D’var Torah: Parshat Balak – Ma Tovu: How Beautiful Are Your Tzrifim!
I’m trying something different with my D’var Torah Friday night in the grove. So many chanichim (campers) and tzevet (staff) tell me how much they love camp. Yet, sometimes, human nature causes people to lose their perspectives a bit. I want to create an atmosphere of positive thinking to help everyone enjoy and appreciate their experiences while they are here.
Below is my plan for tonight when I speak in the horshah (grove). I will give this short introduction and then have the camp sing Mah Tovu in a round. I will then share my verses on what I love about camp and then close with another round of Mah Tovu. Enjoy.
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In this week’s parsha, the prophet Bilaam was paid to curse Israel. He was trying to find something bad to say about the Israelites. That doesn’t sound too challenging – it’s often easy to complain and see what is bad in our world. That is why it is so amazing that Bilaam couldn’t do it. He tried several times to curse Israel; each time that he opened his mouth only blessings came out. These blessings were so powerful that Jews today sing Bilaam’s words upon entering a prayer space. The power of blessings and gratitude is truly profound. As we head into our fourth Shabbat and the end of first session, I want to sing out why I love Camp Ramah and the impact it has on me. I would love to hear your thoughts over Shabbat as to what you love about camp. Every moment that we are here, let us appreciate each other and the incredible opportunity we have here.
(Sing Mah Tovu in a round)
How beautiful are your tzrifim (bunks) Camp Ramah, your horsha oh chanichim and tzevet
From morning when the sun rises sparkling over the agam (lake)
Until evening when the sun sets magnificently across the Ware River
The days are filled with laughter and smiling friends
The evenings with harga’ot (bedtime process), of tall tales, stories and song
The chanting that breaks out in the Chadar Ochel (Dining Hall) shows that “yesh lanu ruach” (we have spirit)
Which is again seen in the shouts on Yom Sport during the Apache relay
The joy of triumph when a chanich climbs the Alpine Tower for the first time
The shouts of encouragement from one teammate to another playing Ultimate Frisbee
The shy voice of a chanicha gaining strength when layning Torah for the first time
The booming voices of Nivonimers regaling tales during “Oh My Lord” (Can I get a Hallelujah?)
The quiet stillness of the agam as kayaks glide across during morning boating
The anticipation of tasty food as eggs are gathered, vegetables picked and food cooked at our farm to table outdoor cooking/Pinat Teva (nature corner)
The pride in the incredible artwork produced by talented chanichim in Omanut
The deep discussions about life’s biggest questions and sparkplugs in Limud (Jewish learning)
And then, every week, anticipation building for the coming Shabbat
The camp gathering in the horsha as one
An edah (unit) coming together to present their Shabbat song and dance
The first notes of L’cha Dodi, the call to prayer of the Barchu
The unbounded energy and joy of Friday night shira (singing) in contrast to the soulful songs of Seudat Shlishit
The sights of friends sitting on the migrash (field) smiling, laughing and talking
The Tzad Bet (B-side) soccer players walking with cleats tied together around their necks to A-side
Peulot Shabbat,* Shabuddies* and Shabbat mincha that lead too soon into Havdalah
And then, all too soon, the last day arrives
Oh, how the kayitz flies by
Ten months for two every year
Oh Camp Ramah how I love you, the place where I am truly alive!
(Sing Mah Tovu again in a round)
* Shabbat activities, Shabbat buddies