This Shabbat we begin the fifth and final book of the Torah, D’varim (also known as Deuteronomy). The Israelites stand on the threshold of the Promised Land. They will cross into the land once Moses shares his last words of wisdom. In fact, the Book of Deuteronomy is composed of extended discourses that Moses offers to the Israelites.
The beginning chapters of D’varim recount the journey taken by the Israelites through the wilderness. They are reminded of the successes and failures they experienced throughout their forty years of wandering. The Israelites who hear these stories are the first generation born into freedom following the Exodus from Egypt. They are the future of our people and the generation that will enter into the Promised Land. This generation hears many stories about what their parents and grandparents experienced during the early years of the journey.
I think of this theme of transmitting stories from one generation to another as I spend these two weeks serving on faculty at URJ Camp Newman. My wife and many of my fellow faculty members grew up at Camp Swig (Camp Newman’s predecessor). They love to share stories of their camp experiences from decades ago when they were children or camp staff. At the same time we watch our children–fully entrenched members of this generation of campers-create their own stories as well. Like the Israelites’ experience through the wilderness, Camp Newman campers share many memorable moments. There are achievements and disappointments, successes and failures. And through it all, our children learn how to thrive, be resilient, become independent, and ready to take hold of whatever comes next.
A generation from now, God willing, my children will be sharing their stories of Camp Newman with their children, who may also be campers here. By then my time on faculty will be long over; however, I will still be able to hear the stories that one generation passes from one to the next, carrying on this Camp Swig/Camp Newman chain of tradition across generations, just as the stories we tell about our people and heritage link us to our ancestors who stood at Sinai, received Torah and eventually entered the Promised Land.
Wishing you a Shabbat of peace and wholeness.