Study Group + Leadership Council Saturday, November 7, 2015

Come join us as we continue our monthly Torah Study Group on Saturday, November 7th (10 am till Noon).  We have been reading Psalms with attention to the natural world around us.  Bring a text if you have one or we can share one of ours.  No experience necessary.  Newcomers, skeptics welcome.

The Leadership Council will meet from 9-10 am, just before the Study Group.  All are welcome to witness (observe and contribute in silence) the Leadership Council that holds the vision and energy for each year’s Passover Village Retreat. 

In particular, the LC is considering how we might offer a presentation or a longer program about our Passover Village community, Seders and practices at the Aleph Alliance for Jewish Renewal’s Kallah Program, July 11-17, 2016 in Colorado. https://aleph.org/kallah

So, you are invited!  Come for the Study Group (10 am till Noon) or come early (9 am) and witness the Leadership Council, then stay for the Study Group.

We’ll meet at a private home in Encino.  Call or write Dan 310-396-0706 or danbrumer@mac.com to RSVP, for any questions and for directions to the location.


Yom Kippur 2015 in the Manzanitas

This Yom Kippur, as most Jews in America dressed for synagogue, Tobi and I loaded up our camping gear and took off for the Angeles Crest mountains north of LA. Our goal: to seek relation with the Holy One on Yom Kippur through prayer, fast, and meditation , in nature, with the trees, birds, animals, and elements.  Arriving in our campsite, no other humans present in the campground, we quickly set up our tent and prepared our last meal before the fast, a simple meal of fruit, cheese, crackers, raw vegetables and humus. 

A few steps from our campsite on the western edge of the campground, the view opened to mountains, valleys, haze, and the setting sun.  Setting our intention, to seek right relation between ourselves and HaShem/Spirit, we drew animal tarot cards and received a teaching to take into the next 24 hours.  Then, as the sunset colors of yellows, oranges, pinks and greys began to spread in the west, I chanted Kol Nidre, thinking of the imperfection of our human efforts to keep our vows and intentions over time, and how amazing that the Hebrew tradition recognizes and builds that into the liturgy of this sacred, yet joyous, moment.

Joyous?  Yom Kippur?  As a child, Yom Kippur was anything but joyous.  Everyone was so serious, you had to fast, there were dirge-like chants and songs, boring services.  Where was the joy?  But now, understanding that Yom Kippur is really about sitting alone, and within one’s community, to seek true, deep, and intimate relationship with the Holy One, wrapping a tradition of thousands of years around oneself like a tallit, to go deep into the words of prayer and the meditations of the heart, to be in intimate connection with nature as our ancestors once were at all times, the joy and the awe of the quest for Spirit becomes very present.

The next 24 hours were full of many moments of insight, boredom, joy, meaning, annoyance, and awe.  Just a few highlights:
·      Watching the fire, always reaching upward to the heavens, under the darkening sky as the stars appeared in their glory in the dark wilderness sky
·      The call of raven, jay, owl
·      The flash of brown flank to the west, a visit by Deer to my prayer circle neighborhood
·      Flies and mosquitoes – it isn’t all fun and games.  What is their message to me today?
·      Ahl Chet sheh’chatahnu – the communal recitation of past ways we have been out of relation with the Holy One, recognizing those that we have personally done, and those that we know someone in our community has done, and taking in deeply the need and desire to do better;
·      Boredom, heat, sweat, discomfort
·      Ouch! - the yucca plant pokes my hand as I walk by, teaching me to pay attention to my surroundings more closely
·      Fasting – no trouble there, having fasted for several days at a time in the past.  Allowing myself just a sip of water here or there, realizing the importance of that element in my life, appreciating it completely, wondering about drought and climate change that heighten the awareness of human use and abuse of this precious resource
·      Hit’bod’dut – Rebbe Nachman’s practice of talking directly to God
·      A branch, in the shape of the letter Ayin, teaching perception, observation, look at what’s around you, immediately in front of you, present and imminent.  Don’t get lost in seeking the big picture, the framework – you will miss the moment where God is found, you will be out of relation with Spirit, in your head trying to figure things out, when all the time She is right there with you

A psalm, composed spontaneously sitting on the rocks, looking over the valley, afternoon sun burning overhead:

