The summer Torah portion, Matot, opens with Moses giving the following instructions to the Israelite tribal heads: “If a man makes a vow to the Lord or makes an oath to prohibit himself, he shall not violate his word; according to whatever came out of his mouth, he shall do.” In other words, keep your promises and do not break your word.
Our words and promises carry great weight. Not only should we think carefully about what we say and how we say it but we should also carefully consider promises that we make before giving our word in order to make sure that we can fulfill these obligations.
At camp, children have an incredible opportunity to learn these lessons. Living in close quarters, having to make and keep friendships, and having to communicate with peers and staff without the help of parents can be challenging. Our campers must gain self-awareness and develop and understanding and tolerance for all kinds of people. This is not always easy of course.
On the first day of this session, I joined a cabin group while they were creating their cabin brit (agreement) and got to participate in a process by which the cabin created a shared code of ethics to live by during the session. Everyone contributed items that they felt were important to make the cabin harmonious and have a fun time during camp. I’m always impressed by how well campers can articulate what kind of cabin environment they hope to have and how well they understand what they must do individually and as a group to achieve this end; this cabin was no exception. As I walked around camp with a visitor later in the session, I saw that the cabin I had worked with on that first day of camp was awarded the degel yarok (green flag), signaling that they were the cleanest cabin in the village. This is a great indication that the cabin was functioning well and living up to the promises that they made on the first day of camp.
It’s hard to believe that our summer season is quickly coming to an end. However, it is exciting to think about all the valuable skills and lessons that our campers have learned during their time at camp, and the opportunities they have had to reflect on and keep the promises that they made in their cabin brit to create a fun, safe, and inclusive environment over the course of their session here. And hopefully this will better inform how they build friendships and community as they enter into their coming school year.