2016-Oct-08  Shabbat Shuvah 5777

We read Micah today for two reasons. 1) It follows Jonah, which we read last month, in the traditional order of the Prophets, and 2) in preparation for Yom Kippur where the final few verses of the book are read.

Like other Prophets, Micah says we have screwed up big-time and will suffer the consequences — yet there is forgiveness and hope.

To a greater extent than other Prophets, Micah specifically addresses criticism against the rulers and elites of his day, who sound very much like the despots, demagogues, and depraved elites of our day.  Much of what Micah says could be directly taken from the newscasts: “You drive the women way from their pleasant homes, you deprive their infants of glory forever… Because of your defilement, terrible destruction shall befall.”

Then Micah addresses, what we might call today, the 99%: “And what the Lord requires of you — only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk modestly with your God.”   It is Micah that tells us to “beat our swords into plowshares”.

Micah is a poetic work that is easily read as verse. In structure, it changes voice like the preacher appealing to various emotions. For example, after several chapters of strident condemnation, Chapter 6 suddenly becomes a pleading (or taunting) voice, with God asking, “My people, what wrong have I done you?  …Tell me.”

Here are 7:18 to 7:20, the lines read in the afternoon of Yom Kippur:
Who is a God like You,
Forgiving iniquity
And remitting transgression;
Who has not maintained His wrath forever
Against the remnant of His own people,
Because He loves graciousness!

He will take us back in love;
He will cover up our iniquities,

You will hurl all our sins Into the depths of the sea.
You will keep faith with Jacob,
Loyalty to Abraham,
As You promised on oath to our fathers In days gone by.
May it come to be.


Hi All

You're invited to join us as we continue our informal monthly Torah study group.  We'll meet on an alternate date this month to "pass over" the Labor Day weekend.  Passover Villagers, Steve & Sandy, have graciously offered to host at their home in Agoura.

At the end of this email below my signature are some reflections from those present last time, unattributed but verbatim.

We meet again on:

September 10, 2016
10 am till Noon

Home of Steve & Sandy in Agoura (near 101 and Liberty Canyon)

RSVP for exact address and directions: 

Skype has been working pretty well for us.  We've had multiple participants from far-flung locales (practically) sitting in the living room with us.  Send me a Skype contact request (danbrumer) and you can join us from wherever you are.

As always, visit the blog for lots more:  http://passovervillage.blogspot.com/

See you soon!

C 310-396-0706

Thoughts and reflections from last time, August 6th:

The comment I remember was that generations of Rabbis altered Torah to reflect their interpretations. This reminded me of "The DaVinci Code" where the author posited that the original teachings of Christ were much more in line with modern morals (equality of the sexes, etc) than the "rewritten" teachings that became the 16-20th century church.  My summation of Amos was the theme of free will: that there is a natural order of consequences whereby if we as individuals and as peoples do the wrong things too many times (all 4 directions) that  the higher power (Hashem) will punish us, according to what Amos prophesized, but that if we abstain from bad choices in time, and return to treating each other in accordance with the commandments, that we will flourish. My take home message is that we have to decide which prophets to believe, ie. ultimately look in our own hearts and be our own moral compass.

When I can look Life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And taken in exchange -- my youth.
-- Sarah Teasdale

1) There is a recurring theme of "You get to sin 3 times, but the fourth your are screwed."
2) The idea of encirclement is tied to the number four. Israel is surrounded by enemies. Rich people sin against the small farmer by encircling his land. To encircle someone on 4 sides is to surround them, and permit no escape.
3) Threats of Divine punishment are meted out against Israel as well as its neighbors.
4) This is in keeping with Amos' idea that G*d is the G*d of all nations, not just Israel.
5) Economic justice is more important than ceremony.  It is easy to imagine Amos raging against the 1%.
6) I do not remember Sarah's exact point, but it was along the lines that the prophets' Hell fire-Damnation talk is good theater.
7) Amos's rant ends on a positive note, with images of juicy mountains and perfectly productive land.

