Leading up to Kayitz 2018, each week we will have a D’var Torah from a different Rosh Edah. This week, we have the wisdom of Joe Cooper!
In this week’s Parshah, Shmini, Hashem gives the laws of kashrut. The Jews are told which animals are permissible to eat, and which are forbidden. Growing up in a Jewish household, but having friends who weren’t usually of the same faith as me, I often had to answer questions about keeping kosher. I would have to stop friends at the front door who tried to bring over cheeseburgers from McDonalds and I would turn down seafood at their houses. As time passed, my friends got more used to the rules, but I also started to question them myself. Why did we have to keep rules like these when so many of my friends didn’t have to?
There are an endless amount of interpretations of why we were given the rules of kashrut. Was it for dieting reasons? Maybe special inside information that no one else could have? Whatever it is, we all know that it can be difficult to keep kosher in your everyday life. Looking for any of the seemingly endless symbols that mark a food as kosher is a real chore. The question I was left with, after thinking about this commitment we make as Jewish people, was, if we are this aware of everything we eat, how aware can we be of everything else in our lives?
Anyone who has stepped foot on the grounds of Camp Ramah in California knows that it is a special place. There is so much that makes it unlike any other place in the world. One of those special features is the opportunity Camp provides it’s inhabitants to put a pause on their “normal” lives. It offers a chance to slow down and be more introspective. Just like the rules of kashrut provide individuals a chance to be more aware of him or herself, Camp provides an environment for those who are there to be more aware of themselves and everyone around them.
For one month, Camp becomes a mikdash me’at (tiny temple) and everyone at camp becomes the altars. We get to walk on holy grounds, so just like we become more aware of the food we eat, we also become more aware of ourselves and our relationships to those around us when we are at our mikdash me’at.
Just as Hashem provided the rules of kashrut so that we could be introspective as a people, we are also fortunate enough to be provided Camp this upcoming Kayitz.