by Rabbi Brian Stoller and Cantor Jay O’Brien, Kallah Segel (Faculty)
What does it mean to have “enough”? Where is the line between what we want and what we truly need? And what does Judaism teach us about how to be responsible neighbors and stewards of God’s Creation? These are questions we have been exploring with our youngest chanichim (campers) this summer in Kallah Bet.
According to Jewish law, when a farmer is gleaning the produce of his or her field, any crops that fall from the pile during the collection process must be left on the ground for the needy. The moral teaching in this law is that however much the farmer can carry is by definition “enough”; the surplus is God’s bounty and should be given to help people who have little. This is a powerful lesson for our children today because many of us have so much more than we can (metaphorically) carry. Too often, our impulse is to hoard what we have out of greed or fear that, no matter much there is, there will never be enough. But Judaism pushes against that impulse and teaches us to appreciate what we have, to embrace the idea that enough is enough, and to share some of our excess with our fellow human beings.
To teach this lesson to the chanichim, Kyle O’Day, Kallah’s outstanding Rosh Limud (head of learning), told the kids a fun and engaging story about Rebecca, a farmer in the Land of Israel who, after dreaming about all the excess goodies she could buy with the proceeds from her crops, heard the voice of God and learned the importance of sharing her surplus with others. Then the madrichim (counselors) organized a relay race based on the Torah’s teaching. The kids were divided into three teams, and each team was given a bucket filled with water balloons. One after the other, each team-member had to run 20 yards across the basketball court carrying water balloons in his or her hands and deposit them into a bucket on the other side. But, in keeping with the day’s teaching, any balloon that dropped had to be left on the ground for the neighbors to collect. At the end of the relay, the teams scattered to pick up the excess balloons, and an award was given to the team that collected the most surplus for those in need. And of course, once the lesson had been learned, the madrichim led the kids in a raucous, joyful water-balloon fight! It was a wonderful – and memorable – morning of learning and fun for everyone!
One of the beautiful things about OSRUI is how our segel (faculty) of clergy and educators partner with our madrichim to create fun, innovative programs that introduce the kids to Jewish values, build a sense of community in the campers, and make lasting memories. It is our honor and joy to be part of the Kallah Bet team this summer!
Rabbi Brian Stoller is Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel in Omaha, NE, and Cantor Jay O’Brien serves at Congregation Solel in Highland Park, IL.