Registration & Kavanah for Passover Village 2017

Dear Friends,

Registration for Passover Village 2017 is now OPEN!

This email has information for registration but not everything else.  Please also visit: http://passovervillage.blogspot.com for other Passover Village info.

This year we will be returning to the spectacular group camps in Joshua Tree National Monument.  Exact location and directions will be provided with registration confirmation.

April 14 – April 16, 2017

Come Early:
Camp is available to us as early as 3:00 pm Wednesday, April 12th.  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.

Kavanah (Spiritual Intention) for Passover Village 2017

A voice calls out
In the wilderness, open a path to the Holy One!

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
And I don’t know the kind of person you are
A pattern that others made may prevail in the world
And following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
                                                                                    William Stafford

From the Leadership Council:

For the past 21 years, our Passover Village community has journeyed into the desert on Passover to reclaim indigenous Hebrew traditions and earth-based ways of being.  We have all-but lost these traditions during the last two millennia of “civilization.”  Returning to the land on Passover has been our means to feel our way back to our core being. We do so by creating a three-day encampment during which we renew connections with our ancestors and nature through storytelling, council, ceremony, song, and community.   This year we will again celebrate together in holy community under the sun and stars, amongst the coyotes, desert tortoises, and yucca plants at Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave desert.

Tradition demands that we relate the story of our liberation from slavery and oppression in Egypt as if we, ourselves, had been present in that Exodus.  The ancient story teaches universal lessons of freedom, renewal, and connection to Earth for all peoples.  Together with a mixed multitude of other peoplesthe Children of Israel ventured into the wilderness seeking to serve Spirit. With this model of a multicultural, multilingual, and multicolored mass of heart-based community of seekers, we, humbly and with great respect, invite people of all tribes and faiths to share the Passover celebration with us this year.

There is now a special urgency. Our post-11/8 world requires new ways of being, that are old ways of being.  The Hebrew prophets called out doom and gloom and yet opened a path through the wilderness back to the Holy.  The times call upon elders to bring accumulated wisdom to the world, and balance back to the culture. Since 11/8, we have been gathering in council circles to share from the heart and seek ways to traverse the dangerous chasm that has opened in our nation.

So it is in this spirit that we welcome people of all faiths and tribes to join in the wider conversation that Passover can inspire. We learn from each other’s tribal wisdom traditions and stories of liberation. We bridge divisions and estrangement.  Coming together with peoples of good heart and spirit is the path through the moral wilderness that separates, divides, and oppresses us individually.

This year in Joshua Tree.
Next year in a world of social and environmental justice.

REGISTRATION INFORMATION (you may also use the attached form): 
Send the following (required):
1.  * Payment (requested contribution is $90/adult or child 13-and-over; 
children who are 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, 2017 to confirm your space.
* Includes all camping fees and delicious, catered Seder meal.
* Genuine financial hardship should not keep you from attending.  Please let us know how you can contribute.
* Volunteers needed:  1) help loading gear on Wed April 12th, 2) transporting to and from camp, 3) unloading gear on Sun April 16th


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 strongly encouraged and a great way to start the Village before you arrive.  Parking onsite is very limited.  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 a short drive away and shuttle rides back to camp can be arranged as needed.  RV parking is restricted by size (25’ max) as well as total number of all vehicles.

* Our secluded group site is nestled within a 100’ surround of the enigmatic and evocative boulders of Joshua Tree 
* We do not have running water however community water supply and personal water containers can be filled for free at the ranger station about one mile away
* Multiple picnic tables and a community barbecue pit  
* Two pit toilets 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 Park and precautions are advised against the elements and around prickly shrubs.
* This site is a 2-3 hour drive from the Los Angeles area. Motels or B&B accommodations can be found in nearby Twentynine Palms if you cannot camp.
* Exact location and directions will be provided after registration.  Please don't plan to "just drop by."
* Visit https://www.nps.gov/jotr/index.htm for complete National Park 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


Looking Outward

The Passover Village has been meeting for 21 years, going into the desert as a group of Hebrews/Jews plus friends to draw inspiration from nature and to relive our Exodus into freedom.

