I t seemed only yesterday that I’d participated in my first horseback-riding workshop, together with Dahlia, Ilana, Racheli, and the others. Actually, two years had passed, and the women had organized a “booster” — a single workshop to get re-empowered. Although Rabbi Eckstein had led the original workshop, he wanted me to lead this group myself.

After hugs all around, I led the way to the round pen where the horses were saddled and ready to go. I assigned each person a horse and started issuing instructions. Ilana assisted me in making sure everything was in order, and we began to move.

“Why aren’t we waiting for Rabbi Eckstein?” Dahlia asked.

“He has a little surprise planned,” I said.

The women laughed and asked no more questions.

We rode in the direction of Kfar Uria, a nearby moshav, gradually ascending a dirt path up a rocky mountainside. Tying the horses was the most eventful part of the ride; there are no real trees up there, only tree-like bushes with spindly arms and prickly branches. But the view was well worth it — sun-bleached stones dotting the hills below, sapphire sky as far as the eye can see.

We settled easily into a circle. “Okay, Shoshana, what’s the surprise?” Dahlia said. “I was half-expecting the rabbi to have a barbecue waiting for us up here, but there’s nothing to hide behind.”

“I was just getting to the surprise,” I answered.

We said the Serenity Prayer, then I asked everyone to share one thing that had changed for her as a result of the workshop. “Ilana, let’s start with you.”

She smiled broadly. “You remember that ride when Topaz kept going out of line, and I was positive it was Topaz and not me?” She laughed. “That was a life changer. I thought I knew myself so well, and instead I discovered I’d been wearing rose-colored glasses. So I did two things: I started seeing a therapist, and I took horseback-riding lessons. Then I enrolled in a course to become a horseback-riding instructor. Now we’re actually moving to a moshav and buying two horses.”

There were squeals of surprise and delight, followed by a chorus of “Ohavim!”

“My turn,” I said before anyone else could jump in. “Before our workshop, I’d been doing a fair amount of riding with various groups in Retorno. It centers me, calms me on a deep level. Sweeps out all the internal cobwebs and leaves things clear and clean. Riding introduced me to a whole inner world I didn’t know existed — but it was our group that helped me not only dust off the clutter but also organize it, make sense of it. It was our group that made me realize that I have a knack for connecting the dots — not just for myself but for other people.”

I looked around at the faces that had become part of the tapestry I’d been weaving these past few years. “When this reunion was organized, Rabbi Eckstein told me to lead the group without him. For me it’s like a rite of passage.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 559)