Ain ca’mocha . . . v’ain ca’ma’ah’sechah
There is none like You . . .  and nothing like Your creations
My God, God of my Fathers and God of my Mothers
My soul thirsts to know You.
How can One be All?
The angels are amazed.
Mountains, valleys, trees, birds
You created them all, and more.
And yet you are right here,
in this breeze
In this branch
In this stone
My heart longs to know You
But Your greatness cannot be known
Only through what is here
May I know You
To follow the path you lay
Trust myself and thereby trust in You

Was my Yom Kippur in nature what I expected?  Yes, and no.  Yes, in that being in nature, withdrawing from worldly pursuits, job, people, eating and drinking, I felt at times Panim el Panim - face to face with Spirit, alligned with an awareness of my relation with the Holy One.  Seeking with the intention only to connect, I learned something of myself and my relation to all things, though not necessarily what I thought, or in the manner I expected.  As God came to Elijah in the small, quiet voice, not the grand vision, so S/he was subtle with me.  My experience left me wanting more, more time in nature fasting, to more fully connect.  One day was not enough. Perhaps the four day vison quest of the Native peoples serves this purpose better.  And there were prayers in the liturgy that I read during the day that did not connect, not so much because of their lack of relevance to the quest, but because Yom Kippur calls for the communal, as well as the individual seeking of relationship with HaShem.  The recitation of sins is in the first person plural, all of the prayers are in “we” language, not “I”.  So while there was much I learned from my solo time in prayer and contemplation, there was also much I missed by not being surrounded by my fellow seekers, sharing in our communal quest for Spirit and connection. 

Lessons and conclusions:
Seeking relation with the Holy One in nature is my path
I will likely never spend another Yom Kippur inside a building, synagogue, or other human structure.  For me, god is to be found in the breeze, the bluebirds, the call of raven, the quizzical glance of deer, the odd shape of branch, and the red bark of the Manzanita tree.
One day is not enough.  I need to have more time to set up camp and prepare, as well as at least another day to settle
This must be done in community, with friends and chevreh.  Yom Kippur is a communal vision quest.

Tekiah gedolah. 
Thank You, Thank You.  

Marc W


Sukkot + Study Group Sat Oct 3rd

An invitation from Devorah:

We will be gathering in the Sukkah (weather permitting) next Shabbat morning for our monthly PV study group.
We still dwell in this holy time of year, in the power of continuinuous celebrations: Sukkot's power is the season of our joy. It feels intuitively appropriate to re-member our harvest tradition, placing ourselves literally out in the field, a hut in the midst of nature, while reaping the fruits of our labors and our inward Rosh Hashanah searching. We are not ready to look at life in the hum drum way...having dressed it in the beauty of sweet forgiveness and hope. 

Let's dwell there a bit longer...in the sukah. Sukkot has been ushered in, for the second year, with a super blood moon Eclipse, covering the moon like a Challah cover on Shabbat. 

Sukkot is an extra special time for Passover Village consciousness. It's akin to our frequent focus on uncovering our indigenous roots. We need not dig much, it's right there.....

Our kavanah (intentional spiritual focus of study) this year is viewing nature through the lens of the psalms. We add to it the joyous Sukkot lens. Surprising gifts await us!

Join us, bringing the rich insights of your minds, hearts and life experiences. 

Bring also a pot luck contribution to feast upon after study.  What fun!

  9:30 - 10:00 a.m: Decorate sukkah 
10:00 - 12 noon: personal check-in, Study Psalms, lulav/ etrog
12:30 to at least 1:30: Feast!

16063 Chase Street. North Hills 91343.  (Parallel to Roscoe off 405; east of Woodley)

Look for the abundant bouganvillea at the white gate. Plenty of parking. Walk up the long shaded driveway, come to the back yard or side door.

RSVP to Devorah  <miriaam@mindspring.com>  626-422-8303


PV Shabbat T’shuvah Hike

Dear Passover Villagers

We are now in that liminal space, the gates wide-open, the veil never more narrow than in these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The question hangs in the air: “Who are you really, wanderer"? We explore our relations, with our Self, with our communities, families, and friends, with the Holy One, with Mother Earth. Are we in right relation with each? If not, how to make the correction needed to get unstuck, so we continue our spiral into our truest being? 

