Jewish Value of the Week: Kehillah

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Maccabiah is in full swing this week at CLC, and the range of contests is wide…from soccer games and swim meets to Simon Says and Sing (composing and performing original spirited songs and skits); from Ultimate Frisbee and Chop (using a hatchet to break a log in two) and Bucket Brigade (passing buckets of water up a line hundreds of campers long from the lake all the way to the dining hall) to Rope Burn (collecting wood and building/tending a fire until a wet rope above is burned through). As a Judge with a front-row seat to many of these contests and events, I came to realize that the range of skills, talents, and strategies that it takes to succeed in the four-day multi-faceted contest allows so many campers to shine.

In the Book of Exodus (25:1-2), God commands Moses to tell the Israelites, anyone whose heart is so moved, to bring gifts in order to contribute to the building of the Tabernacle, the portable sanctuary that they carried with them as they wandered through the desert. The Israelites heeded the request, and each of them brought gifts to help in the construction effort. While different members of the community brought different materials in different amounts, it was the cooperation and contribution of each of them that allowed the community to succeed in their daunting building project.

Campers at Crane Lake have many gifts. Some are talented athletes and artists. Some are strategic thinkers and planners. Others have an incredible way of motivating and supporting their teammates. And it is these combined gifts and talents that allow each team to succeed in the four days of challenges they face.

The value of the week is kehillah, community. The Blue and White Generals and Captains have certainly built communities this week. Soon enough, Maccabiah will end and camp will no longer be divided into the Blue and White, though I am confident that the communities that each bunk, each unit, and the whole camp have created will be stronger for the lessons we have learned this week.

In only a few short days, our camp community will disperse until next summer. My hope is that our campers and staff will take away with them the knowledge that each and every one of them have gifts that are unique, and in each community that they are a part of, they play a valuable role that no one else can fill. And too, I hope they remember that those around them also bring special gifts, and that it is the diversity of talents and perspectives that makes our communities stronger.

If we all remembered those two truths, then the kehillot that we could create would be places of mutual respect, teamwork, and love, just like the community at camp. Now that’s a place I’d like to live in!

Rabbi Darcie Crystal is a teacher at Hebrew Union College Rabbinical School and member of the Crane Lake Camp community. She is passionate about bringing Torah to life for urban families who want to explore Judaism.