In Rabbi Meir Schewiger’s Parashat ha-Shavuah (weekly Torah Portion) class, while learning Sefer Shemot (Book of Exodus), we spoke about the desert as a place where one goes to prepare for Torah study. When B’nei Yisrael (Children of Israel) leave Egypt, they flee through the desert and are on the run until they get to Yam Suf (Red Sea) and cross to safety. Even after getting to Har Sinai (Mt. Sinai) and receiving the Torah, they still spend another 40 years in the desert wandering and preparing to enter into the Land. On the festival of Shavuot, we celebrate Zman Matan Torateinu (our receiving of the Torah at Sinai). We have just finished counting the Omer, the period of time from Pesach up to Shavuot and while we have now received the Torah and have celebrated this by a long night of learning and Torah study, B’nei Yisrael is still in the desert. For the rest of this year, leading up to the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) and Simchat Torah, we will continue to follow them as they travel through the wilderness in preparation for their entry into Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel). I liked the idea of the desert as a place for preparation and when I thought back over the last few years of my life I began to like it even more.
In the fall of 2010, I had been living and working at home in Connecticut, teaching in the Jewish community for a year after graduating college and I was ready for a change. I volunteered with the Kibbutz Program Center and after consulting with friends of friends, was placed on Kibbutz Yahel in the very south of Israel, about a 40 minutes north of Eilat in a region called the Arrava. Arrava means wilderness and this was exactly what I found when I got there. This was the absolute middle of Continue reading