D’var Torah for August 2, 2019

Shabbat Shalom from Camp Eisner! In my bulletin article I misstated something by accident. This is my third summer on faculty, not my fourth. But regardless, there is something special about celebrating Shabbat at our URJ Camps. Not only does it bring back special memories from my time as a camper, but it is also so wonderful to see Shabbat celebrated with the next generation. 
 
One of my fond memories was that we would gather together each Shabbat morning to discuss the weekly parasha.
 
This week we have the double portions of Matot-Masey, the final two Torah portions in the book of Numbers. Matot begins with the issue of vows and when they are appropriate and when they are inappropriate. Masey concludes the story of the daughters of Zelophechad we read about last week.
 
The fun part of being at camp is I get to help the campers contextualize them in order to present themes as part of the Shabbat evening and Shabbat morning worship services. With regards to vows, the first group of campers focused on the idea of sacred promises that we make not only to God, but also to each other. They were really interested in the idea that people should not break their promises and that some promises can be lifelong. 
 
For the second group of campers, it was all about how the daughters of Zelophechad were able to fight for their right to hold onto their father’s inheritance, only to lose some of freedoms they achieved in this week’s Torah portion. The campers framed it as two-steps forward, one step-back. But even in this case, the direction always keeps moving ever forward, even with setbacks.
 
It is so wonderful to be able to see campers take the lessons of the Torah and interpret them and make them their own not only through writings and songs, but also through art, dance and creative play.
 
Torah does not have to be interpreted, explained, and understood in one particular way. There are lots of pathways to make it relevant, relatable, and interesting. And I, for one, look forward to seeing how the campers are going to do it this evening on Shabbat. 
 
In the meantime, I wish each of you a wonderful Shabbat, and I look forward to seeing you next week, when I am back home in our beautiful, scenic sanctuary, overlooking the Hudson River.
 
 
Shabbat Shalom,
 
Rabbi Benjamin Sharff