The last morning of camp I had the pleasure of joining our Nivonim campers around 5:30 a.m. as they sang their way off the Givah and through the gate at the foot of the hill. It was the same gate that they sang and danced their way through on the first night of the summer and this new tradition bookended their experience as the first Nivonim to live on the Givah. This archway was an initiative of Nivonim 2016 as they prepared their lasting legacy as the last aidah to live on the “old” Givah and serves as a bridge between the Givah we loved for many years and the new campus where our campers now have the privilege to live. At the beginning of this week’s Torah reading, we read אתם נצבים היום כלכם- “you are standing today, all of you” as B’nai Yisrael prepared to enter a covenant with G-d establishing a unique relationship. A few verses later we read:
“כי את-אשר ישנו פה עמנו עמד היום לפני ה’ אלוהינו ואת אשר איננו פה עמנו היום, not with you alone do I forge this covenant and this oath, but with whoever is here, standing with us today before Hashem our God, and with whoever is not here with us today” (29:14).
We already learned that all of B’nai Yisrael was gathered and the acknowledgement in the later verse must indicate the presence of past generations and the generations to come.
As we once again approach the end of the narrative in the Torah, and look ahead toward new beginnings, we are reminded of the importance of legacy, and the connections to the generations that came before us and those who will continue to come after us. This time of year also prepares us to think about our own legacy and the events that have helped shape us and our communities to get to this moment. In this period of time leading up to the high holidays, we are engaging in a period of personal and communal reflection. Who has made an impact on me? Whose actions inspire me to be better? What moments from this past year reflect my desired legacy?
In one of the most evocative moments of the Musaf service on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the shaliach tzibur recites the Hineni prayer before the community. Throughout the Torah narrative and again here, the use of Hineni “here I am” indicates a call to action. Part of the prayer reads “please, give me success along the road that I tread, to stand and ask for compassion for me and for those who have sent me.” The climax of our high holiday service humbles each and every one of us. In order to move forward and to look to the opportunities that may be coming, we first need to reflect and attribute our presence in the moment to those who have come before us.
While Ramah’s buildings and physical site may have changed in the past 70 years, it is clear that the standing legacy and impact of camp has not. We saw time and time again this summer that camp continues to be a transformative place and this was certainly reflected as Nivonim sang their way off of the Givah on the last morning of the summer. The visionaries of Ramah’s early decades helped shaped our camp experience to this day, and, at the same time, each Nivonim aidah has an impact on camp’s future.
As Nivonim danced out of the gates on their final morning as campers, they served as a true bridge between their own narrative and our communal camp narrative. They sang and celebrated their future relationship with camp in two years as staff members and they also served as a strong link between two chapters in our Camp Ramah in Wisconsin history.
As we enter Shabbat and continue through this month of reflection, I hope we all remember those who came before us as we open ourselves up to what lies ahead. When we hear the call to action, may we all find our voices responding Hineni, here I am.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah