This is the D’var Torah given by Lavi Brown of Dallas Texas, Machon camper at Ramah California, on Machon’s last shabbat as campers.
This summer has been amazing. The experiences we’ve all been through have been phenomenal. As we’ve matured throughout the years, many changes have been evident. Now, we make our own summer, we lead tfilot, we read Torah, we read Haftarah. On top of all of these things we do, some of the paces we’ve done them were incredible. Praying in the middle of the Sequoia forest on tz a adah was an incredible experience. All of tz a adah2000 was extraordinary. The hikes, the scenery, the bonding, thetfilot. Waking up at 4 in the morning and praying at 5 as the sun was rising, these are the times of our lives we just don’t forget. These are the highlights in our life that will affect us forever. The amount of progress we’ve made not only as people, but as Jewish people is simply amazing. Not all of this is just Machon. It’s all the Machaneh Ramah experience. It’s all a chance to get away from our normal, everyday lives and live as Jews in an all-Jewish environment. Just the little things that make coming here unique. Not only is it a great time, but it’s a preparation for life and continuing our Jewish heritage. Our Jewish education through limud and kitot. Observing the laws of kashrut, learning and being exposed to Hebrew. Also learning about returning to our homeland of Eretz Yisrael. And the daily tfilot creates a new connection to God.
The first words we utter every morning are that of Mah Tovu. The blessing from Balaam, Mah Tovu ochalecha Yakov mishkenotecha Yisrael. How lovely are your sanctuaries, people of Jacob, your study houses, descendants of Israel. Our people received that blessing generations ago in the age of Balak, Balaam, and Pinchas. After our people received that blessing, we were rejoicing over the great honor we had just been given, their behavior began to get out of hand though. The men were beginning to “associate” with other women, non-Jewish women. A specific example would be of the leaser of the tribe of Shimon, Zimri ben Salu, who was having relations with Kazbi bat Tzur, a Midianite woman in public. Pinchas ben Eleazar, a Cohen, witnesses this and recognized the inappropriateness, and he killed both of them in public. Pinchas’ individual act symbolically rejected assimilation and in so doing, stopped a plague that had already killed 24,000 people. Pinchas was rewarded for killing those two people, not punished, but rewarded for stopping this act of assimilation. But how do we deal with assimilation today? We don’t go around killing people. Our resolution – look around – Camp Ramah is our resolution. Bringing kids together to grow and learn, and to strengthen their Judaism. Now for us as theMachon, it is time to leave the security of camp and take the tools we have acquired and apply them to our everyday lives, at home, in our synagogues and in our youth groups. These tools are truly God’s gift, because they will help to guide us on our journeys to Israel and through our years as counselors at this wonderful place. Living here the past few summers has molded my Jewish identity as well as that of my peers.
To that, on behalf of Machon 2000, I would like to thank Brian Greene [the director] and Micah Hyman [assistant director]. Ari Sunshine for being our Rosh Edah in Machon and Tzofim. Our counselors that we’ve had throughout the years for guiding us, giving us memorable experiences and constant encouragement. And last but certainly not least, all of our friends with whom we have shared our summers. On this, my last Shabbat as a camper at Ramah, I would like to wish all of you Shabbat Shalom.