I see us as explorers

I see us as explorers 
coming together
dwelling as villagers
in communion 
with nature 
with spirit

in stillness, 
in song
in drum beats and dance
in shofar blasts
in whispers of the heart

reaching hands
raising arms
blessings source
pulling tight
and learning when to release.
  -- Rina


Kabbalah and Ecology

Lauren D. has recommended Kabbalah and Ecology: God's Image in the More-Than-Human World by Rabbi David Seidenberg. the founder of neohasid.org. She says the book will support our study this year of the animal world as well as our overall interest in earth-centered Judaism.

Critics have written:

"This is a careful but exhilarating examination of ...our fraught relationship with the more-than-human world."

"...makes a persuasive case for a reverent embrace of all creation as the divine image..."

"...moves the dialogue of Judaism and Ecology forward in remarkably
fruitful ways."

It can be pre-ordered from Cambridge University Press (use discount code KEDMS14 for 20% off).


Reflections on Passover Village 2014

Since returning home, I, too, have been reflecting on our Passover experience. And I’ve been floating all day, feeling as if I’m somehow lighter, higher, a more spiritual being than I was before last Thursday; feeling that I’m more connected, at one with the entire Jewish community. And all day an idea has been floating around my head. We all know that we are to view ourselves as if we had actually left Egypt, but I think that we all did more than that.  I think that we were not only acting as if we were in exile, I think we actually relived  the drama of the Exodus. I don’t know how this is possible, but if one believes that the Exodus is deeply engrained within our psyches, that we have a  collective unconscious, and that spiritual energy is unleashed during this time period, a reliving becomes possible. 

Since returning home, I’ve been reading about Passover; and the more I read about Passover, the stronger my belief becomes that we were “channeling” our ancestors, that we were not only playing out roles, we were not merely acting as if, but we each became an ancestor, that somehow their ancient souls entered our bodies, that some of us became Moses, and others became Aaron. And Miriam - several of the women changed into her, savior of our savior, challenger of the holy man who would lead us to the Promised Land.

Many of us became the complaining Israelites – dissatisfied, bitter, and fearful that our needs would go unmet, that we would not be protected, that our leader would fail us, and that we would be abandoned by our God.

And we were slaves.

And we were stuck in our narrowness.

And we were unholy.

Also, in our tent were the Jews who remained behind, terrified to leave, fearful of the unknown; lacking faith in our leader, lacking trust in our God.

And the Egyptian mothers who begged us to save their children’s lives were crying at our locked doors. But the plague passed over our homes; and we did not shelter them.  Perhaps Pharaoh was present as well, his heart hard like stone.  

Yes, we fulfilled our obligation to tell our story to our children, but we did more than that: we became the story. We became the children. And we each became the child we held inside of us for so long: the buried child - hurt and scared, and alone. And we desperately longed not to be alone.  We longed to be connected to a community, to belong to a family we never had.

Some say that each year at this time God gives us this opportunity to free ourselves, to be able to reach our spiritual potential, and a chance, if we take it, to be transformed.

Since returning home, I feel transformed. I feel as if I’ve traveled a long way, and journeyed to a new land. And in this new land everything feels different, but everything also feels the same. 

Everything seems strange, but everything also seems familiar. I feel shaky and insecure, but I also feel strong and secure. And it feels as if I am somewhere else, somewhere deeper, somewhere past and ancient. But it feels as if I am also here in the present, in my life now, but now I am no longer alone:  I am a member of the Village.

Offered by Ellen K.


Registration and Agreements

We are now accepting reservations to join the Passover Village 2014 (5774 by the Hebrew Calendar). Spaces are limited and are available on a first-come basis.

DATES AND TIMES: The 2014 Passover Village Retreat officially begins at 9:00 AM on Friday, April 18th through 11:00 am on Sunday, April 20th.

Ideally, arrive as early as Wednesday or Thursday, April 16th or 17th in time to set up your personal campsite and enjoy a relaxed afternoon and evening or more of rest and fellowship and "Village-making."  Allow 1.5 hours minimum travel time by car from Los Angeles; arrival before dark will simplify campsite setup (very dark by 8 pm on these dates).

