Please enjoy a D’var Torah this week from Josh Warshawsky, Rosh Garinim/Halutzim 2012. Josh is a senior in the Joint Program of the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University, and recently led Ramah Wisconsin’s delegation to the Weinstein Counselor Training Institute of the National Ramah Commission. Josh grew up in Deerfield, IL, where his family is active at Moriah Congregation, and he is an alumnus of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Chicago, Chicagoland Jewish High School, CHUSY, and Nativ. Josh is a proud member of Nivonim 2006 and previously spent three summers as a counselor and one as a songleader on our staff. We are thrilled to welcome Josh back as a Rosh Eidah for the 2013 season.
“When I’m stuck with a day that’s gray and lonely, I just stick out my chin and grin and say! The sun’ll come out tomorrow, so you gotta hang on till tomorrow, come what may! Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya, tomorrow! You’re only a day away!”
– From the musical Annie
During my 12 years at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, Annie was presented twice, but I was never there to see it. In my first summer, 2001, Annie was presented during the first session, but I didn’t arrive for Halutzim until the second session. In 2007, I was in Israel. I saw a sneak peak of the show last summer as my campers, Halutzim 2012, performed a musical revue of all of the shows for 2013 (click here to see their performance). I will finally get to see the Ramah production of Annie this coming summer when Solelim 2013 brings it to the Camp Ramah stage!
You might think that the quintessential lines above just came from the musical Annie, but I’d like to believe that this is exactly how Pharoah was feeling in this week’s Torah portion, Va’era. This is one of the most action-packed portions in the Torah: Moses returns to Egypt, Pharoah and the Egyptians are hit with seven of the ten plagues, Pharoah still won’t let the Israelites go, and there seems to be no end in sight! Pharoah’s days seem to be getting grayer and lonelier, and you would think that he’s probably just wishing he can get these plagues over with and get on to tomorrow.
The word machar, “tomorrow,” appears in this week’s parsha four times: twice to warn the Egyptians about a coming plague, once to warn that a plague will end in the coming day, and once from the mouth of Pharoah. After the plague of frogs, Pharoah calls Moses and Aaron to him and asks them to plead with God to remove the frogs from Egypt and he will let the people go. In a seemingly strange response, Moses says he will plead for God today, but asks Pharoah to specify a time for the frogs to be removed:
הִתְפָּאֵ֣ר עָלַי֒ לְמָתַ֣י ׀ אַעְתִּ֣יר לְךָ֗ וְלַעֲבָדֶ֙יךָ֙ וּֽלְעַמְּךָ֔ לְהַכְרִית֙ הַֽצֲפַרְדְּעִ֔ים מִמְּךָ֖ וּמִבָּתֶּ֑יךָ רַ֥ק בַּיְאֹ֖ר תִּשָּׁאַֽרְנָה
Even more strange is Pharoah’s response: “L’machar,” tomorrow. Why would Pharoah choose tomorrow for the removal of the frogs? Wouldn’t you think he would want to get rid of them as soon as possible?
The Biblical commentator Ramban says that it is known that a person typically asks for the misfortunes in his life to go away immediately. Therefore, Pharoah must have still been under the impression that this miraculous plague of frogs was something natural, and that Moses knew the plague was about to cease. In an attempt to trick him, Pharoah asks that the frogs be removed on the following day, hoping that they would die naturally on that day and he could prove that they did not come from God. Unfortunately for Pharoah, God did exactly as Moses asked and waited to remove the frogs until the next day.
In this age of immediacy, with lightning fast Internet and instant communication, camp allows us to pause, to slow down. This past summer, every Friday night after dinner I took our Garinim and Halutzim campers outside to the waterfront to watch the sunset and learn and sing new songs together. It was my favorite time of the week. We reflected on everything we had accomplished that week, and looked ahead to what we could do together “tomorrow.” Whether campers are there for two, four, or eight weeks, we must take advantage of every moment. From the very first step off the bus, we spend our time learning, singing, playing, and growing together. Each day brings excitement, memories, and the promise of tomorrow. I cannot wait for another summer at camp in just 157 tomorrows!