Come explore these and other questions as PV does its annual Shabbat T'shuvah hike this Saturday (tomorrow! Sorry for the late notice) 

What: PV Shabbat T’shuvah hike
Where: Temescal Canyon park, Sunset Blvd and Temescal Canyon Rd.  Meet in the shaded grassy area at the end of the parking lot near the restrooms.  There’s a fee to park in lot (BEWARE OF STOP SIGN CAMERAS), or free parking on Sunset Blvd. or Temescal Rd.
When: 9 AM - 12 noon
What to bring: Water, sunscreen, hat, shofar if you have one, open heart
Who:  You!

L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu

Marc W.


Passover Village Study Group September 12, 2015 (day before Erev Rosh Hashanah)

We passed the Rainstick during our Check-In which carried a theme of the fragility of life and deep spiritual experiences/learning.  As the last folks left, it began to rain, while the sky was still blue to the north.  

Continuing our study of the Elements (including plants) in the PSALMS:

Psalm 50 by Asaph

We looked at R. Zalman Schechter-Shlomi’s prayerful interpretation (Larry introduced) as well as other texts. We mostly concentrated on the middle of the psalm with its references to nature (Lines 7-15); then the ending (22-23), backing up to 16-22 finally,  we ended with the first line.  (I like that, ending at the beginning, the snake eating its tail.)  What we wished for today was a skilled Hebrew reader who could help us understand some of the variations in interpretive choices and meanings. It would be nice to revisit. Nonetheless it was and is a rich, broad and deep journey into this Psalm written by Asaph.

So much of the psalm speaks to the questionable necessity of Animal Sacrifice (5, 8, 14) resulting in a deeper look at Sacrifice in general- Line 23 he so offereth the sacrifice of thanksgiving honoring; and to him that ordereth… Honors me15, 23

We did discover its possible significance for the indigenous Hebrew Mind*:

Reasons for Ritual Sacrifice:

>Humbleness by reducing riches. Hedge against Hubris

-Humbleness also by giving up pride and value of what one has worked hard for whatever one’s economic status: (sacrificial animals were usually of the Best Quality One Had

             -But a possible hubris of being able to Give more than Others if you have more (to gain further status)

>a form of buying salvation whatever one’s holdings.

>Nourishing G-d w food  (as implied in this psalm)

>Appease an Angry /Punishing God in a world out of one’s control -not understood, insurance policy against future harm from an uncontrollable consequences of Nature/Natural disasters or other hardship, war/conflict, starvation, economic loss. It’s a form of ritualized control against the unknown based on need formed from prior experience of loss.

>or an exchange/trade – I give you this, You give me that (just fair business)

>Is it a form of Giving Up self/ego?

>Does the ritual put us in right relationship with nature?

(discussion: Today, We are out of control – there is no order or respect for nature: Look what ‘we’ (the world) have become without it – how we have destroyed and are destroying our planet – from mountain, land and sea, animals, plants, the air ; pollution and loss

the act of controlling and using nature for our own benefit: logging, over farming & fishing, exhausting the earth nutrients, coral reefs, Monsanto seeds/genetics, chemical spraying, killing to extinction, industrial destruction of the air/greenhouse effect/melting glaciers/icebergs, weather cycles, ad infinitum….

Change in Methods of Sacrifice:

Getting away from Human Sacrifice – Abraham and Isaac (Rosh Hashanah)

Getting away from Animal Sacrifice – after the destruction of the Temple

What level of Sacrifice do we have now (fasting, tithing, have we succeeded, is it effective?)

Have large portions of humanity forgotten purposeful Sacrifice?... thereby sacrificing & suffering inadvertently and at great loss.

Sacrifice in Ritual Form:

Controlled ritualistic predictable sacrifices, and mindfulness of what we have with gratitude.

Ritual enabled us to at least believe that we could control the severity (degree and amount) of the loss (by spiritual decree) by preempting with Temple sacrifices.  Perhaps this served to control our impulses, be grateful and stay moderate in our greed. Do we now hedge our bets by producing too much? Sacrifices – are we less humble and respectful now?  (increased hubris)

*Sacrificing consciously vs unconsciously…..Perhaps we have underestimated the role that Ritual Sacrifice played/plays in the Indigenous Hebrew Mind. How can we more deeply understand and own this indigenous perspective to our own resurrection as consciously indigenous seeking Jews today?  We were unexpectedly struck by the feeling that we may have lost something when we gave up Ritual Sacrifice!  Sacrifice may have given us a right relationship to our egos, our planet and material goods/riches. A rich man had many cattle, sheep, etc.  What the rich ‘man’ does today is pay “taxes” but in the game of trying to retain rather than of giving willingly in relationship to the Divine.

