The kids are here. 183 screaming, excited and overly energetic 2nd-8th graders, and they are ready to change the world. Rather, we want them to be ready, but, is it reasonable for adults to expect these campers to make significant social change from our camp bubble in upstate New York? Is it fair of us to ask them to attempt this mission that my generation and the generations before have failed at? I am not sure, but I do know that we can and must expect a higher level of compassion and caring this summer.
Yesterday, while staking the pepper plants growing in our garden, I for the first time, started to understand Rav Soloveitchik’s z’l comparison between man and plant. Maybe it was the morning of dealing with homesick campers, but I began looking for meaning and support from the earth. I was able to prevent the plant, weighed down by a small green pepper, from toppling over with a two inch piece of twine. Just as sometimes all a homesick camper needs is an arm around the shoulder or someone to toss a Frisbee around with, we are all capable of helping the world by small actions. This is not to say that small actions are all that is needed. We need massive social change in order to become a world free of suffering. Still, we all need a place to start. Having campers connect with living plants and nurture them to maturity is an amazing teaching opportunity to illustrate that, through acts of caring and loving kindness, we can all have a profound impact on the world around us.
The Torah teaches us that no place is devoid of G-d’s beauty. We learn in Kohellet Rabbah that, when Hashem spoke to Moshe, it was not through a substance that many of us would deem to be beautiful. Rather, it was not a calm river or a serene sunset; rather it was a thorn bush. Yet this medium was holy enough for G-d, that he used it to change the course of Jewish history. Through hard work and teaching, I am hopeful that campers and staff alike will find holiness in the flowers of the watermelon plant, the worms crawling through the dirt, and the sweat of their brows as we continue to inspire change the world through gardening. Campers must learn that everything, like the thorn bush, is holy, Devine, and important.