Machaneh and Mishkan: Creating the Sacred, Together by Avram Ellner | Camp Ramah Northern California

Machaneh and Mishkan: Creating the Sacred, Together by Avram Ellner

As a veteran Ramahnik, I cannot wait to join the Ramah Galim community and offer my abilities and skills to camp as Rosh Nachshonim. For seven summers, I was a camper at Camp Ramah in the Poconos, and for four years, I was a counselor and Rosh Edah. One of the highlights of my time as a staff member was as a Gesher counselor, Poconos’ edah equivalent to Nachshonim, and providing my campers with meaningful experiences and leadership opportunities. I know my staff and I will create a Nachshonim program which our campers will remember for years to come. I would not be who I am today without my experiences at camp, and I know that it is in this place that we create something sacred.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel, we learn about the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, God’s dwelling place among the Israelites. Each member of the community, “whose heart so moves [them],” contributes not just what they can, but their best resources, to help construct the Mishkan – precious stones and metals, fine yarns and linens, prized oils, and valuable woods (Exodus 35:5). Those who possess trade skills offer their technical expertise in the Mishkan’s construction. Each Israelite, according to his or her ability, brings out their best in order to fulfill this communal need.

The community’s outpouring is so tremendous that the artisans tell Moses, “The people are bringing more than is needed for the tasks entailed…” (Exodus 36:5). They were so committed to this communal endeavor that their efforts were, “…more than enough for all the tasks to be done” (Exodus 36:7). This shared goal – to create a dwelling place for the Sacred One – galvanized and empowered the community to unite and create something bigger than themselves for the benefit of all.

For six magical weeks, we create our own Mishkan, our own dwelling place for the holy, at camp (machaneh). Each member of our community brings his or her unique, overflowing abundance to create camp’s sacred space and time. Counselors, with years of camping experience, are ready to create the summer of a lifetime for our campers. Seasoned specialists are equipped to educate our campers in an array of fields such as scuba diving and the performing arts. Professionals run our Tikvah program to ensure that every child has the opportunity to experience camp. Facility members maintain camp, and our kitchen staff keeps us well fed. Our wonderful campers come with bright eyes and big hearts, ready to make friendships, to have fun, to learn, and to grow. We create the sacred, together.