Noa wrote this poem while attending Ramah of the Rockies during the summer of 2016.
What is Shabbat.
The second Friday. Sweat. Dirt. A mess.
Charcoal warpaint adorns the tired but mighty, excitable faces of campers as we all troop into camp from our various masaot.
We scream as we throw ourselves into the arms of our friends who weren’t on our masa, laughing about ‘that one time when’ and an assortment of inside jokes that even we have no idea where they came from.
After a chaotic version of what the counselors call unpacking, we wander up the hill, into cabins or bathrooms, and into other friends who grab us and insist on hearing our stories, before launching into their own.
When we finally make it back to the cabin that has all of our stuff in it, we change out of clothes that we haven’t taken off for a week, and into new clothes that won’t stay clean for very long considering how filthy we are. We lie on our bunks, or on the floor, exchanging experiences and reliving moments of horror, glory, and terrible embarrassment.
We think about Shabbat and start to wander around to find somebody to borrow clothes from, because heaven forbid we wear our own things.
We play cards and write letters home to the people who we aren’t actually thinking about, but we write them anyway because that’s what family does.
When all the younger kids finally get out of the shower, we change in the big white tent next to the bath house and wait our turn to wash off a week’s worth of mud, dust, sweat, and soot from our bodies.
Sometimes we don’t bother hurrying, because why would we do that? But if we want ice cream or soda we rush out of the showers to fight through the crowds and catch the pre-shabbat treat that the whole camp seems to await in eager anticipation.
A few short minutes after we finish changing or doing our hair, we find ourselves in front of the Pardes T’fillah laughing and singing as we dance our hearts out to the best music ever.
A group of us. Grades three through twelve. All together. Dressed in our Shabbat finest, matching in white, we dance in the dirt and grass, spinning each other around, happy that Shabbat is finally here.
We sit. We sing out the prayers that we know so well, and mumble through the ones that we’re still a little shaky on. But we do it together, as a kehillah kedosha. A holy community.
We watch the sun set behind us over the Rocky Mountains, as we light the candles, and welcome in the sabbath.
Trooping down to the chadar ochel hand in hand with our best friends, we smile and joke, and think longingly of the dinner that awaits for us inside.
This is what Shabbat is.
It’s reuniting in excitement with your friends that you saw last week.
It’s coming clean from a long set of days that seemed to go by so fast.
It’s joining your camp in white, to sing, to dance, and to eat in peace, in joy, and in love.
That is what Shabbat is.
Registration for Summer 2017 and information about Ramah of the Rockes is available on their website.