Torah Study with Lori

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Shalom from OSRUI! Every year, more than 50 Rabbis, Cantors, and Educators who spend time with us at camp in the summer.  They work closely with the Rashei Eidot (unit heads) to create fun Jewish experiences that are educational and engaging. Today we are joined by Lori Sagarin as she teaches us about the message from this week’s Torah Portion.

As an avid reader, one of the genres I enjoy on occasion is a good spy story.  I love trying to outwit the author and figure out the ending before I get there.  It is a game I play with myself and it keeps me entertained. Believe it or not, the Torah also has a good spy story, not one that requires any of us to outwit God to figure out the ending, but still a good and instructive story.

This week’s spy tale is brought to you by Parashat Shlach Lecha and contains the story of Moses sending out 12 spies, one for each of the 12 tribes, to scout the land and come back with a report.  And they do that, some better than others.  Ten return telling of “giants” inhabiting the land and, by fomenting fear,  begin to seed unrest amongst the easily influenced Israelites.   Yet two return with praise, calling it “the land of milk and honey” and raving about its fruits. The negative reporters meet with an untimely end while those who also saw the giants but also saw the rich land are rewarded.  

What do we learn from both the naysayers and the optimists?  I think we learn that approaching new challenges and opportunities with openness and positivity will in the end, even if it doesn’t go as planned, get us further than never trying anything at all. To me this is a great message to those sending children to camp, and especially those welcoming them home again.  Not every camp experience will be perfect, but it is our role to guide our children to see the positive and to lead with that, not only regarding camp but as often as we can promoting its value.  Joshua and Caleb, familiar names who have been lifted up in the Jewish story, have endured while I am guessing most of us do not remember or never heard about Shammua, Shafat and the others who dwelled in fear and negativity and have been essentially lost to history. 

Shlach Lecha teaches us that fear and negativity will only breed more of the same, while faith in others and the courage to face new situations with a positive attitude will reward us in more ways than we can imagine. At OSRUI, one of our values is Ometz (courage). There are a lot of new things to try at camp, and we encourage our campers to challenge themselves at their own pace. It does not matter how far they get up the Etgar tower— to the top or one step up—what is important is they had the courage to try. Everyone has their own “giants” at camp, but the potential for “fruits” is so much bigger, and we taste them every chance we get.

Lori B. Sagarin RJE is the Director of Congregational Learning at Temple Beth Israel and is the chair of the RECC, the Rabbinic Educator and Cantorial Committee of OSRUI.  She will be at camp for four weeks this summer as faculty in our Mircaz Ivrit (Hebrew Center).