If you cannot arrive on Wednesday or Thursday, arrive early enough (7 or 7:30 am) on Friday morning to set up your personal campsite and join the Opening Council at 9:00 am.

LOCATION: This year we will be gathering in 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 to last year's 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 good condition (and if your car 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). 


* As mentioned above, our group site has running water in the kitchen area. 

* Multiple picnic tables and a community barbecue pit  

* Pit toilets like Joshua Tree will help us feel more or less "at home."

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- to 60-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."

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.

UPDATED COST FOR 2014: To encourage participation of families with children, this year our requested donation is $72 for adults (13 and over), while children 12 and under will be free! Following the tradition of "Let all who are hungry come and eat," no one will be turned away for lack of funds.  Firewood will be provided for us by Michael Chusid so no need to purchase and transport one bundle per person as before!  Thanks, Michael!

MEALS: Meals provided by Passover Village will be "kosher-style" and free from leaven. Vegetarian options will be available. Let us know of any other dietary limitations.

Friday Night: An outreach to some past Villagers who might like to coordinate a Shabbat meal and/or service will be forthcoming.

Saturday Night: The Seder dinner on Saturday night will be catered.

Other Meals and Snacks: Bring food and kitchen/cooking items for your own enjoyment. (Meal-time sharing is encouraged.)

We agree to respect and care for ourselves, each other, the community and the land. To safeguard the freedom and sanctity of time and space in the Passover Village, the Leadership Council has endeavored to balance the needs of individuals with those of the community. To that end, the following updates are effective with Passover Village 2013.

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!

REGISTRATION: Send payment plus your name(s), phone number(s), email address(es), and the age(s) of child(ren) if applicable. Please let us know where you heard about Passover Village and what attracts you to our event. Make checks payable to Larry Richard.
Mail to:
Larry Richard
2118 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 594
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(Larry's cell:  310-560-6004)
 Must be received by March 31st to confirm your space.
IMPORTANT: To help with planning, please let us know when you register:
* WHAT DAY and TIME you plan to arrive

* NUMBER IN YOUR PARTY (ages of all 17-and-under children, must be accompanied by parent)


CARPOOL AND PARKING: Updated February 5, 2014.
We encourage carpooling; let us know if you can offer or need a ride.
Parking is limited in the group site parking lot.  

(EXCEPTION:  if you choose to camp in a nearby individual "family site" (non-reservable, first-come/first-served and a short walk from the group site) parking for one or two vehicles will be included in the cost of your family campsite).  

Overflow parking is available nearby but each vehicle must display a valid $5-per-day Adventure Pass.  As a Village, we will provide the prepaid Adventure Passes as needed 

LEADERSHIP: Throughout the year, a Leadership Council -- with help and input from other community members -- keeps alive the spirit of Passover Village and plans and organizes our gatherings. Members of the Leadership Council have taken on facilitation of various aspects of Passover Village (with some others' tasks to be decided):
  • Dan Brumer
  • Laurie Burton
  • Michael Chusid
  • Sandra Goodman
  • Larry Richard
  • Devorah Miriaam Cohen 
  • Avram Wagman
  • Marc Weigensberg
  • Rina Daly 
VOLUNTEERING: It takes a village to make a village. Will you help organize or lead…?:

Baking matzah
Making haroset
Assembling the Seder plate
Bringing music, song, and ruach (spirit)
Preparing a teaching, creative activity, or ritual
Planning a meditation walk
Mentoring our "young warriors"
Bringing the fruit of the vine
Leading part of Seder
Repairing tent
or whatever your calling.

The Passover Village will offer a chance to immerse and spend time in these ancient forms as we recreate aspects of the Exodus, celebrate community and share in the traditional "non-traditional, expanded, experimental, enhanced and engaging Passover Village Seder!"  We invite you to revisit the excellent study notes posted by Marc throughout the year to begin your Passover Village experience right away!    You will find them elsewhere in the blog pages.

Michael at (818) 219-4937

Larry at (310) 560-6004


     We have spent our year since the last Passover Village studying the reign of Solomon -- his accession to David's throne, his wisdom, and -- most significantly -- his construction of the Temple.