             What does Sacrifice have to teach us now? Are there forms of sacrifice living well in Judaism today (fasting, Tzedukah, etc)  Is it enough, or maybe what we do now is just not powerful enough?  How to integrate these realities as modern Hebrew indiginists?  At the very least line 23, the ending, suggests spiritual self improvement through a Ritual Sacrifice of thankfulness/gratitude (thank offering)

Overview of Psalm points:

‘Thousand mountain’(Hebrew interp? Also it sounds so Chinese) and the pasture (another nourishing image where animals graze) interpretations of Creatures of the Field: The plants themselves? Wild Beasts? Creeping creatures–(small) animals/insects (more Hebrew please).

Asaph’s psalm reports HaShem comparing the human need for edible animals: i.e.fowl & fatlings vs the free wild animals that are “Mine”(10).

Giving a “Thank Offering” 14, 23(what are the types of sacrifices? maybe in Leviticus?). The G-d voice in the psalm chides us that there is No need to do animal sacrifices, HaShem does not need to be nourished. (already has an embarrassment of eternal nourishment -why do we bring the Divine down to our own level?) In the psalm specific references to domestic, edible animals (lines 9&13), yet also Hashem claims relationship to all the living Beings, wild and tame, animal and plant (10-11). Instead Of animal sacrifice (14,23) Asaph presents a God that asks only for sacrifice of gratitude. The point is to be thankful, be in gratitude which maintains our umbilical cord to the Divine so we can receive nourishment .  the gratitude nourishes us –not the Divine – but keeps the Divine alive in us allowing us to receive Divine care.  Without that mindfulness there are consequences! 22

             Discussion: Is the existence of G-d dependent on our belief and attendance to the Divine?  Does the Divine disappear when we are not mindful(23)?   Line 22: Are we punished vs are we suffering the consequences of not being mindful in remembering the Divine presence in our lives?  Or is G-d vulnerable to our conscious creation of Him/Her? How can Divine influences assist us if we don’t keep Him/Her near? Are we destroyed/punished when we are not mindful, or setting the stage for our own destruction.  Does God disappear (we are destroying him?) when we do not think of/relate to “Her/Him”

Taking responsibility for maintaining the connection (the umbilical cord) to receive G_d’s blessings and protection. It is still the Divine that provides the experience of salvation. (Zalman 23) Level of control – Divine Being as all powerful, “Making us” experience.

             Surrender of “Self” enables experience of ____________(fill in the blank, i.e. salvation, ecstasy, visions)

             Yet responsible for remembering by attending to Divine qualities, mitzvoth, remembering, contemplation, maintaining awareness of Divine Presence, the connection, being receptive by our awareness/belief/ritual/order (mitvot – seder)  This process contains Reciprocity of receptivity/action as does the Beauty of the Shechinah (discussed below).

16-20 complains of not abusing the connection through “recite my laws” – Extremism and entitlement we see today.   20=”maligning your brother, defaming the son of your mother” points out the importance of the mother in a matrilineal post matriarchal society.  Points out what is going on today .

Experience salvation23/redemption/rescue 15 Hebrew word used? 

Beauty of Zion – the Earth an aspect of the Divine Lines 1-2

Multi vs Uni God   Aspects / qualities of the Divine vs each quality is personified. “Shekinah” as “Mother earth, the Divine Presence.  The other Sefirot with differing qualities, strength, degree of accessibility

Divine Feminine is not just receptive. There is an action in preparing and presenting One’s Beauty and a reciprocity of receiving and giving.   Give experience of one’s beauty to the observer who receives and responds, thus giving (thanks/appreciation) as the Shechinah receives the appreciation.


Jonathan contributes from Isaiah (not  from this psalm) My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways

             Story comparison by Jonathan re making a meal for one’s spouse – ready when he is home vs asking day before what they want in detail.

To be grateful is to remember one’s Divine connection:

Divine part of your body – agnos agnocia (not knowing that one does not know….. as in a CVA, unawareness of a hemiplegic side of body “this arm is not my arm”). Are we aware of Having Lost or forgotten a part of our Spiritual Body?  Laurie suggests this as an exercise for Passover Village.   We can Re-Member (Dan).


