Bringing Torah to the Rabbi
Sometimes unforeseen circumstances at camp open up moments for learning.
Imagine 90 of us, teens and staff and faculty, sitting close together in the Pinat T’filah, a small enclosed amphitheater, with little room for movement or navigating around the space.
Our Torah arrived late to services (another unforeseen circumstance) and was sitting at the top of the amphitheater, while I, the rabbi, was on the opposite side with no easy or unobtrusive way to put the Torah in its place in the center on our makeshift ark/table.
As we approached the time for the Torah service, I was thinking: How am I to get the Torah to me so I we can do a hakafah (Torah processional)? How am I even going to walk around this tight space? Then it came to me!
Rather than the rabbi bringing the Torah to the community. The community will bring the Torah to the rabbi.
I asked the teens to carefully, gently, lovingly pass the Torah from one another until it made its way all the way around the group, down to the last person who sat closest to me. As I explained the procedure for our hakafah, an amazing thing happened. Everyone’s eyes opened wide. There was a shudder of excitement. The Torah slowly made its way around the group. Some teens held back, too nervous to participate. Other teens leaned in, reaching out for a chance to hold, hug, kiss and pass the Torah.
In Jewish tradition the Torah is to be revered, not worshiped. The scroll is a sacred object, to be protected and cared for. The Torah is second only to the life of another person.
To see our teens so lovingly and proudly carry the Torah around. To see them hug it, as if hugging a dear friend. And kiss it, as if giving it a “Shabbat shalom” kiss. The scene brought tears to my eyes.
Yet another moment of pride in our URJ Camp Newman campers, who are learning and growing as Jews, who feel comfortable being themselves, and who are immensely proud of their personal Jewish commitments.