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Please enjoy a d’var Torah this week from Sarah Levin. From Northbrook, IL, Sarah graduated from American University after studying history and marketing and has worked in Digital Marketing for the past year. This will be her 11th summer at camp where she will be working as Rosh Nivonim.

Reflections on the Kikar’s Shmita Year
by Sarah Levin

Before each meal at camp, every eidah (division), their counselors, and all the other staff in camp wait to be let into the chadar ochel (dining hall) from the kikar.  The kikar is an ideal multi-purposes grassy field that is the beating heart of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. Now, if you look closely you’ll see chanichim (campers) throwing Frisbees and running up and down the kikar, all the way to the agam (lake). You’ll see people washing their hands in preparation for a meal, and you’ll no doubt see people pulling grass out of the kikar, a mindless crime that (almost?) everyone who has sat on the kikar will confess to. And with this absentminded crime of pulling out grass from the kikar, comes the joke that by having no one at camp last kayitz (summer), the kikar is going to be amazing this summer.

But why am I telling you this? It’s because this week’s Torah reading, Behar-Bechukotai, focuses on the laws of the land (literally). While on Sinai, G-d tells Moses about shmitah, the practice of letting the field rest every seven years. Moreover, during the seventh year, whatever crop the field yields is free for anyone to take. So yes, this week’s Torah reading is a handbook on how to sustainably farm.

The parashah is about taking care of nature and our surroundings, noticing what we have and how we can help others, a main cultural theme in Judaism. And not only a main theme in Judaism, but a main focus at camp. By having everyone disconnect from the outside world, camp gives us a space to build relationships, focus on mental health, and just have good fun.

And while last summer might have felt a bit like a shmita year, I think our camp community is going to be stronger from it. We have now seen that a summer at camp should not be taken for granted, and that this time together is precious and must be cherished.

Unlike the farmers who have to plan on not having a crop for a full year and have to make the sixth year’s harvest last for two, we’re coming back to camp with two years’ of excitement for fun, friends, and Ramah.  I hope the kikar has enjoyed its first ever (and we all hope, last) sabbatical and is ready for our passionate Jewish village of more than 600 people to run and jump and dance all over that grass as we head back up to the Northwoods to experience some more machaneh (camp) magic. 

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