Beginnings and Endings, by Rabbi Jaymee Alpert | Camp Ramah Northern California

Beginnings and Endings, by Rabbi Jaymee Alpert

This Shabbat, we conclude our reading of the Book of Numbers with the double-portion Mattot-Mas’ei.  At the beginning of Parashat Mas’ei, Moses recounts the places the Children of Israel have encamped along their forty-year journey through the wilderness.  While the list might seem a bit dry to us as readers (there is not a lot of detail as to what happened where), I imagine that for the Israelites, it was a reminder of all the places they had been and the things they had experienced in each place.  What a fitting parashah for the end of camp!

By now, it is likely that your child has shared some camp memories with you.  Perhaps they have told you about the places they went, the friends the made, or some of the things they experienced.  Spending two or four or six weeks at Ramah Galim, after all, is a journey filled with growth. At camp, kids are encouraged to try new things and to take risks that will help them stretch and evolve.

I am so glad I had the opportunity to spend some time at camp this week and to see this for myself.  During my visit, I watched kids cheer each other on as they reached for the top of the climbing wall.  I saw an impromptu game of kickball break out, where everyone who was around was included. I saw campers on dirt bikes heading down to the beach during menucha (rest time) because they didn’t want to miss out, and I listened to kids enthusiastically talk about Tefila (prayer) Afloat, which happens on paddleboards.  I heard the happy shouts of campers during Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals), filled with what have become Ramah Galim traditions, and I was amazed by how quickly campers became invested in their teams for Yom Yisrael (Israel Day).  It is possible that the memories from camp sound like ‘just a list’ to people who weren’t there, but for the people who were, the memories are powerful reminders of everything they did and experienced.

The traditional rabbis compare the Israelites’ time in the wilderness to a honeymoon.  For forty years, the Israelites enjoy a special connection and relationship with God. They live in a bubble, being fed, cared for, and given the opportunity to grow.  Spending time at Ramah Galim means living in the best type of bubble, where campers and staff alike, are cared for while caring for each other, and given many opportunities to grow.  I am confident that this past summer will be a meaningful stop along the journey of everyone who spent time at camp.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jaymee Alpert

Congregation Beth David, Saratoga, CA