By: Rabbi Ed Gelb
Director: Camp Ramah in New England
“If a person vows a vow . . . he should not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” (Bamidbar 30:3). This potent verse presents a wide array of interpretive possibilities. One that I came across recently points out that while promises are often made with great enthusiasm, they frequently require doggedness and hard work to fulfill.
This idea plays out in many ways both at camp and in life. For example, a camper may take on a commitment like a part in the edah play, learning a Torah reading, or serving as a mentor for a younger or special needs camper. Often, this commitment is made with the enthusiasm that comes from a good heart. But at that moment, the person making the promise does not fully appreciate the sacrifices that it may take to fulfill it.
One key lesson in life is that it generally takes sustained effort, over time, to achieve our goals. These goals often reflect the promises we have made to others, ourselves, or God. Life often presents appealing opportunities that could lead us to break an ongoing long-term commitment. Do I really want to miss the chance to play basketball with my friends to fulfill my obligation of going on a walk with my mentee? At such moments it helps to remember that there are different types of fun to be had that produce varying degrees of meaning. There is the fun of playing ball with friends and there is also the joy, apparent in a closing day hug from the eight year old you helped, of a promise kept. Fortunately, Camp Ramah provides an environment with abundant opportunities for both types of fun.