     We asked ourselves, "What would it take for each of us to build a temple?"  A peaceful spirit, a dedicated soul, an intention to consecrate a space, a willingness to live in the purity of the moment, the sanctity of a breath, a gift from the heart
 – all these.

  And, we asked ourselves, "What is a temple?"  A building, a tabernacle, a tent, a human body, a human mind, a human soul -- all these.

  We will join our wandering ancestors as they end their wandering and settle into a place, and we will try to live up to the responsibility of creating, defining, and maintaining a holy space.

NOTICE: Outdoors activities and camping are inherently dangerous. By participating you agree to accept all risks to yourself and property, and to hold harmless the organizers of and participants in Passover Village.

Revised 2014-02-05 Dan B.

What to Bring


Individual Needs – Recommended items for each person (adults and children)
  • Water and bottle (suggest 1 gallon per person per day for drinking and cooking, plus more for washing; tap water is available on site)
  • Basin for washing
  • Tent (rainfly and groundcloth if required)
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Clothes layered for warm/cold, wet/dry/windy conditions (incl. gloves, hat, thermals, etc.)
  • Hiking boots or sturdy shoes
  • Hat with wide brim for shade/protection from sun
  • Umbrella or poncho for (rain or shade)
  • Pocket knife
  • Personal “medicine” (necessary prescriptions plus any spirit needs)
  • Personal hygiene items (incl. biodegradable soap - “Campsuds” does it all!)
  • Sunscreen!
  • Large towel(s)
  • Firewood (1 bundle per person)  Michael is bringing enough wood for all - Thank you, Michael!
  • Camp chair, carpet, or pillows to sit on. Space around the perimeter of our tent is limited; avoid wide chairs or that have flaring arms or legs. We encourage you to bring carpets or pillows so you can sit close to the earth and recline.
Per Family or Household – for (individual/family meals and prep)
  • Cooler and ice
  • Camp stove and fuel
  • Pots, pans and cooking utensils
  • Dinnerware: Plate, Bowl, Cup, Silverware (all reusable please – no paper)
  • Cloth napkin
  • Food and Drink:  Saturday Night Seder dinner is catered. Bring all other food and drink for yourself and household. Sharing is encouraged.
  • Please leave bread and bread products (“Chametz”) at home. Bring matzo instead!
Optional and Encouraged
  • Sunshower (water heated by sun)
  • Drums, shofarot, and other musical instruments
  • Brightly colored cloth, etc. to decorate camp and tent
  • Your own Haggadah, Teachings about Pesach, Shabbat, and Nature
  • Lantern (battery or canister-style preferred.  Flames should be in glass or metal container to resist tipping or contact with combustibles.)  Fire safety is a top priority.
  • Songs, stories, poems
  • There are some restrictions on use of these campsites including vehicle length. If you are planning to arrive in a long RV, bus or truck, contact National Forest Service for limits: http://www.fs.usda.gov/angeles
  • Car pooling is encouraged.
  • Make arrangements for family pets to be cared for at home (not in camp)
List updated 2014-February-05 by Dan B.


Time to reserve for Passover Village 2014

Passover Village will convene our vernal celebration of freedom at 9:00 AM on April 18. We encourage you to arrive at the campsite the day before, however, so you can get settled, relax, and enjoy fellowship.
While this has been a dry season, the pine forested site is lush in comparison to our usual desert campsite.

During 40 years in the desert, our Hebrew ancestors moved from campsite to campsite. In that tradition, we will go into the San Gabrial Mountains, to an Angeles National Forest group campsite about an hour's drive north from Pasadena, CA at 5,000 ft. elevation.
A paved and well maintained road leads to campground.
These photos are representative of the terrain in which we will be camping.
We are blessed to have such beautiful vistas so close to the City.
The semi-shaded campsite is well appointed with drinking water, clean latrines, a large group fire ring with benches, parking, a commodious cluster of tables for dining, a variety of tent sites and space to spread out. The Israelites should only have had it so good.
View like this sunset are possible from our hilltop campsite.
The information under the START HERE button is still from last year, but will help you know what to expect.  Check back soon for additional information.