Amos (/ˈeɪməs/; Hebrew: עָמוֹס , Modern Amos, Tiberian ʻāmōs) was one of the Twelve Minor Prophets. An older contemporary of Hosea and Isaiah, Amos was active c. 750 BC during the reign of Jeroboam II, (786–746 BC). He was from the southern Kingdom of Judah but preached in the northern Kingdom of Israel. Amos wrote at a time of relative peace and prosperity but also of neglect of YHWH's laws. He spoke against an increased disparity between the very wealthy and the very poor. His major themes of social justice, God's omnipotence, and divine judgment became staples of prophecy. The Book of Amos is attributed to him.

1.     Was frustrated with reading the “prophecy” in real time but came to appreciate its metaphorical significance. It seemed to foretell nothing but bad actors and bad motivation (by the Israelite’s neighbors and by the Jews themselves). Forced myself to read ahead to the very last section and , lo and behold, the wisdom of the prophecy seemed to show itself in God’s forgiveness and the patience and the righteousness of earthly (human) endurance . 
2.     I did like the poetic phrasing of the “…not 3 but 4” passages…repeated several times, as a lyrical presentation of some pretty NASTY content.
3.     Also appreciated Avrahm’s interpretation of the metaphor presented in Amos, re: the ‘wisdon’ and ‘eldership’ of Amos speaking about good and bad, action and consequences, in such a matter-of-fact kind of way to demonstrate that there is both virtue and evil in all our souls…hence the struggle to find peace and justice in everyday life.

And this passage from Wiki was interesting discussing the implications of Social Justice that we speak of regularly (and did so last Sat)
Social Justice
Ancient Interpretations:
The ancient exhortation to what in modern times would be considered social justice is expressed by the voice of God in Amos' teachings. Amos is told by God that the Israelites are going to face divine intervention as institutionalized oppression was running rampant in Israel. God expressed this institutionalized oppression by saying that the Israelites were practicing religiosity without righteousness. By oppressing the poor and failing to practice justice the Israelites were behaving unrighteously; social justice was to be enacted as a core of God’s message in Amos' prophetic teachings.
Modern Interpretations:
Within a few speeches associated with the Civil Rights Movement and political address, Amos' teachings can be found. In Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech “I Have a Dream”, King quotes the Book of Amos. The enticing “we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” was alluding to Amos' message of social justice and by doing so heightened the morale of the oppressed African American population during the Civil Rights Movement (Amos 5:24 ). Similarly and using the very same quote, Bernie Sanders referenced Amos' in his campaign speech, rhetorically implying he stands for social justice.

I hardly remember this am but it was lovely:  I do remember all the imagery of destruction, fire and brimstone but ending with that beautiful passage of honey dripping from the mountains, and "everything right with the world"----that was so beautiful; may it come to be!

The One Who Is says:

Days are coming when your bounty is so great
that the season for plowing will overlap the season
for reaping;
when the pressing of grapes will overla the planting
of new seed;
when the moutains shall drip wine
and all the hills shall wave with grain.

I will restore you....

I will plant upon your land,
and never again shall you be uprooted from it....

--Amos 9:13-15


Dear Friends,

YOU are invited to join us as we resume our monthly informal Study Group gatherings.

We will meet at a private home in Encino, not on Saturday but on SUNDAY, JUNE 12th from 10 am to Noon.  RSVP by phone or email for exact location and directions.

IF YOU CAN'T ATTEND IN PERSON we invite you to join us via Skype.  Send a message to me at danbrumer on Skype and we'll set it up.

As always, VISIT the blog to catch up on Marc's insightful notes from past study sessions.  And SUBSCRIBE to the blog so you'll know when there's a new post:  http://passovervillage.blogspot.com

Looking forward to seeing you!


C 310-396-0706


Dear Passover Villagers,

IF YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE TO PLANNING:  Join us this Saturday, April 2nd from 10 to Noon.  
Call or write for exact location and directions.

