"Old myths, old gods, old heroes have never died. They are only sleeping at the bottom of our mind, waiting for our call. We have need for them. They represent the wisdom of our race"
Stanley Kunitz, American poet laureate
There is something stirring in the air and in the bones this year . . . do you feel it? It is the call to community, the call of our ancestors wanting us to gather in the old ways. There is much trouble afoot in the world – fear, greed, terror, death, guns, broken economies – what to make of it all? Our teachings tell us that where there is much chaos, that is the place of Creation. But what is it that we are to birth, in this moment, at this time? What is it that humanity needs?
A Guatemalan shaman once said (paraphrasing) that we need to raise new sap with old roots.
For us in Passover Village, this will be our 18th journey to the wilderness seeking to reclaim our old roots – our ancient tribal, indigenous wisdom traditions. Looking back, it seems inconceivable that this is our 18th year together - our “Chai” year. 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. We go out to the desert, the MiDBar, the place of M’DaBer (speaking), to listen closely for the whispered message that trying to get through to us right from that “still small voice” that once spoke to our greatest prophets. Pesach is the time to renew our connections with our ancestors and explore our indigenous roots with ritual, song, and community. 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. Tell the story, tell the story, always we must tell the story.
For new Villagers coming this year, a bit of background: our community seeks to explore the connection to what it actually means to be a Hebrew - an Ivri, a boundary crosser – a member of an indigenous, tribal, aboriginal people who once lived day to day connected intimately to the land, to nature, and to Spirit. You say this is not the Judaism you know? Probably not, but what other explanation do you have for a people who refer to heaven as the “place of fire-water” (Sha’mayim). Each year we establish our “ Passover Village” for 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.
This Year’s Kavannah
Every year we also add a bit of additional kavannah (spiritual intention) to our weekend, to help us explore more deeply our tribal history together. This year, our kavannah will be to continue the inquiry of community begun last year, adding to it a deep exploration of our tribal symbols, colors, character, and purpose – call this “Building Tribal Community”. Our model is that of the 12 Tribes, which we have studied throughout the year, seeking to understand more deeply the way in which those 12 divisions can speak to us, speak through us, to guide us in this modern age of trouble.
There are 2 Hebrew words for tribe used in Torah: Shevet and Mateh. Both words also mean “staff”. A shevet refers to a shepherd’s crook that is used to guide the flock, while a mateh refers to a walking stick, a staff meant to be used for movement, action, creation (as in the staff of Moses, really the Staff of Elohim, which was used to initiate the wonders and miracles that brought the People out of Egypt and helped them in the wilderness). So the tribes are our guides, and our means of walking on the Earth. Forgetting their ways puts us in peril - remembering may lead us to ourselves.
What do the tribes of the South – Reuven, Shimon, Gad – have to say to us about the ways of the child, the ways of clarifying our intentions, the ways of Water? And what of the Western tribes – Ephraim, Menashe, and Benjamin – what relevance do their majestic and fierce totems have to teach us today? In the North, is the serpent of Dan to be feared or honored? The olives of Asher to be eaten or burned? And what does it mean that Naftali is likened to a deer? Or Judah a lion? Or the role of Zevulun relative to its brother-tribe Issaschar? Colors, flags, standards, stones, totems – we did not learn about these in Sunday school when we were kids, yet they are our indigenous tradition, the tribal archetypes that organize our collective unconscious. If we turn our attention to them, what message do they have to M’DaBer to us in the MiDBar this year? If you identify with Naftali, what does that mean? If you fear your “inner Shimon”, what might you actually learn form him? What tribal energies in you are crying to be released, to be freed from their Mitzrayim? What gifts do they bring to you, and in turn through you to the rest of the world?
A very special request this year:
It is our intention to consciously engage the energies, wisdom, and consciousness of our tribal ancestors when we gather this year in Joshua Tree. All year we have studied parts of Torah and other sources to learn about the Tribes of Israel, what each tribe’s character, purpose, and destiny was, as expressed by the blessings given them by Jacob and Moses. We strongly encourage everyone who attends to read the notes written from each of our study periods over the year on our blogsite at http//passovervillage.blogsite.com If you attended those sessions, this will remind you of the territory we have covered, and if you did not attend, it will provide you with much context for the material we will work with when we gather. Also, feel free to explore the primary texts again, as indicated on the blog, or other materials having to do with the tribes. The deeper our knowledge going in, the richer our encounter with the Mystery will be.
As we gather again this year among the stone beings of Joshua Tree, among the memories that we have built over the last 17 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 Email with any questions, comments, etc.
Shalom U’L’hitraot – see you in Joshua Tree!
TO REGISTER FOR THIS YEAR’S PASSOVER VILLAGE RETREAT GO TO: