Please enjoy a D’var Torah this week from Aviva Schwartz, Rosh Nivonim 2016.  Aviva graduated this week with an M.A. in Community Development and Planning from Clark University in Worcester, MA, where she had previously earned her B.A. in International Development and Social Change with a concentration in Race and Ethnic Relations. A lifelong Ramahnik, Aviva returns this summer for her seventh summer on staff, third as a Rosh Aidah, and second as Rosh Nivonim. Reflections on Parashat Emor by Aviva Schwartz

As the year wraps up, and we get one Shabbat closer to camp I find myself zoning in on the first few weeks of the summer. What will the first pe’ulat erev (evening activity) be? What will the tzrifim (cabins) like to do together? How much ruach (spirited energy) will each aidah (division) have during the Zimriah (song festival)? And how will we decide how we want to live as a community? At the beginning of each summer, the aidah (both tzevet/staff and chanichim/counselors) must agree together to live by communal agreements, expectations, and yes…..rules. We all have to follow certain rules in order to make camp work in the way that we all love.

This week’s parashah, Parashat Emor, is a perfect example of B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) receiving their rules, and working through how they will implement them in their daily life. In this parashah, Moshe has the privilege of explaining all of the laws that God has set for the Jewish people. Countless holidays, regulations for the priesthood, etc. Moses could have chosen many different methods by which to relay this information, but in a very camp-like setting, he chooses Emor, from the root א.מ.ר, meaning “to speak” the words to the people. While the task might be vast, this is a strong method – conversation – to form community and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

The first week of camp each aidah will learn about all of the fun happenings coming up: the “holidays” of camp as one might say. What will our play be? Where will we go on our camping trip? Have a bonfire? Participate in Yom Sport (color war)? Will we play softball against the younger aidah? Now, when we discuss the expectations, “rules,” and agreements for camp, it does not only come from the Rosh Aidah (Division Head) on the first night of camp. Rather, there are several opportunities for all of us to form agreements on how we want to interact with each other throughout the summer. We meet as tzrifim the first night of camp to form consensus on our living agreements. We discuss with the shlichah (Israeli staff member) facilitating our Hebrew activity about what types of games we will play and how we will best learn together. We meet with the coach of our basketball team to talk through how to be good team players. And we meet with our play director to set expectations for having fun during play practice while focusing so that we can create an amazing machazemer (musical) by the end of the summer.

Each of these conversations will lead us to create the incredible summer that is in store. And just as Parashat Emor reminds the Children of Israel to care for others, such as by leaving the crops in the corners of their fields for those in need, at camp, we too continually request respect from each other and try to make sure that the needs of all of us in the aidah and the entire machaneh (camp) are addressed. We value the need for rules and agreements, just as B’nei YisraeI worked to implement the covenant with God. Each summer we continually recreate and renew our aidah, which will be our community for the rest of our time at camp.