Blog  We’ve got Ruach, How ’bout you?

We’ve got Ruach, How ’bout you?

By, Jeff Clopper, Faculty

It was the largest marble I had ever seen. Sitting in the palm of my hand, I turned it over and over. Marveling at its immense size, I was drawn in by the swirls of blue and white that covered the surface.

IMG_1934However, this was no simple marble. It represented a significant responsibility. As one of the many judges for Color War, I knew my fellow judges and I would be asked to do several things – referee daily sporting events; act as safety watch at times at different places on camp; be the eyes and ears of a programming staff that had worked incredibly hard putting together the entire Maccabiah 2016 experience.

Yet, this marble represented a fun and meaningful aspect to the job of Color War judge. The incredible mastermind behind all the workings of CLC Color War, Yaelle, explained that the marble was to be rewarded to any camper or counselor from either team who was showing true ruach. Any judge could hand over this large blue and white marble, not so much a gift to be kept but so that it could be used in an often-occurring game we lovingly call “Marble-Marble-Marble.”

IMG_1822Sitting with this special marble brought an essential idea into focus. In my hand, there was the possibility of adding to a team’s point total. As Color War often is a close competition, a point here or there could be the difference between winning and losing. I know most likely it will not come down to my one marble. Still, it could make a difference to one team or the other.

Ruach had been introduced as the Jewish value for this final week of camp. As part of the faculty team, I was part of the conversation where we tried to clarify the definition of a somewhat elusive term. In some Jewish texts, ruach is associated with God, such as the idea presented in Genesis: Ruach Elohim – God’s breath which was used to bring life to Adam and all human beings since the time of Creation. It is a beautiful image, lending itself to thoughts of the beauty of the Divine that can be found in all of us. However, after much thought, we adopted the idea as expressed by the prophet Zechariah in the often quoted (and sung to a well-known Debbie Friedman tune) “Not by might, not by power, but by spirit…” Toward this thinking, ruach would be more that sense of excitement and positive energy; that feeling that makes us want to jump up and down and sing at the top of our lungs.

IMG_1695 2At first, the thought of trying to find exceptional moments of ruach worthy of a Judge’s Marble in the midst of Color War seemed a bit daunting. After all, almost every event (with the possible exception of Silent Dinner) involves a lot of excited yelling and singing. Stepping back though, I realized that is the beauty, not just of Maccabiah, but of camp as a whole. There are so many moments where the ruach of camp – a genuine sense of spirit – fills the hearts of campers, counselors and everyone present.

Certainly at that moment when the helicopter touched down bringing the beginning of Color War, there was a lot of ruach. Also, though, there have been many other recent moments outside of Maccabiah: Rib Night when we ate barbecue and joined in a rousing Cotton Eyed Joe, International Night when we celebrated the many countries and cultures represented by counselors and staff, last Friday night when camp watched the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics, and Saturday morning when a 19 year-old counselor decided to read from Torah for the first time and celebrated becoming a Bat Mitzvah with her camp family. Actually, every day we see and feel ruach, even at night as campers lock arms to sing the Hashikiveinu and Sh’ma prayers before heading to bed. There is a true sense of ruach, that spirit (and for that matter God’s divine breath) which keeps us living “10-for-2,” yearning for when we will be back in the bubble next summer.

With a few days left to Color War, I just know I’m going to need A LOT more marbles…

Jeff Clopper is a Massachusetts native who now calls Long Island home.  He enjoys serving the community of Temple Beth El in Huntington, New York, as their rabbi. “Rabs” looks forward every year to being part of the faculty at Crane Lake Camp.  He LOVES being at camp, a place that he, his wife Carol (CLC’s Camper Care Coordinator), and two of three children consider their summer home.