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The Off-Key Symphony

For the past week, I have been privileged to serve as rabbi for Camp Chaverim, a summer sleep-away camp for children and young adults with special needs. It is an incredible experience in many ways. I would like to share one inspiring experience that I had this past week.


Every day, the entire camp joins together for davening (daily services) and we sing many of the classic tunes found in any Jewish day school or camp. Yet, the tunes we sing do not always sound harmonious. Our musical expression consists of roughly 160 voices attempting to sing the same tune on the same key in the same tempo. In the excitement of the moment, some of us sing loudly and not exactly on key. Sometimes a few of the voices don’t seem to be attempting to conform to the group and are singing their own special recital to the Almighty. There is a very special beauty in the sincerity of the disharmonious chorus, but sometimes we need to listen with different ears to hear it. Once we do become attuned to the beauty of that chorus, it is hard to find any sound quite as special. In a very real way, I feel like this is of the most holy congregations and services that I have ever been a part of.


As I participate in our three-times daily services, I am struck by how this diversity of prayer and divine service is really an amazing microcosm of all of humanity’s spiritual growth and divine service. Just as many participants in our service are singing the same tunes, each of us are walking along the path of spiritual improvement. Just as each of our prayers here in camp sound a little different, each of our paths look a little different. One person may be working on controlling his anger while another may be working on being more generous and giving. One person may need to focus on mitzvah observance while another may need to work on building more Torah study into his schedule. Some people’s service seems to be seeping with righteous fervor, while others are much more outwardly reserved. Which one of us is on the right path? The Torah teaches us that spirituality can look different for each of us, and that indeed we are all on a unique path. That path needs to come from - and be guided by - the Torah, and so long as we adhere to it with sincerity we will be spiritually successful. One can look at a community and see a disharmonious and polarized group of people on seemingly divergent paths, but as we learn to look deeper and see things from a different perspective, we are all part of a perfect symphony of divine service.




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