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Home From the Rabbi From the Rabbi - June & July 2019
From the Rabbi - June & July 2019 PDF Print E-mail

In his book “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” Robert Fulgham noted that in pre-school he had learned the following lessons: “Share everything, play fair, don't hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, don't take things that aren't yours, say you're sorry when you hurt somebody, wash your hands before you eat, live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.”

Looking towards the summer I am reminded that much the same can be said about the experience of Jewish summer camp.  For many years I have had the pleasure of being on faculty at Jewish summer camps and have enjoyed seeing my daughter and other Jewish kids learning and growing as a result of being there.  Many, if not all, of the same lessons from kindergarten can be learned at summer camp, if for some reason you missed them in kindergarten, as well as some new ones like: You never know if you like something until you try it, at camp you can be who you want to be not who everyone tells you  are, and you have to fall off the waterskis a lot before you get it right, and that’s part of the fun!

There is an important lesson in all this that is vital to Jewish tradition.  In many places in the Torah and rabbinic tradition, important things are repeated – the Ten Commandments, the commandment to teach your children about the exodus from Egypt, the requirement to not oppress the stranger, the widow and the orphan because we were strangers in the land of Egypt etc.  Sometimes we hear these things so often that we could be forgiven for thinking that we don’t need to hear them again.  “We got it! We know!” We think these things are so obvious and basic we have no need to repeat them and should move on to deeper life lessons. 

But any clear look at our world shows that maybe the real problem is that we haven’t learned the basic lessons that we should have learned in kindergarten and summer camp at all.  As our society becomes more and more complicated it actually becomes more important than ever to remind ourselves of the basics, of the core human values we so often forget.  If we all actually lived by those apparently basic and simplistic laws we learned at Kindergarten, or in summer camp or in the Ten Commandments, or in the story of the exodus from Egypt, how much better would we act towards our fellow human beings. If we did more than give lip service to these basic values of kindness, honesty, moderation and more, and really made them a part of how we live our everyday lives, how much better would the world be for it. 

So as we look towards the summer let’s remind ourselves of the basics and continue to work on them until we get them right – Share everything, play fair, say sorry when we hurt someone, be kind and truthful to all, live a balanced life full of play and work, joy and obligation, and hold hands and stick together as we face whatever the world may throw at us, strengthened by the presence and support of neighbors, friends, family and community. 

Have a great summer!
 Rabbi Emanuel 



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