This last Shabbat’s Torah portion was B’hukotai/B’har and I gave CSS camper Sarah Katz the following adapted charge from the bimah for her Bat mitzvah at Congregation Beth Shalom in Seattle.
In Chapter 26 verse 3, HaShem says “Eem b’chukotai tilchoo”, which translates as, “If in my statutes you will walk.” What does this mean to us? Rashi explains that this means “shetiheyu ameilim baTorah” – you shall toil in Torah study. Why does Rashi use the word toil, and not “learn” or “engage”, when talking about Torah study? Rashi is telling us that HaShem rewards us for our efforts, not for our accomplishments. Judaism values effort and engagement, more than results. The important thing is to toil, to struggle, to question, and to try your best. This is so different than the daily messages we receive living in our society.
For example, in a big company there are many employees, from the CEO to the factory workers. Usually, the CEO receives a large salary while the blue collar workers often only make minimum wage. While the blue collar employee on the assembly line puts in a full day with sweat and toil, the chief executive officer is often away on vacation or having a leisurely business lunch. Kind of like me as the director of Camp Solomon Schechter!
One may reflect on the injustice of it all; the dedicated employee should receive the generous salary while the chief executive officer should receive nominal compensation for his leisurely work. The fact is that the world recognizes and rewards accomplishment, not effort. G-d's system of reward is the reverse. Rashi is teaching us that if "tiheyu ameilim batorah" — "you will toil in Torah" — then you will receive the maximum reward — in stark contrast to the corporations, whose rewards are based only on accomplishments; just like Seattle Super Sonics!
At Camp Solomon Schechter, we teach these values. My hope is that the campers of CSS continue to value the process of learning, working, playing, loving, and remember that in the end, it is the experiences that they have, and the relationships they build as they go through life that are most important.
Exectutive Director, Camp Solomon Schechter