Words From the Wilderness | Entry #1

A Letter From Our Director

Dear BaMidbar Community,

Yesterday we welcomed students to the ranch for our summer wilderness therapy program. These students are embarking on a 40-day journey into the wilderness, a journey of self-discovery, hope, and healing.

In Hebrew, the word BaMidbar is translated as “in the wilderness,” or “in the desert,” but the word itself comes from the Hebrew root דבר, which means, “to speak.” In the Zohar, a Jewish mystical text, we learn that while we were in Egypt, the Jewish people lost our ability to tell our own stories (Zohar Va’era, 2:25b). During that time, we were not only physical slaves but slaves to another person’s narrative. When we left Egypt, we spent forty years in the midbar – the wilderness – and it was there that we regained our ability to speak. We found our voice, began to establish our national identity, and started to write a new narrative as an independent people.

In the Torah, an unlikely hero emerges as the Jewish people enter the wilderness. The Israelites reach the Red Sea, crossing from Mitzrayim – Egypt – into the Midbar – the wilderness. As Moses prays, the Israelites weep and the Egyptians pursue. At this point, our hero emerges. The Talmud tells us that Nachshon ben Aminadav walks into the sea, not knowing what the future holds, but knowing that he cannot return to the slavery of Egypt. As Nachshon moves forward, taking a leap of faith, the sea parts and a pathway emerges. God speaks to Moses saying, “There’s a time for prayer and a time for action.” Moses had prayed, and nothing happened. But a young and unknown individual took a leap of faith. By stepping into the sea and rejecting the constraints of his past, he embraced the infinite possibilities that lay before him.

At BaMidbar, each of our students is a Nachshon, initiating their own leap into the unknown to embrace a future full of infinite possibilities. Taking that leap is hard. By coming to BaMidbar, students are taking a chance, saying, “Even if I don’t know where this path will take me, I know something needs to change.”

It is not because of Moses that the sea parts and the Jews begin their journey to freedom. It is the unassuming, the Nachshons of this world, who change the future of the Jewish people forever. Just as the Jews found their voice in the wilderness, each of our students at BaMidbar is a Nachshon, finding their voice and becoming the hero of their own narrative.

Join me as we welcome our students to BaMidbar’s therapeutic programs, and embark on a 40-day journey into the wilderness.

With gratitude,
Jory Hanselman Mayschak & the BaMidbar Team

Words From the Wilderness | Entry #1

Throughout the summer, we will be publishing weekly blogs from our field staff on our website and highlighting them in our July and August newsletters.

By Moss Herberholz, Field Therapist, Summer 2022

In returning to the BaMidbar basecamp for our 40-day summer wilderness therapy program, I have found myself reflecting on the importance of place.

I have spent many seasons on the BaMidbar property, and each time I return I experience a sense of peace and calm. I feel comforted by the familiar sight of blooming wildflowers and dancing aspen leaves, the sounds of hummingbirds, singing voices, and wind blowing through boughs, and the smells of the ponderosa pines and junipers. I am grounded by an experience of rightness, and of belongingness. Seeing the smiling faces of staff members – familiar and new – reassures me that I am in the right place.

Connection to self, community, and the more-than-human world are all integral parts of our wilderness therapy program, informed by the deep wisdom of Jewish tradition.

As we welcome students to our program, we welcome them to the flora, fauna, geography, and climate of Colorado, and to a new (if temporary) home. Together we will create a community, pulling from the rich personal experiences of our students and staff, along with the guidance of Jewish, ritual, practice, and meaning-making, to create collective belongingness.

This special place is truly dear to me, and I hope our incoming students leave with the same sense of connection – knowing they belong.

Headshot of Moss Herberholz. The text reads, "Moss H, Field Therapist, He/Him"

About the Author

Starting in 2015, Moss has worked as a nature educator for Jewish organizations including Ramah in the Rockies and Teva. Since its pilot season, Moss has filled many roles at BaMidbar including as a logistics coordinator, assistant field guide, lead field guide, and communications coordinator. He is very excited to work as a primary therapist for BaMidbar’s wilderness therapy program this summer. He recently received his M.S.W. and a Certificate of Jewish Leadership as a fellow in the Jewish Communal Leadership Program (JCLP) at the University of Michigan. He has a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Theater Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He works as a facilitator for dismantling racism workshops and in his free time, he enjoys dancing, identifying fungus, and spinning fire.