I know I’m behind on my #blogelul posts, but I’ve been considering the themes, and sometimes that’s enough. I’m also a few days late on remember, but these words come from day 13, and I just got the video, so I’m using them now.
This past weekend, I had the chance to celebrate memories at URJ Camp Harlam‘s 60th Anniversary Weekend. Harlam @60 was a year long celebration of the camp’s history–from its earliest days, to its present, and also its future. As a past camper and staff member (and current faculty member), it was a wonderful opportunity to be at camp again, with some of my dearest friends, and experience camp in a different way than I do when I go up to camp these days.
I also had the honor and opportunity to help lead part of Shabbat evening services. In my remarks, the iyyunei t’fillah (prayer introductions) that I offered, I had the chance to reflect on camp. Just like the campers do over the summer, I had the chance to reflect on a theme (in this case, memories of camp) and connect them to the prayers. To remember can be powerful; and I love that I was able to do so, and to share that experience with others.
In case you are a Harlamite who missed the weekend, or if you went to another camp and want to reflect on the camp experience, or even if you’ve never been to camp and just want a taste of what it’s like for those of us that did, here are my remarks:
Shabbat, we are told, is a taste of the world to come. This weekend, we are being given a taste of what I think is the real flavor of Shabbat. If Shabbat looks like the world to come, I believe that such an existence looks like a time of eternal camp. Where our memory of this place includes a stream of white, walking up the hill. Where our Sabbath Prayer is as heartfelt as it is loud and rambunctious—where we protected and defended because of this place. Where we are all free to become ourselves, even as we discover what that means. In this place where we are all Joseph and Betty’s children, a lineage that allows us to consider the possibility of a better place than the world we live in the rest of the time. A world where it’s not 10 months for 2, because the 2 months are always.
As we rise for the Barchu, may we rise not only to our prayers, but to the world in which we know is possible. And may we all take that taste, take this Shabbat, take the spirit of this place, and take that which we know into our lives, as we remember to build that world. Na Lakum (please rise).
Before Ma’ariv Aravim
I’m in the car, driving. My friend says from the passenger seat, “I love this song,” as they turn up the volume, and we both start singing along. And all of a sudden I notice that my friend is looking at me as if I have sprouted feathers. And says, “uh, what are you singing?”
And it is only then that I realize that the words coming out of my car speaker are not the same as the words that I’m singing, clearly, loudly, and enthusiastically.
And I am momentarily confused by the fact that the radio is playing the song wrong.
And then I just smile sheepishly, because I know that my friend won’t really understand. My friend won’t understand that this song changed since this recording. This song changed, when it was the fight song during maccabiah one year. And my friend won’t understand why I start crying during that other song that no one else thinks it’s sad because it was my alma Mater that same year.
Because my friend can’t understand the magic of camp that changes the reality of the space time continuum. So that songs actually become different, and hours become days become weeks become months become years. And summertime is forever.
My friend doesn’t understand that as soon as that song started playing, I was no longer sitting in the drivers seat of my car on a sunny day, but was instead cramped into a stuffy room, long before air conditioning at camp, wearing white, surrounded by cheers intermingled with tears. And that it was no longer this year but that year. And day had rolled into night. And in that moment, as in so many moments, the days and nights roll into each other—the memories intermingled with reality—creating cycles of their own.
And that by having been in that place…this place…I knew the magic. And I still know the magic. I think we all do—and even those we have not yet met here, they know it too. And it connects us. Bringing us together across generations and across time—giving us a bond that connects us to truths and to cycles that no matter how close we are to other friends, they don’t really understand it.
But we know. We know how the cycles of nature keep so much the same, season after season, even when the faces change and the songs are a little bit different. We know that really, they are the same too.
And we know, that just like friends return to us like the tide, we can return and we do return and we have returned, not only to them but to there. To here. To this moment. Bringing those moments into this one. Creating an eternity within a moment.
Rolling the generations that have been into the ones of the future. Rolling each sunset over those hills into the one before it. Rolling each Shabbat into the next, into a lifetime of memories which connect to the memories of so many others. Connecting us all to each other. To this place. And to the cycles themselves.
Before Ahavat Olam
A text from the midrash Avot D’Rabbi Natan,
“’And acquire yourself a friend,’ (Avot 1:6), In what manner? It teaches that a person will acquire a friend for themselves to eat with, and to drink with, and to read with, and to study with, and to lodge with, and who will reveal all of their secrets–the secrets of the Torah and the secrets of the way of the land.”
I’m convinced the rabbis went to camp.
As we celebrate those friendships this weekend, and the place that brought us all together, may we all have the chance to consider those secrets, those absolute truths and understandings of Judaism that we have come to because of our time here—and those things we understand about how to live and how to be and how the world works, and should work—all off our secrets that have been shaped by this place.