Friday, January 25, 2008

Parashat Yitro - 2008

A few thoughts before the arrival of Shabbat:

There was a fascinating article in Harper’s Magazine, the January 2008 edition, titled “The God of the Desert: Jerusalem and the Ecology of Monotheism” by Richard Rodriguez. The cover of the magazine adds: “Richard Rodriguez in the Barren Birthplace of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.” It is not a lite article. Rodriguez views desert as emptiness, most holy places as spaces designed to contain THE Emptiness, and speaks mostly of loneliness. And yet, it is desert where Moses, and the children of Israel, encounter God, to whom we refer as HaMakom, THE Place, the opposite of emptiness.

On Sunday, I am taking Mira and Amalya to Ein Gedi, on the edge of the Dead Sea, for few days (Elan is in Atlanta for the weekend and Becca has lots of rehearsals for The Man of La Mancha). Ein Gedi is an Oasis, a spot of rich beauty, of water and sustenance, at the lowest point in the world. It is also, I believe, and excellent metaphor for finding God, and not Emptiness, in the desert. In our modern world of urban sprawl, of constant noise, of traffic and ambient sound, the city can often be a place of utter loneliness. Despite the cacophony of humanity, the individual is often lost, forgotten, lonely, empty. In the desert, senses are heightened and we find the ability to perceive and experience God in a different way. It is no wonder that Moshe and B’nai Yisrael, at the foot of a humble mountain in the midst of the desert, are able to experience Revelation. Instead of loneliness, they find God.

I am not sure what we will find at Ein Gedi on Sunday, but based on prior experience, I think we can count on a pretty powerful, and Divine, encounter.

דבר אחר

This past week in Atlanta, there was a conference about expanding Camp Yofi: Family Camp for
Jewish Families with Children with Autsim to other Jewish camps across the country. When the children of Israel, and all of us as well, stood together at Mt. Sinai, children with autism and their families were included in the Revelation. Torah, and membership in the Jewish People, was given to them equally and it is time for the leadership of the community to recognize this and act on it. It is my hope that this conference will lead to a spreading of the model across the country so that more lives can be touched and the entire Jewish people strengthened.

The first Camp Yofi would not have taken place without the vision of Ramah Darom. Camp Yofi could not have gotten started without the generosity of The Barry and Judy Silverman Foundation, the Covenant Foundation, the Foundation for Jewish Camping, and many others. Without the support of The Marcus Foundation, neither the expansion to a second session nor the conference could have transpired. And without the exceptional talent and dedication of Susan Tecktiel and Dr. Sue Kabot, the entire endeavor never would have gotten off the ground. They were our Moshes.

Now, it is time for other Moshe’s to step up, to hear the call, and make this important program happen across North America. Many of them showed up in Atlanta this week. Whether you are a Jewish camp helping to expand this program, new leaders to execute it, or new funders making investing to make it possible, I hope you will, to paraphrase – and modify Hillel the Elder: “Go and Learn and Do!”

Shabbat Shalom.

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