Please enjoy a D’var Torah this week from Rosh Kochavim and Rosh Halutzim 2015, Elana Kravitz. A lifelong Ramahnik, Elana is in the final months of a five-year Masters in Social Work program at Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to serving as Hillel President, Elana has interned at the St. Louis Crisis Nursery and Kids in the Middle (an agency that helps families through divorce and other major life transitions) working with underserved populations of children in the St. Louis area. Elana was Rosh Garinim last summer. Reflections on Parashat Tzav by Elana Kravitz
I will never forget the first time I played basketball at camp. On my first day of Halutzim, my whole aidah gathered on the basketball court for a huge game of knockout. As the smallest kid in the group with little basketball experience, I was anxious as I waited for my turn to shoot. When I got to the front of the line I threw the ball as hard as I could at the basket. Needless to say, I didn’t even come close to making it in. I continued shooting for what felt like forever. After watching me struggle, one of the tallest counselors on tzevet sport picked me up, carried me to the hoop, and encouraged me to try again. Despite his and my best efforts, I still didn’t make the shot. Though this wasn’t an ideal outcome, it has always been one of my best camp memories. I will never forget the support he gave me as I tried this new activity for the first time.
In this week’s Parasha, Tzav, God explains to Moshe the ritual of the burnt offering and the role of Aharon and the Kohanim in the ritual. They are commanded that “The burnt offering itself shall remain where it is burned upon the altar all night until morning, while the fire on the altar is kept going on it (Vayikra 6:2). The Etz Hayim chummash offers an alternative translation to this pasuk, explaining that the final words “tukad bo” can be translated as “on it” OR can be translated as “within him.” The pasuk would read “the fire on the altar is kept going within him.” This new translation of “bo” suggests that just as the fire on the altar needs to be kept aflame, the flame and passion of the kohen doing the holiest of work needs to be kindled. While the kohanim are responsible for making sure the flame of the altar continues to burn, it is the responsibility of the community to continually work to keep the kohen’s passion and enthusiasm for their work alive.
At camp, the tzevet has the amazing opportunity to do holy work with their campers every day. Through programming, teaching classes, and daily interactions, counselors are constantly igniting passions and new interests in their campers. As a tiny Halutzimer, I was encouraged by member of tzevet sport to put all of my energy into the game, even if that meant missing a shot. With that support, a spark was ignited in me and I learned that camp was a place for me to try new activities, even those that seemed impossible. I don’t remember what I said after I got out of that fateful game of knockout, but I remember the feeling of happiness that came over me and can only hope that the counselor who inspired me that day could sense the joy he had given me through his support. Just as the kohanim need the community to help keep the flame inside of them alive, so too do the tzevet need the camp community (parents, campers, administrators, other counselors) to keep their flame alive. Like the people of Israel, the camp community must live up to this responsibility. In the next 81 days leading up to Kayitz 2015, let’s all consider how we can work together to keep the flame alive.