Photos from Wikimedia Commons and used under Creative Commons license.


Keeper of the Covenant and the Lovingkindness

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Keeper of the Covenant and the Lovingkindness . . .

Check-ins brought us very present with our stories of crime, illness, job loss, and other events that have transpired since the last time we sat together. 

I Kings I, 8:1  “Solomon gathered together the Elders of Israel – the heads of the tribes, the carriers of the ancestors”
At first glance it is unclear who Solomon is gathering.  Are these 3 different categories of leaders among the people – elders, tribal heads, ancestor-carriers?  However, close look at the Hebrew shows no letter vav between these 3 descriptors, suggesting that the latter 2 are defining characteristics of an Elder of Israel.   Thus, those who can be called “Elder” are the leaders in their tribes who carry the ancestral legacy.  Thus, an Elder is one who carries the ancestral traditions, offering the gift of that knowledge to the community.  We may consider ways to manifest this at our PV gathering this year – perhaps in the section of the 4 Questions?  Or the 4 Children? 

I Kings, 8:5.  “. . . offerings too abundant to be numbered or counted”
It is clear what physical offerings to Spirit were made back in the ancient times.  The offering of animals was a standard practice, and at this dedication of the new Temple, the offerings were astounding in number, unable to be counted.  This was how we communicated with Spirit.  While the animal sacrificial rites were predominantly transformed into prayer during subsequent centuries of Jewish history, we wonder what still may remain in the Hebrew tradition in the form of physical offerings, and what their role may be in these modern times?  Native Americans offer tobacco, or cornmeal in many personal ceremonies as a way to seek relation with Spirit.  Is there still a role, or similar physical ritual, that persists in the Jewish tradition that plays the same role?  Is such a physical offering necessary, when we have such rich prayerful ways to approach the Divine?  Does use of prayer alone keep us separated from our earth-based connection, aspects of God that are all around us at all times? 

I Kings, 8:13 “ I have surely built a house of habitation for You . .  . ”
The Cloud of the Shechinah rolls into the Beit YHVH (translated into English as “temple”), and the Cohanim have had to leave, unable to stay and serve in the Presence.  It is a bit unclear: did the Cloud fill only the Holy of Holies, or did it roll out of the Holy to fill the entire Temple?  Solomon uses here the feminine form of the pronoun “You”, a fact of considerable import that is lost in the English translation, as it is clear the Cloud is Shechinah, Divine Feminine, intimate dwelling Presence.  The Hebrew also indicates in its grammatical way, without bold font or underlines, that Solomon is emphasizing his accomplishment in building the Temple.  Hard to know his mindset, 3000 years later, but is there a hint of youthful arrogance present in this statement?  Solomon was only 16 years old when the building of the Temple began, and the construction took 7 years, so he is now a man in his early-mid twenties.  

A more mundane explanation for the cloud: the smoke from all the burning sacrifices filled the Temple and the Cohanim had to leave because they couldn’t breathe or see!

I Kings, 8:23 “ . . . there is none like You . . . guardian of the convenant and the the lovingkindness . . .  ”
Solomon raises his palms toward the Fire-Water Place (Shamayim – typically translated as “heaven”) and addresses YHVH directly and profoundly on behalf of all the people.  He opens with this acknowledgment of YHVH, God of Israel, as the keeper of the covenant (The B’rit) and love (The Hesed).  But what is The Covenant, and what is The Love?  There have been a number of covenants God has made with the Hebrew people and their predecessors: that which was made with Noah to never again destroy the earth; with Abraham, that his descendants would inhabit the Land and be as numerous as the sands on the edge of the sea; with each individual male child at the age of 8days; and most recently with David – that his descendants would always sit on the throne of Judah.  So, which of these is being referred to?  Or is there something much more personal being referred to here?  A possible explanation: the covenant is that which Creator makes with each individual Neshamah that comes to this physical plane and embodies in order to do the work for the completion of creation on this level.  Is the lovingkindness then that which follows as necessary, and what is so profoundly present, to allow us some space for our human flaws, errors, and distractions that keep us from fulfilling that Covenant?  When we say the Ahl Chets on Yom Kippur, are we not appealing to that Hesed, for that reason – acknowledging that we have really not kept up our part of the bargain.  And YHVH in the role of great gentle loving One, accepts our prayers like a parent consoles a teenager who has just stupidly totaled the family car, and allows us to get back on the bicycle and keep trying.  Perhaps this is the covenant and the love that Solomon is acknowledging. 

