It’s been about a month since my last message, and while I will not be back from Camp Ramah Darom until the second week of August, I wanted to drop you all a postcard from camp and share some Torah with our community.
I have checked in with all of our campers and staff from CSK, and all are doing well and having an incredible summer, despite a new normal of podding groups and Covid tests multiple times a week. The camp’s administration is doing a phenomenal job keeping our children safe. Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions, we have not been able to gather together as a congregation just yet, but I hope we can soon!
I took the picture above (the postcard from camp) this week after a tremendous rainstorm, and I promise you, I did not use a filter! It looked as if the sky was on fire on the left, and serene and blue on the right side.
This contrasting image reminded me of something we read in this week’s parashah, Ekev, and what we have all gone through over this last year and a half, and continue to experience.
וְזָכַרְתָּ אֶת־כׇּל־הַדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר הוֹלִיכְךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ זֶה אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה בַּמִּדְבָּר לְמַעַן עַנֹּתְךָ לְנַסֹּתְךָ לָדַעַת אֶת־אֲשֶׁר בִּלְבָבְךָ הֲתִשְׁמֹר מִצְוֺתָו אִם־לֹא׃
Remember the long way that the LORD your God has made you travel in the wilderness these past forty years, that God might test you by hardships to learn what was in your hearts: whether you would keep God’s commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2)
At a surface level, we could read that God brought our ancestor's trials and tribulations in order to test their hearts, but I believe we can read it in different ways. The trials and tribulations we go through can be looked at as things that happen to us, whether they are fair or not fair, deserved or undeserved. As we read these words, we can think of the arbitrary nature of life, the randomness that we sometimes feel as we experience our journeys, but it also leads us to reflect on our own experiences. What do we learn from our hardships and how do we grow from them? How did God help us grow during those hardships? That is the left side of the picture, the orange sky that looked like it was on fire, but the right side of the picture is blue and serene.
Just a couple of lines later, God tells Bnai Israel about the goodness of the land that they are about to experience. Moses describes a land of streams, springs and fountains, bountiful foods like wheat and barley, grapes, figs pomegranates, olive trees, milk and honey.
וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶת־יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ עַל־הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַן־לָךְ׃
When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. (Deuteronomy 8:10)
On the other hand, when we are in the blue and serene sky, in the good times, do we recognize God’s role in our lives? After we have experienced the bounties of the world, are we satisfied, and do we show gratitude for the gifts we’ve experienced? As Jews, we have a responsibility to enjoy the fruits of the world, to find satisfaction, and to give gratitude.
This Shabbat, I hope we can all reflect on how we've grown through adversity, how we surprised even ourselves with our own strength, what gifts we have in our lives and how to show gratitude to God for them.
I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom and look forward to sharing our plans for the month of Elul next week!
Rabbi David Baum