Parsha post: Acharei

This week’s parsha is from Leviticus 16:1-18:30 and Amos 9:7-15.

The Leviticus section picks up after the deaths of Aaron’s two sons because they were not treating the tabernacle or God with proper respect. Now, Aaron is given instructions regarding the sacrifices for the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. Explicit instructions are given for how, who, when, and where these sacrifices shall be carried out. People are forbidden from trying to secure their own atonement from foreign gods by sacrificing outside of there camp and people are again forbidden from eating meat with the blood still in it. There is an additional listing of ways that people could behave in a way that would cause them to become contaminated as well.

Holiness is a serious thing. We see that again and again in Leviticus. Our God is holy and we need a covering or atonement in order to be in relationship with him, in order for him to dwell in our midst. The sacrifices offered by Aaron are a temporary covering over of sin, they do not remove it. The atonement offered by Aaron as the high priest is a picture of a permanent sufficient for all act of redemption. When Yeshua ( Jesus) shed his blood on the cross it was the sacrifice of the ultimate perfect spotless lamb. That one sacrifice is sufficient for all who would believe.

Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,

RedSox

Parsha Post: Metzora

This week’s parsha continues taking us through Leviticus and this week brings us to Leviticus 14-15:33. The Leviticus portion is another sure miss for a Bar Mitvah as it discusses purity for leprosy, home infestation, and discharges of many kinds. The Haftarah portion is one of my favorite stories and it comes from 2 Kings 7:3-20. This is an amazing story of how a bunch of desperate, hungry Israelite lepers decide to venture forward into the camp of the Aramean army, knowing that death is certain regardless of their actions. God uses these men as a way of bringing help and even deliverance to the whole Israelite camp. The Israelite camp that they have been exiled from because of their unclean state. God had caused the Aramean army to hear the sound of charging horses and chariots and so the enemy had fled–but the Israelites would never have known if it weren’t for these lepers finding good news and sharing their good fortune. They didn’t know what their reception would be when they visited the King, but they knew that they had to share the salvation they had found. They knew that they could not keep it to themselves. 2 Kings 7:9 “Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.””

This sentiment of the lepers reminds me of Peter and John in Acts 4:19-20 when they are brought before the religious court for causing trouble and healing a man lame from birth. Like the lepers, Peter and John knew they could not be silent, regardless of the consequences. “But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” What Peter and John had heard and seen was an even greater salvation than the temporary provision of food that the lepers encountered. What Peter and John had experienced was Yeshua (Jesus) coming to make the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk, lepers clean, and even the dead raised to life.

We too have stories to tell. We shouldn’t be able to stop talking about what we have seen and heard and experienced Yeshua do in our own lives. Let’s share it with our siblings, parents, extended relatives, and neighbors.

Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,
RedSox

Parsha Post: Tazria

Tazria is this week’s parsha and it comes from Leviticus 12:1-13:59 and 2 Kings 4:42-5:19. This week’s parsha must be on the list of least popular bar mitzvah dates. Both the Torah and the Haftarah portions deal with skin diseases. Awesome, because blemishes are every pre-teen’s favorite topic of conversation!

Without going into too much detail for the more squeamish among us, the Leviticus portion is really amazing because the purity laws differentiate between the types of skin marks that are merely superficial imperfections and those that signal deeper contagion. God gives instructions for the priests to set up tests to distinguish between marks that were disease and marks that are disease. Moreover, it gives instructions for the people and for the priests to be able to regain ritual purity after a bout with one of these ailments. Exterior hygiene is important, but it is the inner condition of a person’s heart that will render them permanently clean or unclean.

