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 Rabbi Binah Wing as she teaches a message from this week’s Torah Portion, D’varim.
“And these are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel…” (Deuteronomy 1:1).
So begins the parasha this week, D’varim. This parasha also begins the book of the same name, D’varim, which is also known as Deuteronomy. We are beginning the last book of the Torah even as we are beginning the last couple of weeks of OSRUI Summer of 2022. The Hebrew word “d’varim” actually means “words.” In the parasha (and most of the whole book of D’varim), Moses speaks a LOT of words. In fact, in the course of the book, he gives three very long sermons over many days (and you thought your rabbi talks for a long time!).
Why does Moses do this? Well, he knows that he is not going into the Land with the people and is taking the time at the end of his life to make sure that they remember everything he has wanted them to learn during their time together. After all, even though they are a wandering people, one of the most important things that they are taking with them are words of Torah which will help them figure out how to live in the new land and be settled in one place.
I find that in so many ways, words play such an important role at OSRUI as well. From the moment that the chanichim (campers) arrive at our machaneh (camp), words of Hebrew begin to fill their ears. In addition to learning some new words in Ivrit (Hebrew) every day, and praying in Hebrew, the words of living become part of their daily vocabulary. We hear everyday words like bakbuk mayim (water bottle), kova (hat), arukim v’arukim (longs and longs – clothes put on in the evening), chadar ochel (dining hall). And those are really just a few! You might hear the score of a game using Hebrew numbers.
But even beyond Hebrew, there are other words that are woven into the fabric of life at OSRUI. Each week, a theme or word is chosen that the entire camp has as its focus. While I’ve been here, the theme has been Kehillah (community). This theme has been used in Jewish learning programs, tochnit erev (evening program), even the choice of songs during tefillah. It permeates the week.
The eidah (unit) that I’ve been working with this week, Kallah, had a great program that tied together a great message about words and it even traces back to what Moses is doing by giving his last words to the people Israel. The chanichim had to give some thought to what values were most important in building a kehillah. They had 18 different values to choose from. They learned that building a kehillah is more than buildings and things but also the values that everyone needs to adhere to.
Moses, in giving his words to the people, is trying to remind them of what values they need to live by as well. He wants to make sure that they put into practice what they have learned when they finally settle in the Land. We hope that our chanichim will take some of the values and words that they learn here at camp home with them too. I want to close by sharing a special moment that happened that is about words and values that ties it all together.
One of the chanichim was playing basketball and said to another kid who was sitting off to the side, “Is this your first year at camp?” “Yes,” the other child answered. “Are you having fun?” “Yea, it’s been great.” “Oh good.” Such a simple interaction with a few words that showed interest and caring. When I went up to the basketball player and thanked him for reaching out to the kid sitting alone he said, “I had a great time when I was a first-year camper and want to make sure that everyone has a great first time at camp.”
I think all those words are sinking in and we are building a kehillah filled with loving and caring words both in Ivrit and English that help make OSRUI the magical place that it is for everyone!
Rabbi Binah Wing is a Rabbi at Temple Beth-El in Rockford, Illinois and has been serving as faculty for Kallah Gimmel.