Blog  Shabbat Message from Solly: The Values That Make Camp Home

Shabbat Message from Solly: The Values That Make Camp Home

Shabbat Balak

Dear OSRUI Families,

It has been a great first week of camp for the 400 chanichim (campers) who arrived at OSRUI on Tuesday!  Everyone has settled into their tzrifim (cabins) and ohelim (tents), gotten to know their bunkmates and madrichim (counselors), and begun to build their eidah (unit) community.  Our Chalutzim chanichim will celebrate their fifth Shabbat of the summer this evening.  They had a great week as well, including spending three days on a canoe trip.

Chanichim spent the first few days of camp getting to experience all the wonderful activities camp has to offer.  We spent time at the breicha (pool) and the agam (lake), we played sports at the Merkaz Sport (Sports Center), and every chanich chose chugim (electives) to participate in for the first week of camp.  Today, we created a special schedule in response to the heat.  Chanichim spent the morning in the pool, the lake, and at slip n’ slides.  This afternoon, we turned camp into a mini-movie theater and chanichim had their choice of “cold themed” movies.  Right now, chanichim are enjoying Happy Feet, Ice Age, Frozen, and Miracle!

This week’s Torah portion recounts the story of Balak and Balaam.  Balak is a king who, out of fear of the Israelites’ growing numbers, hired Balaam to curse them.  Balaam is unable to curse the Israelites and instead offers only blessings for the Israelites.  His last blessing includes the words “Mah tovu ohalecha, Ya’akov, mishkenotecha Yisrael” “How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!”  This blessing has since become a part of our morning prayer service.  (It is always fun to see our chanichim recognize the words being read from the Torah as words that they already know from our siddur!)

One of the rabbis of the Talmud comments on this blessing, saying that Balak was moved to offer this blessing not because of the literal goodness of the tents, but because the tents were arranged in such a way as to give each family their own place in the community.  Rabbi Yochanan believed that Balak offered his blessing because the dwelling places of the Israelites reflected their values.

Here at camp, we also believe that our living spaces and all of camp reflect our values.  This summer, we are focusing on four middot (values) that we hope all chanichim will embody in their lives at camp and at home.  The four middot we are focusing on—ometz (perseverance), kavod (respect), tsumet lev (mindful presence), and derech eretz (community mindedness)—help us build the kind of community that we are proud to be a part of.  The first few days of camp are not only filled with unpacking and orienting ourselves to the activities at camp, but also with introducing the values that make camp home.  One of the core hopes of camp is that we are growing mensches—Jews who are committed to each other and to Judaism and who see that their Jewish identity can help them navigate and improve the world.  When we fulfill this aspiration, then our dwelling places truly reflect our values, and we too are blessed.

Shabbat Shalom,


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