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Last year my daughter Lielle got her first hanukkiah – a homemade one crafted by her grandparents with her favorite animals flanking the candle holders. She studied it for a long time, rather nonchalantly, trying to decipher its purpose. It did not play music or light up; it could not be cuddled or stacked – what exactly did it do? It was not until we lit the first candle of the holiday and sang the blessings together that Lielle (and it) alighted with joy.
I have been thinking amidst this season of intense shopping about how lucky she and all our children are to be surrounded by “things” that not only entertain, communicate, or move, but also that ritualize their lives and educate their hearts and souls.
The very root of the word Hanukkah itself alludes to this multiplicitous gift.
Read reflections on the weekly Torah portion by Peninsula Sinai Congregation’s Rabbi Corey Helfand
Let the countdown begin! Haven’t enrolled yet? Save your spot by December 15th and get a special edition Ramah Galim rash guard to keep you comfortable in your wetsuit this summer and all year round!
One of my favorite Shabbat moments this summer at camp came as a total surprise: during Kabbalat Shabbat my prayers were suddenly interrupted by a group of campers and staff pointing out to the sea and jumping up and down. “Whales, whales!” they squealed with wide-eyed excitement. Following their gaze, I too noticed that out in the Pacific Ocean, just a thousand yards off the camp beach, were several humpback whales breaching in grandiose swoops above the water’s surface. I smiled, knowing that if we hadn’t gathered to pray at that moment we would never have witnessed their wondrous presence.
How grateful I feel to be apart of the Jewish community of Ramah Galim that comes together every Shabbat and every summer for life changing moments like this.
And how might we capture more precious moments of spiritual surprise even in our lives outside of camp?
As a camp counselor my fantasy was year round camp. Instead of ending camp and returning to school and work, we’d just stay at camp all year round. I’d live with my closest friends, we’d always have fun activities, and, thanks to the kitchen staff, we’d never have to cook! What could be better than that?
As I grew older I realized that maybe my year-round-camping idea wasn’t really the best idea after all…
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Camp Ramah in Northern California operates under the educational guidance of the National Ramah Commission and is supported by an accelerator grant from the Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Avi Chai Foundation. Camp Ramah in Northern California also receives financial support from the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. Camp Ramah in Northern California is a proud partner of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies.