By Rabbi Steve Kane
Most summers the camp season takes us well into the last book of the Torah, Deuteronomy. It is rare that camp ends with this week’s Torah portion, Devarim, but perhaps there is no better portion with which to finish a summer at Camp Ramah. This is first seen when Moses reminds the people of God’s words, saying “You have stayed long enough on this mountain
…” (Deut. 1:6) Indeed we are rapidly approaching the time for all of us, campers and staff alike, to realize that as wonderful as it is to be at Camp Ramah (this is my 13th summer in the Berkshires, and 25th overall at a Ramah camp), the time always comes when we have “stayed long enough on this mountain”.
This parasha is always read the Shabbat immediately preceding Tisha B’av, the day on which we commemorate the destruction of the Bet Ha–Mikdash (Temple) in Jerusalem. Saturday night the entire camp will sit on the ground as mourners over the destruction that has occurred to our people throughout history, and read the book of Eicha, Lamentations. Interestingly the word Eicha is not only the first word and title of the Book of Lamentations, it is also found in both the Torah and Haftarah readings this week. It means “how”, and in essence it asks, “How will the Jewish people be able to continue into the land of Israel without Moses?” And later “How will the people survive without a Temple and a land?” The word is most poignant not only for those readings, but also for the end of camp. “How will I be able to bring back home the wonderful experiences of this summer?”
Our ancestors overcame the hardships of history and learned to persevere without a land, always longing to go home to Jerusalem, to return to the land, a dream that was finally realized in 1948. For the people in the desert, they found that although Moses would no longer accompany them, his words and teachings would continue to live on through his book, the Torah. Similarly the end of camp brings with it the knowledge that our camp experiences, friendships and learning will somehow continue to be a part of us when we arrive home in a few short days.
The Torah portion reminds us that even as we move on from this place, we have been enriched by all that we have done. The uniqueness of a bunk, the specialness of a dedicated counselor, the teacher who showed us a new way to look at an ancient text, will all remain with us when the summer ends. As everyone returns home from Camp Ramah, the answer to what the future will hold for each of us is now enriched by kayitz 2016.