The Great Outdoors are Filled with Jewish Values

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By Scott Goldberg, Teva and Trips Supervisor

They met in front of the trip shed in order to start their ascent. Excitement had been brewing for nearly twenty-four hours, ever since the counselors were informed of the first campout of the session. With so much joy, the Chalutzim unit began to trek up the mountain, eager to fill their evening with campfire and s’mores, songs and stories. Once they reached their campsite, their first activity commenced: searching for firewood.

“We are searching for all kinds of sticks: kindling to start the fire, medium-sized twigs to build the fire, and thick logs to sustain the fire,” the Teva, or nature, specialist announced to the campers. They divided and conquered, collecting firewood of all kinds. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one camper beginning to sever a twig from a living tree. Before I could intervene, another camper interjected, “We should only look for dead sticks, we don’t want to hurt the trees!”

I was reeling in astonishment. This was a prime example of putting Jewish ethics into action, intimately intertwined with nature. I was speechless.

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Once per session, each unit is granted the opportunity to engage in either an evening cookout around the campfire, an overnight trip in the mountains surrounding Camp Kalsman, or a multi-day off-camp adventure, all with the intention of integrating our love of nature with our connection to Judaism. In fact, our Jewish tradition is rich with divine commandments that relate to our natural world. Having a relationship with the world around us, taking care of the world, and not trampling natural sites is age-old wisdom from the Torah:

“When you besiege a city for many days in order to capture it in war, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human enough to withdraw before you while in war?” (Deuteronomy 20:19)

We are commanded to refrain from destroying trees, even with the advent of war. As it is written, treating the land and vegetation in a respectful manner has been a central tenet of Judaism through the ages.

On behalf of the entire Teva staff, our goal is to create meaningful moments that allow for members of the camp community to be grateful and care for teva in ways rooted in Jewish values. May we always pursue justice in ways that benefit our natural world. May we become more and more cognizant of the unity of creation, appreciating the stars and the moon, sunrises and sunsets. May the teachings of mitzvot continue enlighten us in leading more enriching and fulfilling lives. Kein y’hi ratzon, may it be so.