By Ben Haberman, Counselor and Social Media Specialist
On the first night of camp, my campers looked up at the stars and became enamored by the beauty and clarity of the sky before them. It had been four years since they had seen stars like these. In this moment, these campers started to engage with the holy space around them.
Holiness and the idea of holy spaces may be difficult to comprehend for some. At first, people may think of a synagogue, monastery, or temple when they are prompted to think of a holy space. For many of us, holiness and our spirituality is limited to t’filah. However, holiness is not limited to that box at camp. Everything at camp can be holy, and each space resonates holiness differently for each camper as they connect with the people and places around them.
For one camper, the hike to the star may be the most holy activity at camp; and the summit of that hike may be their holy space. A hashkevot, cabin time, where a camper bonded with their best friends on a deeper level may take place at the top of the star, giving it significance. Or the exclamation “I love being Jewish”, when screamed across the mountains, may reverberate through their mind long after they have returned to the ground. Or maybe it is the view of their favorite place in the world that the top of the star provides that gives it its significance. Whatever it may be, these campers may hold the star in their heart as a holy place when they are at camp or when they are hundreds of miles away.
Each person experiences the holy spaces of camp differently. For me the holiest place at camp is the creek. On a good year, the creek runs ravenously. It babbles and runs throughout the night lulling the camp to sleep. In years with less rain, the creek is home to hundreds of butterflies. As you traverse this space, you leap, stretch, and jump from one rock to another in order to advance further. This form of movement awakens a level of freedom that you don’t experience in many spaces. For me, this is what makes the creek holy. The creek was the first place I participated in a quintessential camp alternative t’filah. It was a combination of meditation and stacking river rocks. At that moment I did not know how special it would become to me, but with each passing year, these t’filot at the creek would gain more and more significance as my rock towers grew higher and higher. The creek became my holy space by allowing me to connect to my Judaism in a new way.
Camp’s natural wonders are holy to so many, but so many people also have seemingly insignificant spots at camp that hold immense importance in their lives. For some it may be the top of the vineyard where they won night fox for the first time and for others the blackberry brambles near the gates are held in high esteem because they picked blackberries for hours with their best friends. For someone else it could be cabin 107 where they met their best friend for the first time. As we go through our camp journeys, we collect more and more spaces at camp that hold significance and are holy to us.