In a recent daylong Leadership Council meeting, we decided that we can not address our liberation this year by looking inward.

Instead, we are looking outward and inviting members of other faith and tribal traditions to join us to share their stories, too, and find what we have in common.

Watch for more information or contact a member of Leadership Council.


Indigenous Hebrew Reflections on Standing Rock

Indigenous Hebrew Reflections on Standing Rock

Some context to what follows: Although we may not have known exactly what we were getting into at the time, 21 years ago we in the nascent Passover Village (PV) began a quest to dig down deep into the Earth to recover our connection to our ancient Hebrew ancestors and reclaim our indigenous Hebrew soul.  As current events have evolved, with the election of a neo-fascist government, the accelerating destruction of Earth through climate change, and the rise of  a grass roots indigenous resistance movement, I am left to ponder what the wisdom of an authentic Hebrew indigenous tradition has to offer in these times.  What follows then are some reflections on my experiences at Standing Rock in early December.

It has been just over a month since I returned from 3 days in Standing Rock.  Although I could only go for a short time, I knew I had to go, to be there, to witness, to see and understand with my own eyes, to support those protectors who were on the front lines.  People ask me: “How was it?”.  I don’t have the words to answer.  “Great!” is an absurd answer.  “Amazing”, inadequate.  “Real” perhaps getting closer, but no one would understand that answer.  “A walking prayer” is perhaps the most accurate, but there is little in the Western mind to understand the depth of what that means.
When you drive into the Oceti Sakowin camp and get out of the car, there is a palpable sense that you have entered another world, another way of being.  It is a community of prayer.  It is a community of ceremony.  It is a community of respect.  People live there in a different mind, and a different heart, from the way we live in modern, western culture.  One knows the air you are breathing is different, though you may not quite know how.  We dropped off our offerings of buffalo meat to the kitchen and medical supplies to the medic tent.  I looked for my sweat lodge brother’s tipi, but couldn’t find it.  We made our way to the dome, where the day’s schedule of meetings was posted on a white board and where the community meets in council each morning, but it was afternoon and we would have to wait for the next day for our orientation.  We met a young woman with bright eyes and wide-open heart, who welcomed us and told us of communal tents where someone without their own shelter could sleep.  We made our way to the sacred fire in the center of the camp, where the man on the microphone announced comings and goings – this person needs a ride to Bismarck, this person needs some firewood – and where the drummers and singers interspersed sacred Lakota prayer songs.  I recognized the songs from my travels on the Red Road, and I recognized the feelings of being around the central fire, seeing the man tend it with intention and stillness, focus and deference.  I knew that I stood in the heart place of a community of prayer, standing there with all those who had been there for months and all those who, like us, had just recently arrived to stand with the Native peoples. A tall native man, a US combat veteran with an American flag tucked into his backpack, had just that moment arrived to the camp and was given the mike.  He had walked much of the way from Oklahoma.  As he spoke, other native veterans joined the group, made a circle, and welcomed this man, giving him water, food, and shelter.  And I knew then what this struggle was about, the struggle which we had come to support.

Colonial Mind
You must know, it isn’t just about water, though water is the precipitant reason for the current stand.  And it is right that water should be - that Elemental that carries the essence of fluidity, purification, healing, constant movement and flowing.  “You will draw forth the water with joy from the wellsprings of salvation ”, Isaiah tells us.   Of course water is calling us.  But it isn’t about her only.  She is the force of healing, what is needed to heal, and it is for that global healing that we are called together to stand, and to point out to our friends, relatives, the world. 

