Shablog — The Sabbaths Are Our Great Cathedrals

Written by Meg Batavia, Jewish Programer 

“The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals.” — Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

In the same way we wait all week for Shabbat, we wait all year for Tawonga. We wait for song session, mikvahs in the Tuolumne river, and connections with Tawongans, old and new.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote about Shabbat as being a great “palace in time.” Shabbat is not a physical space we visit, but a structure we build and keep sacred through our practices. We mark it by sunsets and seeing sparkling stars. Shabbat is an elaborate structure of process, experience, and sacred time spent in community.

Recently, I have been enamored with the more physical structures of Tawonga. I see them all as literal palaces, and not because they are fancy. In fact, they are rather rustic and modest – many of them have exposed wood and similarly simplistic designs. Still, I have been enthralled by the architecture of our Tawonga buildings that, in my opinion, give our home character and charm.

As opposed to many Tawongans, I am kind of a homebody, and love just sitting around camp. Don’t get me wrong, nothing compares to a gorgeous hike up a mountain, sheltered only by nature, but I cherish, very deeply, simply posting up on the various porches of Tawonga, and living in and with our familiar palaces: the Dining Hall, Moadone, Rainbow Lounge, or our assigned cabins.

The contrast of these two ideas – my reverence for Tawonga buildings and the idea that the holiest of spaces may not be physical at all – has led me to a beautiful reflection. As much as I love the way these buildings look, what I really love are the memories they help me recall and the experiences I continue to have in them. I can’t even begin to count the conversations I’ve had on the back porch of the dining hall, or how meaningful a foot soak with a friend has been on the Infirmary porch. These buildings have become sacred spaces to me because of the time I have spent with them and sheltered by them.

Our dining hall, with walls covered ceiling to floor with plaques dating back at least to the 1970s, is the greatest testament to this idea of all. This palace calls all campers and staff together to gather on Friday nights to sing and wrap our arms around each other as we welcome in Shabbat. This great structure transforms from a dodgeball arena to a dance studio to a carnival tent. Tawongans decorate this great structure each summer with more gorgeous plaques, recording our journey through time so that we can celebrate our past adventures and communities. The dining hall is a great palace in time. And so is Tawonga. And so is Shabbat.

Our summer camp really is the Shabbat of a lifetime for so many people, and as such, each Saturday is magnified. As the sun goes down on Friday night, we beam with an ease and excitement as we build, for our campers and each other, another beautiful home in time.

To Tawongans near and far, may you feel connected to us on this day through Shabbat. May our palace in time reach you where you are and may you feel under the same great shelter of our holy day of rest.

Shabbat shalom!

The Shablog series on The Pipeline blog is dedicated to Jewish content and shared on Shabbat. Some of you might remember that the Shablog used to be the name of Tawonga’s blog. Well, we didn’t want to let it go entirely, so are bringing it back on this special day set apart in the week.

Below are photos from Shabbat, Enjoy!