D’var Torah: Raising Many Disciples at Ramah New England

A note about this year’s D’vrei Torah: I have found great meaning and joy in studying Pirkei Avot, the wisdom of our ancestors, a compilation of ethical teachings from our Rabbinic Jewish tradition. This year, my weekly D’vrei Torah will explore lessons from Pirkei Avot.

Pirkei Avot 1:1 teaches: “Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be patient in [the administration of] justice, raise many disciples and make a fence round the Torah.”

The transmission of Torah from Moshe directly to a widening group of generations is intentional. From this teaching, we learn two important lessons: 1. The direct line back to Moshe gives the rabbis legal authority and legitimacy as teachers. 2. Torah is not something to be learned only from a book – it is essential to have teachers and students discussing, living and learning together to bring the Torah to life and to infuse it with its deepest meaning. 

Camp fits these ideals in so many ways. Camp and Judaism are intertwined; the customs and practices that we follow at camp are passed down and adapted year to year and generation to generation. The fact that we live our Ramah Judaism infuses it with extra meaning; this, in turn, leads to lifelong impact.

The rabbis’ statement, “raise many disciples,” is relevant for camp. Our madrichim (counselors) impact our chanichim (campers) by the way they “raise” them. From the first days of camp, our madrichim refer to their chanichim as “our kids”. They take seriously their roles in being positive role models and nurturing each camper to be the best version of themselves. 

We are looking forward to a summer of passing on the joy of living our Judaism and nurturing the next generation of engaged Jews. Shabbat Shalom. 

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