I did not grow up going to overnight camp. It just was not for me. I spent my days in day camps, swimming, and taking family trips. Yet, the last ten years, Rabbi Guzik and I have spent one week of each summer as Rabbis in Residence at Camp Ramah in Ojai. We watch as kids and staff have immersive experiences with old and new friends and with teachers and Rabbis, both inside of buildings and outside in nature.
In a class with incoming 8th graders, I posed the question, “Why do we perform rituals?” Some answered, “Because we are told to by others.” Some answered, “We tell ourselves we must.” I challenged these new teenagers to not only perform Jewish rituals, but to begin to explore why we do what we do; not only recognizing the ritual as a Jewish act, but searching the deeper meaning of why we do these things.
Our parsha concludes with the mitzvah of tzitzit. We gather the four corners of our tallit each morning before the recitation of the shema. We are reminded of God’s mitzvot immediately before proclaiming the declaration of our faith.
We also gather the four corners, cognizant that we are not alone in performing these rituals. In fact, these rituals are the universal language that connect us Jews around the world. As I begin this summer with another week of Camp Ramah, participating in this sacred gift that parents have given their children, I am grateful and excited for the Jewish future I see being built before our very eyes.