Off-Ramp | Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Passover in the Mojave – group gets back to ancient roots.

This is not an ordinary tent in the desert.

It’s emblematic of a group of several dozen Jews who mark Passover, which starts Monday evening, by leaving the comforts of the city and doing some serious thinking about their faith and traditions.

Here’s the explanation, which came in an e-mail from Michael Chusid:


More than three thousand years ago, we left life as we knew it and entered the desert for a spiritual encounter with Freedom. And every year, we tell the story of that Exodus. But we usually tell the story sitting at a table inside a building, with electric lights and all the familiarity of the 58th Century (by the Hebrew calendar). Could we remember more about that original Pesach -- or learn something useful about ourselves -- by returning to the freedom of the desert on the Full Moon of Nissan.

Passover Village, now in its fifteenth year, is a group of cheverim that relive the Exodus by celebrating Passover in the desert. We gather on the weekend of Pesach (not conflicting with first or second seder) to build a conscious community guided by decisions made in council and informed by the traditions of the Hagaddah. We erect a tent - a Miskon - large enough to hold the entire community of up to 40 people, and celebrate Passover in great style. At erev Shabbat, we begin our seder with Kaddish around a campfire, and 36 hours later we end it with Nirtzah as we once again strike our camp and move on. In between, we explore what it meant to come from a tribal, indigenous culture, and what the rebirth of nature means while living in and as a part of nature.

-- Michael

He had me at “Passover in the desert,” so I talk with Michael and fellow-organizer Marc Weigensberg on this weekend’s Off-Ramp