by Chelsea Feuchs, Assistant Limud Director
When we watch a movie or see a play, there is a fairly standard outline that we expect each plot to follow. There is an introduction to the characters, then a conflict emerges, there are some moments of action, and finally the resolution is reached. This structure holds true for Shakespearean theater, Disney animations, and teen dramas alike.
The author of this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, was clearly unfamiliar with this pattern. Instead, there are two significant and interesting moments of action, each followed by a series of relatively dull verses. First, a man named Pinchas skewers two people through the belly because he disapproves of their actions; second, four sisters make an impassioned and ultimately successful plea to inherit their father’s property. Anger, violence, human shish-kebabs, feminism, protest…what else could you want in a plot? And yet, this Torah portion reads as surprisingly boring because the skewering is followed by census data and the plea is followed by a detailed logistical list.
Certainly, the role of the Torah is not simply to entertain us as we study it or read it aloud in services. Still, it is hard not to wonder why these stories are told in this tedious way. Why, time after time in the Torah, are moments of action followed by seemingly unconnected and uninteresting verses? Why does this text ignore normal narrative structure and lose momentum? I could answer this question by getting into textual analysis and dissecting theories of authorship, but that does not address the bigger “why,” nor is that the purpose of a blog about camp.
The Torah follows up action-packed moments with seemingly dull ones because that is also how life works. After you land that big promotion, you need to get into the quotidian work of the new job; following your friend’s wedding day, she needs to navigate the dynamics of being married; after the birth of a new baby, parents need to change diapers and wake up throughout the night. The same is true here at camp. After opening day, campers and counselors settled into their routines; when Fight Song was over, all units returned to their bunks to sleep; after Mini Macc ended, all four teams took off their colors and resumed normal schedules.
We as individuals rely on these quieter moments. They provide a time to recuperate, reflect, and reconsider how we participated in and celebrated exciting events. It is in these moments that we see the strength of the relationships we are building at camp. No matter the excitement of the day, we always end by coming together to sing Hashkiveinu, to reestablish those connections to one another, to this community and to its values.
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