How to regain our inner connection. And our communal connection to the Divine. (minyan)


My own sticking point: Christianity has claimed the God of Love and Jews branded with a punishing Divinity, Do this or else!  I prefer not to accept this, Not a punishing G-d. Is it the absence of the Divine (out of mind) that creates a state of “falling apart” dismemberment, feels like punishment.  Sufism says Make G-d a Reality.”  I ask for each of us to inquire within … What is our preferred version/vision of the Divine Being?



PV Study Group Invitation

Dear Friends, 

You are invited to join us for our next Passover Village Torah Study Group! We've been exploring Psalms with special attention to the natural world and the elements. 

Please note special date for September: 
Sat Sept 12th 10 am to 12 pm 

Home of Devorah Cohen 
(near Roscoe and Woodley in The Valley) 

Call or write to RSVP and for exact location: 

Devorah Cohen



Dan Brumer 


See you soon! 



Invitation to Grand Opening of Eliyahu's new shul

Passover Villager, Rabbi Eliyahu Gevirtz writes:

"You are warmly invited to our grand opening of our new shul Zimrat Yah and the welcoming in of our Torah into its new home. The date is Sunday, September 6th at 1:30 in Santa Barbara. 

If you'd like to come, please let me know, and I'll send you the details.
Thank you!

Eliyahu  (now going by my ancestral name)"


Next Year in a World of Peace

Passover Village 2015 is complete. Villagers were able to glimpse the peace we long for when we say, "Next year in Jerusalem,  Ir Shalom, the City of Peace.

Mark your calendar now to be part of our exodus next year, 2016-April-29 to May-01.


What Happens When the Trees Die?

“What happens when the trees die?”
February 7, 2015

Gathering for study a few days after Tu’B’shvat, fruit, nuts, wine encircling our altar, check-ins turned to encompass our relation to the trees, and by extension, to other parts of the natural world.  People spoke of the trees in their yards, the threat of death that the cottonwood trees of the Rio Grande face because of climate change and the lack of adequate flooding of the flood plain, the understanding our ancestors had that you plant trees for future generations not for immediate gain, and the blight that so many of our local trees face.  And we heard of visitations from the animal world: the blue jay arriving in 2 days (or was it 3 days?) at the offering made of bird food in the back yard; the mountain lion coming around; others.

Rather than going right into text study after check-ins, the discussion continued with personal stories, observations, and questions.  And more questions.  The trees are the lungs of the planet.  What happens when the trees die and there’s not enough oxygen to breathe?  What is the role of the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam?  How do we respond?  Do we respond?  Will the “market forces” take care of it in the end, or do the market forces represent a non-benevolent force that should not be allowed to run it’s course?  Do we choose blessings or curses?  Are we engulfed in the pessimism of how we are leaving the planet for our grandchildren, or do we have an optimism that things will work out for them? 

How do we change our minds? How do I change myself?  The question arose during the discussion of the drought, attempts at water conservation, the recognition that most of the water use is through agriculture (e.g. do you know how many gallons of water it takes to export almonds?), rather than being determined by personal use of individuals.  So does it really matter if we personally don’t flush the toilet every time, or take shorter showers?  Do we live in a blessed time, whereby humans have figured out how to feed the masses through large agri-business?  Or are we cursed due to our disconnection from our own food sources?  What is your relation to the chicken on your dinner plate?  What is the mind frame that our ancestors had, when one raised the animals and the plants that later were served at the table?  How does that alter one’s consciousness and relation to earth and spirit, compared to bopping into Ralphs to pick up some chicken for dinner?  What is the difference in one’s mind, in one’s being, between observing the laws of kashrut when it comes to killing the animal you yourself have raised, compared to purchasing a lamb roast at the kosher market?  What does it mean to change your mind, and how can that possibly change the magnitude of what is happening in the greater culture?  Or by changing our minds, is there a ripple that goes out to those we contact, such as our students, patients, co-workers, and then those they contact, and ultimately things undergo major shift?

How does our situation on the planet compare to the concepts of complexity theory – are we bubbling and churning in a field of chaos and turmoil, approaching a quantum frame shift into another field entirely?  Isn’t that what is described in the opening verses of the book of B’ray’sheet (Genesis) – the bubbling and turmoil of Tohu v’vohu, followed by the shefa of light that changed everything?   Or at the moment on the shore of Red Sea – leaving the chaos and confusion of the narrow way of living in Mitzrayim,  but facing . . . what?   The step with pure faith into a new way of being offered the only way out.  Every Shabbat we read the words that Shabbat is about remembering the original Creation, AND the going out of Egypt.  Is the world now approaching a Y’hi Ohr / Red Sea moment?  Will we have the courage to take the step into the water?

