by Rabbi Allie Fischman
This week’s Torah portion in Leviticus, Emor (Speak), teaches us about a variety of prescriptive laws…regulations on the priests’ lives, sacrifices, set times for a variety of holidays, details for the lamp in the sanctuary, how to set the “sanctuary bread” JUST so, and more.
While reading this parashah I recognized that camp, too, is full of prescriptive behaviors that have organically evolved into what we just call traditions. There’s a joke among camp directors that every director could start a million sentences with, “Well, at MY camp…” while the other part of the joke is that after we do something once, it becomes tradition. And if you mess with tradition, be careful, you may just end up with some very upset campers and staff!
It’s striking how important something as simple as a song or a weekly frisbee game is at camp. Similarly, rituals like being welcomed by CITs singing “Heiveinu Shalom Aleichem” or leaving the dining hall on a Friday night to them singing their “lai lais,” to the shticky additions to birkat hamazon, the blessing after the meal. Without these pieces, we may be at camp but in some ways, it wouldn’t quite FEEL like camp.
It’s not just being outside in the mountains, it’s being in the Beit T’filah or the Avo Creek site or Har Nof for Shabbat.
It’s not only singing Jewish songs together on the Kikar it’s the hand motions, subtle word changes and the energy that vibrates through the whole community on a Friday night.
It’s not just the bedtime shema when we do siyum each night but doing the shtick that you’ve heard for 2, 3, or 12 years of your life that gets passed down almost through osmosis to the next generation of campers.
These little rituals put together make the experience of being at camp so unique, and beautiful that even the time passing feels so different than during the rest of the year. These small (or big!) traditions that have evolved over our 75 years of being a camp, make up the special sauce of what it means to BE at camp.
Including tonight, our full-time team only have 3 more Shabbatot (only 3!!!) before the very first Shabbat of camp in summer 2022, and we can’t wait to get back to the magical place where all the pieces fit together to create the beautiful space we call home. Shabbat shalom from our team to you!