Jun 10, 2018

Posted by: Kelsey O'Hara

Shabbat Shalom Ranch Camp!

Session 1, Days 2-3

Time moves differently here at Ranch Camp. While the rest of the world speeds along, each moment just a precursor to the next, we take the time to appreciate each minute we are here. Living in the moment is not just a goal, but a reality – and this is especially true during Shabbat.

Friday morning started bright and early, the campers wide awake and eager to start their first full day at camp. Degel (Hebrew for “flag,” what we call the morning circle before breakfast) foreshadowed the fantastic energy that was to come with the rest of the day. We sang Modeh Ani to welcome our souls back into our bodies, and then the song Shiga’on (or “crazy”) to learn some new Hebrew words.

Like the day before, the morning was filled with activities, but the afternoon brought the start of Shabbat. Services and Friday night dinner are a little less structured than the rest of the week, which can be difficult to navigate without help. But nobody was without help this week, as the returning campers took their new friends under their wing, making sure that they were comfortable and enjoying this special time at camp.

After the morning activities and lunch, Shabbat prep began. As the first half of the day had been spent covered in sweat, sunscreen, and dirt, it was a welcome change to be able to clean up and don nicer clothes than is customary for camp. Some time was spent gathered in South Village, taking pictures and catching up with friends, before moving down into the pavilions for services.

Many times during services, and a few more times during dinner, the voices of the entire camp joined together in song. Here, it doesn’t matter if you sing off key, or if you have the wrong rhythm – the spirit and meaning behind our voices is what makes the sound so beautiful. In those moments, which villages they lived in or which age group they were a part of had no effect on the campers – they were only members of the Ranch Camp family, not divided in any way.

Full from the amazing Shabbat dinner – brisket, noodle soup, and vegetables – the camp flooded out of the Chad and to the basketball court for some rikkud, or Israeli dance. The camp followed along with the dances, some new songs and others that have been part of Ranch Camp tradition for years. The large streetlight kept the court bright after the sun had gone down, providing a circle of light for one last song session before bed.

The day had been long, and campers fell asleep quickly, worn out but satisfied and looking forward to a relaxed Saturday – especially a late wake up and walk in breakfast of lox and bagels, another camp tradition.

Saturdays at camp are notably different from the rest of the week. Instead of jumping from one activity to the next, we take time to reflect on ourselves and the week ahead, and to appreciate the beauty of the nature that surrounds us. Services in the morning, and free activities in the afternoon (and, of course, chocolate canteen), allow the campers to get used to the rhythm of camp and spend more time getting to know each other without the usual hustle and bustle of the rest of the week.

As the Sabbath came to a close, the camp gathered one last time at the basketball court for Havdalah, holding hands and spiraling in to sit in a circle with the people who are quickly becoming a family. The blessings over the wine (or, in our case, grape juice) and spices employ all five of the senses, and everyone became quiet as they tuned in to the world around them, the smell of pine trees and dirt carried by the soft breeze whistling through the branches.

The final portion of Havdalah summed up the entire day perfectly, as some returning campers stood up to tell the camp why they chose to return again. Second year camper Grayson, from Cabin 4, voiced what everyone was feeling: “I came back to Ranch Camp because the community is very strong, and it doesn’t take long to make a lot of really good friends.”

It couldn’t have been said better. Tomorrow brings the first regular weekday at camp, a day that will be packed full of action and experiences – experiences that will give each and every camper an opportunity to learn, grow, and have fun, supported as they are by the Ranch Camp community.