In Behalotecha, this week’s Torah portion, we read about the movement of the Pillar of Clouds and the sound of two silver trumpets. There we read:
And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the Tent, then after that the children of Israel journeyed; and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel encamped. ( Numbers 9:17)
The absence or presence of the cloud indicated that it was time to set up or break down the camp.
This Sunday starts another season of overnight Jewish camping across North America. Camp would be nothing without the campers. As everyone in camping knows, the foundation of camping is realizing that it is all about the campers. We train our staff to put the campers first. Camp is all about the campers’ health, safety, emotional well-being, happiness, and spirituality growth. And once we get our whole staff to understand this truth we can explain to them that it was a lie. It is not only about the campers, it is also founded on the growth of the staff.
In security, safety, and sanctity of camp this summer campers will have the time of their lives. And in making this camp the staff will also be completely transformed. Just as the cloud of God prompted the creating the camp, buses all across North America will kick up clouds of dust bringing in the campers to start another great season of camping. Just like our Torah portion we will encamp. Holiness will reside in our camp communities. I am excited for another summer of security, safety, and sanctity.
In many ways Passover represents the story of our national birth. It was during the Exodus that the Israelites learned of God and it was their first chance to introduce themselves to God. We the Jewish people revisited this ritual every year by reenacting the Korban Pesach, and later the Passover Seder. As we learn in BeHalotecha, this week’s Torah portion, there were certain cases in which people did not have that chance to make that first impression. As we read:
5 And they kept the passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at dusk, in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel. 6 But there were certain men, who were unclean by the dead body of a man, so that they could not keep the passover on that day; and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day. 7 And those men said unto him: ‘We are unclean by the dead body of a man; wherefore are we to be kept back, so as not to bring the offering of the Lord in its appointed season among the children of Israel?’ 8 And Moses said to them: ‘Stay you, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you.’ 9 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 10 ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: If any man of you or of your generations shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover to the Lord; 11 in the second month on the fourteenth day at dusk they shall keep it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs; 12 they shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break a bone thereof; according to all the statute of the passover they shall keep it. (Numbers 9:5-12)
It is natural to blink and make snap decisions, but that does not mean we are always right. It is great that we a model for how to have a second chance to make a first impression.
As first time campers are getting off the bus in the next few weeks, I cannot stop thinking about how we all saw Susan Boyle. If you are one of the few people who have not seen this you must.
We all should heed the call of Pesach Sheni from this week’s Torah portion. We should all think about what it would take to not judge people too quickly. If this is true for the first time campers, is it not also true for the returning camper who wants to reinvent him or herself? What would it take to find it in our hearts to give everyone a second chance to make a first impression?