Now in my third day as faculty member at the URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, CA (and in my 18th year on faculty), I have been here long enough to clearly articulate all the things I HATE about this place. And there are many…
- Waiting in line for 3-5 minutes for a meal that someone else shops from, prepares and cleans up from.
- Sore feet from walking the miles of gorgeous trails in the bright sun under the clear blue sky
- Being tired from staying up late with other faculty – rabbinic, education, art, medical – talking, laughing, problem solving, and sharing best practices.
- Having to come up with a new story each day for services because the kids love the stories.
- Needing to talk 24/7 about spirituality and God with staff and campers who want to think about, wrestle with and figure out the what, when, where and how of God. It’s not like that’s why I wanted to become a rabbi. (Oh right, it was!)
- Putting on sunscreen to protect me from the sun, which shines constantly all day so we can enjoy outdoor activities (I’m kind of uptight about all that slimy, messy, white stuff).
- Needing to remember the Jewish value of the day, because the staff integrates it into every moment of camp (Really? As if Judaism matters!?!)
- Getting “hug bombed” (unexpectedly engulfed in the hugs) of my temple kids and other campers, even if I’m feeling cranky.
- Realizing that while I grow older, the campers in the eidah (unit) and the counselors all are the same age year after year.
- Having to dig through the huge bowl of freshly cut pineapple, cantaloupe honeydew melon, watermelon, and grapes to find a fresh strawberry – I think those sneaky campers pick them out.
- Not being able to enjoy the limitless tater tots at breakfast or breadsticks on pasta night because my stupid nutritionist said my metabolism can’t take it anymore
- Being dragged into a circle of hugging singing people on Shabbat during the amazingly melodious shira (song session).
- Dealing with happy, loving people all the time.
A lot of people kvell about (praise) their camp experiences. But that’s so easy to do; it doesn’t count.
But finding enough things to kvetch about, now that takes real talent!
Read my other Camp Newman blog posts.
Today is day #2 of the Omer, that counts (and recounts) the journey from Egypt to Mt. Sinai. We embark onward, toward our selves.
Today, we think about kvetching and kvelling.
Kvetching is that typically Jewish act of complaining, loudly and regularly about things big and small. We kvetch about our families. We kvetch about our kids. We kvetch about our jobs, spouses/partners, the economy, the government… everything. Our biblical ancestors kvetched during their desert trek about the food, the lack of water, the danger from enemies, about Moses’ leadership. Such a typical Jewish act, and yet, kvetching is profoundly the antithesis of what it means to be authentically Jewish.
To be a Jew is to be a kveller! Kvelling means to praise. Kvelling lets others know that good things are happening. It leads us to count our blessings. We could be praising the important things: our health, our relative wealth (we always have more than others somewhere), the roof over our heads, the community of which we are part… The ancient rabbis teach us that we should say 100 blessings each day. I try to teach that we should try to count 3 or 12 or 18 things each day that are blessings in our lives. 3 or 12 or 18 things worthy of kvelling about to ourselves and others.
We have an easier time kvetching than kvelling. Yet as we journey forth toward Sinai, let’s be the blessing God intended us to be. We can make strides in that direction but counting blessings as we count the days. We can go the distance by distancing ourselves from kvetches.
Today is day two of the Omer. Begin counting your kvells! (And let me know how it feels).
I recently attended the CCAR Rabbinical Convention in New Orleans. I love learning and connecting with colleagues; I love making fun of my kvetching colleagues. Here’s my top ten list. Incidentally, when it comes to kvetching, there should be no limits (thus 10 morphed into 17):
- No buttons inside the elevators. This hi-tech system requires us to push in the number on a keypad outside the elevator banks; it then tells you which elevator to take. Main kvetch: what if I don’t want to take Car B? This is so deterministic.
- Being forced to choose between looking at the speaker vs. looking at the screen. More problematic when the speaker is not good to look at and his/her words are boring.
- Having to choose between listening to what the speaker is saying vs. reading the tweets about what the speaker is saying.
- Some of the pretzels were moist/wet and I don’t like chocolate on my nuts.
- Our colleagues don’t seem to know the difference between kvelling and kvetching. Kvelling is when one finds something to say that is nice or will help make the program better. Kvetching is what the rest of you do.
- The room is too warm.
- Green is a foolish color for the siddur (translation: prayerbook); it makes me want to recycle it. Especially since with Visual T’filah, we don’t need them anymore.
- Rick Jacobs being chosen as URJ president-nominee evidences the ascendency of a previously sidelined, but tireless and powerful shadow interest-group within our movement: men with full heads of hair. We all thought (hoped) that Steve Fox was an anomaly.
- All those numbered PowerPoint lists. Very discriminatory against those of us who can count on our own.
- The room was too cold.
- Because there are so many rabbis in this city now, many of whom know each other, means that we can’t hang out on Bourbon Street and do what we really want.
- 7:00 am breakfasts. Talk about East Coast-centric programming!
- Sheraton mints are chalky and bland. Ayelet mints were way better and they put out other candy.
- The water dispenser on the 5th floor, near the elevators, was out of water.
- There are so many younger colleagues here that it forces me to acknowledge being one of the middle aged rabbis. As it says in the Talmud, “That sucks!”. I liked the olden days when i was young enough to be making fun of the AKs.
- The room is too warm.
- The CCAR program committee chairs don’t seem to care about the fact that the room was too hot/cold/humid/warm.