by David Helfand
One of the greatest joys of being at Machaneh Ramah Galim is the opportunity to engage in the blessings that camp provides, from the blessings of our morning tefillot (prayers), the opportunity to bless new experiences within our maslulim (speciality tracks), and the blessings of our aruchot (meals). And who can forget the incredible blessing of being able to return to camp after an unexpected hiatus! This week’s Torah reading, Parashat Eikev, details how we bless our food following a meal. In the famous line from which we derive Birkat HaMazon, the Grace After Meals, we are told:
וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ וּבֵֽרַכְתָּ֙ אֶת־יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ עַל־הָאָ֥רֶץ הַטֹּבָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָֽתַן־לָֽךְ
When you have eaten and are satisfied, give thanks to the LORD your G-d for the good land which G-d has given you (Deut. 8:10).
The simplest meaning of this verse is that we should recite blessings of thanks and appreciation for the food that we have eaten which ultimately happens when we are satisfied. Our rabbis help us understand that when we say Birkat HaMazon, we broaden our own consciousnesses, become aware of where our food comes from and how it arrives into our mouths and bellies, and connect with our history as a people through the Torah. When we bring blessings to our food, we bring our holy tradition into our lives.
This idea of blessing our food after we have eaten and are satisfied creates a vivid metaphor for our experiences here at Ramah Galim.
Va’achalta: We have taken in all the moments that camp has to offer, like gathering at the medurah (the fire pit) to sing and dance to welcome in Shabbat. We explored the ocean, performed with our hearts out on the stage, and biked and climbed to new heights. We grew as a kehillah and made long lasting friends. We danced in onesies on the beach as we closed Shabbat with havdallah and brought in a new week. Now that we have engaged in all that camp has to offer, we move to satisfaction.
Ve’savatah: We are beyond satisfied and grateful for the opportunity this summer to return to our home by the ocean. The past year plus has been a challenge for everyone, and more than ever, camp was a home for us to be able to be safe in and be satisfied with all that we had. The greatest blessing of camp was that it was an escape from this past year and allowed for each and every camper and staff to be together to bask in the glory that is camp.
U’verachta: It is now time to bless the summer and the moments shared together. The greatest blessing that we can share together is returning summer after summer to Ramah Galim and sharing in the experiences, creating memories and friendships, and growing together as a kehillah kedoshah, a holy and immersive community. May this summer propel each and every one of us to continue to grow and return to our beloved Ramah Galim community for many more summers to come.
David Helfand is a rabbinical student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, and founding Program Director of Ramah Galim. David just can’t stay away and joined us this summer to lead services, Jewish educational programming, and camp logistics.