On a Friday night in early September, more than 150 people gathered under a domelike open structure built in the desert to sing, pray, light candles and share in the traditions of the Sabbath. The open-air design, decorated with colorful scarves and an illuminated Star of David, is not the typical place you might imagine celebrating the Sabbath.
In the middle of the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada, more than 53,000 participants came to experience the 25th year of Burning Man, a counterculture city that comes to life for eight days each year. Based on 10 principles, including radical self-expression, self-reliance, leaving no trace and communal effort, Burning Man is the extreme sport of summer festivals. Facing dry, sizzling summer days, cold nights and 70-mile-an-hour dust storms, participants are pushed to their limits.
Sukkat Shalom hosted the Friday night meal, along with some of the services, and had the largest turnout since the camp was started. Josh Finn, who had flown in from Massachusetts, reflected on the large showing of people, saying, “There is something very Burning Man about Shabbat: being together with the community, looking inward and getting away from the day to day.”
Beyond Sukkat Shalom there were multiple Jewish events publicized in the Burning Man guide and held in various locations on the playa. From serious workshops to lighthearted fun, the events included a challah French toast lunch, an introduction to Kabbalah, a theatrical performance of a bat mitzvah, various interpretations of a “burn mitzvah” and a rapping rabbi.
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