By Leia Rubinstein, Sci-Tech Editor
My summer consisted of twelve-hour workdays filled with physical labor, but it was the most enjoyable summer I have ever had. This was my experience as a counselor at Camp HASC; the exhilarating environment of the camp and the bond that I formed with my campers made it so helping special needs individuals with every aspect of their personal lives, was transformed from what could have been challenging drudgery in any other setting, into a fun and meaningful experience.
Rav Judah Mischel, the Executive Director at Camp HASC, explained this phenomenon by comparing a summer at Camp HASC to Purim, a Jewish holiday, which is a day of giving to others without expecting anything in return. For instance, part of the obligations of the day is the requirement to give over two food items to one person as well as to donate “matanos l’evyonim” to charity. However, there is another essential aspect to Purim, which is that Purim is a joyous day where “anything goes.” We have the tradition of dressing up in costumes, and as recorded in the Talmud, one is required to drink at the festive meal of Purim until they are unable to distinguish between the cursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai.
It may seem curious that Purim, a day of giving, would also be one of the happiest days of the Jewish calendar where we are required to be silly and carefree. However, we can learn a valuable lesson from Purim: the importance of not viewing life as simply transactional. When we give to others without expecting something back in return, we adopt a mindset of not always needing validation. Instead, we can learn to live in the present and not hold grudges or ruminate over past mistakes.
Camp HASC is two months of Purim; while I spent my time giving to those who cannot give anything in return, I had one of the most enjoyable summers of my life. There was never a second when I felt that I was in a one-way relationship with my campers. My campers and all the campers of Camp HASC plastered a constant smile on my face. They created an environment where the atmosphere was akin to that of “Purim.” Camp HASC was a place where I was able to forget my anxieties and be happy. The difficult times did not detract from the overall excitement of camp because of the carefree and giving attitude I was able to adopt.
This year I celebrated Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the Teshuva period, at Camp HASC and I could not have thought of a more appropriate place to be spending it. The two months I spent as a counselor taught me a valuable lesson on achieving Teshuva: the power of living in the moment and letting things go. In fact, one of the acronyms of Elul is “ish l’rayehu u’matanot l’evyonim,” a person should give food to his friend and money to the poor, which reminds us of the Purim mindset amidst this period of Teshuva. My campers never bore a grudge or over-thought something that they did. In this way, they were able to both have and teach me how to have a more peaceful and carefree life. This Elul, by embodying this lesson of living in the present, we can achieve complete repentance and change our lives for the better.