by Cantor Yonah Kliger, Camp Faculty Member
From pregame rituals to postgame rituals, to bouncing the ball a certain number of times before a free throw, to the way a batter walks up to the plate, rituals are an important part of almost every sport.
At camp we have a daily nighttime ritual that helps us conclude the day as a unified team. Siyum. After finishing our evening sports major (the 2nd 2.5 hour sports session of the day) we all gather together at “the spot,” under the tree, sweaty and winded. Some of us may be in need of a short trip to the athletic trainer for some ice to help heal our weary muscles. While others may just be ready to call it a day, take a hot shower, and get a good night’s sleep. But before we do….we “circle up,” put our arms around each other and …we sing. And we don’t just sing any old song. But rather, we sing a really important prayer. The Hashkivenu.
It’s a night time prayer that I like to think of as a liturgical lullaby. It asks God to “keep us safe throughout the night…” and guard us against all of the negative forces in the universe. This idea, on its own, is a really lovely and comforting thought and a beautiful way to end the day. The prayer doesn’t end there though. It continues with the words, “V’hamidenu…L’chayim.” Raise us up again, to life.
Every day when we wake up, we get a fresh chance to start again. No matter what kind of day we may have had the day before, we get a new and fresh start each and every morning when we wake up. It’s a great reminder on the field too. We all miss the shot more often than we score—we fall down , we make mistakes…we overthrow first base, blow an easy layup or we mis-hit an easy backhand into the net. But the Hashkivenu reminds us that we have the opportunity to raise ourselves up from our defeats and mistakes. It urges us to remember to continually strive to learn from our mistakes and to keep trying to get better… there will always be another at bat or penalty kick opportunity. We always have the opportunity for “v’haamidenu” to raise ourselves up once again…L’chayim…to life!
Yonah Kliger is a cantor at Temple Judea in Tarzana, California. He recently completed his second summer on faculty at 6 Points Sports CA which includes spending at least 5 hours on the field with campers each day. This summer, he managed to only use half of the Advil that he brought with him.