Imitatio Dei: Becoming A Role Model

My son Yadid volunteered to give a Dvar Torah at a Bnai Akiva Simchaton this Holiday. He wrote this lovely piece on what he is looking forward to in terms of becoming a counselor and role model. Here is what he wrote:

Every year, we read the entire Torah, on a weekly cycle. Now we end this year’s reading of the Torah and start reading it again from the beginning.  Louis Pasteur wisely said, “No one is more the stranger than himself <sic> at another time”. Each year we look at the wisdom in this text like a stranger with fresh eyes, and each year we turn to it for sustenance as we navigate our ever-changing world. The nature of the Torah is that we can constantly revisit it but it will always produce a new insight for us. 

John Wooden, the once great American basketball coach said, “Being a role model is the most powerful form of education.”

In the Gemara in Sotah 14a Rabbi Samlai taught: With regard to the Torah, its beginning is an act of kindness and its end is an act of kindness. Its beginning is an act of kindness, as it is written: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skin, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). And its end is an act of kindness, as it is written: “And he (Moshe) was buried in the valley in the land of Moav.” (Deuteronomy 34:6). 

How would John Wooden read this Gemara? God is clearly educating us about the value of acts of kindness, by being our role model. I see three lessons from God about being a role model here that we can learn:

    1. Be present with the people 
    2. Look after their physical needs – Moshe’s Burial last week
    3. look after their psychological need- Clothing Adam and Eve so they would not be embarrassed- this week

Can everyone turn to the person next to you and discuss a role model you have had this past summer at Machal ( program for the eldest campers) and what they taught you. [ leave some time for discussion]

When I think about this question, what did my role model teach me; I think about Yonah Shafner, my boy and counselor for the last four summers at camp. Like we learned from God in Sotah:

    1. Yonah was  present with us, the campers Explain
    2. He looked after our physical needs by Woke us up at 3 am to feed us egg rolls 
    3. He looked after our social needs and minded the group dynamic- explain

Just as we go back to reading the beginning of the Torah again, when we go back to camp, we will begin again as tzevet (staff members). Though it will be the same place, we must take up new perspectives in order to help our campers learn and grow the same way we have in the past: 

    1. As much as we might want to go back to camp to be with our friends, we have to remember to spend time with our campers
    2. We have to  look after the physical needs of our campers
    3. We must attend to the social dynamics in our bunks

The infinitely wise sage, Eeyore said- “A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” 

Eeyore looking sad in 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh'Oh Bother…

We all have had amazing, transformative role models in our time as campers, but that time is coming to an end, and it’s time for us to suit up and become the role models we all had. Albert Einstein said, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” It is obvious that it is our burden, our obligation, our responsibility to be the role models for our future campers. As we think about the campers we will impact, we should consider reaching out to our past role models, and thanking them. 

Chag Sameach, and thank you.



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