D’var Torah: Parshat Vayechi – Living Life to the Fullest
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
This statement by Thoreau always seemed both important and very Jewish. Judaism is about living life to the fullest. Thoreau wants to boil life down to the basic elements to figure out what truly is meaningful.
Instead of going to the woods to discover the meaning of life, Jews utilize tradition and Torah to point us in the right direction. This week’s parsha, Vayechi, begins the way I want my eulogy to begin, “And he lived.” These words are used to describe Jacob as someone who got the most out of life. Jacob was surely not perfect, but he left a legacy of impacting many people, within his family and far beyond.
It is fine to go to the woods and think about what is important for a period of time, but that is not enough. Judaism demands that we act in the world and strive to leave the world a better place. We do that in two ways: by our own actions and by influencing others. To me, this is the essence of Camp Ramah. Our madrichim (counselors) act as role models by how they act and how they interact.
We are in the midst of interviewing our incoming group of junior counselors. We ask each of them which madrichim influenced them the most. The tell truly remarkable stories about how their favorite madrich or madricha made them feel valued, taught them how to be a good friend, made Judaism come alive, or got them excited about a subject that is now a life passion.
One cannot be at camp for a summer and not truly feel “I have lived.” Camp has the advantage of being both in the woods and within the framework of traditional Jewish living – living at camp is being alive at its fullest. My hope is that we continue to influence our youth to live up to the standard, “And he lived.” Shabbat Shalom.