Posts Tagged 'overnight camp'

Seeking Shelter

This past Sunday I convinced my sons to join me out back to put up our Sukkah, ritual dwelling for Sukkot, arguing that it was just a really big Lego set. They were happy to build and play until we got to the s’chach, the cut organic material used as the roof of the sukkah. The boys just did not understand it. The s’chach, as compared to all of the other Lego pieces, did not click or tie into place. So I went on to explain that while it needs to be porous enough so that we can see the stars, minimally the s’chach  must be thick enough so that it provides more shade then sun light in the Sukkah. Of course they asked why?

Just five days after the solemn day of Yom Kippur, we are off to one of the most joyous holidays of the year. Sukkot, the Festival of Booths, is commonly referred to in our liturgy and literature as Zman Simchateinu, the time of our happiness. I began thinking and questioning the so-called happiness of Sukkot. Traditionally on this holiday we read the book of Kohelet. The author of this book retells his investigation of the meaning of life and the best way to live your life. Kohelet proclaims all the actions of humanity to be inherently fleeting, futile, empty, meaningless, temporary, and done in vain. This sentiment is well-said in the most quoted line from Kohelet which reads:

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Kohelet 1:9)

Learning that life is senseless seems like a real downer for a holiday of happiness. This juxtaposition is only highlighted in that we read this just after Yom Kippur, a day during which we appealed that mercy would win out over justice. If Kohelet is correct, we will never be able to change. Despite our best efforts to repent and atone, we are stuck and should be judged in light of the fact that will never be able to renew ourselves.

Then it all came together for me.

Kohelet is right; nothing is new under the sun. The difference is that just after Yom Kippur we escape the sun under the shade of the Sukkah. There we find shelter from the harsh judgment of the world. If we spend a serious amount of time practicing being the people we aspire to be, we might be able to achieve it throughout the rest of the year. We see a similar dynamic in the shelter of summer camp. There we are able to immerse ourselves in an Eden of our own design. Is there any greater joy then the promise of a better future?

Chag Sameakh-

* Cross-posted on The Canteen

Leaving The Nest

In Ki Tetzei, this week’s Torah portion , we learn about the prohibition of Shiluach haken. There we read:

If a bird nest happens to be before you on the road, on any tree or on the ground- young birds or eggs- and the mother is roosting on the young birds or the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall surely send away the mother and take the young for yourself, so that it will be good for you and will prolong your days.”( Deuteronomy 22:6-7)

It is clear that this practice is one that is meant to inculcate us with compassion. While we understand that we have a need to take the egg or young bird from it’s nest, we want to do that without the mother present. It is hard to read this section without reflecting on the similar prohibition to not boil a kid in its mother’s milk( Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21). They are both seem to rooted in the same desire to create a compassionate context for our consumption. The interesting thing is less the similarities than the differences. In the prohibition of milk and meat the Rabbis expanded it to extend to our plates, cutlery, sinks, dish washers, cutting boards, waiting between meals, ovens, etc. To the best of my knowledge there is no legal expansion of law of Shiluach haken. Why not?

I do not think I have a good answer for this question, but there is one thought I wanted to add. This summer we sent Yadid away to overnight camp for the first time. He had a great time and we are thrilled. I went to pick him up from camp and that got me out of having to take him to the bus to send him to camp. Camping is my profession and because of that I think I might just know too much of what is going on there at camp. Because of this I was really very happy not having to be there as our child went away for the first time. In our nature parents have a profound sense of connection to our children. Separating from them is just hard. So in response to my question, I do not think that the Rabbis needed to expand on the simple meaning of the law of Shiluach haken to help us be more compassionate and relate to the bond between a parent and a child. But I still think that my question is much better than this answer.

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