Posts Tagged 'Holidays'

You and I, We Will Change the World

Tomorrow on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, I’ll be thinking about Arik Einstein z”l.  Einstein, who passed away at the end of 2013, was from Israel’s “Greatest Generation” that built the country. His 1971 classic song Ani Ve’ata became the anthem of optimism for a young nation.  I do not recall ever learning the song for the first time, but I am sure it was at camp. It is strange how knowing something by heart means that you hardly ever give it any thought. Inspired by his passing, I decided to take a closer look at this song.

What did Einstein mean when he wrote “You and I, we will change the world”? Why does he need someone else to help him make change in the world? It is popularly understood that we need large groups of people to make change in the world.  About this conception the cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” In terms of bringing about change, quality is more important than quantity, but we always benefit from partnership and support. In the wake of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, and in celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut we take pause to think about the founders of the state. That small group of people jumped in where others had just talked about it and made the modern miracle of the rebirth of a State of Israel a reality. The sacrifices were serious, but it is noteworthy that none of them did it by themselves.

It was at summer camp where I first formed my connection to the Israel. It was also there that I forged a relationship with a small group of people that thought “You and I, we will change the world.” Maybe a meaningful thing to do on Yom Ha’atzmaut would be to reconnect with your bunk age group. It might be time for a check in to see where we can support each other in making the world a better place.

For a longer study of the song Ani Ve’Ata see here.

Reposted from Canteen.

 

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A Meaningful Thanksgivukkah

aviOn their surfaces, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are simple holidays.  We see the themes of light breaking through the darkness, a few banding together to beat the elements, and the power of having faith in community.  We camp folk know that nothing is ever as simple as it seems.  So let’s look deeper into the three miracles of Hanukkah.  One miracle is that small group of zealots were able to beat the stronger forces and regain control of the Temple.  When they recaptured the Temple they found one small jar of oil for the menorah in the Temple.  The second miracle was that despite the fact that this small jar only had enough oil for one day it lasted for eight days.  This story about the miraculous Hanukkah oil has allowed us to look past focusing solely on the military victory.  This is important in that the war was not a black and white fight between the Jews and the Greeks.  Rather, it was a civil war between a small group of religious zealots and a larger group of their Hellenized Jewish brethren.  The third miracle of Hanukkah is that the story of the second miracle of the oil overshadows the first miracle of a civil war.

Now we turn our attention to Thanksgiving.  It is a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and the preceding year.  This is traced to a poorly documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts.  We retell the story of the first settlers to America who found salvation when they reached Plymouth Rock.

But is that the real story of Thanksgiving?  On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the national holiday of Thanksgiving. There we read:

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union…It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. 

Like the third miracle of Hanukkah, Thanksgiving is not really a story about the Pilgrims, but rather the constitution of a ritual of reconciliation post-civil war.  Both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving represent the recreation of national mythologies for the sake of mending the wounds of fighting between brothers.

We in camping appreciate the impact of a good story regardless of its true origins.  Camp in its essence is a self-made community built on rituals, traditions, and history that is created by its members and need not be based solely on fact.  It is here in this miraculous fabricated narrative that we create enduring memories of brotherhood.  So while the story might not be true, the community could not be any more real. I hope you have a very meaningful Thanksgivukkah.  Happy holidays.

– Reposted from The Canteen

Revealing Jewish Camp

It is interesting that as we are in the final countdown to Shavuot we start the reading the Book of Numbers.  In Hebrew, the book is called Bamidbar, the wilderness. With Shavuot we celebrate the giving of the Torah, what is the significance of our “entering the wilderness?”

In the Midrash we learn, “There are three ways to acquire Torah, with fire, with water, and with wilderness” (Midrash Numbers Rabbah 1:1). This Midrash could be understood to mean that we acquire Torah through passion (fire), immersion (water), and through a long trek in unknown land (the wilderness). Shavuot coming means that the end of school is close at hand. And with the end of school, the camp season is around the corner. This Midrash seems to be lived out at Jewish camp.

1001_110811-FJC_x46Camp is an amazing place where our children will make s’mores and memories by a camp fire (the fire), take the deep water test (the water), and go on a physically challenging hike (in the wilderness). Jewish camp is amazing on another level though. There, our children will be led by extraordinary role models who will ignite our children’s passion (the fire). There they will be part of building their own immersive purpose-driven Jewish community (the water). And there, we hope their experience will set them on their life journey to have a community of people to travel with along life’s path (the wilderness). As we are getting ready for Bamidbar and Shavuot I hope we are all also getting ready for camp, they are all profoundly revealing and edifying.

Chag Shavuot Sameakh – have a great holiday and enjoy packing for camp!

– Reposted from the Canteen

Give and Take

Now that the summer is over we find ourselves basking in the holiday spirit. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur surely gave us time for self reflection. And just when you thought you could not deal with any more self reflection we are gearing up for Sukkot in which we eat and spend time in a booth called a Sukkah, meant to be reminiscent of the type of fragile dwellings in which the ancient Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. As you build and spend time in your Sukkah this holiday, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the environment we craft at camp…

Beyond the Sukkah itself, we also turn our attention to the Four Species. About which we read:

On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you are gathering in your produce of the earth, you shall celebrate a celebration of God for seven days… And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a beautiful tree (etrog), palm branches, the branch of a thick tree (myrtle, hadas), and brook-willows, and you shall rejoice before God for seven days. (Leviticus 23:39-40)

The Four Species are a symbol through which we rejoice and celebrate. It is noteworthy that the verb used by the Torah to describe what we do is to “take” them. This is not happenstance. For many of us the experience of joy is connected to the experience of mastery and ownership. Surely this is something that is taken and not given.

Like the Sukkah itself, camp is a unique environment we create to bring us to joy and celebration. Camp is unique in that it puts youth at the center. Where else in society is an 18 year-old the model citizen because s/he will do anything for his/her 9 year old student or camp? Camp is special in that we give over the space so that youth can take it and make of it what they want. Just as we are instructed to enter the Sukkah to connect to the past, so too we “take” the four species so we experience the joy of owning our tradition today.

-as seen at Foundation for Jewish Camp Blog


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