In Camp Dora Golding, on Shabbos morning before Musaf, Rabbi Mayer Erps delivers a three-minute message to the entire camp. The following is the powerful message he delivered this past Shabbos, the final Shabbos of this year’s camp season:
Many campers return to camp each summer, progressing from the younger divisions to the older divisions. When they reach the oldest division, they hope to continue as staff members: waiters, junior counselors, and then counselors.
Those who become counselors for a few summers hope that they might actually be chosen to become a color war general. Becoming a color war general is no small matter in camp. It is a matter of great pride and honor. The climax of that experience takes place at the grand sing at the end of color war. The entire camp gathers in the dining room, divided according to their color war team. The generals are introduced with great fanfare and the entire camp cheers excitedly as they make their grand entrance, dancing together at center stage. They are the stars of the emotionally charged evening.
When all the skits and songs have been performed, the head counselor stands on the stage in the middle of the room, with only the two generals and the two captains. You can imagine the feeling they feel during those moments as they breathlessly await the announcement of the winner of color war.
Last week, right after the scores were announced, something extraordinary occurred. A young boy, the son of one of the camp families, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was standing next to the stage, in a mass of campers and staff members. When the scores were announced, he was knocked over by the excited winners jumping in the air. As the music began playing loudly, and hugs and handshakes were exchanged, an amazing sight emerged: The two generals, Avrumy Wadler and Nesanel Ringelheim, emerged from the crowd with a concerned look on their faces. The winning general was holding the little boy in his arms, walking towards where the nurses were sitting. They easily could have signaled to someone else to care for the crying boy. But that is not what they did.
After a minute, the boy was totally fine, except for being a little shaken up. But the sensitivity of two concerned b’nei Torah, who put aside the moment of glory that every counselor dreams of, was exemplary.
Rabbi Erps concluded by urging the campers, that when leaving camp in a few days, they take with them not only incredible memories of so many fun times, but also the great lessons about how to treat and care for others, such as this one.
In Parshas VaEschanan (D’varim 7:7), Moshe Rabbeinu declares, “Not because you are more numerous than any other people did Hashem desire you and choose you, for you are the least of all the nations.” Rashi explains that “you are the least of the nations” means that the Jewish people humble themselves even when they are bestowed with glory and greatness.
This is in contradistinction to the navi sheker – the false prophet. In Parshas R’ei, the Torah warns that we shouldn’t be lured in or duped by false prophets. The question is: If he is a phony, why is he referred to as a prophet at all?
The Sifrei (D’varim 84) quotes Rabbi Akiva who explained that the Torah is referring to one who had been a true prophet but devolved into a false prophet. This individual had achieved an extreme level of spiritual greatness, meriting prophecy itself. But he allowed it to go to his head, and he became conceited and full of himself. The catastrophic result was that he became a false prophet, attributing his own fantastical and heretical ideas to the divine.
The pasuk states that the greatness of the Jewish people is that they do not allow greatness to overtake them. They do so by maintaining a feeling of humility by always acknowledging that their abilities and accomplishments are from G-d.
The Gemara (Megillah 31a) states that wherever G-d’s greatness is manifest, one will also discover G-d’s humility, as it were. That is the mark of greatness, which we too aspire for: to always strive for greatness and yet to maintain a proper perspective that keeps us humble.
It is the ability to jump off the stage and out of the spotlight to help a little boy – both literally and figuratively.
In that sense, both generals were true winners.