Registration for Passover Village 2016 is now OPEN!



Dear Passover Villagers,

Registration for Passover Village 2016 is now OPEN!

This year we will be returning to the Angeles National Forest (specific location with registration), a pleasant drive about 90 minutes from Los Angeles and less than an hour via a two-lane paved highway (HWY 2) from the La Canada-Flintridge area.  The group camp at 5000' elevation is similar in amenities our site in Joshua Tree (which was at 3000' elevation) but in the forest vs. the desert.  Any passenger car can easily make the trip as the elevation gain is very gradual and the road is in very good condition (and if your car has made it up the steep grades from Palm Springs to Yucca Valley, it will be just fine here). Bonus features include running water available right in the kitchen area and a large communal fire circle.  And, there's a great spot for our community mishkan (tent).  

April 28 – May 1, 2016

Come Early:
Camp is available to us as early as 3:00 pm Wednesday, April 27th.  Otherwise, plan to arrive by 8:00 am Friday at the latest to set-up your personal camp and join the opening circle at 9:00 am.

The Elements in Psalms
Passover Village 2016 Kavannah: “The Elements in the Psalms”

Ruach (Wind/Spirit/Air) - Mayim (Water) - Aish (Fire)

These are the first 3 sefirot of the Tree of Life described in the ancient mystical Hebrew text, Sefer Yetzirah, written in an age well before the understandings of Keter, Hochman, Binah we now carry.  We were once a tribal, earth-based people living with an intimate understanding of our connection to Earth, the primal Elementals, and Spirit that we would likely not recognize today. 

Still, to this day our ancient ways of connection with the elements and nature are accessible to us, permeating all of Jewish scripture, including the Book of Psalms.

Members of Passover Village have been digging into Psalms during the past year to learn what it says about nature, what we can learn of our relation to Air, Water, Fire, Earth, nature and of their relation to us.

To the Psalmist, every aspect of nature is a path to holiness. Psalm 104, for example can open doorways when it speaks about:

light, sky, water, cloud, wind, fire, earth, ocean,
mountain, thunder, valley, spring, beast, fowl, tree,
fruit, grass, cattle, herb, nest, goat, rock, moon,
sun, season, night, sea creature, smoke, breath, dust.

On Passover we retell the story of the exodus of our Hebrew ancestors from Egypt, Mitzrayim, the “narrow place”.  Egypt was the Big City of its era. Our lives there were regulated by big government and the predictable flow of a big river. Leaving its relative comfort and security to enter the wilderness, we were forced to become more attuned to nature. Perhaps that is why the Passover Seder is replete with stories and symbols of nature such as greens, herbs, wine, water, fire, darkness, animals, blood and plagues.

Join us for this year's Passover Village seder, which will be informed by what the psalms say about nature and about our connection to the most basic of life forces.  Perhaps in our current age of uncertainty, reconnecting to the basic elements of our existence will offer a path to new, and old, understandings that will help guide us through the wildernesses we now face.

P.S. Take a look at the Passover Village Blogspot to view notes on this year’s rich study of the elements and nature in Psalms  http://passovervillage.blogspot.com/

The Leadership Council is considering videotaping portions of this year's gathering, including community activities and some of the ritual time.  

While the purposes of the project is evolving, our goal is to share what we do with others who might want to create their own community exploration of their heritage, culture or faith. 

This will be an experiment in sharing the wisdom and magic of our community and spiritual retreats.
We are taking steps to assure that the filming is as unobtrusive as practical and with assurances that personal and private shares and activities are kept confidential. The Leadership Council will retain editorial and distribution authority so that nothing personal is disclosed without approval and nothing is presented insensitively or inappropriately. This includes the possibility that none of the footage will be distributed.

In the past the presence of a camera, particularly during community or ritual sessions, has been consciously limited or restricted to prevent intrusion and distraction.  In actively inviting a videographer to document representative proceedings we risk spontaneity, self-consciousness, and more. 

