During my last hinukh perek of the summer, I sat with a group of machon chanichim brainstorming about ideas for this week’s Dvar Torah. In Devarim 24:15, the Torah declares: והיה מחנך קדוש – and your camp shall be holy. As we read the verse out of context (you’ll have to look up the verse yourself to see what it is all about) we were immediately struck by its significance on the final few days of camp. What is it that makes our camp, or machanenu as it is sometimes affectionately called, holy? Some of the answers that the chanichim gave related to the community that is formed at camp, or how way we act with derekh eretz while in camp, or some unexplained feeling that we all share while at Ramah.
This first Shabbat after the summer season provides us with an opportunity to reflect in a different way on how camp is holy. The concept of holiness is a very amorphous one, but it is often helpful to think of holiness as separateness. Something is holy because it is separate and unique from the mundane. In a similar way to how Shabbat is holy because it is separate from the other days of the week, the time spent at camp is holy because it is separate and distinct from the rest of the year.
The comparison between Shabbat and camp brings to mind a wonderful teaching which appears in the Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael on the verse “Remember the day of the Sabbath to keep it holy” (Ex. 20.8): “R. Isaac says you should not count the days of the week in the manner in which others count them. But you should count them with reference to the Sabbath.” Counting the days of the week with reference to Shabbat concretizes its place as separate and unique from every other day. Even when it is not Shabbat we are constantly reminded that our special day is right around the corner and we must prepare for it appropriately. Like R. Isaac, many of us find ourselves counting the days of the year in a manner which is different from the way others count them…
Only 313 days until the first day of camp!
Dr. Jason Rogoff
Scholar in Residence