Today is day four of the Omer. We have been traveling out of Egypt for four days.
Today we really get out into the wilderness. Well, Seder in the Wilderness as the community of Congregation Or Ami calls it. Seder in the Wilderness [pictures here and some video here] is our two day experience away from the comforts of home as we relive the exodus from Egypt and the wanderings in the wilderness. Some 140 people gather together – this year at the Shalom Institute of JCA Shalom (in Malibu), in years past at Malibu Creek State Park. We camp or cabin; we play, pray and reflect within the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains. We have a traditional game of horseshoes (one might argue that Pharaoh’s army, pulled by horses, used thousands of horseshoes… except that would be an anachronism – horseshoes came much later). Campfire services, a big Persian Kosher-for-Passover barbecue and a reliving the exodus program are highlights.
I hate going to Seder in the Wilderness.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being there. I just don’t like going there. As my wife reminds me that whenever I am at SIW, I really, really enjoy it. The relaxed atmosphere, the ability to sit with and talk to people, and the clean air are so refreshing. But getting myself packed and ready, moving beyond the inertia of the post-Seder, pre-SIW period, is challenging. These post-seder days I become a computer addicted, matzah-fueled couch (kosher for passover) potato. It makes me wonder:
- Would I have been one of those who just didn’t want to get off his tush and thus ended up staying in Egypt?
- Would I have been one who, once out of Egypt, began complaining about the emptiness and danger of the desert?
- Would I have gotten scared at Yam Suf (the Red Sea), with Pharaoh’s army behind us and the Sea before us?
- Would I have kvetched that we should be turning around and returning to the relative comforts of Egypt?
- Would you?
Beginning journeys can be difficult. We are more comfortable with what we know, even if it is not healthy, good for us or inspiring. The journey toward our true selves – toward who we should be, could be – is blocked by the here and now. Early in our wilderness trek, each step can be momentous, even as we feel like we are lifting weights to get our feet off the ground.
But if we step forward, step beyond our comfort zone, the journey can be very rewarding, for there is a Promised Land out there somewhere awaiting our arrival.
Here’s the traditional Tefillat Haderech, a Jewish prayer for wayfarers, for all who are embarking on a journey:
May it be Your will, Eternal One, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead us toward peace, emplace our footsteps towards peace, guide us toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace.
May You rescue us from the hand of every foe, ambush, bandits and wild animals along the way, and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to Earth. May You send blessing in our every handiwork, and grant us peace, kindness, and mercy in your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May You hear the sound of our supplication, because You are the God who hears prayer and supplications. Blessed are You, Eternal One, who hears prayer. [Listen to Doug Cotler’s musical version.]
So I journey now, by car, to Seder in the Wilderness. May you get up off your tush and step forward into the unknown but hopeful place beyond where you are. And may all our journeys be safe and inspiring.