Yet with awareness and planning we hope to minimize any intrusion or distraction and safeguard privacy while gathering the sights, sounds, and words of our community and sacred space.
While it will be a challenge, we hope it will result in an even more inspiring Passover Village experience. 

If we do decide to proceed, registration for this event will include a Release for Videotaping. 

REGISTRATION INFORMATION (you may also use the form below): 
Send the following (required):
1.  payment (requested contribution is $90/adult or child 13-and-over; children 12-and-under free!)
2.  The name, phone number, and email address of each adult being registered
3.  The name and ages of any children aged 17-and-under, and the name of the adult registrant who will be responsible for each child.
4.  The number and description of vehicles.
5.  The date and time you plan to arrive.
6.  Make checks payable to LARRY RICHARD
7.  Mail to:

Larry Richard
2118 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 594
Santa Monica, CA 90403

(Larry's cell:  310-560-6004)

* Must be received by April 1, 2016 to confirm your space.
* Includes all camping fees and catered Seder meal.
* Genuine financial hardship should not keep you from attending.  Please let us know how you can contribute.
* Volunteers needed:  help loading gear on Wed April 27th, unloading gear on Sun May 1st


By registering for this retreat, attendees also agree to the following:

Photography and Recordings:

-- When we are gathered In Community with a common focus, or "In Session," put away cameras and recording devices.
-- When we are not gathered as a focused community, having lunch, talking with others, etc., photos and recording are allowed within bounds of respect, privacy and permission: Be discrete, non-intrusive, and respectful of all participants when taking any photographs or recording; some may prefer not to be photographed or recorded at all.
-- Do not publish photos or recordings in public media
-- If unsure about a photo or recording, do not take or publish it.
Personal Displays and Self Promotion: 
In the spirit of a retreat, so that we might leave behind the things of the day to day world, please do not bring personal displays or promotional items into community areas.
Thank you!

This is encouraged and a great way to start the Village before you arrive.  Let us know if you need or can offer a ride. 

If you find you will be traveling alone, please consider offering to partner with another Passover Villager to share driving, camp set-up and meals.  If you are strong, please share.  If you are not so strong, please ask for help.  

ACCESSIBILITY: The campground is accessible via road. The outhouses meet ADA requirements for accessibility. Most of the campsite is sandy or loose soil, making wheelchair mobility difficult. But as during our exodus from Egypt, when the infirm and disabled were carried, we will accommodate special needs.


Parking is limited in the group site parking lot.  
Overflow parking is available nearby within the campground.

* As mentioned above, our group site has running water in the kitchen area, though this is not guaranteed (check with campground via link below for last minute campsite updates). 
* Multiple picnic tables and a community barbecue pit  
* Pit toilet in weather-protected brick building
There are sites for individual tents scattered throughout the group site.
* This is a family-friendly site, however it is in the National Forest and precautions are advised for the occasional bear (not as likely during our busy season, but possible).
* As mentioned above, this site is NOT a very short drive from stores, motels or B&B accommodations.  While these are available in La Canada/Flintridge note that each trip to or from the Village site will require a 45-minute drive each way and is not recommended.
* Exact location and directions will be provided after registration.  Please don't plan to "just drop by."
* Visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/angeles for complete National Forest Service details

We hope there is enough information provided here but if you have any questions, call or write at your earliest opportunity!

See you soon,

C 310-396-0706


He Makes the Wind His Messengers

Notes from Torah Study 12-6-15

Location: Devorah’s

Torah Study
Quick check-ins, which seemed to be focused on various aches, pains, and physical complaints (oy vey!), then back into Psalm 104.

