never saw inside it.  In this physical world, they serve the invisible.
In fact, the invisible is clear to Levites.  When others are lead astray, they remained steadfast, their vision fixed on the truth of hidden holiness.
It has always been simple for me to see beneath the surface, but what is obvious for most people eludes my understanding. One intuitive person called me a klutz, because I always stumble through the clearly visible, while my perception is focused on the unseen.
The Twelve Dimensions of Israel still had more to teach me. About a third of the Levites guarded the king. Another third served the Temple, and a many of them were soldiers.  So, most Levites lived in Jerusalem.
It makes sense that Levites occupied the heart of the country, since “Lev” is Hebrew for heart.  Marc, our leader, pointed out that the Hebrew word for heart is spelled differently that the one for Levite.   “Lev” uses a bet, while “Levite” ends with a vuv.  The root of “Levite” is often described as “joining’ or “alongside.”  This reflects the brotherly affection that the Levites had for the Cohens whom they help.  Marc and I decided that vuv, which is a traditional sign of connection between the higher worlds and the lower ones, is an appropriate letter for Levites. Levites worked to connect the hearts of the people.
The remaining third of Levites who did not live in Jerusalem, were dispersed throughout the country.  The directions associated with the Levites are the “center” (2/3 were located in Jerusalem) and “everywhere,” i.e. scattered throughout the land.
Why did Levites live among all the tribes?  To keep an eye on them.  Levites were the snitches, and the enforcers.  As pointed out above, a very high proportion of Levites in Jerusalem were soldiers.
Levites were a violent tribe. When someone needed to be killed, they did it.  Heck, even when someone didn’t need to be killed, they still did it.
The dark side of having a clear vision of holiness is unrelenting and uncompromising fanaticism.  This is an aspect of Levite-ness with which I do not identify. Indeed, my entire life I have been repelled by religious extremism, violence, and militarism.
While I was processing this upsetting information, I had physical work to do. Marc took my Levite-ness seriously, and that meant assisting him with decorating the sanctuary.
At one point, several people and I carried and arranged rocks in the middle of the gathering tent.  Each stone represented a tribe.  Appropriately, the Levite rock occupied the center in a circle of stones.
Every once in a while, someone would move the Levite stone, and substitute candles, a figurine, or some kind of decoration.  These minor changes in adornment usually looked pretty good.
However, I noticed something about myself.  Every time someone moved the Levite rock, it REALLY, REALLY bothered me. I mention this to my wife, Linda, who laughed, and said such changes were temporary.
I objected.  “Moving the stone gives Israel a heart attack!  It’s moving the heart from the center! It violates the natural order of things!”
Except for this one conversation with my wife, I kept silent about my growing indignation. Finally, at the closing circle, I expressed my outrage about the displacement of the Levite stone. Like my wife, the Passover Village participants thought this was funny.
I had begun my third year of Passover Village anxious about the outcome. Would it be wonderful like the first year or calamitous like the second?   Instead, something quite unexpected happened; I got in touch with my inner religious extremist.