This week’s Haftarah is from the prophetic career of Elisha in 2 Kings. Naaman is a military commander who becomes afflicted with leprosy. No one he knows can give him a cure or a referral for someone who might know more. At the suggestion of his wife’s unnamed Israelite servant girl, he travels to inquire after the prophet Elisha. Elisha doesn’t give this very important man very much attention, he just sends him to bathe in the Jordan River. The Jordan wasn’t a very dignified river and was sort of muddy and small. Naaman, even in his humiliated, leprous state, thought he was too good for Elisha’s cure. Naaman’s pride in the face of Elisha’s prescription almost gets in the way of him being healed. Thankfully, he is confronted by some of by his servants and companions who challenge him to follow Elisha’s instructions. They know that if Elisha had asked Naaman to do something complicated he would do it, but that because it is simple Naaman immediately has dismissed it.

How often are we guilty of the same thing? We are confronted with a problem and instead of turning to God and trusting him to meet our needs or provide for us we fret and worry. How often do we know that Yeshua has paid the penalty for our sins with his death on the cross, but still we act like we have the power or ability to win God’s favor for ourselves. This week, let us seek God’s help not just to be people who act right and look right, but to be people who pursue God and who ask him to lead us in his ways.

Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,
RedSox

Shabbat in Camp

I love arriving to Shabbat in camp. For one, it’s a time when I know that all of the campers (and staff!) will have showered. Everyone dresses up a bit, or at least puts on a clean shirt. We head down to dinner, light the candles, say kiddush for the juice and the challah. And Chef always prepares a nice meal for us to enjoy. It’s a bit of a calmer, quieter time in the dining hall. It’s different from the chaos of the rest of the week.

From there, we walk back to the Mishkan for a Shabbat service. Going through the liturgy, it’s easy to see the campers that know it from the ones that don’t. I love giving the campers that don’t really know much more than the Shema, exposure to these prayers, and the opportunity to learn and participate.

Our pace slows down for a bit.

There’s very little time or space in our regular lives to slow down. We are all moving at such a fast pace. I live in New York City, and I feel I know that acutely, but I know how full these campers’ schedules are and they live in cities, suburbs and rural places. We are all so busy.

And yet God gave us Shabbat, and told us to rest.

Being the person who writes the schedule for camp, it would be very easy to blow past Shabbat and keep our schedule just as full as the rest of the week. Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t do anything on Shabbat, but have a full day of FOB, but we’re intentional about what’s in the schedule and what’s out.

Shabbat Shalom, Camp Gilgal Community!
– Twister

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Second Full Day

We’re up to the line just before dinner, bringing about the final set of activities for the day. Each day of camp is such a full day. At this point, Teen Camp feels like it’s been going on for a life time, but in a good way, I promise!

Whether camp is described as “a day at camp is like 2 weeks in the real world,” or “stepping into camp is like walking through the wardrobe and into Narnia,” – time passes differently at camp. So many activities, events, interactions. It’s hard to remember if something took place earlier in the day or a couple days ago.

Today, the campers walked to and from breakfast, did a Bible study on Mark with their tribes, had their 2 activities in the morning, choosing from soccer, basketball, Nukem (a version of volleyball that’s all catches and throws), Gaga Ball, ASL, sharing your faith, what is my testimony and mad science. We went to lunch, a meal of quesadillas, tomato soup and salad. A few more of the staff shared with the campers about what God has been doing in their life. We heard our cabin inspection report. From there, to the pool and game room, then some chill time, followed by an all-camp game of Capture the Degel, and some other field games. And on to Tabernacle.

Coming tonight, our annual Teen Camp Decathalon – a series of 10 events wackier and more outlandish than the last. The day will close with a campfire that’s discussion oriented. Last night, we talked about community. What makes up a community? Why is it important to be in a community? What is different between our believing and unbelieving communities? etc. It was a good discussion and I’m looking forward to ours tonight.

That is all for now.
– Twister

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Deep Impact – Junior Camp 2014

Even though I’ve been doing camp for most of my life, I still forget what kind of impact it has in the lives of the people involved – both campers and staff alike. I talk about it throughout the year, but I forget what it actually looks and feels like. This year, was a year of big impact.