I Kings, 8:28 “ . . . prayer, supplication, and cry . .  . ”
Solomon uses three different words for prayer, suggesting 3 different ways to pray, 3 deepening levels of prayer. Tefillah – the standard text of the prayer;  T’chinah – a supplication, special plea, perhaps one that one has no merit to justify; Rinah – a cry out, from either joy or pain.  Are we aware of the difference in these modes of prayer?  Are we familiar with their uses and the feelings behind them in ourselves as we use them?  How does our connection with YHVH differ when we use these 3 forms of prayer? 

Final Discussion: Losing My Religion?
The idea was expressed that this event, the completion of the Temple in Jerusalem, may mark the beginning of the end of Earth-based Judaism.  What was once a tribal people living in intimate connection with earth, with the knowledge that God could be found in the stones and trees around them, that God could be wrestled with on the edge of a river in the dead of night, would no longer be the same.  This was the actualization of the warning from Samuel: that if you have a king, you will become like other nations and will stop being individually close to HaShem.  So now, the personal altars are outlawed, and the connection to the Divine is through a single structure in a single place determined by a single individual.  The Temple of stone, unmovable, a place you must go to for worship, perhaps too grandiose in its use of precious metals and other precious materials, compared to the simplicity of the fabric-covered and enclosed Tabernacle that could move amongst the tribes, reminding us that God really doesn’t need such fancy digs.  Whose idea was this Temple anyway?  Apparently David had the initiative, but God held him back from building it.  Was this a delaying tactic that didn’t quite work out, just as Aaron had tried to pacify the rebel crowd by allowing the Golden Calf to be built in the hope that Moses would return from the mountain before the line of idolatry had been crossed?  Could the building of the Temple by Solomon, rather than representing the crowning achievement of  a people dedicated to service of Spirit, instead actually represent a Cheyt, a missing of the mark, a break from the covenant between Soul and Creator that was actually intended? 

 Feelings were strong, as we discussed these ideas - anger.  resentment.  alienation.  Does the Jewish focus on the Temple, even to this day, border on idolatry?  Is it not a movement away from the idea that the Presence is everywhere?  In today’s temples and synagogues, do we rely too much on our rabbis and cantors, no matter how knowledgable and respected they may be, to be our interlocuters rather than maintain the stance of the mystic – to have that individual relationship with the Holy One?  Do we rely too much on buildings of concrete and steel, ornaments and stained glass, rather than on a simple path by the creek, or a small altar of stones? Can attention to earth-based, elemental practices bring us back to the covenant and the lovingkindness that was initially intended?

Another way to consider the issues:  Perhaps the timing of switching to a more institutional form of Judaism was intentional by Divine calculations or necessary in order to establish and/or maintain a certain State of the Emerging Culture, that was not ready with David and was then appropriate under Solomon. Though there is definitely a loss to mourn with no longer having a close and personal and creative connection with haShem and ritual design, perhaps there would have been unwanted developments. Change is rapid in those early personal stages. Perhaps something essential had to be captured and passed on to coming generations before it evaporated or became distorted.  When change is again needed we "Return" to earth based ways as the Baal Shem Tov did with Hasidism, allowing a direct connection with the divine that did not require stuffy education, and the poor had access, nature was important.  But then they became static too.  It is a cycle to be recognized throughout our history, or perhaps an expanding spiral, change followed by rich practice, then rigidity, then realization of what's missing and rebellion for revitalizing change. We may be now on the cutting edge of current Return and the beginning of a new, beautiful cycle. Our mourning is an occasion for celebration, as it marks the recognition and reconnection with our soul needs as a people. 

Next Meeting: Saturday, February 1 – location TBA.


Jachin and Boaz: Preparation and Inner Strength

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Preparation and Inner Strength . . .

