Camp Miracles

Post by program director, Dan Buonaiuto.

According to the wisdom of the Jewish mystics, there are two kinds of miracles: Nisin Ila’in, higher miracles, are distinctly extraordinary and completely defy all understandings of the way the world works. An example of this would be something along the lines of the splitting of the Red Sea or the Revelation at Mt Sinai. These events were so astonishing that it is impossible to deny their miraculous nature. These miracles are rare, but when they occur their impact is immeasurable.

The other kind of miracles, the Nisin Tata’in, lower miracles, are veiled in our everyday living as seemingly natural phenomena, so much so they we may not even recognize them as miraculous. Lower miracles are happening all the time; the birth of a child, the snow melting on the first warm spring day after a long, frigid winter, a loving interaction between friends of family, or even waking up energized each morning after a night of sleep. Most of the time, we come to expect these events as just another part of life, and lose sight of their miraculous nature.

The Baal Shem Tov, a 15th century mystic and founder of the Hasidic movement, shared a parable on this matter: If we were to walk in the woods and a spring appeared just as we became thirsty, we would call this a miracle. And if on a second walk we became thirsty at just that point, and again the spring appeared, we would remark on the coincidence.  But if the spring were there always, we would take it for granted and cease to notice it. Yet is this not more miraculous still?

It is so easy to get caught up in flow of our daily lives that we lose sight of how precious and miraculous each moment truly is. In my own life, I find this awareness to be a constant struggle, a consciousness I am always forgetting.

But for me, camp is the place where these “lower miracles” are by far the most accessible. There is something about life in camp that brings these hidden miracles to the surface, making them real and powerful for individuals as well as the whole community.

Maybe, it is simply the fact that we know that there is an end date to the session that makes us take the time to notice the beauty of each moment. Maybe, it’s the bonds we make with our bunkmates, friends and counselors and the inspiration we constantly draw from them that creates an atmosphere of love and appreciation that is almost tangible. Perhaps, it is living integrated in nature, and becoming connected to the subtle energies and rhythms of the environment around us or the mental and physical challenges and rewards we experience in a camp setting that bring these miracles to light.

As I begin to feel the long, grey winter wearing me down and convincing me that life is all drudgery, I have flashes where I think about the upcoming summer and something will change within me. Not only will I feel excitement for the countless miracles we will all share together this summer at the ranch, but these moments also cause me to turn my head and look out the window — to notice the miracle of the small sparrow outside gathering materials to build its nest, or the miracle that the ingredients I just combined in a bowl, stirred and put in the oven turned into a delicious challah!

I don’t know exactly what it is about camp that brings out an awareness of so many miracles, I am sure it is different for each person. It cannot be studied or proven. I see no straightforward scientific law or philosophical theory that could identify how camp triggers this awareness of miracles, but I know that it is true. Camp is not a place where there are more miracles than at home; it is simply a place that allows us to see the countless miracles that are happening to us all the time.

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