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In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Shemot, we are introduced to Moshe. Moshe is eventually appointed to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to begin their journey towards the land of Canaan. While the book of Shemot and the rest of the Torah might be commonly viewed as the story of the broader journey of B’nai Yisrael’s triumphs and tribulations along the way, there are also many lessons to be learned about Moshe’s journey as a leader. Reading this Parsha has inspired me to reflect on how my tzevet (staff) experience has shaped me into the camp leader I am today.
The book of Shemot is the beginning of a journey (or the “first day of camp”) of a leader who not only develops his own skills, but has the wisdom to gain insight from those around him.
One of the most valuable things I learned as a tzevet member is to not only have strong leadership skills as an individual but to lead as a team and collaborate with your fellow tzevet members.
I absolutely LOVE cooking. From zucchini bread to tacos, whether in cooking chug or solo, I never tire of clanging pots and pans or the beep of the oven timer. For me, the joy in cooking comes from being able to share food with others. Feeding people is my favorite way to demonstrate hospitality, something that Abraham and I seem to have in common.
If the holiday of Sukkot took place during the summer, when camp is in session, it would surely be a Tikvah favorite! Sukkot teaches so many of the values that we live each day in all of our National Ramah Tikvah Network camping and vocational training programs.
Sukkot is a time for experiencing joy (the holiday is called Zman Simchateinu, the holiday of our joy). It is also a time for going out of our comfort zone, for radical inclusion, and for being good guests and hosts.
Sitting in a sukkah—whether in the cold (sometimes snowy!) northeast or Midwest, the hot South or the sometimes smoky northwest—is not always comfortable. We leave our comfortable homes for 7 days—and sit in temporary booths. Tikvah campers leave the comforts of home for camp. It is not always easy, but it is sure worth it!
This week, I made a huge change. Instead of zooming into classes from my favorite armchair, I actually sat on the couch! Okay, perhaps it wasn’t such a huge variation. But in these days of endless Zoom calls, my routine has become so fixed that the tiniest alteration feels huge. Lately, I have found that newness and excitement are hard to come by. This feels particularly challenging while we’re in the month of Elul, and “newness” is exactly what we’re supposed to be preparing for. During Elul, we reflect on our decisions and actions in anticipation of Rosh Hashanah, a brand-new year. In a time of so much sameness, I’ve been feeling a little lost. Will anything really feel new this year?In my skepticism, I turned to my experience at camp for inspiration.
Each Shabbat morning at Ramah Galim is marked by the excited shouts of “Hafoch ba! Hafoch ba! Hafoch ba!” – “Turn it and turn it and turn it again.” As we spin our “Gal gal shel Torah,” (Wheel of Torah) to explore the week’s parsha, we shout these words from Pirkei Avot 5:22, a reminder that no matter how many times we read the same stories, the Torah always has something new to offer.
This week’s parsha, Ki Tavo, offers a similar piece of wisdom. Just as the Israelites are about to enter the Promised Land, Moshe reminds them of the blessings and curses contingent on their adherence to God’s commandments. He frames the list with these words: “Adonai your God commands you this day to observe these laws and rules; observe them faithfully with all your heart and soul” (26:16). The commentator Rashi suggests that the words “this day” are intended to tell us that each and every day, we should treat the commandments as if we are receiving them for the very first time. Even though they are ancient, even though we strive to follow the same commandments all the time, we should find novelty in them every day.
When Camp Ramah in Northern California made the same painful decision as other Jewish camps around the country to cancel our 2020 camp season, we knew that our anticipated vision of campers running into the arms of old friends and, by the end of the summer, putting their arms around new friends, would be lost.
We also knew that campers would miss out on being embraced all summer long by staff and madrichim. In addition to keeping our camp running like a well-oiled machine, our staff – from song leaders to bunk supervisors to those who prepare our food each day – serve as role models to our youngsters and teens.