Thursday, August 22, 2019


Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Eikev
Mevorchim Chodesh Elul
     22 Menachem Av 5779/August 23, 2019 - Avos perek 5

            It was a really wonderful camp season at Camp Dora Golding this summer b”h. But all good things must come to an end, and on Monday we bid each other farewell.
            The last day of camp each summer season is extraordinary. It’s quite an operation to send home well over seven hundred campers and staff members to numerous locations, along with their luggage. At the time of departure, there are buses heading to various destinations in different areas of camp. The buses to the Five Towns and Teaneck leaves from the main parking lot. The buses to Queens, Elizabeth, and Newark Airport from the gym. The buses to Brooklyn and the Catskills leave from the Chevra Shul, while the buses to Baltimore and Philadelphia leave from the smaller parking lot.
            Camp becomes like a mini airport where you have to know which gate you’re leaving from, so that you don’t end up at the wrong location.
            To help things go smoother, luggage is taken separately. Numerous trucks are stationed around camp with a sign hanging inside the truck informing which destination the truck is going to. On the morning of the last day of camp, the trucks leave camp before the busses, so that when the busses arrive with the campers, their luggage has already been unloaded at that location.
            A number of years ago, one of the local drivers camp hired to drive a truck left camp a bit early to make sure he arrived on time. The problem is that when he opened the back door to begin unloading the luggage, he found that the truck was empty. Instead of taking the truck packed to the ceiling with luggage, he had taken a truck that had been used a day earlier to deliver luggage from the girl’s camp (which had ended two days earlier) and was waiting to be returned the following day. He had technically done what he was hired to do - to drive a truck. But there is no purpose served from driving an empty truck.
            Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt”l notes that we have not come down to this world to merely avoid sinning. While that is of course an integral part of growth and the responsibility of a Jew, that is not enough. A person has to try to make the world a better place in whatever way he is able. He has to spread divinity and morality through his example and behavior, and he has to try to better the lives of others through his actions and speech.
            One who lives his life not doing anything wrong, but also not doing anything right, is like the faithful truck driver who made good time, was fuel efficient, and delivered nothing.
            This is an integral idea regarding chinuch as well. The Torah unquestionably imposes many restrictions upon us. But it’s not sufficient to educate our children about keeping their distance from negative influences and potential dangers. They also must be taught how to “fill up the back of their truck” with spiritual delights and the pleasure of living a life of integrity and meaning.
Every talent and capability G-d has granted to a person has been given to him so that he can use those to help others and enhance the world.
            Part of the beauty and uniqueness of summer camp is that it allows campers to utilize talents that they aren’t able to necessarily tap into during the school year. During my decades in camp, I have seen numerous campers who have literally shined during the summer, despite the fact that school is an ongoing challenge and mostly unpleasant experience for them. There are many adults today who point to camp as a turning point and invaluable influence in their lives, including this writer.
            In that sense, camp helps us capitalize on the divinely ordained talents and gifts we have been granted, so that we not be like the truck driver who drives an empty truck.
            We first need to recognize the innate talents and capabilities we have, so that we can capitalize on them and use them to help others as well.
Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
R’ Dani and Chani Staum