Seeing You in September—After Camp—and a Suggestion for the New Year
Yes, summer camp is over—and after nearly 50 years in camping, first as a camper and later as a staffer, I have to ask myself what one salient point has emerged from this past summer that I can carry along with me into 5779. Moreover, how can I implement a change in my own behavior from what I witnessed in camp this past summer? (Just a note to my readers who don’t already know this: I am Director of Special Activities at New York’s flagship Camp Agudah in Ferndale in the Catskill Mountain and am also on the head staff of our renowned and highly acclaimed Masmidim program.)
What I have taken away with me this year, more than perhaps in other years, is the incredible sense of unity—achdus—that I was privileged to witness. Accordingly, the pictures I have included with this article speak volumes. What they lack in technological excellence is more than compensated for by the emotions they engender when I review them once again.
You know, to learn how to work together, to be sincerely happy for one’s fellow, to be genuinely concerned for the next guy: these are major lessons in life. Indeed, as I chazzered over these photographs, one theme seemed to express its commonality throughout: How much we should really love our fellow Jew—and how intense that feeling ought to be! Why, even working in tandem with someone else to transport balloons to the main dining room during color war demanded more than just a coordination of effort; it meant that all the participants really wanted to meld themselves into one homogeneous, well-oiled machine dedicated to a common but ethereal purpose. And our Masmidim appear to be thoroughly monolithic in their dedicated accompaniment of their esteemed leader, HaRav R’ Elimelech Belsky!
Of course, the essential challenge is how we bring this camp-fired, enthusiastic, labor-intensive love of one’s fellow Jews into our lives on a consistently daily basis?
Perhaps in this fashion: There is a minhag ascribed to the Arizal to preface our daily morning davening with the following statement: “Hareini mikabeil aligh mitzvas ahsei shel ‘V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha’: Behold I am accepting upon myself the positive commandment of ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Directly thereafter, we commence our actual davening with “Mah tovu.”
Wow! Just think of it: By implementing this small addition to our daily prayers, we demonstrate that we willingly and lovingly accept upon ourselves the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael over 350 times a year. We thereby guarantee that this year will essentially be one of blessed unity, not one of contention and strife. Imagine what joy we would bring our Father in Heaven by doing so! Banding together as one unit—again!
Why, it’s almost like being in camp the whole year round. As for me, I can’t wait for tomorrow morning to begin!
How about you, camper?
Questions or comments? I may be reached at email@example.com. Kesivah vachasimah tovah, dear readers!