Torah Study with Vanessa

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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 Vanessa Ehrlich as she teaches a message from this week’s Torah Portion, Va-Etchanan.

This week’s parasha, Va-et’chanan, meaning I pleaded (with God) paint a very poignant picture of Moses pleading to enter the promised land and being denied.  His hopes are shattered, and his prayers rebuffed.  

Years before this moment, Moses had heard the words that must have filled him with sorrow. God had instructed Moses to speak to the rock to provide water for the Children of Israel.  In anger and perhaps sadness as his sister Miriam had just died, he hit the rock instead.  As a result, Moses would not be permitted to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:8–12).

When you visit Israel, you can see Mt. Nebo in Jordan. You can just imagine how Moses wishes and yearns to just step foot in Eretz Israel, the land promised to children of Israel. I think we can easily put ourselves in Moses’ shoes of wanting something that will never be available to us. 

At OSRUI, we read from the Torah three times a week, at least. On Mondays, Thursdays, and of course, on Shabbat. Va-et’chanan, Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11, also includes the words of the Sh’ma and V’ahavta as well as the 10 commandments.  I am choosing to talk about the first pasookim sentences of this parasha:

I pleaded with יהוה at that time, saying, 

אֲדֹנָ֣י יֱהֹוִ֗ה אַתָּ֤ה הַֽחִלּ֙וֹתָ֙ לְהַרְא֣וֹת אֶֽת־עַבְדְּךָ֔ אֶ֨ת־גׇּדְלְךָ֔ וְאֶת־יָדְךָ֖ הַחֲזָקָ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר מִי־אֵל֙ בַּשָּׁמַ֣יִם וּבָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יַעֲשֶׂ֥ה כְמַעֲשֶׂ֖יךָ וְכִגְבוּרֹתֶֽךָ׃ 

“O God oh יהוה, You who let Your servant see the first works of Your greatness and Your mighty hand, You whose powerful deeds no god in heaven or on earth can equal! 

אֶעְבְּרָה־נָּ֗א וְאֶרְאֶה֙ אֶת־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַטּוֹבָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּעֵ֣בֶר הַיַּרְדֵּ֑ן הָהָ֥ר הַטּ֛וֹב הַזֶּ֖ה וְהַלְּבָנֹֽן׃ 

Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country, and Lebanon.”

Just as Moses longed to see and be granted permission to see the promised land so do our chanichim wish to stay at OSRUI as our summer ends.  We are in week 8 for our chanichim and weeks 10 or 11 for our madrichim.  We like to say that if you don’t leave a place, you can’t miss it or come back next summer.  Unlike Moses, we wish to see all our kehillah (community) back next summer.  We know they will miss Shabbat, having fun with their friends, and learning new skills.  We can’t wait to see them next year as they embark on new adventures .

Our camp song includes these words:

The feelings that surround us here will strengthen every day
For this place of Jewish harmony is surely here to stay.
Though Units may divide us, we always will be friends
United under a common name we are strong until the end.
Shalom Union Institute Shalom!

Every year I look forward to coming to camp just like our chanichim.  I have been privileged to watch generations grow up at OSRUI including my own children. There are children in my eidah whose parents where my campers.  I am grateful for the continued opportunity to spread my passion about Jewish education to every generation. Like the campers I am sad to leave but know we will be back next year.

Vanessa M. Ehrlich, RJE has been on faculty since 1989 and serves on the Tzofim Segel this summer. She is the Director of Lifelong Learning at Makom Solel Lakeside in Highland Park, Illinois.