Please enjoy a D’var Torah this week from Jared Skoff, Rosh Garinim and Rosh Halutzim 2016. Originally from Cleveland, Jared spent three summers at Ramah Canada; this will be his third summer at Ramah Wisconsin. After graduating last year from Washington University in St. Louis, Jared is spending the year as a full-time community educator and recruiter for the Ramah Service Corps in Detroit. He is the youngest dues-paying member of The Workmen’s Circle.
Reflections on Purim
by Jared Skoff
In German (and in Yiddish), tasche means pouch or pocket. Maultaschen is a German style of stuffed pasta (think ravioli). Apfeltaschen is an apple turnover. Taschen does not mean “ear” or “hat” or any other transubstantiated part of Haman. The turnover we call a hamentaschen hides a secret filling that you cannot discern until you bite.
On Purim, we celebrate things that are flipped. One of the themes of the Megillah is “V’nahafoch hu” (it was turned upside down). Not randomly transformed but flipped. Like the hamentaschen that hides its true taste, the characters of the Megillah change their fortunes by revealing a hidden, true nature.
Haman is a famous prince whose insecurity and ego lead to his downfall. Esther was born Hadassah, a poor orphan from an exiled Jewish nation. Yet she transforms herself into royalty, and finds the confidence to save her people.
Even before becoming queen, Esther is not alone in the world. Mordechai is her mentor and her madrich (counselor). He tells her, “Mi yodea– Who knows? Perhaps you arrived to this kingdom for a moment such as this one.” This is your time to shine, he says. Esther’s Judaism is her most famous secret, but the secret potential that was most important was her natural ability as a leader. Mordechai shows her the potential she always had, but couldn’t see on her own.
This is an interaction that happens all the time at Ramah, and is one of the most meaningful takeaways of each summer for both chanichim (campers) and madrichim (counselors). Sometimes it is a madrich, a rosh aidah (division head), or a fellow chanich who will give a word of encouragement in the middle of a basketball game, or at play practice, or on the Kikar (central campus), or at a forgettable moment walking to lunch. But for the person on the receiving end of that comment, that specific moment fills up with meaning. There are so many moments at camp when we tell ourselves, and each other, “Mi yodea – maybe I was born to do this.”
Ramah is a community that celebrates the hidden potential in each individual, a spark that only comes out in certain environments and with the right encouragement. From my experience observing young people in a variety of settings, sometimes the quietest person at Hebrew School becomes the most spirited member of the aidah at Yom Sport. Like the hidden filling in our hamentaschen, we all have an extraordinary part of us that only comes out at camp.
I hope you had a freilechen (happy) Purim and Shabbat Shalom.