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Parashat Behar, by Amy Skopp Cooper, National Ramah Associate Director

In Parashat Behar, we read about the Shemita (Sabbatical) and Yovel (Jubilee) years that Israelite farmers and landowners were commanded to observe.  Every seventh year, crops could not be planted and the land was allowed to rest. Every 50th year, land was returned to its original owner.  Some rabbinic sages have taught that the purpose of the Shemita was to demonstrate to people that the earth belongs to God and is only entrusted to human beings. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the Chief Rabbi of Israel before 1948, taught that the purpose of the Jubilee Year was to bring about unity among people by restoring self-respect among the poor and closing the gap between the rich and the poor.

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Hands of Time: Parshat Yitro

I’ve always been fascinated by daylight savings time, this notion that you can literally change time – something that, to me, intuitively feels fixed – simply by moving the hands on a clock, pressing a few buttons on your microwave, or magically seeing your phone adjust to the season.

I thought about time when looking at this week’s Torah portion, Yitro. First, I find it ironic that the parashah is the shortest in the Book of Exodus since it references time which is infinite. Yitro, who might very well be a “management consultant” today, looks at time as something to be valued in ourselves and others. He appeals to Moses to not take on the burden of hearing every Israelite’s dispute and to not be the judge and jury for all. Yes, the disputes are important, Yitro acknowledges, but rather than spending from morning until evening micromanaging everyone’s problems, let the people handle the more minor issues. Give them the opportunity to problem-solve, to devise creative solutions, and to be leaders. Allow them to share the community’s burden.

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Shemot as a Model for Shared Leadership

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.

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The Torah of Hosting

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. 

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Stepping Outside Towards Joy, by Howard Blas, Director, National Ramah Tikvah Network

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!

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Facing Elul Anew by Heather Renetzky, Rosh Chinuch

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.

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