Our world has suffered terribly for over 2000 years from a plague I will call “colonial mind”.  It is the plague of a way of thinking that is imperialistic, greedy, colonial, and conquest-driven, combined with a religious scaffolding that claims to be the god-given “Way”.   This is a mind that across the ages has led to death, genocide, environmental destruction, and repetitive cycles of tragedy.  It is the mind that says we need more, more, always more – more oil, more profit, more land, more growth.  It is the mind that led to the Native American genocide, which most people in our country won’t even acknowledge or think about, let alone address honestly.  It led to the shameful practice of American slavery of African peoples and the ongoing fallout from that horrific trauma.  And it led to millennia of persecution, hatred, and massacres of my people, the Jews, culminating in the Holocaust.  It is a mind of arrogance and narcissism, a taking mentality, and it is the basis for the dominant culture of the United States, which promotes greed, status, and individual success above such communal values of balance, harmony, and respect for all things.

As a Jew, it is easy to blame Christianity for this state of affairs, specifically the Pauline  Christianity  that chose to supercede rather than co-exist with Judaism, the Christianity that was combined and launched with the abusive, imperial power of Rome under Constantine.  This led to centuries of persecution, pogroms, forced conversions, and Holocaust.  But I also have to look in the mirror, and read the sacred texts of my own people to see what role we may have played as well.  One does not have to look far.  In the Torah, God gives Moses the charge: wipe out the Canaanite nations that are currently in the land into which I will bring you so that you may possess it and inherit it (Deuteronomy 20:17).  Is this not imperial/colonial mind, justified and presented by the writers of the Torah as an instruction from the Holy One?  And the Book of Joshua describes this conquest in gruesome, bloody detail, the slaughter of every man, woman, and child, and even animals of village after village.   I can’t help but think: is not this the precursor, some 3000 years earlier, of the policy of Manifest Destiny that was used in the genocide of the native peoples of North America?  Did Judaism then, through its sacred scriptures, play a role in transmitting this poison into the world, which then Christianity took to such murderous extent, that it now infects the entire planet?   Why didn’t Joshua “just say no”?  There was precedent for disagreeing with Divine instruction. When God told Abraham he was going to destroy Sodom and Gemorrah, Abraham argued with God to spare the cities for the sake of only 10 righteous people that might still live there (Genesis 18:32).  This is understood as one of the 10 tests of Abraham, who is understood in the Jewish tradition to represent the archetype of Hesed, loving-kindness.  But neither Joshua nor Moses challenged the Holy One at this critical moment. Perhaps that was their test, and they failed miserably.  And we are still suffering to this day because of it.  

DAPL and Energy Transfer Partners is just the latest manifestation of this destructive mind.  They see nothing wrong with putting a pipeline under one of the biggest water sources in the United States, desecrating (yet again) sacred Native lands and burial sites, ignoring (yet again) treaties made with the native peoples, because it will lead to profit.  For to them, really, nothing else matters.  Oil spills and death of animals and poisoning of water – it’s not the water the CEOs and investors of Energy Transfer Partners drink, so why care about a bunch of poor brown and red people who will have their water poisoned?  And it must be known by all that DAPL is not the only oil pipeline being built, for ugly and dangerous black snakes of pipelines are crossing the nation.  But DAPL is just a symptom, just another example of the destructive, crazy mind that has destroyed countless indigenous peoples, that has polluted our air and brought us climate change that threatens all of our existence (which of course that mind denies, against all objective evidence, because if it did not deny, it would have to actually face the facts of what it has done and is doing). 

These Times
So, it’s clear we are in a time, a new time.  Let’s call it “these times”.  With the rise in the U.S. of a mostly white, abusive, greed-driven, power hungry, racist, fascist-leaning government, it should be clear to all what we are facing.  We cannot pretend this is not happening, or we will all be destroyed.  As Martin Luther King said, “Together we must learn to live as brothers, or together we will be forced to perish as fools.”  And as the Lakota people teach, we must think of the children 7 generations down from us, and base every action from that perspective.  Or as the Hebrew people say, the wrongdoings of the fathers will be transmitted 11 generations . . . unless we say “no”.  Unless we stand, and meet the test.  The Standing Rock Sioux have given us a great gift.  In their example, they have shown us what it means to have fortitude, bravery, compassion, respect, and humility.  It is time to stand to save the Earth Mother and the community of all beings.  It is time to stop the greed-driven destruction.  Good people of good heart can do this.  All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people do nothing. 

