In the first of many meetings with our regional clergy, I was able to deliver my first D’Var Torah. In the spirit of Passover, I wanted to share this with all of you.
This week’s Torah portion focuses on how to honor God’s miracle of freeing us from Egypt. The portion focuses mainly on the sanctimony of Matzah. We remember that the Israelites had to rush out of Egypt so quickly, they did not have time to let their dough rise, and they had to bake the bread on their backs.
Rabbi Elyse Goldstein offers an interesting commentary on how the concept of Matzah exists in a paradox. Part of this paradox is how Matzah forces us to live in the past and the present. Of course, Matzah reminds us of the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt. However, Matzah also reminds us of when we learned about Passover in Sunday School, celebrating our temple and home seders, helping make Matzah ball soup, and if you’re like me, taking dares from your friends on how much of the bitter herbs you could eat in one sitting. Matzah also holds us in the present: we try new recipes, welcome new friends to our seders, and create new traditions with our families and friends.
Camp and NFTY also provide us with these “Matzah moments”. We remember the same grilled cheese and fried chicken on opening and closing day, the songs sung at song session, and the friends we’ve known since our first years as campers. We are also placed in the present: we create new traditions with our cabins, experience new ways to celebrate messy night, and engage in different programming to tackle the issues beyond the gates of camp.
Camp and NFTY offer a special kind of “Exodus” for the campers and teens of our region. We provide a place for them to escape the pressures and realities of the world around them. But just as we remember the plagues, we do not shy away from what the world throws at our youth, we prepare them to tackle it. Study after study shows that camp better prepares today’s youth for the world around them. We provide them with skills that they are not learning anywhere else: communication, empathy, coaching, and other interpersonal skills necessary for any scenario. Our teens and our campers are the ones leading movements around the country. Our teens and our campers are the ones not only begging for a seat at the table, but once they have it, approaching the table prepared and ready to present their case to the adults around them.
This Passover, we will remember the traditions we grew up with, as well as the new traditions we have made. This summer, we will remember the same “at home” feeling our parents taught us about, as well as creating new memories that we will one day share with our own children. At the next NFTY event, we will remember the songs we sing at friendship circle and learn new ways to put an impact on the world around us. Just as the Israelites forged their own history by leaving Egypt, we too are forging our own history, starting with these meetings, and then throughout the region. Happy Passover!