Every kayitz (summer), campers are heard exclaiming “Shabbat at camp is the BEST”. For many of us, returning to camp every year or coming back after a summer or two away, we get the chance to be in a place that we love and to “take-a-break” from our everyday lives. We get to hang out with of friends distraction free, spend our days in the beautiful Ojai Valley, and learn about ourselves and about others. It then makes complete sense to me that Shabbat at camp feels particularly special. As we are already removed from our everyday lives, the separation that is created at camp between Shabbat and the rest of the week is felt even more strongly.
In this week’s parsha, Emor, the difference between Shabbat and other days is explored. By understanding the contrast that is identified, I think we can better understand the role that camp plays in our lives every summer, and we might be able to appreciate Shabbat at camp even more (if that’s possible).
The parsha begins with a discussion of the purity of the Kohanim and laws pertaining to maintain said purity. Later in the parsha, we learn about the laws of observance of Shabbat and the Jewish holidays. It is in this latter section I came upon an interesting linguistic distinction. When the paraha is discussing Shabbat, it says “כָּל־מְלָאכָ֖ה לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֑וּ (kol melacha lo ta’asu) – You shall do no work”. Later, when the parsha is discussing Pesach, it reads “כָּל־מְלֶ֥אכֶת עֲבֹדָ֖ה לֹ֥א תַעֲשֽׂוּ (kol melachet avodah lo ta’asu) – You shall do no servile work”. The question then, what is the difference between כָּל־מְלָאכָ֖ה and כָּל־מְלֶ֥אכֶת עֲבֹדָ֖ה. It is through this difference that a new understanding of camp is realized. The explanation that I find most satisfying is that on Shabbat there are 39 melachot (categories of labor) which we are not permitted to perform. While on Festival holidays, we are only prohibited from servile forms work, or in other words, work that we do on a daily or normal basis.
And there it is! For me, camp is more like the Festival holidays, כָּל־מְלֶ֥אכֶת עֲבֹדָ֖ה, it is a place that we come to be for a month or two out of the year. We still do some forms of work, just not the ones were accustomed to doing on a daily basis. If we did no work at camp, then we would not grow as much as we do every summer. Further, if we maintain that camp is more like a Yom Tov, and not like Shabbat, then I think we will be able to find more meaning in Shabbat both within and outside of camp. Blessedly, we are given the chance to experience the gift of Shabbat every week throughout the year, and not just while we are at camp.
Shabbat shalom, and I cannot wait for us to be together and refrain from our everyday activities this kayitz!