Back to my time at Standing Rock.  The native people told us, in our orientation to the camp where they transmitted the words of the elders, to look at our actions, to explore our colonized minds, to understand that we are “settler citizens” and have been acting like this for hundreds of years.  Custer raped the Black Hills for gold, Energy Transfer rapes the land for black gold. 

And also, I feel there is another important element.  We must see our “enemies” as “no enemies”.  These are human beings, like us.  And they are also traumatized, either personally or culturally or historically, and they know not what they do.  So, while standing firmly and resolutely, we must stand with empathy and love and complete nonviolence. The struggle is not one to be engaged with anger and hatred.  That is the very mind we are struggling against.  We must remain in our hearts, with prayer, ceremony, community.  This is the gift given to us by the Standing Rock Sioux and the historic gathering of over 200 other native tribes who have joined them in North Dakota.  We must stand for the Earth, for our children and their children, and theirs down 7 or 11 generations, with a love so deep, and a desire for peace and balance so strong, that all the genocidal forces of that colonial mind have no way to get traction.  If such a stand had happened in the 1930s in Germany, 6 million of my people would not have been slaughtered.  If this had happened in the United States in the decades preceding the late 19th century, the genocide of the native peoples of this continent would not have happened. 

But it seems not enough to know what we are standing against.  It seems we must know what we are standing for.  And for that, again, we owe a debt of gratitude to the native peoples, and in this case the Standing Rock Sioux in particular.  One just need look around the camp and listen to the teachings of the elders to understand what this movement is all about.  It is about prayer, ceremony, community, connection to Earth, and connection to Spirit. All spiritual traditions that speak to these common values are welcome at the table.  A Judaism that lives by “love your neighbor as you love yourself” is welcome to join a movement that honors “all my relations”.  But a Judaism that thrives on the Joshuaic idea that justifies oppression, imprisonment, and killing because “God gave us this land, and it is ours not theirs” is off track and out of balance with both the land and our fellow human beings.  A Christianity that follows the loving teachings of Jesus is welcome, but the Chrisitanity feels it is  “the way”, and that God has given it license to put down other traditions as “Christ killers”, “savages”, or other historical epithets that self-justified conquest, power, and genocide, is not welcome, and must look at itself fully in the mirror and make amends.  An Islam that is guided by the loving principles of the prophet is welcome, but a murderous Islam that twists the meaning of jihad, beheads civilians, and terrorizes people of all faiths is not.

In the Torah God gives the people the challenge: you may choose blessing, or curse, life or death (Deuteronomy 30:19).  It seems too long that humankind has followed the path of curse.  This path is one of division, self-righteousness, imbalance, greed, extraction capitalism, use, and abuse.  Really, haven’t we all had enough?.  The positive and loving messages of all faiths show us the path: prayer, ceremony, community, Earth, Spirit.  Isn’t it about time we chose the blessing?  Isn’t it about time we chose life?

Water is Life
Mni wiconi, water is life.  This is the “billboard” of the Standing Rock movement.  On my last morning in the camp, I went to the dawn community prayer ceremony at the sacred fire.  An elder, a Tlingit woman from the Pacific Northwest, led the prayer and the ceremonial walk to the river.  She taught us a chant and implored us to translate it into our languages and share it.  Here is the chant and its English translation.

Mni t’hey hey hey la Water I love you
Mni wopeda e’ chi chi ya Water I thank you
Mni o ha la hey. Water I respect you

Here is my version of the Hebrew form, recognizing that I take license with some of the grammar.  I wondered, should I translate to modern Hebrew, or the ancient biblical Hebrew of our indigenous ancestors?  The latter seems more appropriate for this use, but modern Hebrew speakers would be puzzled. I ended up with a mix, for the poetry of it.  I use mostly feminine forms of the verbs – haven’t we had enough of the patriarchy, really?  And somehow the sweetness of the song, that it was sung as a processional water ceremony led by native women, gently asks for us to honor that Feminine aspect of both God and our souls.  In the Hebrew tradition we know Her as Shechinah, or long before we knew Her by that name, we knew Her as Asherah.

