Reflections from my time at Camp Ramah - Summer 2016

It is wonderful to be back home in Boca Raton after two weeks away at Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, Georgia.  It was great spending time with our CSK campers during second session (we had 
16 campers from our congregation go to Ramah Darom this summer), but I also had the chance to teach campers and staff from all over the U.S. (and Israel).  

I experience something new every time I serve as Rabbi in Residence at Ramah every summer, but every time I leave camp, I am in awe with how much God’s presence has filled me up.  Usually, when we think of having a ‘God’ experience, we think of standing on a mountain, looking at a beautiful waterfall, or a serene lake.  These are ‘awesome’ experiences, but what truly ‘fills me up’ at camp are my interactions with students and teachers, both kids and adults, at these beautiful places.  I penned the following thoughts during one of my last days at camp: 

“I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and the most from my students” (Rabbi Hanina - Ta’anit 7a). I had the honor and pleasure of teaching three Yahadut/Judaica classes for the first two weeks of second session. One of the classes I taught, entering 8th graders, was titled, a Jewish Survival Guide to Middle School/High School. During our class, we discussed issues of friendship, cliques, peer pressure, bullying, and more, and the Jewish take 
to it. My students taught me what it is like to be in middle school today - that there are new cliques that didn't exist when I was a kid, like cliques of girls (and boys) who don't eat. They talked about the pressures associated with the choosing of the right High School (not college). During my entering 9th grade class, we studied Food Justice, learning about the benefits of local food and about farm workers and their struggle for justice (through the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers), and our entering 10th grade focused on faith. The maturity and wisdom of all of the campers in my classes was astonishing and refreshing. It reminded me of an teaching, and the reason I think our youth should be the cornerstone of our energies: When Israel stood to receive the Torah, the Holy One said to them: "I am prepared to give you My Torah. Present to Me good guarantors that you will observe and study the Torah and I shall give it to you."
They said: "Our ancestors are our guarantors."
The Holy One said: "Your ancestors are not sufficient guarantors. Bring Me good guarantors, and I shall give you the Torah."
They said: "Our prophets are our guarantors."
The Holy One said: "The prophets are not sufficient guarantors. Bring Me good guarantors and I shall give you the Torah."
They said: "Indeed, our children will be our guarantors."
The Holy One said: "Your children are good guarantors. For their 
sake I give the Torah to you." Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:24”

The thought, however, was incomplete.  During these two weeks, I learned lessons from special needs campers, part of the Tikvah program.  These campers were fully integrated into the activities and having them as part of the rest of camp inspired the other children to open their hearts to truly beautiful souls.  I learned lessons from former soldiers of the IDF who spoke with tears in their eyes of their experiences during the Gaza war two years ago.  Last year, I learned how to blow glass, but this year, I learned how to shoot a bow and arrow!  I saw different things in my own children as I let them revel in independence. 

In short, we often think Torah is learned through books, but there is so much Torah to be learned with each interaction and experience, no matter where we are.  Let's continue to search for that Torah in every interaction we have.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi David Baum



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