Questions, more questions. Can we live a life of blessing?  This is Jewish mindfulness.  Everything is blessed.  The Zohar says, take every action by first creating a space for God to fill so that when you raise your hand to strike someone you must ask, “Would the Divine Presence strike this person in this way?” or when you comfort someone with a hand on the shoulder, it is empowered with Divine Comfort.  An old siddur, handed down through the family, pages yellowed and ragged, listing a blessing for every scenario.  The prayer on seeing trees and animal:

Source of Blessing are You, Infinite Being, our Wellspring of Creation, Teacher of the hidden worlds that such as this exists in the world.

A question: what does this week’s Torah portion have to do with Tu’Bishvat?  This week’s Parshat Ha Shavuah is Yitro (Jethro), the giving of the 10  Instructions.  “I have carried you to Me on the wings of Eagles (or Vultures?)”, to witness, each and every one of you, the revelation of how to live a life of consciousness and justice in relation to Spirit and fellow beings.  Then, after revelation, climb the altar of earth, get back to the earth, get back to living as a human.  There is no need to meditate only for the sake of achieving understanding of the Divine, or how we were before we came to this physical plane.  But rather to bring that consciousness back into this world, that avodah (sacred service) is about sewing the mitzvot into this physical world. 

The disconnection of the Jewish people from the earth and the land, a result of our being forcibly exiled from our earth-based practices to a religion of prayer and thought.  This makes it possible that the cantor in a synagogue does not even know that there are olive trees on the synagogue property.  Can we return to a state of being in right relation with the earth and beings around us?  Can we take the rote prayers, learn them, transform them (as each Sefirah does with the Presence it receives) and let them flow from our hearts in a new way?   A chant:  Aitzim Zaitim Omdim – the olive trees are standing. 

Finally, we get to the text of Perekh Shirah:
Trees of the field declare: “Then shall the trees of the forest sing before Infinite Being” (1 Chron 16:33)
Vine declares:  “This is what Infinite Being says – Just like when fresh wine is found in the cluster, people would protest ‘Don’t destroy it, for it holds blessing’, so too will I act” (Isaiah 65:8)

Next gathering: Saturday March 7, at Devorah’s.  We invite all in the PV community who wish to take part In planning this year’s event to come.  Brief Torah study (~1/2 hour), then an hour of planning, then a pot luck lunch.


Passion, Balance, Deerskin, Holy Ground

“Passion, Balance, Deerskin, Holy Ground”
January 10, 2015

 “Remove your shoes for the place on which you stand is holy ground”  Shemot (Exodus) 3:5

The story of Moses and the burning bush is part of today’s parshah, and with the beginning of the book of Exodus our minds turn to thinking about this year’s Passover Village.  The story of the bush - Moses noticing something happening, going to check it out, that act bringing the Holy One down to engage him in his life task, his purpose - teaches us how to live a life lived of consciousness of each moment.  To live passionately is to notice those signs that are there to guide our soul’s quest, to live a life of passion and engagement.  But it is up to us to notice, to respond, to not hold back or shrug off the signs, or the moments may be missed.  These “bush moments”, which can any moment in any place represent a life force, noticing implies opening up to the possibilities of meeting our soul’s destiny, being available and open is the key to living the passionate life, where every moment is a life force moment.

We stand on holy ground at all moments, the sands are shifting, take off your shoes and get a foothold, be present both at the periphery and in the midst of spirit.  The Hebrew grammar of the term “holy ground” is odd.  Adamah (ground) is a feminine noun, yet is modified by the masculine adjective Kadosh (rather than the feminine form, k’dushah).  We know that such grammatical “errors” in Torah are signs of deeper meanings.  Is this phrase implying that to be present, really present, as in the ‘”Hineni” that Moshe speaks at the call of the bush, means to bring together the Masculine and Feminine within us, and to recognize those Masculine and Feminine forces that are always around us and bring them into balance?  As the kabbalists’ prayer “L’shem Yichud” implies, are we to always be acting for the unification of the divine masculine (HaKodesh Baruch Hu) and divine feminine (Shechinah) in all we do?  Is that what it means to stand on Holy Ground? 

