In the opening verse of this week’s parashah, at the triumphant moment that poetically moves us over a little more than a chapter to the triumphalism of shirat hayam, the Song of the Sea, God gives the Israelites no moment to exult.  "When Pharoah sent the Children of Israel away, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.“

Can you imagine:  you’ve lived your whole life a slave, you’re departing "on eagles’ wings,” you’ve been promised a land flowing with milk and honey, and the same individual who has taken you out and made this promise now says, “let’s take the scenic route?”

Knowing how the story unfolds, as we do, makes it difficult for us to put ourselves into this moment.  God’s message, however, seems to be quite clear:  process isn’t important, it’s everything.  The long way, the slightly more difficult journey, the road not taken, the uncleared path:  it is our role as human beings to walk them.  And it is the journey, not the end result, that provides us with who we are and what we leave in the world.  It is the daily slog, not the moment of achievement, that defines us; the challenges of life that shape us as human.

This lesson permeates the educational vision of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin and, I suggest, makes a compelling case for the intensive Jewish product and powerful friendships that we provide our campers.  Camp is about the many moments that lead up to the last Shabbat or the hugs on the parking lot before boarding the buses; about the rehearsal process more than the musical; about the practice for the big game or the plans for Yom Sport, not who wins or loses.

On a broader level, learning to do something well takes time, commitment, and tremendous resources.  We provide our campers the opportunity to learn how to be engaged, active, and knowledgeable Jews and Americans, blessed with a supportive community of family, friends, and similarly-committed Jews throughout the world.  Our goals are extraordinarily ambitious, and our families and the greater community confirm that they reap the rewards, year after year.

As we continue to see campers enroll at a speed we have not seen in years, and begin the process of interviewing the nearly two hundred staff members who have already applied to work at camp this summer, we enter the annual process of gearing up for June 17 (even in the midst of a polar vortex).  That process is rewarding in and of itself, and yet the greatest magic is that our ultimate reward is not a single moment where all the work is done and has paid off.  Rather, the processes continue, for us as for the Israelites after Egypt.  Into camp and beyond, following us and our alumni for the rest of our lives and beyond.

Shabbat Shalom