Rabbi Chaim Bruk and his family

By Rabbi Chaim Bruk

The Beis HaMikdash was destroyed due to sinas chinam, reasonless hate, and it will be rebuilt through ahavas chinam, reasonless, fanatical love. As we are welcoming Shabbos Chazon, a Shabbos imbued with a Mashiach-oriented vision, we are to take this love to heart and stay far away from any division or quarreling.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned in passing that Zeesy, our ten-year-old, was attending Camp Simcha. Today, I feel compelled to share a bit about how amazing Camp Simcha is and how incredibly devoted their staff members are.

At the end of 2019, we signed Zeesy up for the 2020 girls’ session of Camp Simcha, but, sadly, due to COVID, that never came to fruition. So, as we anticipated the summer of 2021, we signed up again, and although Zeesy was somewhat nervous being away from home for the first time without family, she was excited for the opportunity of trying out overnight camp. Weeks before camp, the staff reached out to us, figuring out how to make Zeesy’s special medical meals. We were shocked! We hadn’t expected that. We were happy enough for her to go to camp, but we were going to send her with a YETI cooler of food for the two weeks. They insisted on taking care of her food too, and they got it right.

On June 24, camp sent a chaperone to pick up Zeesy in Bozeman. They treated her and her fellow campers like rock stars and pampered them royally, making our Zeesy feel like she was on top of the world for two weeks of love, happiness, and simcha. They did rock climbing and zip-lining, wood-crafting and boating, they enjoyed a concert with Mordechai Shapiro and a helicopter ride, and they swam and had Safari Day. They simply lived it up. Through it all, Zeesy’s physical and metabolic well-being was cared for as if by a hospital staff. She made friends who are on the same medical diet, and her counselor, Shana, invested heart and soul to deal with all of Zeesy, including her idiosyncrasies. It was just out of this world.

To top it all off, on Thursday, July 8, the day the kids were heading home, Hurricane Elsa hit the New York area, and Zeesy and her chaperone were on the plane at Newark for over four hours before taking off. It turns out that there were about 15 kids stuck on different flights with their chaperones. As she would be flying with a stopover, I started to worry if she’d have enough meals, which for her is a lifeline, until she was able to join Chavie at Bubby and Zaidy’s house in San Antonio. Our friend Breindy from Lakewood heard about Zeesy’s dilemma. Not only did she send meals to Newark that match her diet, so that in case they got off the plane, she’d be covered, but she calmed us totally, assuring us that if the plane wouldn’t take off, Zeesy could spend Shabbos in Lakewood with her family and head home on Sunday. The pure familial care brought me to tears. It was so comforting to know there would be no chaos and Zeesy would be OK.

In the end, they did take off, and because of the missed connecting flight, Camp Simcha found a chauffeur to drive Zeesy and her chaperone from Houston to San Antonio, a three-hour drive—they arrived at 2:00 a.m.—so Zeesy could be with Chavie and her chaperone could get back to the East Coast for Shabbos. The care, investment, and genuineness of the staff, especially Rivkah Reichmann, during this time, was truly an expression of the words in Tehillim, “Olam chesed yibaneh,” which normally translates as “Forever will it be built with kindness” but can also mean “the world is created with kindness.” It’s what keeps the world, the Jewish world especially, going round and round.

In this week’s parashah, Devarim, the first in Deuteronomy, we read as Moshe recounts the history of the Jews in the desert. In the final weeks of his life, he gives them rebuke, reminds them of their failures, encourages them about their future, and inspires his beloved people. In Moses’ words: “And I said to you at that time, saying, I cannot carry you alone … How can I bear your trouble, your burden, and your strife all by myself? Prepare for yourselves wise and understanding men, known among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you. And you answered me and said, ‘The thing you have spoken is good for us to do. So I took the heads of your tribes, men wise and well-known, and I made them heads over you, leaders over thousands, leaders over hundreds, leaders over fifties, and leaders over tens, and officers, over your tribes.”

Moshe Rabbeinu discovered that doing it all alone was impossible. Even Moshe could be broken if he tried to do it all by himself, so with Hashem’s blessing he delegated some of the work and it was extremely helpful. From that day on it was clear to Jewry that it’s OK to ask for help and it’s OK to recognize that we can’t do it all alone. No, none of us have the responsibilities and leadership demands of Moshe, but each of us in our way, in our own little world, has that “aha” moment when we realize that we need a support system to get us through life or help us care for our children—and Camp Simcha is one of those supports, filling our hearts with eternal gratitude. We know this experience will change Zeesy’s life for the better and for that we say thank you; we couldn’t do it alone. She can’t wait for next summer!

Rabbi Chaim Bruk is co-CEO of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana and spiritual leader of The Shul of Bozeman. For comments or to partner in our holy work, e-mail rabbi@jewishmontana.com or visit JewishMontana.com/Donate.

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