Deer: the M’eel Ha’tze’dakah (mantle of the balancing forces)

The text of “Magic of the Ordinary” describes a mystical mantle worn by our ancestors that was made of deer skin, that was used for shamanic rituals.  Deer is described as an animal of passion and zealousness.  Other associations with deer were shared: vulnerability, alertness, gentleness, young love as in “Song of Songs”, their seemingly mystical quality of appearing and disappearing in the forest.  Deer as spirit revealed, then spirit re-veiled.  Personal stories of encounters with deer, involving dying parents, human hunting of deer, and forest encounters.  Deer is tender yet strong, can come and go, speaks to us of the balance of the 2 ways one can choose.  As a child, did you tend to hold back for fear of revealing yourself, or plow forward and sometimes reap the consequences?
This year’s discussion is bringing up new realizations and questions, such as: how do animals operate in the world?  What is their presence on the earth, independent of their relation to humans?  What is the meaning of bow-hunting deer as pests right in the middle of mid-western towns?  How does that compare with balanced “mitigation” efforts to control wolf populations?  How does one interpret the observation that wolves respect red cloth flag boundaries set up by Montana ranchers to protect livestock?  Are the flags serving as scarecrows, like the red wrist string some wear to keep out the evil eye (aka big bad wolf), or do wolves consciously recognize the boundaries established by humans using the flags and consciously  determine to respect them?   Why do we need to build rockets and go into outer space when we have the possibility of understanding alternate life forces, even our own pets, that are right in our midst?

In our study of the animals, have we skipped a step?  Perhaps we need first to more fully understand our connection to earth – to rivers, trees, stones – then look at animals in this same context as examples of how they relate to earth.  In PV, can we explore and better understand how to reach the good point of balance in walking on this earth with the passion and respect that can lead to the burning bush moments?  Can we live as B’nei Ad’maht Kodesh? - Chidren of the Sacred Ground?  Ideas for this year’s Village bubbled up: should we come to the village with an animal power/totem in mind to explore; should we set up a meditation walk that might lead us to break into clans based on our connection to animals; should we speak in council from the essence of the animal that we carry; should we make animal masks together?

What about animals that scare or repulse us, such as, for some, snake?  How do we understand our individual reactions in the context of teachings of our tradition regarding snake as trickster, or healer?  How do we understand the “way of the snake on rock” (“Derech nahash ahley tzur”, Proverbs 30:19), which perplexed even Solomon the Wise? And what of the human animal?  What is implied in the teaching from Ezekiel’s mystical vision of the Chariot and the Hebrew medicine wheel, that the human represents one of 4 positions, the South, in relation to Buffalo (West), Eagle (North), and Lion (East)?

Rooster, hen, dove, and eagle – Perek Shirah

The ode to earth and all its beings known as Perek Shirah closes the chapter on animal powers in “Magic of the Ordinary”.  We read of the 7 calls of the rooster, showing a gradual awakening, moving from direct spiritual connection to one of earthly purpose.  The call of rooster, like the call of shofar, a call to lift up your heads, awaken, be present.  What does it mean to lift up the heads of gates?  We recall that shepherds would often serve, in the physical presence of their bodies, as the gate that enclosed the herd.  So rooster rouses the shepherd to lift his/her head and begin his/her earthly task.

The dove is a bird of truth that speaks of oppression, speaks to the truths of living in a difficult universe versus a falsely sweetened world view.  This relates to our relation to the natural world as humans: what have we lost by so distancing ourselves from the natural world through the comforts we have created?  Yes, it is nice to have a hot shower after a week in the desert, but do our homes with their conveniences do us a disservice in removing us from more direct contact with the natural forces around us?  How can we notice the burning bush when the incandescent lights illuminate even the darkest moments of the day, pulling us out of rhythm with the natural changes in time, light, season, temperature?  And yet, would we deny ourselves the home furnace for heat in the winter, electricity to power our computers, departments of water and utilities, given our societal structure?  Or is this really a time to reappraise all these relationships and ask ourselves: where is my burning bush, and what is it trying to tell me?

Where dove speaks with a rather inward, reflective voice, eagle is bold and strong, even cocky.  Dove perhaps sees the cup as half empty, eagle as half full.  We ran out of time to explore more – will have to pick up at this point next time.

Next gathering:
Saturday, February 7, 10AM – Noon, Marc’s house.  Following our study we will begin our planning of PV , so anyone wanting to participate in that process is encouraged to come.