About Passover in the Desert


About the Festival

Read below for program highlights and general information about the festival for 2017.
Check back in early 2018 for information on the upcoming festival.

Each year, we Jews retell our core story — our Passover journey from slavery to freedom. This spring, embody the Exodus experience of transformation and liberation with the expansive desert as your guide. Just like the ancient ones, we go to the desert wilderness to remember and recover our ancient wild nature. Just as the ancients found freedom from slavery in the wilderness, we can find freedom from the narrowness in our lives today.

The Hebrew ancestors departed the narrow places that enslaved them and began a long journey towards freedom. In the beginning of that journey, they were faced with an ultimate test of faith and courage: The Egyptian Army was catching up to them and they had just reached the Red Sea. Would they cross in pursuit of freedom and risk drowning? Legend has it that Nachshon, prince of the tribe of Judah, leaped into the water and almost drowned before the sea split open for the Hebrews. This Passover we invite you to the nachshon or wellspring of faith inside of you to move closer to the freedoms for which you yearn.

Our village in the desert embodies simplicity, connection, tribe, and transformation. Our ancestors lived in tight-knit communities where people of all ages were in deep relationship with themselves, each other, and the land. We activate these ancient connections through prayer, ceremony, food, celebration, and honoring life’s passages together.

(Tuesday afternoon, April 11 — Thursday, April 13)
Solo journeys into the desert are at the core of ancient Judaism. Those who are called will embark on an overnight ceremony supported by the village to pray and fast alone, and recover your ancient wildness. Learn More…

Option 1 (First & Second Seder): Monday Evening, April 10 — Thursday, April 13
Option 2 (Second Seder Only): Tuesday Evening, April 10 — Thursday, April 13

Join Wilderness Torah prior to the main festival to celebrate the first days of the Passover! We offer an exciting way to celebrate the chag (festival) with a more traditional seder around the Passover table on the first night (Monday April 10) and a creative, collaborative seder around a roaring bonfire on the second night (Tuesday April 11). During these chag days, we will also have ample time to acclimate to the desert, take in its beauty, and visit the nearby Surprise Canyon oasis. Learn More…

At Passover in the Desert, teens (ages 11–17) are invited on a teen passage: a 24-hour remote camp-out in the nearby oasis, Surprise Canyon. Teens will have their own tribe on this wilderness adventure and throughout the festival.
Learn More…

Wilderness Torah provides water for communal drinking and cooking purposes (you only need to bring 1-2 gallons for personal use at your tent). Your registration fee includes the cost for this essential village resource.

Passover in the Desert participant Judy Silber produced this 12-minute story at our 2014 festival for the first edition of the KALW series, The Spiritual Edge. Then, listen to a recording of Ma Tovu (How good) from the morning prayer service and you’ll hear us singing to the beautiful mountains surrounding our village.

Building the Village

Read below to learn how we build our village together during the festival and how you can be an active participant.

Passover in the Desert is a co-created experience with collective service responsibilities. The success and beauty of our village rely on our
agreements for living harmoniously in community.
Participants are invited to volunteer to teach short programs during the festival. This teaching opportunity provides a platform for teachers to showcase the depth of knowledge and experience they’re bringing to the community. This can also be an opportunity for teachers to develop and launch new ideas. Please visit Program Offerings to learn how you can get involved.
Tribes are small, assigned groups of 10–12 people who come together throughout the festival. Tribes are a way for people to get to know each other and go deeper into the festival experience in the comfort of a smaller group. Tribes also perform one service shift for the community (for example, chopping vegetables for dinner).

Tribes help people get to know each other and deepen their festival experience in the comfort of a smaller group. Each tribe has a Rosh (head) and an elder who will guide the tribe. Roshim (plural of Rosh), Wilderness Torah staff, and members of the Village Planning Council are all available to support you through your experience. Your Rosh is a contact for you throughout the festival, and meets daily with the Village Council to share information and feedback from participants.

Almost every member of the community will cook and/or clean up one meal with their assigned tribe. Cooking with our chef is both a fun learning experience and a great opportunity to serve our community by preparing food with your tribe.
Due to limited storage capacity in our truck, Wilderness Torah cannot dispose of participants’ personal garbage, compost, or recycling. We ask every participant to pack out their own waste. Learn more about our leave no trace ethics.
We love homegrown food! Contact us if you have food from a fruit tree or an overflowing garden that you’d like to offer.
Wilderness Torah provides all major structures for cooking, comfort, and learning. We ask that participants bring tapestries, pillows, rugs, and other accessories to help decorate our village spaces. See the Packing List here.
Individuals are responsible for their own comfort and safety. It’s a good idea to bring your own basic first aid supplies for your convenient access (bandaids, alcohol wipes, etc.)

There will be a designated safety crew comprised of nurses, doctors, and people who are trained in Wilderness First Aid and as Wilderness First Responders. Wilderness Torah will provide a comprehensive first aid kit on site for emergencies. The kit will be located at the Healing Hut.

We will also have a satellite phone on site for emergencies only. The nearest hospital is Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, 53 miles (90-minute drive) from the site.

Keep an eye out for yourself and others. The more prepared you are, the more fun you can have! Please review the following safety tips before coming to the desert:

Dehydration: The air is very dry. Even if you don’t feel hot, dry, or thirsty, it’s important to KEEP DRINKING WATER; at least 1 gallon per day. The hearth will also provide electrolyte powder for you to add to your water. Use it!

