By Nemmie, Bonim Unit Head
If you were to ask any average adult what the 613 commandments are in Judaism and to try and list 50 of them (just for an example) they might struggle but they would get the basic ten and then a few extras that they remember because of how irrelevant they are to Reform Judaism today. Ask any staff member at Kalsman as of Saturday, June 23rd and they will happily name at least 100 that relate to meals, siyum (our nightly prayer), the cabins, and our many activity areas. This isn’t just because we have the best staff, although that has a lot to do with it. Camp Kalsman’s summer education theme for this year is the very large scope of mitzvot or commandments that Judaism has and how we can bring them into our daily lives.
A mitzvah is often confused as being just a good deed, when really it is so much more than that. In the Torah there are 613 mitzvot that are supposed to be read as the law of the Jewish people. Now, as time has gone on and our community needs have changed we have stopped following some of those laws and adapated others to fit the meanings we can place on them at the time (I still have issues following the law about not mixing fabrics!).
Kalsman is working to teach our campers how they can bring mitzvot into their every day lives. We have what we call a “Mitzvah Call” where whenever a camper or staff sees a mitzvah on camp they yell out, “It’s a…” and the whole camp responds with “MITZVAH!” to recognize the moments in our lives when we live out the mitzvot. Mitzvot will also be integrated into cabin programming and activities. For example, did you know that not wasting is a mitzvah? In the art room you will find campers reusing scraps of paper from previous activities and in our dining hall only taking one serving at a time. Mitzvot really can be seen everywhere in camp!
Hopefully as the campers and the staff integrate mitzvot into their daily lives they will see just how easy it is to recognize their actions when they leave camp. Mitzvot resources exist in so many places now and there are books, curriculum, and programming that you can use at home to continue their education! Mitzvot are more than just a list of 613 laws that we have followed for thousands of years. They are a living and evolving way that we interpret the needs of our community and how we can respectfully include everyone to make that community stronger.