A Shabbat Drash – November 25, 2016
By Loal Isaacs, Director of New Initiatives and Retreats at URJ Camp Newman
In this week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, we learn about the loss of one matriarch, the death of Sarah, and the appearance of another, Eliezer’s discovery of Rebecca. Abraham had asked Eliezer to find a wife for his son Isaac, so Eliezer strategically brought his 10 camels to a well – right when women came to draw water. His strategy? He asked each woman, “Please tilt your pitcher so that I may drink,” waiting for one to respond with, “Drink and I will give your camels water too.” Rebecca said just that – and even offered to house Eliezer and his animals for the night.
Rebecca unknowingly passed Eliezer’s test, proving her kindness to both strangers and to all life by also offering to tend to his animals. Little did she know that by showing compassion for a stranger, she would receive numerous benefits and a new path for her life; she simply behaved in a way she believed in her heart to be right.
Oftentimes the most significant challenges and tests in our lives are not obvious in the moment. One might argue that our core values and morals are tested multiple times a day, simply from interacting with the world around us. So how can we properly prepare to face the seemingly endless tests we will face? And equally as important, how can we prepare our children to do the same?
At least once each day during the summer, I would take a long walk around camp, strolling through hundreds of campers and counselors engaging in countless different activities, programs and prayer. With each step, I would witness human interactions on their most basic level, some as simple as a camper stopping to tie their shoe and their friend stopping as well so they would not have to catch up with their group alone, and some as detailed as a songleader gently moving a camper’s finger slightly to the left on the guitar strings to teach them how to play a perfect chord.
Although these moments may seem routine and insignificant, when strung together, day in and day out, over weeks at camp, these series of innocuous moments lay a foundation in the minds of our campers – a foundation built on the normalizing of compassion, patience, empathy and kindness. These countless experiences at camp, reinforced by loving families at home and a supportive congregation community, are precisely how we can best prepare our children for the inevitable tests of life. They will in turn harken back to the behavior they have consistently seen modeled in all their most important Jewish interactions, and will channel their inner-Rebecca, and rise to any challenge they face.
Shabbat Shalom from Camp Newman!