by Chelsea Feuchs, Assistant Limud Director
In this week’s Torah portion, Beha’alotcha, God instructs the High Priest Aaron on how to light ceremonial lamps. He is told to “raise light” to the candles, a somewhat odd phrase that invites further commentary. The great sage Rashi expounds upon these words, saying “the lamplighter must hold the flame to the wick until a flame arises of its own accord.” While this explanation may seem like a technical note on an obscure rule in our text, it is, in fact, a philosophy that guides us at Crane Lake Camp.
As part of the Limud team, my goal is to ignite a passion for Jewish life among campers and staff. Let’s be realistic, though. While I may enjoy reading tractates of Talmud and studying obscure Hebrew grammar rules, this is not what camp is all about. We come to Crane Lake to play ultimate frisbee, to slide down the blob into the lake, to hit targets at archery. In this space, Judaism needs to take on new dimensions to feel relevant and impactful for our community.
There are small but meaningful ways that Judaism is a part of everyday life at camp. We bless before and after each meal, call several buildings by Hebrew names, and participate in a designated period each day for experiential Jewish education. Shabbat at camp is unlike tefilla anywhere else, with campers dancing to the music and many leading prayers for the first time. These structured activities elevate our community and provide foundational experiences for campers regardless of prior background.
At the same time, what truly ignites a love of Jewish life and identity at camp are all the informal ways we reinforce our shared values. In Proverbs we read, “A righteous person falls down seven times and gets up,” and at camp we build resilience. We learn in Pirkei Avot not to be easily provoked to anger, and in the bunks, we work on conflict resolution. A Hassidic story teaches that lashon hara spreads easily and is hard to control, and at camp, we discourage gossip.
The way we build character is based in and reinforced by our religious tradition, but you do not need to be a Jewish scholar to understand these lessons and continue this development at home. If your home wants to light Shabbat candles or learn the blessing after eating, that is great! As a rabbi-in-training, it is certainly in my best interest to encourage you to attend synagogue services. Let’s once more be realistic, though. Formal engagement is not the only way (or even the best way) to fan the flames that we ignite at camp. You can encourage your camper to step outside of their comfort zone and not be afraid of falling down, or patiently mediate fights between siblings, or avoid the urge to gossip and encourage others to do the same.
At Crane Lake Camp, our staff members are committed to being lamplighters, to inspiring our campers to live positive Jewish values. Camp is a place to play, to grow, to learn, to try something new, to become the best person you can be. Together, we work to see the divine spark that exists in everyone here, and to have everyone return home after the summer even more luminous than when they arrived.
Chelsea Feuchs is a rising second year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR in New York City. She is thrilled to spend her seventh summer at Crane Lake Camp, her childhood home away from home. When she isn’t davening, Chelsea can likely be found kickboxing.