Yisrolik is an 18-year-old bochur in his second year of Zal. He goes to bed and wakes up on time, and keeps a full day schedule of learning, davening and everything else good. He has had to work hard in life.
He grew up on Shlichus and arrived at Mesivta just a little bit behind academically, struggling through the first year and a half getting accustomed to Yeshiva lifestyle. The combination of his modest manner, bright mind and hard work has earned him the respect of his peers across the spectrum of the bochur scene.
Purim time is here again, and with it the first whispers of summer plans begin to drift through the dining room and dormitory. Their next inevitable destination is Zal, where restless bochurim pulling themselves through the last endless stretch of winter welcome them with outstretched arms.
Yisrolik’s friend Yossi is excited, and Shmulli is excited too. The calls are pouring in, and for them it’s a question of counselor, counselor plus or head counselor, but at night in Zal, between Chavrusos, Yisrolik is a little confused.
The thought of camp has never really crossed his mind, although he kind of likes the idea. What he doesn’t know at that moment is that ahead of him lie months of being turned down and hurt, begging to be accepted to work for a month – without pay. Ahead of him lies a month or two of feeling inferior to his surroundings, as he struggles to get a hang of the elusive “camp spirit.” By summer’s end, his self-esteem has taken a substantial hit.
I am not here to moan and groan that our Yeshivos don’t promote learning enough or that camps are “ruining school.” Camps give kids a great time, and Yeshiva staff tries hard to do what’s best for bochurim. If life has played a fast one on Yisrolik, that’s just life. Things don’t always work out perfectly for anyone.
What I do want, as a successful fourth year camp staffer whose friends have long prophesied a future as head staff, is to share a quick message with Yisrolik and all my dear friends out there who share in Yisrolik’s predicament:
Life is not about camp. Life is about Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chasadim, infused with the light of Chassidus and Ahavas Yisroel. Life is about hard work and Aidelkeit, honesty and Chassidishkeit.
And I have a little secret for you: Traditional camp spirit is high voltage energy. The measuring stick of good camp staff is energy capacity. So if you don’t quite fulfill camp’s requirements, look at it as a sign that maybe you have more to offer the world than a flying chimpanzee at the zoo.
You are at the center of the world. All of existence since day one of creation awaits your arrival in Zal each day, for you to overturn the higher and lower worlds with each word of Gemara and Chassidus uttered from your lips. You are the pride and joy of Hashem’s chosen people, a people who cling dearly to Torah and Mitzvos through thick and thin.
One day, when the light of truth will shine through the darkness of Galus, you’re true value will play itself out on center stage of history, and all of humanity will envy you. You are leading us all toward Geulah.
Your friend, the head counselor