Please enjoy a d’var Torah this week from Rosh Machon 2017 (entering 10th grade) Daniella Elyashar. Daniella studies Education, History of Israel and Contemporary Judaism at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This summer will be her fourth summer at camp as a member of the Mishlachat. Reflections on Parashat Vayikra by Daniella Elyashar
Physical spaces can sometimes mean much more to us than just the actual space itself. What is the importance of defining these spaces in our lives?
In this week’s Parashah, Vayikra, B’nai Yisrael (the Israelites) are given an extensive list of different korbanot (sacrifices) appropriate for various situations.
When B’nai Yisrael wanders around in the desert for 40 years, they are obligated to establish a Mishkan (sanctuary). The Mishkan has two purposes. The first is as a place to sacrifice the korbanot as listed in Parashat Vayikra, and the second is to serve as a designated point of spiritual connection between B’nai Yisrael and God.
So is there only one specific place where you can feel connected to God, or to your spirituality? B’nai Yisrael spent an entire generation in the desert. They were obviously caught up in their day to day life: getting food, walking for hours and hours, getting from place to place. In some ways, God made it easier for them. Instead of searching for a way to find spirituality within their normal lives, God said they must build the Mishkan. This place would now be a set physical area where they could disconnect from the world and try to connect to God directly.
This reminds me of camp, especially as I reflect on my day to day life in Jerusalem. I find myself so caught up in school, work and social activities. It’s very much a constant race to just get to the next place, just like B’nai Yisrael. I know that camp helps me connect to my Jewish identity, my culture, my friends, the person I am and the person I want to be.
Naming all the specific korbanot gives a sense of structure and framing to B’nai Yisrael in the desert. There is something mechanical about this parashah specifically, and in the book of Vayikra in general. For some, the importance of camp isn’t just about physically disconnecting, but rather about the scheduled, routine Jewish lifestyle. Waking up in the morning and heading straight to Shacharit prayers, saying Birkat Hamazon after meals and Shabbat dinners are only some of the ways that Judaism informs our day to day life at camp.
The fact that there are two very distinct reasons behind building the Mishkan indicates that even in the parashah, there is an acknowledgment that different people connect to Judaism in numerous ways. The physical space of camp allows us to focus for two months on our spirituality and Jewish identity in a way that is not possible in other spaces. It allows us to build connections that we are not able to develop without being in the physical space of camp and all it contains. Whether it’s God, our spirituality, a strong and meaningful connection between friends, or a routine Jewish schedule, our culture and community are all cultivated into one physical place. That special place makes it possible to take a breath of fresh Northwoods air and step outside the pressures of our day to day lives.
I’m so excited we get to go back in just a few months!