Chanukah 2013, aka Thanksgivukah, brought us together to learn on a Sunday afternoon followed by an evening of latkes, candles, and deep sharing.

I Kings I, 7:21  “Jachin . . . and Boaz”
Solomon appointed a master coppersmith, Hiram, to work on the temple ornaments and utensils.  Hiram was to Solomon and the building of the temple as Bezalel was to Moses and the building of the Tabernacle, a master craftsman embued with Hochmah, Binah, and Da’at – the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge that could translate the primordial Divine thought into physical manifestation of art and beauty.  He built 2 massive columns of copper over 30 ft high (18 cubits to be exact), with ornate tops or capitals, copper meshwork, and designed with images of pomegranates and flowers.  In architectural history, columns were a major invention, and the Egyptians were the first to use them and use flower motifs to adorn them.  This implied connection to Egypt in the Temple architecture is interesting, as we had of course come out of Egypt almost 5 centuries earlier, and Solomon’s first wife was the daughter of the current Pharoah of Egypt. 

Hiram named the 2 pillars.  The one on the right, to the South, the side of the Menorah, he named “Jachin”, meaning establishment or preparation, from the root of the word Kavannah, intention.  The pillar on the left, North, the side of the Bread Table, He named Boaz, meaning “strength is in it”.  Thus, in entering the sanctuary, the part of the Temple just outside the Holy of Holies, one passed through this portal of intention and inner strength, perhaps homiletically acknowledging that establishing and maintaining the intention to Divine connection brings an inner strength, to the individual and to the people who carry that intention.

I Kings, 7:25.  “It (the Sea) stood on 12 oxen, 3 facing north, 3 facing west, 3 facing south, and 3 facing east”
Hiram next built a huge, round copper “sea”, 10 cubits (~20 feet) in diameter, one handbreath thick, supported on the backs of 12 copper oxen.  This sea of Mayim Chayim would be used for the Cohanim to wash and purify themselves for sacred service (Avodah).  The structure replicates the directions occupied by the 12 tribes during the journey through Sinai, suggesting the waters are only held aloft for their sacred purpose when the entire community is involved.  And the ox, or water buffalo, is the totem of the tribe of Joseph (as well as the tribe of Ephraim, once Joseph split into the tribes of Ephraim and Menasheh, whose totem was the oryx).   The Buffalo in general holds the direction of the West in Hebraic indigenous cosmology, based on Ezekiel’s mystical vision of the Chariot (Ezekiel, Chapter 1), as well as Ephraim/Joseph’s position in the wilderness.  This suggests the healing role of the water being held in the Sea, as West is the direction of healing, the place of Raphael (“healer of God”).  And calling this structure “sea” brings to mind the crossing of the Red Sea 840 years earlier, that healing moment in the life of the Hebrew people when we stepped out of the narrow limitations of physical oppression and towards the path of Spirit.  Copper is an element of passion in our tradition, thus these waters in the copper sea were embued with the passion for life, for relationship to Spirit, that would cleanse and heal those who would wash in it. 

It is noteworthy that the text describes the positions of the oxen in the counterclockwise direction, starting in the North, the place of mystery; moving to the west, the place of blending, merging, and healing; then to the South – place of clarity; and finally to the East – place of new beginnings.  This counterclockwise movement can also be seen as the unfolding path of our life journey: receiving some new influx of mystery from Spirit (North), blending it into ones being  (West), clarifying the meaning of the new piece one has received (South), leading to a new integration, a new beginning, a new way of being in the world (East), only then to begin another cycle of the journey with a new piece of mystery unfolding from the North (see Winkler, “Magic of the Ordinary”, pg 55).  Perhaps then, the Cohanim approached the Sea each time to wash knowing they were about to do ceremony with the kavannah of bringing the people closer in connection to their Divine wholeness. 