Mayim ohevet otach
Mayim modah ani lach, modeh ani lach
Mayim m’kavedet otach

On Being Human
Following that water ceremony, I got cold from the below 20 degree temperature and brisk wind at the river.  I was shivering as I walked through the camp, and I found my friend’s tipi.  He came out and walked me to their kitchen tent, where about 8-10 people were milling about in the cozy, propane-heated interior.  He led me to a big pot of hot beef stew, which I poured and warmed myself with from the inside as I sat by the heater.  I think I have never had such a rich and delicious stew.  I met a woman who spoke of her tribe, the Maudi of Northern California.  “I do not know of your people,” I told her, “but I will learn”.  I have.  They were one of the dozens of California Indian tribes decimated by the Catholic missions, whose leader, Junipero Serra, was recently canonized by the pope.  The woman said she really needed some thermal underlinings, and I offered the pair of women’s long underwear my mother had given me just a few days earlier to donate.  It was a brief meeting of synchronicities, of reciprocal exchange and mutual benefit, my offering her warmth as the soup and fire of the community kitchen tent warmed me.  Connections, caring, community, paying it forward.  This is what it means to be a human being.

Standing Rock and the community camps there, Oceti Sakowin, Rosebud, Standing Stone, they have shown us what is possible.  There will be many more opportunities to stand together in the coming years.  We must have heart and come together in this action.  All people from all spiritual traditions of good will must feel the call, and must come to do this.  It is the only response we can have, and the only thing that will stop the shadow that is unashamedly raising its head, yet again, in our country at this time, threatening to divide, conquer, ravage, pillage, abuse, and destroy.  We have only love, prayer, ceremony, community, Earth, Spirit, balance, harmony, respect, humility.  It is enough.

Mitakuye oyasin – All my relations.
Mayim Ha'chayim – Water is life.

Torah Study 01-07-17: Isaiah

Notes from Torah Study 01-07-17

Location: Dan & Laurie’s

Started with chant of Panu Derech , from Isaiah 40:3. 

Isaiah prophesized primarily in the kingdom of Judah at a key time in the history of the Hebrew people, just before and during the Assyrian conquest of the Northern Kingdom and near-conquest of Judah.  He was prophet during the reign of 4 kings of Judah, most notably Hezekiah, who our sages say could have been the moshiach, if only . . .

The book of Isaiah is huge, and it’s study could take us at least a full year at the rate we typically go.  However, it contains some very famous lines that have been used in Hebrew liturgy, song, and even in the general culture.  So we focused on some of those sections where these quotable quotes are found.  

The book of Isaiah, while like the other prophets has its share of doom and gloom, also is known for its transcendant vision to a time when all nations live as one, the age of moshiach.  As our study begins to wind down for the year, and as we face the impending change in government administration, it seems the more upbeat tone of Isaiah might be welcome. 

Isaiah 2:1-4: “The torah will go forth from Zion .  . . they will cut their swords into ploughs . . . no nation will lift a sword against another nation, and they will no longer learn war”
The prophet speaks of a time we all yearn for.  Haven’t we had enough of war, really?  That the same material could make swords with which to kill, and ploughs with which to work with the earth to feed, illuminates the principle, always present in Jewish teachings, of free will and freedom to choose that humans have.   Blessing or curse, life or death – the choice is always ours. 

And, again, in the verses that immediately follow this uplifting and idyllic imagery, Isaiah goes right back to elucidating the sins of the people, including bringing in other forms worship and the addiction to materialism, that are leading to national destruction.  This back and forth is present in all the prophets, reminding us that as humans we all have both parts within us at all times, the joy-heartfull and the violent-hurtful.   The prophet exhorts the people to remember their spiritual practices, not to practice those of others.  Relating this to modern trends, it does make one think of the role of honoring what has been passed down, to know one’s own ancestral spiritual heritage well at least, to have that context before exploring others. 

