It’s the last weekend of November, and it means I’m excited for December, which includes my birthday, Hanukkah plus the end of another school semester. Yet something seems missing… call it a void, or a cease in the way things usually occur…
That’s because for the last seven years of my life, this time of year has revolved around one particular event. And for the first in seven years, I will not be partaking in that event. And for many reasons, it pains that I can’t be there.
What can I say about this event? Let’s start by saying exactly what it does: It’s a massive out-of-town weekend retreat for Jewish high school students, where they’ll be able to tour, meet new people, but most importantly: they’ll be exposed to the awesome taste of Judaism – something many of the participants have unfortunately never experienced before in their lives.
And while the awesomeness may not be apparent upon the first taste, the impact of this awesomeness have the ability to have a lasting impact for the rest of one’s life!
(Another reason for that lack of initial impact could be the other things may seem more appealing in such an environment, such as being away from mom and dad in another country for the weekend… aka let’s party!! with girls/dudes 😉
And although I’ve spent the last 4 trips (2006-2009) as an advisor, I know this firsthand.
While it wasn’t my first shabbaton, my first winter regional (2003) was something of a confusion for me – I was nonetheless excited to be on the trip, but I was also faced with feelings of loneliness and uncertainty, having felt prior to the shabbaton that maybe there was more to all this awesomeness than just being an opportunity to meet great people, fool around with girls, travel and get away from my parents… And it wasn’t until the following year in 2004, when I was faced with pain of grandmother’s death happening less than a week before the shabbaton, did I truly realize that while I could still have fun, there was so much more at stake and that these shabbatons could really bring out the best of me; I could see myself floating in the sky, reaching potentials I’d never dreamed of or thought were possible of achieving in my life time.
To anyone, I probably came off as just another super-enthusiastic, yet naive young man, rejected by the mainstream grossness of secular public school life…. But I felt so much more than that… I felt like I could do anything on these shabbatons (and I’m not talking about getting away with things)…. I could be me: the real me.
Whether it was the inspiring stories given over by our rabbis and leaders, or the singing and dancing that seemed to take place almost at random (although it typically happened alongside some sort of religious ritual like havdalah), or even the in-depth one-on-one conversations I would have with my advisors, which would sometimes go on for hours, or having the ability to freely ask questions about Judaism that I’d never felt confident enough to ask before….
And then as I graduated to become an advisor: whether it was the knowledge that every little action and connection you made with an NCSYer, both intentional and unintentional, could have a lasting impact on their lives, and created such a beautification of G-d’s name and the awesomeness that is Judaism, relying on one another (advisors) for assistance and the assurance that what we were doing was truly the right thing to do, or the responsibility of having to be there for someone when they need it because no one else is willing to help out….
And to think… I would get so upset cause I always wanted to be the guy in the funny videos… I really did… I’m just really shy about taking that initiative to do so… what a waste….)
But that’s not the point… No matter what negative things came about, the positives were always overwhelmingly more apparent and effective at playing their role. So even though I couldn’t be the glamorous actor on the big screen or in the flesh on stage, I can take great solace knowing that the role I did play will have a more everlasting mark than some play about throwing water on the unsuspecting actor in disguise.
And so for anyone going on the shabbaton who ends up reading this, I hope this piece brings you happiness for what you’re about to experience. And if you’re staff/an advisor, I hope this provides you with some sort of chizuk for the upcoming days!
Or it at least helps pump you up for the awesomeness 🙂