It is Friday afternoon and I am sitting “al hamirpeset sheli” – one of, my favorite porches in the world. I didn’t expect to be sitting here again and the path to this spot was long, winding, and challenging, but here I am, once again sitting on the back porch of the library, the sifriah, that overlooks beautiful Lake Buckatabon, the home of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. There is a slight breeze, the temperature is just right, and the clouds blend with the aqua sky in a picture perfect fashion. It is good to be home.
The past three weeks alone have been crazy, absent any sense of inner Peace, of Shalom or of Shleimut – completeness. On June 24, we packed up the house. On the 25th, the movers took all of our worldly possessions, and on the 26th, we went and closed on the sale of our house in Atlanta. Thanks to our friends, Randy and Nancy, Natan and Ilana Gorod, we were not homeless nor were we wandering Jews. On June 29 – 30, my brief journey with the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School came to an end. And then, last Sunday, I wrote the last paragraph of the chapter of life in Atlanta that started in the fall of 1996 and came to an end on July 5th. On July 6th, I closed on the purchase of our new home on Pine Grove between Waveland and Grace in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, and then immediately left for Conover for a week of visiting and reconnecting at Ramah in Wisconsin.
I was unsettled, lacking balance and inner Peace, until I pulled into the parking lot of camp at 11:45 pm that night. And as soon as I turned off the car, got out, and took a deep breath of the Northwoods air, I felt the start of the return of shleimut, of balance, of quiet, and of sense of purpose. There will not be complete shleimut until all of us are together in Chicago – Elan and Mira back from there fantastic summer at Ramah Darom, and Becca and Amalya from the drive from Atlanta. But the return of balance and quiet, of purpose and professional fulfillment is on its way.
This would be a week to listen and to learn, to rediscover the camp that was my summer home for 20 years and that would once again become my summer home as of September 1. This would be a week to observe the similarities and the differences, from my childhood and from my previous professional time here. This also became a week for unexpected reunions with former campers who became staff members years ago and then became peers and friends, people like Diane Kushnir Halivni, Amy Israel, and Dorit Shiloah Boxer. I started to connect with the younger staff, who were not campers when I was here last, as well as a chance to see old friends who are still coming to camp. To list all the incredible things I saw, and learned, would take too much space and time, for now, as the sun is getting closer to setting and Shabbat will soon be upon us.
In my professional and personal journey this year, I spent much time missing a sense of Peace, hoping for its return, wondering where the places were that I might find it. The Slonimer Rebbe, in his work Netivot Shalom, writes at length about Peace in his comments on this weeks Torah portion, for the Biblical character, Pinhas, is giving the Covenant of Peace, a Brit Shalom, at the very opening of our Parashah. The reasons for the giving of that Brit are complicated and not the subject of my thoughts at this time, although they are compelling and worthy of consideration; rather, the Slonimer Rebbe uses the opportunity to identify three kinds of Shleimut – of wholeness – that are part of the Brit Shalom: Peace with Yourself, Peace with your fellow human beings, and Peace with God. According to the Slonimer, Shabbat is the ritual manifestation of all three levels of Shleimut and thus a taste of the world to come.
I am truly blessed to be at a physical place, Lake Buckatabon and Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, and at a time – the arrival of Shabbat – to feel the return of those levels of shleimut:
Inner calm -the knowledge that I am at the right place personally and professionally;
Wholeness with people – back at a place where I know I can make a difference and where I can be impacted upon by others; and
Wholeness with God – here, along with only a few other places in the world, first and foremost the Land of Israel, as well as the Waterfall at Ramah Darom – the sense of the Divine Presence is palpable, there is a feeling of closeness with the Shekhina that I have not felt in a long time.
I hope that in your travels, you are fortunate to find a mirpeset – a porch – that you can dream from, build from, and create from and I hope that each of you has or will find a place and time where you achieve the Covenant of Peace at its fullest – Wholeness with Self, with Others, and with the Creator of Wholeness and Peace.