To answer the question “Who am I?” flows from these considerations.  Michaelangelo’s depiction on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel of God reaching out to touch Adam finger-to-finger was invoked, noting that God is pictured within a shape that has been described as that of the human brain.  Or perhaps it’s a womb?  And we also recognize that this is not the story of the Hebrew myth of First Man’s birth, as Genesis 2:7 describes first human being formed of the dust of the earth, enlivened with soul by the breath of Creator/Elohim. 

Isaiah 6:1-10 “Holy, holy, holy is the Master of Legions, the entire world is filled with His glory!”

Isaiah has a mystical vision of the Holy one, rivaling those of Moses and (later) Ezekiel.  This line, which is read daily in the Jewish siddur, is called out from one angelic being to another who are in the presence of the Holy One.  The Seraphim have six wings – do they look like insects?  Or perhaps like the structure of the Aitz Chayim?  Six alludes to the letter vav, the connecting letter meaning “and”, but also grammatically reversing past and future, as well as indicating the 6 middle sefirot in the Tree that connect the upper divine emanations to the earthly kingdom of Malchut. 

The question: “Why is God always said to be in the sky?”, led to much discussion about ideas of God imminent (as in Shechinah) and God transcendent (HaKadosh Baruch hu), as well as similar concepts in other spiritual traditions, e.g. Father Sky and Mother Earth.  We, as humans, seem to need to dichotomize in this way, see things as up and down from our own perspective.  Earth is worshipped as being here, dark, present, as compared to the out there, light, transcendent character of Sky. 

The seraphin take a hot coal from the altar with a tong – why the detail of the tong? – and touch it to Isaiah’s lips to cleanse him of his sins.  This feels like the shofar blast of Yom Kippur!    Isaiah responds to this anointment to his task with a bold “Hineni”, and he is given his marching orders to point out to the people they have ears but do not hear, and eyes but do not see.  The vision ends with the promise that though much of the nation will be lost, there will be a regeneration from the remnant, for the trunk of the tree is “holy seed”.  This is earth energy, this is the energy that regenerates the forest after a fire.  This is the energy of the Jewish people.

Isaiah 11:1  “ . . . there will go forth a shoot from the trunk of Yishai and a blossom will grow “. 
This idea of regeneration, here connected to the line of David, son of Yishai, continues in this verse.  Isaiah moves into a description of the era of the moshiach, when . . .

Isaiah 11:6  “the wolf will live with the sheep, and the leopard will lie peacefully with the kid .  . .  the earth has become filled with the knowledge of the Infinite One”
What do our prophecies offer the world?  In this era, ancient prophetic wisdom from many indigenous peoples is being made known (e.g. the condor and the eagle shall fly together).   The words of Isaiah speak of a time that will transcend nationalism and war.

And yet, and also, the times lived by Isaiah were times of tribal war, including between Israel and Judah.  And we can interpret much of the canonized Hebrew bible as being chosen to show the superiority of Judah. 

“I’m angry at religion!  Here’s the new religion – be a (expletive) human being, your religion is secondary!”  We ache for a transcendent unification beyond religion.  Or maybe not transcendant, maybe a going down, getting earthy, connection “below” the flying aspirations of religion.  And yet, religion inspired Michaelangelo,  and explains in words what can’t be put into words, serves as  conduit, a ground, a language to hold the common experiences. 

Isaiah 12:3    “ . . . and you will draw water with joy from the wellsprings of salvation . .”
The earthiness of the text brings us into joyful contact with the element of water.  Water, so present in our consciousness these days.  Mni Wiconi – water is life, the meme of the Standing Rock movement.  The rains that have been blessing LA and California these past weeks, so needed, we are so grateful.  What if, every time you drank water, bathed in water, saw water, you remembered these words of the prophet and allowed water to connect you with the Infinite.   That would be an example of living in the world with indigenous mind, or being a walking prayer, or grabbing your friend by the hand on each side and dancing in a joyous circle – mayim, mayim, mayim . . .  


