When we join a team, we are making a vow to be our best selves and put the team first. When campers and staff join our camp community, we are making a promise to ourselves and to each other to embody our core values of leadership, teamwork, growth, sportsmanship, pride and intention. On the first day of camp, everyone takes the “6 Points Sports Oath” stating what it means to be a Jewish athlete here at camp and out in the world:
Teamwork עֲבוֹדַת צֶוֶת (Avodat Tzevet) – As Jewish athletes, we have the responsibility to elevate our team our community and our world through our intentional actions and choices.
Growth צְמִיחָה (Tz’michah) – As Jewish athletes, we understand that improvement is achieved by living courageously. Through determination and perseverance, we strive to be better today than we were yesterday.
Sportsmanship ספּוֹרטִיבִיוּת (Sporteiviyut) – As Jewish athletes, our approach to life on and off the field is built upon a foundation of kindness, respect, compassion and fairness.
Intention כוונה (Kavanah) – As Jewish athletes, we intentionally approach each opportunity with enthusiasm, passion and joy, and know every moment is a gift.
Pride גאווה (G’avah) – As Jewish athletes, we take pride in ourselves and our heritage, giving us a sense of belonging to and responsibility for our people.
Leadership מַנהִיגוּת (Manhigut) – As Jewish athletes, we are advocates for ourselves and others and recognize that there are many ways of contributing to our community.
How appropriate that this week’s parsha, Matot, discusses significance of making a promise and the importance of keeping that promise, once it’s made.
A few nights ago, each eidah (unit) participated in a laila tov (good night) activity where campers and staff, together, created their Brit Kehillah, or communal covenant. Essentially, these covenants outline the expectations they group has of each other regarding how they will treat one and other and how they want their camp community to function. Then, together with their roommates, campers created mezuzot for their dorm rooms that hold a copy of the central prayers in Judaism Shema and V’ahavta along with a copy of their Brit Kehillah.
We believe that coming to camp means coming home so, just like many Jewish homes, we wanted to hang mezuzot on our dorm door frames. But why do we hang them in the first place? One way to think about the purpose of a mezuzah is that it reminds us of our promises – the ones we’ve made to our roommates and the ones we made by virtue of being a part of the camp community. Every time we enter our rooms, we see the mezuzah, and every time we head out to Sport Majors or Electives we see the mezuzah.
As one of our eidot (the Be’er Sheva Black Swarm) compiled their community covenant, one camper raised his hand and said, “I learned the hard way how much it hurts when someone doesn’t keep their promise and ever since then I’ve been committed to keeping my word whenever I make a promise, and I think we should all do that, too.”
So often we make empty promises – perhaps to make someone feel better or to avoid an uncomfortable situation – without considering the potential ripple effects that are far-reaching and long-lasting. At the core of any close-knit, caring group is trust. This Shabbat, may we be more mindful with our words, of the promises we make and how we keep them.