Last week I was in Israel/Palestine, on a tour of intentional communities with Hakhel, Hazon’s intentional communities incubator, for which Asiyah was selected in the spring. Over six jam-packed days, our group of 12 community leaders from the US, Mexico, Ukraine, and Russia visited communities up and down the country. The diversity of communities we saw was stunning, and two things captivated me as I made my way through these many places…
Years ago, on an extended trip through Southeast Asia, I began to fully understand that there’s a way of being in the world that’s more intuitive than over-research, easier than over-planning, and much lighter than over-packing. It’s called being in the flow. And by following the pathways of teshuva, tefila, and tzedakah, we can clear the yearly schmutz from our souls in threefold process that allows us to be and act in the world less from the ego and more from soul consciousness. To be in the flow.
Our sages read the name of month of Elul as an acrostic, standing for a famous line from the Song of Songs: ani l’dodi v’dodi li, I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine. They were very intentionally thinking of the Divine Beloved. After the disconnection of Tisha B’Av, they saw Elul as a time to reconnect, to start making the journey home to our spiritual center, to reaffirm our connection with the All Within All. I’d like to use this acrostic as a guide in this month of reflection, to help us bring into focus different aspects of our lives.
We called our first “Village Gathering” earlier this month to start a conversation about what "community" means to each of us, what we look for in community, and what makes a community great. Our goal was to do some foundational community-building and start collectively visioning what Asiyah could become.
As we turn this week from the book of Exodus to Leviticus, we go from externality to internality, from the exhiliration of freedom and revelation to the humdrum of daily practice. Leviticus also shifts our attention to the parts of ancient religion that most trouble our postmodern sensibilities: ritual animal slaughter; priestly "purity;" and sacrifice, so much sacrifice. You could be forgiven for saying, "If this is what we have at the heart of Torah—literally in the middle—maybe this Torah isn't for me." But I want to hit pause on that impulse, as well as all the blood and gore of the first few chapters of Vayikra (as Leviticus is known in the vernacular), to consider the aleph.