Ps 104:1-4  “ ... He makes the wind his messengers, the flaming fire his ministers” 
The early verses begin their high praise of God (Barchi Nahfshi et-YHVH – my Soul, give blessings to Adonai!), then quickly connect us to the cardinal elements as recognized in the Hebrew tradition: Avir/Air; Mayim/Water; Aish/Fire.   Sefer Yetzirah associates these elements with the 3 Mother letters: Aleph, Mem, and Shin respectively – Ah’Mah’Sheh as an acronym.  These Mother letters are also associated with the top 3 sefirot on the Aitz Chaim: Keter (Ruach Elohim Chaim – Breath/Air of the Living Creator);  Hochmah (Mayim mi’Ruach – Water from Breath); and Binah (Aish mi’mayim – fire from water).  This is indigenous Hebrew mind at it’s finest, connecting us with the most primordial of substances in the elements, and making the direct link between our experience of Nature and the Divine.

The poetry of the psalmist takes our breath away, describing God as the One who “walks on the wings of the wind”.  Each breeze is a message from the Divine – are we paying attention enough to decipher the message of that Spirit/Angel?  Fire is a minister, serving the Divine through its flaming heat and light.  The animism within the Hebrew conceptualization of the world around is clearly apparent here, just as when the Talmud tells us that there is a malach (angel or spirit) associated with every single blade of grass.

The wind comes down from the Ain Sof, winds down through our Sefirot, fires down the spine, connecting us to Earth.  And, the wind coming to us doesn’t stop there.  How is the wind itself changed when it interacts with you?

Who is God?!  Who is He?!
The impassioned, impatient question arose in the circle, demanding an answer.  What is this psalm talking about?  All the anthropomorphisms are disturbing.  Do Jews, in fact, believe in a white-bearded deity in the sky?  Is “He” “God”?  Why all this “He” and “You” talk?  

Deep discussion followed, as we searched for the core Jewish belief regarding the conceptualization of God, and how that understanding relates to the natural world. We acknowledge that we are entirely inadequate to convey in language or in concept the answer to that question.  The best we can do is to describe attributes or manifestations of the Divine through our horribly inadequate language.  God as our Hebrew understanding has it, is truly unknowable, unspeakable (we don’t even know how to pronounce the holiest “name” of God), an infinite, indescribable, depth.  This seems quite  comparable to the Native American concept of Great Mystery.  All we can really describe is the manifestation of harmony and beauty, Divine harmony, as we experience it in the natural world, which is what the psalm is trying to do.  And this attempt is what is described by our name, Yis’ra’el – one who will wrestle with God.  We can start with acknowledging the Presence, naming attributes, and perhaps then, through meditation or other means, elevating our understanding of God to a non-verbal level. 

A try: God as we conceptualize It, is a universal, connecting Consciousness or Presence

Can we do a silent PV, without words, only in dance, movement, tune?  Perhaps.  And yet language is so distinctly Human, what characterizes us as different than other beings.  Thus, there are the Stone Beings (domem), Sprouting Beings (tz’machim), and Living Beings (animals, Chayot).  Then there are the Speaking Beings, the M’dabrim, human beings.  So perhaps the question is how do we acknowledge our nature as speaking beings AND ALSO come to understand things in non-verbal, non-language-based ways as well.  And our tradition tells us that all these other beings are contained within us, so we clearly must have the capacity to understand things in the “languages” of these other beings.  Perhaps it is just that we are out of balance, relying too much on our language, and need to get back to understandings at more earthy levels. 

The violence we all are carrying
The shadows of the recent horrors in Paris and San Bernardino were present among us, and  brought much discussion, only part of which is captured here:
·      Some say that today, despite all the terrors we are living with, is actually the least violent period of all human history in terms of absolute numbers.  Compared to the millions killed during the World Wars for example, there is much less loss of life in today’s world.  But as we are so much more connected throughout the world in terms of communication and travel, each event is known, transmitted, and experienced immediately wherever it occurs. 
·      It is so helpful to read the other texts.  Studying the sacred texts of the 3 of the Abrahamic religions in a multicultural women’s group, one arrives at the bottom line: it is all about Mystery. 
·      All I can do is say Kaddish. 

