Thursday, August 22, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Ki Savo
17 Elul 5773/August 23, 2013
Pirkei Avos – perek 3-4

The busses departed and the 5773/2013 camping season camp to an end. Although in past years our family has lingered to enjoy the fresh air and (now) quiet grounds in camp after the campers have left, this year we had to leave within a few hours for a variety of reasons.
As I was packing up our bungalow (well, not the bungalow itself, just its contents) I was remembering what it was like when I returned home from camp as a camper (I wasn’t married yet, which is a good thing, because I wasn’t a Bar Mitzvah yet either).
My mother would meet me at the bus, and when she first saw me I got that ‘Mommy smile’, and the big kiss, and hug that all kids love. When we pulled up to our house and I saw my siblings for the first time after two months, there was a moment of genuine excitement. That excitement was so legitimate that we even pledged to get along that year. [Every year the pledge lasted a little longer. By the time we moved out of the house we were up to like six minutes, give or take a few minutes…]
But I was not allowed to proceed further! I was immediately dispatched to the shower, and my suitcase and duffel bag were deposited in the garage. Alas! My clothes were not allowed to cross the threshold of our home, without going straight into the washing machine. Only then were they allowed to be brought up to my room. My duffel bag remained open in the garage, until enough time had elapsed that anything living in it could die or escape. Only then could my stuff be brought into the actual house.
Every year I would ask my mother why she had to rewash all of my clothes. After all, my dirty clothing was in my laundry bag, and everything else in the suitcase was clean. My mother would reply that the camp standard of clean wasn’t good enough for our house, and everything – bar none – had to be cleaned again.
Anyone who has enjoyed the overnight camp experience can appreciate this concept. Camp has its own reality, where all of the tensions and pressures of the outside world seem to freeze at the front gate (mortgage bills and school forms all lurk menacingly at the gate, and the second you leave camp they attack you full force). For the camp world, many modes of dress and behavior that would never be acceptable in the outside world are deemed normal, or even laudable. But when one leaves camp and returns to the ‘abnormal world of reality’, he must ensure that he fits in with society.
Throughout the year we live up to a certain standard of normalcy. We consider ourselves pretty good Jews who work hard to try to live moral lives according to the Torah, and to fulfill the mitzvos to the best of our ability. We pray, study, give charity, try to help others, etc. We know we can always do better, but in comparison to our surroundings, hey! we are pretty good.
And then Elul begins and we hear the shofar’s cry. Suddenly there is a new standard of ‘normal’. Suddenly ‘good enough’ is no longer good enough. What was considered laudable until now has become deficient. It’s time to step it up!
It’s time to go home. But we can only enter if we have ensured that we and our belongings are pure enough to come in.

     Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
    R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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