Next gathering: Saturday February 4, 10-noon, location TBD

Torah Study 11-05-16: Jeremiah

Notes from Torah Study 11-05-16

Location: Marc and Tobi’s

Called in Shechinah with Lecha Dodi, and dedicated the circle to the Standing Rock protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Check-ins had several people talking about ways in which they feel more restrained in responses to situations, perhaps more thoughtful in reactions.  This led us to consider that this is one way in which an elder takes his/her place in the community: being less reactive, less likely to jump into the deep end of a situation head first (at least before knowing whether or not there are boulders just beneath the surface). 

A round of Council: Where are you in our current study of the latter prophets, in general and also vis-à-vis the topic of eldering?

·      I’m Ok with the study we’ve been doing in this circle, but not at all sure how to link it to what we do at PV
·      Not connecting to the prophets except intellectually
·      It is always darkest before the dawn - We are disconnected from Earth and from Creator
·      There is nothing new under the sun - the Dakota access pipeline in the news now, the army corp is not listening.  And there are signs – the buffalo showing up
·      Study of prophets is heady, negative, stuck and earthbound – no light
·      Elders are practical – studying prophets is like a cold dip
·      I’m not inspired (by prophet study), left me cold
·      I am a prophet, we’re all prophets
·      I am an elder – I want to share my stories.  My spirit speaks, wants to share with community
·      Study leads to understanding the historical context of the age and how it parallels with today
·      The call back to the Divine – what does that look like?
·      Prophets remind of the Heyokah (contrary) in Native American tradition
·      Intellectual gifts
·      Heyokah comparison intriguing: they are mirrors and teachers, satire to point out the difficult questions, provoke fear when people complacent and secure
·      I wish I knew what the people were doing that was so bad!
·      Damn you, damn you, damn you!!!  Why put that into the canon?
·      They were fearless, or fearful but took action anyway
·      Acceptance of eldership/leadership à take that to the community.  Proclaim our embrace of that.

Larry passed around a document he had collated, “The Messages of the Prophets”, which summarized each prophet’s basic message and quotable quotes down.   Thank you!

We read today from Jeremiah, “cherry-picking” bits of this large book to look at some of the questions raised in the above council.

Jeremiah 1:1-3: Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah of the Kohanim . . . in Anathoth, Benjamin.
We are introduced to Jeremiah, finding out he was from the clan of priests, the son of the Kohen Gadol, Hilkiah, who served during King Josiah’s reign.  He prophesied during Josiah’s reign, during which Josiah reformed the Temple and tore down all the places of worship on hills involving trees and goddess worship that had gone on throughout the history since entering the land under Joshua.  His prophecy continued through the final years of the kingdom of Judah, the final king Zedekiah, and consisted primarily of warnings of the inevitability of Jerusalem’s destruction and the peoples’ exile at the hands of Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon, and then solace to the remnant and promises of rebuilding to come. 

Jer 1:7: Do not say “I am just a youth”!
As HaShem gives him his prophet’s license, Jerry, like Moses before him, tries to defer, saying he does not know how to speak, and that he is “just a youth”.  Can’t get away from your destiny, God responds, youth or elder or whatever, you must speak – “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you . . . wherever I send you, you shall go, whatever I shall command you, you shall speak.”  There is the sense that we are all born to destiny, and that speaking our truth, no matter our age or position in society, is what is intended.

Jer 6:1:  . . .sound the shofar in Tekoa and hoist a flag over Beth-cherem . . .”
The English translation loses the poetry and alliteration of the Hebrew ( vit’koah tik’u) in the play of words for the Judean town of Tekoa and the Tekiah of the shofar blast.  This line also alludes to the use of shofar and flags to announce momentous times or beginnings of holy days, in this case a warning that the armies of Babylon are approaching from the North. 