There were many unexpected things that took place. Two of those were the fact that all the campers learned their memory verse passage, Psalms 139:1-10, 23-24, and that all the tribes made it to the end of camp party. It didn’t look likely. But on the last day of camp, the remaining 2-3 campers plugged away hard to finish the passage. It’s so exciting to hear that many children reciting a long-ish section of God’s Word all together.

On our last night of camp, we hold a “testimony campfire,” where the campers are given the opportunity to tell each other the things God has done, or what they learned, or something they overcame. It’s the favorite part of camp for most of the staff – because we see just a glimpse of the fruit of our 2 weeks of investment, of what God has done. This year, I was surprised to hear one camper tell us something that I take completely for granted in camp. This camper reported that she was surprised that she was accepted for who she is, that the other girls in her tribe didn’t want her to be taller or shorter or funnier or more athletic or _______. Of course, people can be exclusive and mean in their peer groups, what surprised me was how meaningful it was to a young child and for her awareness to be able to identify it.

The impact of camp lasts for a long time, even if the “effects” of camp fade after a couple days or a couple weeks. The impact remains in the Kingdom of God, as campers make commitments in their relationship with God. Their lives are changed by the work God does in them.

End of Junior Camp – 1st Reflection

What a blessing! What a joy! I’m writing from the bus on the way back to NYC/NJ/DC. It’s hard to believe how full these last two weeks have been, and how quickly they went by. My deep apologies to you parents that we did not post more. It’s hard to keep up with the pace of camp.

What can I say about this session of camp? It was a small camp, only 19 campers. But I’ve learned over the years, that small camps can be some of the best. You have a flexibility with a smaller group than you do with a larger group. For example, on Canada Day (July 1st for you, my American friends), some of our neighbors set off fireworks right as the campers were getting ready for bed. They were so huge! I ran through the camp and gathered everyone to the picnic tables in the field to watch, disturbing the “getting ready for bed” routine. Everyone laid on the tables waiting…. and waiting and waiting. No more fireworks. Instead we had about 10 minutes of quiet time watching the stars altogether. It was a memorable night. I caught myself thinking, “Huh. I don’t think I would have done that with a larger camp.”

Even though we were a small group, God worked in big ways in the lives of everyone involved. I will be praying for the campers going home to keep growing in their faith, that it will become more and more their own, and that they will have the love and boldness to share their faith in the Messiah with family and friends alike.

– Twister

Finding Meaning at Passover

Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday. Scratch that. Passover is my favorite holiday. I love being with a group of people who all know the same weird rituals, and think it’s totally normal. I love learning different Passover rituals than the ones I grew up with. I also love introducing new people to the traditions of Passover and explaining what it all means.

It’s meant different things to me, though, over the years. When I was a kid, Passover was all about the afikomen, the 4 questions, and matzah brei. In high school, I was too busy to really care about Passover and I let it pass me by. In college, I brought friends together and we pulled off our own Seders. I learned my family’s version of matzah brei isn’t the only way to do it. (Sweet vs. Savory – the debate continues!) I’ve been “adopted” by other peoples’ families for the Seder. And on and on Passovers have come and gone. Somewhere in there, celebrating it with my family has become the Passovers I love best.

Deep inside Passover is a lot of meaning. Meaning about things that really do matter – a people gaining freedom from slavery, being redeemed from slavery (basically that we didn’t become free for free it cost something). Passover shows us that, not only is there a God, but this God is involved in the lives of people and cares deeply.

Passover is a story that we retell each year. So we remember it, and if possible, in some ways experience it. That’s what all the weird rituals are about. It’s also one of the clearest stories that shows us that God can (and does!) redeem people. But this wasn’t a one time only event, believe me. God also redeemed people from spiritual bondage when Yeshua gave up his life on our behalf. There was a cost there too. Some of us didn’t (and don’t!) realize that we need to be freed from anything, or rescued in any way. And even though we may not recognize it, God still opened the doors for us to have this freedom, which puts us in relationship to him.

So, what are you going to do this Passover? How are you going to experience the freedom that’s possible? How would a personal relationship with God change your life?

Chag Sameach Camp Gilgal Family!
Twister