Sophie gave this Dvar Torah at the Staff Oneg during Kayitz 2017.
With a big smile on her face my chanicha (camper) waved her finger back and forth in front of my face and said “No You”. Those were the last words she said to me before she left camp. Instead of saying “thanks for a fun summer” or “I am going to miss you” she said “No You” N-O Y-O-U. “No You” as in I would rather be talking to someone else like her friends from Amitzim chavarim or one of our amitzim manhigim (CIT’s). After spending countless hours programming, helping her get dressed, and waking up almost every morning to her screams…“No You” was not exactly what I was hoping she would tell me in our last few hours together. However, reflecting back on my time this chanicha (camper) I have been able to realize that “no you” was actually one of the most meaningful things that she could have said to me.
I was essentially the first person that my chanicha (camper) met at camp. And for the first few days she would not stop crying unless I was holding her hand or giving her all of my attention. By the end of the first week it seemed as if her perpetual screaming from dusk to dawn would not stop unless one of my co’s or myself tapped our hands to hers. However, as the summer progressed she began to foster new friends with chanichim (campers) from amitzim to machon. As I came to understand it, “no you” symbolized how my chanicha no longer needed to depend upon me every hour of every day as she did at the start of the summer. It meant, she could sit through peulot(activities) and participate in t’fillot (services) with a little help from her friends.
For my amitzim chanchim (campers), their summers at Ramah are the most social parts of their year. Outside of Ramah a lot of my chanchim’s social interactions are limited or essentially non-existent. Thus, fostering new friendships at camp is a truly profound experience for these amitzim chanchim. Therefore, by understanding the context of my chanicha’s world with this new perspective allowed me to have an immense amount of appreciation for what the words “no you” symbolized.
In the beginning of parshat Devarim, Moshe recalls the events of the 12 spies who were sent to Eretz Yisreal in order to observe the Canaanite people living there. Returning from their journey 10 of the spies came back with pessimistic and discouraging reports. They said how the Canaanite people living in Eretz Yisreal, “Are greater and taller than we”. Their reports persuaded the people that it was impossible to conquer the land, which led God to declare that the people must wander the desert for 40 years.
However, two of the twelve spies were enamored with this land of milk and honey. They explained that, “it is a good land which the Lord our God does give us”. These two spies Kalev and Yehoshua were the only two people of that generation who were able to enter Eretz Yisrael after 40 years of wandering the desert. How were 12 people able to go into the same land and come out with two polar opposite understandings of Eretz Yisrael? I believe that it all comes down to perspective and attitude. Kalev and Yehoshua may have also seen negative aspects about Eretz Yisrael like the other 10 spies, but these two optimistic spies were able to understand Israel in context as the land “which the Lord our God does give us”.
One way I find meaning as being an amitzim counselor is by watching my chanchim grow. However, trying to understand what growth looks like for my chanchim it can be challenging. Like Kalev and Yehoshua I believe that it takes a positive attitude and an appreciation for each human’s unique experiences.
For this chanicha (camper) it would have been so easy to misconstrue the meaning of what “no you” means. In fact, for the entire second half of her summer she would always come up to me and my co counselors and tell us “no you” whenever we offered to hold her hand or sit next to her in a group setting. At times it was so hard to have a positive attitude around her because it seemed that even though I gave endless amounts of love and support to her, she did not want to spend time with me. But by taking a step back and trying to understand the context of her world a little better (as being a place that has limited social interactions during the school year) I was able to see that her not wanting to spend as much time with me meant she could spend more time with her new friends. And those friends where a truly a remarkable thing.
Watching my chanicha (camper) grow this summer was inspiring. However, I might have entirely overlooked it if I had a pessimistic attitude and didn’t understand her growth in the context of her own world. Sometimes we are going to have chanchim (campers) who are really going to frustrate us. But by taking a step back, we may be able to realize that every chanich (camper) has a unique set of experiences that makes them who they are.
For Kalev and Yehoshua their positive attitude about the land of Israel allowed them visit a beautiful land after 40 years that the 10 other spies never were able to. Thus, with a positive attitude, even in the face of adversity we have the ability to facilitate a truly magical environment for our chanichim where growth, learning and fun are possible.