The Power of Community on Shabbat

Today marked the first Shabbat with our Session IV campers! This morning, all of Camp had the luxury of a sleep-in breakfast with bagels, cream cheese, fruit and assorted special Shabbat cereals. On Saturdays, campers can choose to eat their meals with whomever they like, congregating outside on the Back Porch of the Dining Hall, next to the Lake, or at picnic tables. It is a time to socialize with friends or siblings from other cabins or units and get to know new people. 


After the meal, all of Camp gathers for a Torah service in our outdoor sanctuary, Makom Shalom. The service is a mix of Hebrew and English prayers that exemplify the fourth rung of Tawonga’s Mission: spirituality and positive Jewish identity. During the service several staff perform a skit to act out the week’s torah portion. This performative rendition is then followed by a drash (or commentary). This week, we had a special treat – one of our counselors, Ben Catechi, wrote his interpretation on the portion to share with the community. Below, Ben shares an expert of his speech for our Tawonga blog readers.


This week’s Torah portion, Parsha Matot, talks a lot about making vows. 

Two tribes, the Reunites and Gadites, are asked to stay out of the Promised Land even though they made a promise to go. Instead of forcing them to flee, Moses compromises and decides that if they are to send an expeditionary force, or chalutzim in Hebrew, to help secure the land for the rest of the Israelites, then they will be debt free or “innocent” in the eyes of God and are free to live where they choose. 

Keeping promises is not so much about the specific content of the promise but about following through and fulfilling a social debt. For example, if you say you’ll meet someone at seven-thirty, you still fulfill your obligation even if you change it to eight-thirty. However, if you promise to spot someone on the challenge course, you can’t back out. Quite literally, you have someone’s life in your hands! If you made a promise, it is your responsibility to make sure their needs are met. 

If the Reunites and Gadites hadn’t been there to support them and secure the land, who knows what would have happened. 


Camp Tawonga also values being there for one another and following through for those around us. We spent Shabbat feeling the power of this special community, reflected in the words of this week’s D’var Torah.


Enjoy these photos from this morning’s service and Shabbat Floats.