2016-03-29

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!
 

UPDATE:  VIDEOTAPING FOR POSSIBLE DOCUMENTARY HAS BEEN POSTPONED, MAYBE NEXT YEAR.

2016-03-07


Dear Passover Villagers,

Registration for Passover Village 2016 is now OPEN!

LOCATION
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).  

DATES
Thursday-Sunday
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.


KAVANAH:  
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/




VIDEOTAPING FOR POSSIBLE DOCUMENTARY
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




AGREEMENTS

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

Photography and Recordings:

Please:
-- 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!

CARPOOLING
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. 

SHARING THE BURDEN, LIGHTENING THE LOAD
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

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


CAMPSITE DETAILS
* 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,

Dan
C 310-396-0706

2016-01-18

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
Time:
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!

2015-10-25

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.


2015-10-02

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
Hallelujah!

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