June 20, 2024
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June 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Believe it or not, some Orthodox sleepaway camps actually have a staff position titled “Director of Chesed.” This is a truly wonderful development because it reflects a camp’s commitment to a summer experience that is about more than just Color War, day-trips, late-night raids and bug juice. By installing a Director of Chesed, these camps are instilling in their campers certain values they might not be receiving during the rest of the year, or at least not at the same dosage and intensity.

Does this mean that if a camp does not have a Director of Chesed, then the camp will be filled with selfish, mean-spirited miscreants? Of course not. But it does make you wonder whether camps should be adding other staff positions of similar moral high-ground like Manager of Menschkeit, Superintendent of Tzedakah, Administrator of Ahavah and Czar of Zeisket.

Sometimes, there is a fine line between Chesed and stupidity. Thus, the Director of Chesed might have to make difficult judgment calls as to exactly what does and does not qualify as Chesed. For example, giving an acrophobic camper the bottom bunk is a form of Chessed. But, giving the top bunk to a camper from Denver based on altitude acclimation, might cause the Director of Chesed to suspect that you are under the influence of a “Rocky Mountain High.”

Displaying genuine compassion for campers with body weight issues is a form of Chesed. But, walking around camp in a fat suit as a showing of solidarity with hefty campers, probably would not carry “weight” with the Director of Chesed.

Visiting a sick or injured camper at the infirmary certainly is a form of Chessed. But, dropping by the infirmary to tell the sick and injured about all of the fun they are missing, would probably garner “ill” will from the Director of Chesed.

Encouraging the more attractive campers to go on shabbos walks with the less attractive campers might be a form of Chesed. But, convincing the equally hideous that they are basherts simply based on appearances, would probably elicit an “ugly” reaction from the Director of Chesed.

Going on a late-night raid to plaster the camp with signs that read “We love camp” would be a clever loophole in the camp’s anti-raid policy. But, going on a late-night raid to prank only those who deserve or can take it, will probably be no “laughing” matter to the Director of Chesed.

Convincing a first place, undefeated team to intentionally throw a game just so that a winless team can experience a moment of triumph, might be an act that is blessed by the Director of Chesed. But, giving an obviously inferior team a sizable lead at the game’s inception and then still blowing them out in demoralizing fashion, is something of which the Director of Chesed probably would not be a “fan.”

Allowing a less talented camper to serve as your understudy for the camp play, knowing full well that the understudy will never set foot on stage, is not necessarily the type of gesture which the Director of Chesed would “applaud.”

Inviting a lonely and sensitive camper to join you on visiting day while you spend a few frenetic and fiery hours with your incredibly dysfunctional and disastrous nuclear family, is likely to cause the Director of Chesed to go “nuclear.”

Warning an excessively anxious camper that Color War breakout is imminent, might be an act of Chessed. But, if you stubbornly assign that same camper a solo during the Color War song competition, all in a misguided attempt to cure the camper’s anxiety, then you and the Director of Chesed probably will not be “singing” the same tune.

Giving your fellow counselor your “day off” is an admirable act of Chesed, unless your “day off” is on Tisha B’Av. In that case, the Director of Chesed will accuse you of trying to pull a “fast” one.

Deciding to bully a younger camper only on the weekends is not a form of Chesed and, as a result, the Director of Chesed will undoubtedly use his/her position as a “bully” pulpit to issue a stern reprimand.

Allowing someone to use your tefillin is an act of Chesed. But, failing to attend davening so that there are seats available for others, is not really an act of Chesed, especially if sleeping late is your true motivation. In that case, you will be “praying” to avoid the ire of the Director of Chesed.

Final thought: According to Pirkei Avot, the world stands on three things: Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Chasadim. Other things in life also stand on three things including a tripod, tricycle and the U.S. government’s separation of powers.

By Jonathan Kranz


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