Donna Rudolph is a Jewish educator who will be returning to camp this summer as a Senior Teacher in our Jewish Studies program. An alumna of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin (Nivonim 1994), Donna is an alumna of the Pardes Educators Program and holds a Masters Degree in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Donna taught as a day school teacher in Washington, D.C., and worked as an educator in Jerusalem. In addition to her background as an educator, Donna also brings to camp a background in yoga instruction and drama! Donna, her husband Ari, and their two children Eitan and Noa, recently returned to the United States and will be moving to the New York area after the summer.
What has always stood out for me at Camp (both as a camper and now a veteran staff member) is the idea that every effort is made to make every single person count. The staff goes out of their way to insure that each and every camper has a special “moment” in the summer- a special time where they feel their eidah cannot move forward without them having been there at that exact moment. A camper’s role in the summer is taken seriously and the staff makes sure that it stays fresh, exciting and loaded with possibilities. What always comes to mind is JAR’s play “Walking in Memphis” (a fabulous one-man show written and performed by Jon Adam Ross, Head of Arts Programming) when he talks about a girl who wanted to have a part in the camp play, so they created the role of ‘penguin’ in a production that had nothing to do with Antarctic animals. Apparently she was the most dedicated penguin the camp had seen, good enough to be talked about in an off- Broadway production.
In this week’s parsha, Beha’alot’cha, we open with the mitzvah of lighting the menorah in the Tabernacle and eventually the Temple. The construction of the Menorah is reviewed, and Aaron is instructed to light it. The Torah says: “Aaron did so; toward the face of the menorah he kindled its lamps, as Hashem had commanded Moses” (Numbers 8:3). Why does the Torah make this peculiar statement? How else does one light a Menorah other than following the commandment to do so?
Rashi suggests that Aaron may have had a conflict of emotions. He quotes a fascinating Midrash that asks: Why is the Torah portion concerning the menorah found immediately following the portion concerning the offerings of the tribal princes during the dedication of the Tabernacle, at the end of Parshat Naso? When Aaron saw the offerings of the princes, he was distressed that neither he nor his tribe was included. God said to him, “I promise that your mitzvah is greater than theirs, for you will kindle and prepare the lights.” Aaron watched as the leaders of the tribes brought their gifts to the dedication of the Tabernacle, and he remained unmoved at his post. He watched as the other Kohanim (priests) vied for the privilege of collecting the ashes from the altar which, by tradition, ensured great wealth as a reward; Aaron never deviated from his assigned task.
Every day, even on Shabbat and festivals, Aaron lit the menorah. Aaron in essence chose the light of spiritual excellence because he realized the intrinsic value of what the menorah represented, and not just because it was a commandment.
Many of us juggle several considerations: How do we not allow ourselves to fall into the trap of becoming repetitive in our professional and personal work? How do we maintain excitement and curiosity in our own homes for our children and families? How as Jewish educators (teachers and parents included!) do we not become repetitive in our religious practices and, more importantly, keep it novel for our children? Life is full of opportunities for finding the divine light in the world and in every person. The midrash beautifully illustrates Aaron’s freshness to the kindling service and his way of finding new insights into something seemingly mundane. For this Aaron deserved praise.
Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom.