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 Mandy Herlich, RJE as she teaches us about the message from this week’s Torah Portion, Chukat.
One of my favorite moments each summer at OSRUI happens on Opening Day. When the buses pull through the gate and drive up behind Soref, several campers, counselors, and song leaders run over and stand in two parallel lines facing each other. They partner up, hands joined in the air forming a canopy. As each bus rider disembarks they run excitedly through a long human tunnel of new and old faces and new and old friends. This, to me, is the most beautiful visual of the way that we welcome, embrace, and support one another as a camp community.
Now that we are a couple of weeks into the summer and settling into our camp routines, we might find ourselves facing new opportunities and new challenges, ones unique to living on camp time and in camp space. For me, one seemingly impossible task that I am impressed to see several of our campers conquer each day is that of climbing the Etgar tower. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, there is a climbing tower at OSRUI as part of our Etgar ropes course. Etgar in Hebrew means challenge. And true to its name, the ropes course has challenged campers for years. It is tall, intimidating, and not at all easy. However, each day campers try to climb to the top. Some are scared, some are excited, some are nervous, some are fearless. Some are successful in reaching the top and many are successful in making it further than they thought they could go. I love to see how campers are supported by their cabin and tent mates as they make their climb. One of our values this summer at camp is Lech L’cha, go and be bold.
By climbing the tower, or even attempting it, we send a message to everyone around us. It shows them what we are made of. We have heart, we have drive, determination, and bravery. Our Torah portion this week is Chukat. In this reading Moses isn’t exactly called to climb the tower, but like our campers, he also faces a challenge. God tells him to talk to a stone and have it provide water for the Israelites. While there is certainly a whole genre of commentary about how he struck the stone rather than talk to it, we still see a steadfast leader of our people. He may not have taken the route to water (or route up etgar) that was prescribed to him, but he was still able to provide life giving sustenance to the people. He still made the choice to go and be bold.
OSRUI is a place where we learn that we can face challenges. Campers may not be in command of an entire nation, but they are still responsible for their actions and still face seemingly impossible tasks. This is all part of the invaluable learning and growing camp helps facilitate. Whether their seemingly insurmountable task be a climbing tower, or a math test when they are back in school in a few months, hopefully they remember that they have the courage, will, and determination to get through the task and come out on top. As faculty, we hope that they will draw on what they learned this summer – Lech L’cha – to go and be bold, because we can all do great things.
Mandy Herlich, RJE is the Education Director at Emanuel Congregation in Chicago, IL. She is serving as faculty with Gesher.