On our second day of the summer, my three-year-old started calling our camp lodgings “home.” I asked him what he meant and he said, “We have two homes: Galim and St. Louis. And both have red doors!” I was amazed, first that he’d noticed and correctly recalled the color of the door (I thought it was brown), but even more than that was the fact that at so young an age he could say something that had taken me a lifetime to understand: that camp is home.
The journey to find a sacred place to call home can be full of twists and turns. We see it in Parashat Balak, which we read this Shabbat. Much as Bilaam ends up discovering an encampment of lovely tents and dwelling places among the people he was sent to curse, we are often surprised by the incredible places we encounter. And sometimes, if we are lucky, we get to come back to the special places in our lives again and again.
This is only our second summer coming as a family to Ramah Galim, but my wife, Jessica, and I have been campers and staff at many different camps since we were very young. All told, this is my 15th summer as a part of a summer camp, just under half of the summers I can remember, so for me, camp really is home. I can still remember the first day of that very first session at Camp Interlaken, up in the North Woods of Wisconsin, and experiencing the ruach, the joy, the incredible friendships that began immediately and have lasted a lifetime, and I never thought I would get that feeling again.
But I see it every day here at Ramah Galim.
I see the love that campers share with one another and the care with which the entire staff crafts an amazing summer. I hear joyous laughter and song every hour of the day. I feel the amazing community that exists magically only in this place and for just these few precious weeks of summer. I know that I am so incredibly fortunate to be able to share some of my knowledge and experience with this incredible machaneh (camp) through stories, songs, tefillah (prayer), or just enjoying the pristine seaside with which we are blessed.
The best part, though, has been watching my two little boys become “camp people.” Ami has been talking about Galim every week since we were here last year. He knows the camp anthem, sings HaMotzi and Oseh Shalom with gusto, and this past week, he walked hand in hand with everyone else down to the beach for Havdallah. Nadav hugs everyone, and seems to understand, at his core, that we are all truly a big family here.
We love this place. Throughout the thousands of little triumphs and tribulations that make up each and every day, we have found ourselves back where we started so many years ago. We have once again been welcomed in as a part of a caring community of camp friends, living out in nature, trying not to count the days, but trying instead to make the days count.
It feels good to be home again.
Rabbi Scott Shafrin