Hygiene: Hand-washing is very important! For the safety of everyone, please wash your hands EVERY time AFTER toileting, BEFORE entering the kitchen/food areas, and BEFORE every meal.

Uneven Terrain (slips, trips, and falls): Take a breath, stay aware, and slow down — that’s what we’re here for.

Sharp Cacti: There are not many cacti at our site, but it is the desert, so they are around. Be aware of many varieties and sizes.

Low Visibility at Night: Bring a flashlight and/or headlamp and extra batteries.

Weather: Bring warm layers and bedding (preferably not cotton, as it retains moisture). Tie down your gear so it doesn’t blow away in strong winds.

Remote Location: Plan to arrive in the daylight and bring everything you need with you.

Camping: Do not make camp in a dry wash. Flash floods develop quickly in the desert.

Village Spaces

We build our village literally in the midbar (desert wilderness). Our village will be rustic, simple, beautiful and provide us with just what we need. Read below for information on communal spaces, water, and sanitation.

Our Tent of Meeting will serve as our central gathering space for ritual, meals, and offerings. This tent provides shade and some protection from the wind, however we cannot guarantee complete protection from the wind and elements.
The Hearth (kitchen) prepares two delicious, organic, seasonal, kosher meals a day and includes a snack station for in between times. We provide and maintain a dishwashing area where you can clean your personal dishes after each meal. We also provide hand-washing stations (see Washing Stations below).

The Hearth maintains a separate kosher for Passover dishwashing area used only for the Wilderness Torah kitchen supplies. Those needing kosher dishwashing may use this are by special permission from the Hearth.

Families are encouraged to camp in the Family Camp area to create a community of families. Joint family camping allows for a night watch schedule, where parents take turns keeping an eye on sleeping children so the other parents can participate in main camp activities at night.
Our ancient Hebrew ancestors tended a sacred fire for centuries and we awaken this ancient tradition at Passover in the Desert. As a community we will keep our Eish al haMizbe’ach (Fire on the Altar) burning through the entire festival. The sacred fire provides a space to pray, make offerings, and engage Spirit in a personal and powerful way.
The Healing Hut provides herbal remedies for a variety of symptoms and conditions, First Aid, and a place to rest and retreat. We also encourage people to offer gifts such as massage, Reiki, counseling, blessings, acupressure, sound healing, and movement, and have an organized system for how to do so. If you need a respite from the buzz of the village, come take your shoes off, close your eyes, rest, and heal here.

If you have homemade medicinal salves, tinctures or other herbal remedies that you would like to share with the community, the Healing Hut would be happy to put them out during the festival. If you make these products for sale, we will put out one of your cards so people can purchase them from you too. Just let the Healing Hut Coordinator know what product is yours when you arrive. If you would like it back at the end of the festival, please let them know.

The Red Tent is a space for those who identify as women and are of moon-time age or beyond (menstruating or post-menopausal). It is a place of renewal and quietude. Traditionally the Red Tent was used for women who were menstruating only. Today, we open it to all those who identify as women to experience an all-women’s space created for healing and rejuvenation. Please be mindful that this space is not open to children or girls under menstruating age.
Literally translated as “House of Study,” this space is central to Jewish life as a place where we keep sacred texts and learn. Come learn in the Beit Midrash during formal learning workshops, during un-programmed learning time, and for small group gathering.
For everyone’s safety, wash your hands after every time you use the toilet, before each time you enter the kitchen, and before each meal. Stations will be placed near the hearth and toilets.
Portable toilets (port-o-potties) are available during the festival.
We will be providing a water truck for all communal cooking, dishwashing, and drinking. You may want to bring 1–2 gallons to keep at your tent for personal use.

About the Holiday

Read below for information on the holiday of Passover and it’s place in the yearly holiday cycle.

Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the end of Israelite enslavement. Beginning with the full moon of the Hebrew month of Nisan (15th of Nisan), Passover is the quintessential liberation festival celebrating the birth of spring. The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, literally means “the narrow places.” Commemorating our Exodus from Egypt provides a powerful opportunity to free ourselves from the narrowness that enslaves us in our daily lives.
Passover is the first of the Shalosh Regalim, the three Jewish Pilgrimage Festivals (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot). In ancient times we made a pilgrimage to the Temple to give thanks for harvests that we received from the earth. We planted barley seeds after Sukkot with the first autumn rain.

At Passover, we celebrated the ripening of barley, the first grain, by offering a special measure of barley called an omer. Passover begins the holy process of “counting the omer.” Between the second day of Passover (16th of Nisan) and the day before Shavuot (6th of Sivan), we undergo a 49-day spiritual accounting process. Counting the Omer follows our journey from liberation to the revelation we receive at Shavuot.

At Passover we recall our journey towards freedom and we envision our liberation—from enslavement in Mitzrayim (the narrows of Egypt) to the expansive freedom of midbar. Midbar, literally meaning desert and wilderness, can also be read as the place that speaks.

It is in the desert that we hear God’s voice, receive our sacred teachings, and undergo our deepest healing. The journeys of our ancestors who strode deep into the wilderness, Moses encountering the burning bush and Miriam finding the well of water that gave life to Israel as it began its wilderness journey, provide the inspiration for our own journey. When we journey to the desert wilderness for Passover, we too have Spirit to support us in the next step on our personal and communal paths.

Today, we draw from our ancestors’ wilderness journey. We make a pilgrimage, far from home, into unfamiliar surroundings to experience the holiday in its original desert context. Join us as we discover Freedom through Faith together in the desert this spring!