The weekend that is upon us is more than the official beginning of summer, permission to wear white through Labor Day, and a phenomenal excuse (most years) to dust off the bar-b-q if we have not already.  As we read Parashat Bemidbar tomorrow, beginning the book of Numbers, and celebrate Shavuot – z’man matan Torateinu (the time of the giving of our Torah) – on Sunday and Monday, we have a most-fitting send off to the camp season.  This coming week over fifty members of the senior administration, leadership team, and core support staffs will make their way down County K to 6150 E. Buckatabon Rd., our summer home.  Next Shabbat, for the first time since mid-August, we will celebrate Shabbat in the Ohel Yitzhak synagogue, enjoy the lush grass on the Kikar, and dine in our Chadar Ochel. 

At the outset of the book of Numbers, the Israelite nation is faced with two tasks:  embarking from the foot of Mount Sinai (where all of Leviticus and the second-half of Exodus took place) towards the Promised Land and counting the nation.  These are our central tasks at Ramah as well, as we work to rebuild our community, count beds and luggage tags, cross our proverbial “t"s and dot those lower-case "i"s, all in preparation of setting out on a great journey. 

The celebration of Shavuot adds to the power of this metaphor, grounding us in the reception of Torah and the rabbinic ideal of learning Jewish texts.  Your homes – where you raise your children, in collaboration with the schools you send them to, synagogue communities in which your family participates, and many other networks of friends, extended family, learning opportunities, and experiences – are the bedrock on which Ramah builds. 

Having received the Torah of their parents and community, camp mirrors the experience of the Israelite nation in the wilderness.  It is a place to test out the values and lessons they have learned; to strive for independence, developing their own identities with the help of friends and role models; growing from individuals from disparate backgrounds and cities into a unified whole.

From the foot of Mount Sinai, the counting of the people, and the first steps of their journey, Moses and the Israelites embark on the journey of their lives.  Its unpredictable and transformative nature leads them on a meandering route to the coast of the river Jordan.  It is a journey that took them over 38 years but we recount annually in less than three months.  This summer, in the last two parshiot of the camp season, we will read that the Israelites are overlooking the ancient city of Jericho, less than a day’s walk into the Land of Israel.

Our goal is that the Ramah experience parallels the journey of our ancestors, moving us from the liturgical motifs of this weekend all the way through the trials and leadership lessons of the wilderness, and finally ready to realize their potential and seize their inheritance.  These are our ambitious goals for the summer, to nurture our campers along this journey, to help them return home to you healthier in body and spirit, renewed in their self-confidence, possessing new and deeply moving friendships, strengthened in their Jewish knowledge and identity, ready to assume a new enhanced role in the world. 

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.