I Kings I, 7:27: “He made 10 copper stands . . . ”
Having made the Sea, Hiram next constructed 10 ornate copper stands to carry 10 lavers, smaller water-containing vessels.  These stands are clearly physical manifestations of the images of the Chariot, seen by Ezekiel in his vision over 300 years later, with images of lions, oxen, and embracing human figures.  The latter are described cryptically in the Hebrew, and imply the embrace of lovers, alluding to either intense human love, the archetypal unification of Masculine and Feminine, or the d’vey’kut (intense connection) of the Divine with Israel.  All of these themes are expressed in Solomon’s opus, the Song of Songs, and were manifested in this instance in the passionate copper of the 10 laver stands.  Why 10 stands?  No doubt a desire to include within the physicality of the Temple the 10 Sefirot, Divine Emanations, described in Sefer Yetzirah and much later by the Kabbalists of the Middle Ages. 

It is awesome to read these passages and experience directly the power of the sacred symbology of the Hebrew people, manifested from our very inception, grounded in indigenous wisdom, transmitting through the ages the energies of Spirit in the forms of animal beings, plant beings, human beings, minerals, water, earth.  We are therefore the beneficiaries, those who can receive these transmissions from our ancient ancestors, and gain an understanding of their connection to Spirit, how they understood YHVH from before a time when our people were physically removed from our land, displaced, oppressed and disconnected from our roots.  These symbols of Divine relationship have survived in our texts, hidden in our prayers, offering a path to reconnect to the energies of our ancient ancestors and prophets, a way to reclaim our indigenous, original connection, a Great D’vey’kut, to the Holy One. 

I Kings, 8:3 “All the elders of Israel came, and the Cohanim carried the Ark . ”
Once the building of the Temple was completed, after 7 years of construction, in the month of Eitanim (“the mighty ones” – the month of Tishrei), there was a great procession and inauguration of the Temple.  This was held just before Sukkot, the autumn harvest festival, so many people from all over the land were no doubt there on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the festival.  This was the Sukkot of Sukkots, as Solomon sought to harvest all that he had been spiritually planting for the past 7 years.  All the leaders of the people were there: “the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral familes.”  All the sacred implements from the Tabernacle were brought into the Temple – the Ark, the utensils, the sacred vessels – and there were offerings made “too abundant to be numbered”.   Like father like son, this procession of Solomon is reminiscent of the procession that occurred when David first brought the Ark into Zion (2 Samuel 6:12-19).  The Ark is placed in the Holy of Holies, under the “wings of the C’ruvim”, the 10 cubit wingspan between the 2 golden Cherubim Solomon had built.  It is quite something to close your eyes and imagine yourself back in that Jerusalem, experiencing the joy and expectations of being in that procession, witnessing that momentous event.

I Kings, 8:10-11: “the cloud/glory of YHVH filled the house of YHVH ”
The Shechinah, the Feminine, intimate, in-relationship manifestation of Spirit, described here as a “cloud” in one verse, and as the glory of YHVH in the next, fills the Holy of Holies.  The Cohanim had to flee the space, not able to be present as the Cloud entered and dwelt there.  She’hech’eh’yanu - Solomon has completed his preparations for just this moment.  All the building in the past 7 years, all the preparation, the use of the best materials, the best artisans, the best and most intentional building methods, have been for this moment.  And even up to the procession and the bringing of the Ark and implements to the Temple – one wonders what Solomon was thinking about.  Could he be sure it would all be acceptable to Spirit?  Hadn’t David stumbled in his first attempt to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, resulting in human deaths?  Hadn’t Nadav and Abihu, the well-meaning, priestly sons of Aaron, stumbled in their over-eagerness to offer incense to YHVH resulting in their deaths?  Hadn’t even as spiritually evolved a person as Moses misconstrued the way God wanted him to make His/Her Spirit present by striking the rock, and thereby lost the honor of entering the Land?  It is not a trivial thing to make a home for Spirit, to make a proper offering, to be truly pure in your intention.   There are many places where ego, arrogance, narcissism can trickle in and mess things up.  Solomon, Hiram, the Cohanim, and all those involved in this procession must have been quite pure in their Kavannah.  Offering a home, a Bayit, for Shechinah to dwell, offering it in the right way, in the right relationship, She comes in as a mist.  And the Temple from that point on becomes a focal place for the Hebrew people, the kingdoms of Judah and Israel unified as one kingdom under Solomon, to come and be in relationship with Spirit. 

Next Meeting: Saturday, January 4