The room is shaking, but it’s shaking in the best kind of way. I am experiencing the way Shabbos ends at an NCSY Shabbaton – and never have I seen the Shabbos Malka receive a more royal sendoff.
The band is playing loudly, but even the mega speakers are competing for attention with over 300 super-charged voices, singing the songs I grew up with, singing the songs I sung throughout my years in camp and Yeshiva, but singing them with a heart and a feeling and an energy that I have never seen in any of those places.
These are not Yeshiva boys and girls, yet there is a spirituality shining on their faces, there is a fervor in their voices, and for one extraordinary evening, these kids are not merely connecting with each other like never before, but right now, it is easy to believe, that the purity of these young souls, is supporting the entire world. The world rests, we are taught, on three things: on Torah, on Avodah and on Gemilas Chassadim. It would have been an economy of words to simply say, “The world is supported by NCSY Shabbatons.” This entire weekend has been an extraordinary showcase of these three Middos.
At an NCSY Shabbaton, it is easy to believe.
Candle light flickers on two groups of kids, on either side of a dividing row of benches, concentric rings of girls and separate rings of boys are linked, arm-in-arm, and swaying to the rhythm of the song. Verses from Tehillim, Hallel, and Tefillah are passing their lips as the band transitions from song to song.
Love cannot be faked, and the spontaneous expressions of love, the tears, the smiles, the hugs and the intense singing, are as genuine and honest as anything I’ve ever experienced as a religious Jew. Tonight I am seeing Yiddishkeit in its purest form. There is no room for politics here; there is no place for posturing. It’s all about these kids; it’s all about tightening the tie that binds us all. This entire weekend in fact, has been a celebration of authentic Judaism.
This entire weekend, organized and run by educators who understand education, has been a study in organizational efficiency and excellence. There is a sense of focus, a direction of intent, that is so clearly defined, so finely tuned, that watching the program unfold, one feels the appreciation usually reserved for watching skilled craftsman or artisans at work.
Every word spoken, every speech given, every smile, every handshake, every game, every activity – they are created with the same goal in mind – and like a passerby who sees a group of people staring intently in one direction – one is compelled to follow their gaze.
That’s the feeling of an NCSY Shabbaton. You are awed by the artistry of Judaism being reduced (and elevated) to its purest, most basic form – and then transmitted with efficiency and passion by a staff of educators who are masters of their craft.
Then, there are the faces. The faces tell a story that no words ever can. I won’t even try to describe it. To do so would be to taint the purity of the experience. You simply must see them for yourself. In the middle of Zemiros or Bentching, during Havdalah, these faces tell the story of a little spark, and how it has somehow managed to survive the very worst that history has thrown at it.
NCSY cradles that spark, in cupped caring hands, and gently blows and wills it to life. The spark glows into an ember. The ember flares, and soon flames are burning brightly. The many advisors I met who were themselves, the product of NCSY’s transformative process, bear that testimony well.
I feel privileged to have been there to see this, to experience this; to know that it exists is a comfort and I have been changed as a result of my time there, as well.
Like I said. At an NCSY Shabbaton, it is very easy to believe.
Both senses of chinuch (teach/initiate) find expression in its laws. Parents need to teach a child how to do mitzvot & accustom them to carrying them out
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.
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