Reflections as Campers Rejoin the Real World

In the past weeks, parents have welcomed back their children from summer camp. They had been looking forward to hugging their tired, tan bodies and hearing their children’s voices, hoarse from ruach-filled singing.

Our kids came home with piles of laundry and the clay sculptures they made in art. They came home carrying with them their instruments, their Snoopy pillows and stories— stories of softball victories, boating on the lake and overnight camping that was rained out.

But as much as we are excited to have them back, part of us wishes they would stay away, oblivious to and isolated from the events in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton. We would prefer that they remain lost in the innocence of summer fun rather than return to the agony that has once again befallen our cities. For, scarier than the make-believe campfire ghost stories they heard is the all-too-real, hate-filled violence that plagues our nation.

Most summers, our children experience Tisha B’Av at camp. They build Temples out of cardboard and burn them down trying to picture a 3000-year-old loss of life and of home. They sit back-to-back on the ground and hold candles in the dark as they chant elegies and listen to ancient lamentations. They know it is a day of mourning, so they try to feel sad when really they are having the carefree summer of their lives.

This year, the mourning to which these campers return is not ancient but still fresh. The candles are the candles of vigils, the tears real. This sorrow does not have to be imagined. For, they hear a cry from across our land: “Eikha! How a city once full of shoppers, restaurant and festival-goers has been reduced to a town of mourners weeping bitterly in the night!”

Before our children left for camp, we prayed, “y’varechecha adonai v’yish’merecha: May God bless you and protect you.” Now that they have returned, we once again pray for their safety. We pray for God to protect them from ourselves.