אלא מועדי ה’, אשר תקראו אותם מקראי קדש אלה הם מועדיי. ששת ימים תעשה מלאכה וביום השביעי שבת שבתון מקרא קדש, כל מלאכה לא תעשו. שבת היא לה’ – בכל מושבותיכם
“These are My fixed times, the fixed times of the Lord, which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions. On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, a sacred occasion. You shall do no work; it shall be a sabbath of the Lord throughout your resting-places.” (ויקרא/Leviticus 23:2-3)
Last week, I had the pleasure of being in Israel at Kibbutz Shefayim participating in a training program with this summer’s mishlachat (Israeli staff delegation). In addition to Ramah Wisconsin’s own group of new and veteran shlichim, the five-day conference brought together those journing to the other seven Ramah camps as well. The members of the mishlachat are diverse. They come from all across Israel with varied interests and talents. Some come from religious backgrounds while others had more secular upbringings. Most of them have recently finished, or are about to finish, their army service. They came to Shefayim not knowing one another and not knowing very much about Camp Ramah.
We began the training program on Wednesday. We started with gentle ice breakers and games to create a sense of familiarity with one another. From there, over the course of the next few days, we went deeper—delving into questions of identity and issues relating to our Jewish selves. The members of the group began opening up with one another. They shared their own questions and struggles, their stories and their personal experiences of growth and meaning. They began learning from one another and teaching one another. This group of initially disconnected individuals was coming together, developing a strong connection and sense of community.
Finally, we arrived at Shabbat. All of the Ramah groups davened together. Kabbalat Shabbat was incredible; filled with soulful prayer, singing and dancing. The Ramah Wisconsin shlichim stood around the Shabbat dinner table, arm in arm singing Shalom Aleichem. Over the course of Shabbat we learned together, prayed together, celebrated together and ended with a moving havdallah service. It is no coincidence that Shabbat was when the group shifted— feeling less like a “group” and more like a family.
The sanctification of time and space is one of the brilliant spiritual devices that Judaism offers. We were in Israel—our central place of holiness, celebrating Shabbat—the most sanctified of Jewish time. As our parasha, Emor, tells us, we have fixed times that are sacred occasions. The experience at Shefayim was truly a sacred occasion. And as a result of that experience, our mishlachat members are now filled with a sense of excitement and commitment to help create such sacred occasions in Conover, Wisconsin this summer.