Our Torah portion this week shares:
“On the day that the Tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the Tabernacle, the Tent of the Pact; and in the evening it rested over the Tabernacle in the likeness of fire until morning. It was always so: the cloud covered it, appearing as fire by night. Whenever the cloud lifted from the Tent, the Israelites would set out accordingly; and at the spot where the cloud settled, there the Israelites would make camp.”*
Torah is amazing, we read it every year and like the Sages of Pirkei Avot remind us, we turn it, turn it, and turn it again because we change and evolve every year, yet the ancient text remains. This year, I read the text of this week’s Torah portion from a bench by the lake at URJ Camp Coleman, where I’m serving as a rabbi on faculty for the week.
Camp doesn’t operate quite like the strict schedule of the Tabernacle. Camp has an amazing “go with the flow” culture that disrupts the rigid schedules that most of our day-to-day lives require. Like the Israelites of the Torah, there are times in our regular lives that we are “commanded” to move and times we settle into our surroundings. Like the Israelites, we are on a journey toward our own “holy land,” seeking a deeper connection to our community and God.
For the Israelites, arriving in the Holy Land was the pinnacle experience for their relationship with God. At camp, we arrive to that holy land in every moment that a child connects to a fellow cabin-mate. We arrive to that holy land when a child awakens their spirit and sings out praises to God surrounded by their camp community. We arrive to that holy land when they return home sharing the stories of their experience. Our children arrive to that holy land when they feel empowered toward independence in their everyday life and when they feel proud of their Jewish identity.
May those who are at camp feel the sense of God’s presence surrounding them, protecting them, and filling them with love. May our entire community be strengthened by their learning. May we be like the Israelites, growing as a community and helping one another along the journey.