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Please enjoy a d’var Torah this week from  Lauren Scott. Lauren is from Buffalo Grove, Illinois. She is currently pursuing a degree in Health Science; Society & Policy at Brandeis University. Lauren spent 7 summers at camp as a chanicha, participated in Ramah Israel Seminar in 2016, Nativ in 2017, and will be returning for her fourth summer on tzevet as Rosh Halutzim.

What Makes a Kehillah: Reflections on Parashat Nasso
by Lauren Scott

While kayitz (summer) 2021 is already shaping up to be a summer like no other, no two summers at camp are exactly alike. While each kayitz we can all expect to have barbecue dinner on Wednesdays, intense Yom Sport rivalries, ice cream after your musical, and Kabbalat Shabbat near the lake, these are not (all of) the reasons we keep returning to camp. We come to camp for our friends, our eidah (age group), and for the community that camp provides us. But what makes this so special that we keep coming back year after year? (after year, after year… looking at you Jacob Cytryn)

This week’s Torah reading, Parashat Nasso, opens where we left off in Parashat Bamidbar, listing the responsibilities of each of the families that make up the tribe of Levi. These jobs were not done for money or recognition, but in support of the community’s needs as a whole. Camp isn’t just a place that we spend our summers, it is a community that we are a part of long after the buses leave. In every role that we fill or task that we complete we give a little piece of ourselves to the kehillah (community). Whether it’s setting up benches or cleaning up the kikar, anyone who has spent time at camp can agree that we each have tasks to accomplish and roles to fill much like the families of Levi had their tasks to maintain the upkeep of the Mishkan (portable sanctuary). These tasks aren’t done for money or recognition (though the T-shirts we give out for picking up trash are pretty cool!); they are done because each of our small contributions is what creates our camp community. 

The community of B’nei Yisrael was not bound to any specific location.  As they moved through the desert every individual contributed what they could to reinforce the traditions and values that kept the spirit of the nation alive and thriving.  Last summer we unfortunately did not get to return to the physical space of camp, and yet the spirit of our machaneh (camp) lived on. This summer we return to camp looking forward to all of the traditions and rituals that we have missed and with an even greater understanding of how each of our individual actions can serve to build our kehillah and keep it safe. The Talmud says Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, “All of Israel are responsible for one another” (Sanhedrin 27b). This summer I am most excited not only to return to the community that raised me, but to take my turn as Rosh Eidah and help our diverse staff and an eidah of campers find their own personal gifts to our kehillah.  In my experience, finding our individual roles – as part of the whole – is the process by which we fall in love with camp.  Each camper and staff member shares a piece of themselves to create the kaleidoscope that is our community. No two summers are alike because every year each individual contributes something a little different and this is what keeps our kehillah growing, changing, adapting to new challenges, and thriving year after year. Shabbat Shalom.

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