Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Walking up a steep hill, on the way back to my room from the art building at Camp Ramah Darom, I see a dark cloud forming in the sky. I almost miss it, this portent of stormy weather, because I’m busy calculating what I need to do to get ready for Shabbat in the hours before sunset.
The month passes quickly, as it always does. The work is intense, the time off too short. There is hardly a moment to reflect, and it’s easy to overlook the grandeur of the setting in the rush to get things done. Yet, as I look up and see this cloud, I am compelled to stand still. I don’t need to catch my breath, literally, after weeks of walking these hills. But I want to capture this image, digitally, so my memory of this month won’t be lost when I’m home.
The next morning the air is cool and crisp as I walk to Shabbat morning prayers. I’ve been awake since before the dawn, attuned to the anxiety campers experience on this final weekend of the session. Some will act out and demand extra attention from counselors and teachers. Others will cry easily and need to be comforted. It’s my 13th summer working at camp, and I believe I am prepared for anything.
What I don’t anticipate is the camper who wants to discuss last week’s parashah because he’d found something interesting, and a bit confusing, in the what we’d read. We spend half an hour poring over translations and commentaries, my heart soaring while studying Torah with this enthusiastic 13-year-old. What I don’t expect is to stay up past midnight, laughing as 14-year-olds poke fun at the campiness of summer camp, or to tear up at their beautiful rendition of “Hotel California” and other music from my youth. My back aches from sitting on the concrete steps of the amphitheater; my heart aches from longing for just a few more minutes in this magical place.
I know it’s probably my last summer on staff and it’s nearly time to go home, time to re-enter “the real world.”
It’s been a week since I climbed that hill and contemplated the gift of living for a month on a mountainside in north Georgia, where all you have to do is look up to see the beauty of God’s creation. While I marvel at how effortlessly I now accomplish a 3-mile route with my dog, I miss the terrain that forced me to slow down, to catch my breath and notice my surroundings.
Scrolling through the photographs of storm clouds gathering and of fog lifting over the tops of the trees, I recall these particular moments and see the potential in life’s countless moments–before or after a storm–when unanticipated joy waits to be realized.