by Jackson Mercer
CIT Advisor ’16, Rosh Shira ’16 & ’17
Originally Written Summer 2016

Camp is about facing your fears and jumping in.

I grew up terrified of water. In all my years at camp, I never went down the waterslide or joined for breicha until my third year on staff. After songleading for the same group of Hagigah-niks turned Avodah-niks, turned CIT’s and summers of Pool-Tefillah requests – I decided I felt safe enough to use my fear as a opportunity to wrestle with fear and what our Jewish tradition has to
say about it.

From the edge of the pool we sang about the crashing waves and powerful breakers described in Psalm 93 using a melody from Nava Tehila we sang during Friday night Shira. I dipped my feet in as we sang about the Israelites crossing through the Reed Sea – the grandeur of that moment and the overwhelming depiction of water and emotions that poet Yehuda Amichai captures and that Dan Nichols turned into song.

And then I sang a melody I had written about facing fears and moments of courage in our tradition, “Lech Lecha”. In it I sing about Nachshon, the Israelite who our tradition teaches was the first to step into the Reed Sea even before it split. Hope in the face of the unknown. I sing about Abraham, our ancestor who was asked to leave everything he knew to start anew. Courage in the face of fear. What did our ancestors feel in those moments?

I believe that Nachshon and Abraham were only able to take a step forward because of the “nation sure to follow”. Behind Nachshon stood the entirety of the Jewish people at the Reed Sea and only after Abraham’s journey did the entirety of the Jewish people’s stories unfold. At that moment, I dove into a pool for the first time in over ten years because I knew my campers, my co-counselors, the lifeguards, and my unit-head were all surrounding me.

My blessing for us this Shabbat of Lech Lecha is to feel the support of our community in all the challenges you face. May this song be a reminder that the love of one another makes the crashing waters feel a bit less terrifying and the desert a little less barren.

Touches of Torah – Lech Lecha from URJ Camp Newman on Vimeo.