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Please enjoy a d’var Torah this week from Sarah Levin. Sarah is currently a senior at American University studying history and marketing. She is a Camp Ramah ‘lifer’ and excited to spend her fourth summer on staff as Rosh Bogrim. 


Staying Close During These Times of Social Distancing
by Sarah Levin

In this era of social distancing there is much uncertainty and many unknowns. But what is so wonderful in this strange time is how communities are coming together.

Parashat Vayikra focuses on the minute details of sacrifice. Some examples include: when to sacrifice, why you sacrifice, how to sacrifice, and even where to cook the meat on the altar. An Israelite would bring their best ox, cow, sheep, or grain to the Temple and there the Kohen (priest) would perform the sacrifice on their behalf. What is most interesting is that the word קרבן  korban (sacrifice) has the root word קרוב karov which means near. The sacrifice was meant as a way to come closer to God, similar to the meaning of our prayers today.

Throughout generations we have adapted the action of sacrificing to God to community prayer. During the week we pray three times a day: Shacharit (morning prayer), Mincha (afternoon prayer), and Ma’ariv (evening prayer). Each one of these services correlates to a time in the day that the Kohanim performed sacrifices. These sacrifices were done on behalf of the people and thus had an underlying community effect, whereas individual prayer nowadays physically brings us together as a community. 

But what do we do now that we can’t pray together in our communities? Do we go back to hoping that we can sacrifice? Obviously not.

The term ‘social distancing,’ in my opinion, is inaccurate. We shouldn’t call it social distancing; we should call it physical distancing. In our current situation, I would argue that by staying home and physically distancing yourself from your neighbors you are actually becoming even closer. Not only do you share the experience of self-isolation but you know that your actions could save someone’s life who is at a higher risk.

Similarly, communities are rising to the challenge of staying together from afar. We’ve seen it right here in our Ramah community with Kikar from Afar. If you haven’t seen it yet, Ramah is creating Facebook live and Zoom activities for our community to connect virtually through kikar dancing, shira song sessions and much more. Camp has and will always be a special place in the lives of chanichim (campers), madrichim (counselors), and tzevet (staff) and that doesn’t stop because we’re not in “the 54519.” Like the parashah, we’re becoming close with each other from afar but that does not mean that we are any less connected. As in Biblical times, our sacrifices have a way of actually bringing us together.