Jer 7:4: The sanctuary of HaShem, the sanctuary of HaShem, the sanctuary of HaShem”  Just as Isaiah earlier rebuked the people not to do meaningless fasting, Jeremiah scolds the tendency of the people to think that by doing rote rituals in the temple they would be protected from the consequence of Babylon’s approach.  Instead, the people are told to look within to “do justice . . . do not oppress . . . do not shed innocent blood . . . and do not go after gods of others to your own harm.”  All being said here seems human behavior – how realistic is it for god to expect humans to have no sin?  And, perhaps, is God in position to man as a Heyokah teacher, reflecting what you’re doing, but is it backwards?

Jer 7:18: “The children gather the wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough to make pastries for the Queen of Heaven . . .”
Who is the Queen of Heaven!?  This verse is used as an example of the type of rituals the people were doing that Jeremiah castigated them for.  Archeologists tell us that “the queen of heaven” is an epithet of several goddesses of the near east (Mesopotamia, Canaan, Egypt, Israel) including Innana, Ishtar, Isis, Asherah, Astarte/Ashtoreth, Anat.  Asherah in particular was clearly worshipped in both Israel and Judah throughout the duration of the Hebrew commonwealth, including in and about the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Hebrew bible typically designates as “evil kings” those who allowed these practices to take place, while the “good kings” carried out reforms which destroyed the high places, the sacred trees, and removed the vestiges of such worship from the land to the extent they were able.   What exactly the ritual practices were we cannot know: this verse is one of the only ones in the Hebrew bible that gives a hint of the earth-based ritual that was carried out, while most mention of Asherah/Ashtoreth is in the context of  being railed against as abominations. 

We ask: what is the political perspective being attempted/accomplished by the books of Tanach?  The Kingdom of Israel was destroyed in 722, Judah in 586 BCE, and these books written some time later.  Archaeological evidence in the last few decades now clearly shows worship of these goddess figures throughout Israel and the surrounding lands during the entire time of the Hebrew kings and first temple.  Were they really as castigated and reviled at the time as our books would make it seem?  Or were these vestiges of the matriarchy, on the verge of extinction by the growing patriarchy, just as much an accepted expression of the love of the divine as were the sacrificial rites of the Temple?   If Blue State America were wiped out, and the history of the demise of the United States left to the Red States to write, who and what would they blame?

And what is really meant by the phrase “the gods of others”.  Some translate the work for gods, Elohim, as “powers”.  

Jeremiah 44:16-19: “ we will indeed continue . . . to burn incense to the queen of heaven . . . “
The people, most strongly the women, now fled from Jerusalem and exiled in Egypt, rebel against Jeremiah and tell him they will not listen to him and will continue to worship as they have done, including burning incense, pouring libations, and baking delicacies to the feminine aspect of the Divine.  Was this really idolatry?  Did the Kabbalists not reintroduce prayer to Shechinah, which we continue to this day?.  Whatever your take on the theology here, these verses also give one of the rare insights into earth-based ritual practices of the people of those times.  Whereas Jeremiah has been railing against these practices as the reason for the fall of the kingdom, the people say just the opposite: that as long as they did these practices, all was well, and it was only since they were denied these practices (presumably by Josiah and others) that  the horrors befell Jerusalem. 

Whose history shall we believe?  Which view in the mirror is the real object, and which the reflection?  What is the lesson of the Heyokah?

We closed with questions and reflections:
·      My experience of the Divine is only when I get out of my own way and connect to the incomprehensible . . . then, there is sweetness
·      How have you been damned and what does your prophet say in response?
·      Consider a staff ritual at PV – speaking our elderhood
·      We are all prophets
·      There is no one else, only us, we are it
·      I must sit with the Heyokah/mirror thing

Next gathering: Saturday December 3, 10-noon, location TBD – or maybe when Avram is in town instead?