We celebrated Shabbat around a campfire in Old Agoura tonight. 210 of us in a circle, singing, smiling, praising the Holy One.
Is it really Jewish to feel so inspired out in the open? Sitting under the stars? Gathering around a campfire?
Moses was inspired by flames dancing in a bush in the wilderness. Why are we?
When the most spiritual of rabbis wanted to speak with the Holy One, he would go out to the forest, to a special place known only to him, where he would sing special words to a particular tune, and by doing so, open his conversation with the Holy One.
Over time, his students forgot where exactly in the forest he would go, but they still felt the need to commune with the Holy One. So they would gather somewhere, build a fire, sing those special words to his particular tune, and open their conversation with the Holy One.
Then, their students lost their connection with the words that opened the conversation, but they knew how to build a campfire and how to sing song. So they gathered somewhere, built the fire and sang.
As the generations passed, they forgot to go out into nature. They forgot to build the campfire. They forgot the words. Some even forgot to sing. But still, they yearned. For something inspiring. For a connection to the Eternal.
So at Or Ami, we reignite the spark within, as we sit around a campfire. We sit under the stars, because we recognize that the Holy One is most often felt amidst the wonder of the natural world. And we sing ancient words to new melodies because the music and the experience touches our soul.