We closed our study with Oseh Shalom, asking the Holy One to make peace, replacing the last 3 words “ahl kol Yisrael” (peace upon all Israel) with “kol yoshvay tevel” (peace upon all who dwell in this plane of existence, including all beings, All Our Relations,  human and otherwise).  There is no “Other”.

Chanukah party followed – Chag Chanukah Sameach!!!

Next Gathering: Saturday, January 2
Location: Marc & Tobi’s
10-12: Torah study
12-1: Pot-luck lunch

1 - ???: envisioning “retreat” and planning for PV 2016 and beyond

Bless the Holy One, oh my Soul!

Notes from Torah Study 11-7-15

Location: Dan & Laurie’s

Torah Study
After jumping around and struggling through some early psalms, 11-13, the energy enlivened when Laurie took us into Psalm 104 (which we had partially visited the first Torah study this year, when Larry brought us to this psalm).  Some scattered, mostly unedited, notes from the psalms discussed:

Ps 11:2  “ .. . the upright of heart”  (yish’ray lev)
·      Buber’s “I-Thou”
·      David is in I-Thou relationship with Hashem, whereas his wicked advisors say flee
·      Indigenous – make decisions from the heart. Feeling informs thinking – anterior cingulate of brain has feeling cells and decision making cells
·      Sufi – heart guide

Ps 12:3: “ . . . they speak from a double heart (Hebrew: lev va’lev)
·      2 hearts = insincere heart
·      Zalman translation: with smooth talk, but their heart is not with what they say with their mouth
·      “politic-ing”

Ps 12:7: “like silver refined in the finest smelting earth, clarified sevenfold”
·      Process – we’re about process, refining ourselves
·      Why silver? Silver is soft
·      Gold is gold when you see it.  Silver ore does not look like silver – must refine it
·      This is the human process of understanding the word of YHVH – the process of refinement through the lower 7 sefirot
·      Such refinement is an indigenous process

Psalm 13:3  “ . . . melancholy in my heart (l’vav) even by day?”
Is your heart in l’vav (2 bets, 2 houses, divided heart) or in lev (one house – lev ta’hor , pure heart)

Ps 104:1: “Bless YHVH, my Soul”  (barchi nahfshi et YHVH)
·      The psalm first speaks to YHVH, then about YHVH
·      How many references are made to the soul?
·      This psalm was recited on the New Moon – huge for our indigenous-minded people, reminding ourselves regarding all aspects of nature

104:4: Who makes the winds (spirits; ruchot) his messengers (angels; m’lachim), the flaming fire His servants”
In Hebrew Earth-mind (indigenous mind), the primal elements are in service to YHVH

These beings speak from the depth of my being

Process being in the heart:  Lev (pure in heart) L’vav (divided heart) – throughout Tanach these 2 words are used to mean heart, and this difference between them, pure vs divided/troubled

This came forth from the lev of David
Earlier psalms were of oppression, fear à now of joy and awe and gratitude – a map for our lives

There is a theme throughout this psalm: honor Spirit and earth will give back to you. 

God us “up there” and you get all this “down here”.  If the interaction is correct, all will grow and be wonderful.

Reciprocity – when in right relation, it all flows

104:13: He waters the mountains from his highest heavens

“highest heaven” can be here

Keter – can’t know it, God is there.  But we can know earth, Malchut.

This is not about humans
Take out human-centrism
Idea of Dominion is not accurate – not “rule”, but responsibility, husbandry

104:19: “He made the moon for festivals, the sun knows its destination (lit: “from where it is coming”
This is the essence of sun and moon
Seeing new moon was first mitzvah given to Israel as left Egypt

104:33: “I will sing to YHVH . . .. “
I want to find a new song.  Psalms à songs in liturgy.  Torah verse à meditational chant.  Praying for the melody.

Do the Meditation Walk on this psalm?
I will sing to YHVH
I will rejoice in YHVH

My Soul, bless YHVH!