By Laura Seymour
As we get ready for school to end and camp to begin, music fills the air. “Pomp and Circumstance” may be the song of the day, but for camp kids it’s time to practice those great camp songs to get in the mood.
“The Cat Came Back” may be a favorite song but there are songs that we sing that teach us important lessons.
This song is one of many with the words from Pirke Avot 1:14. The song helps us understand the meaning of Hillel’s words. We begin by taking each part alone and ask why this question is asked.
- If I am not for myself, who will be for me? What does it mean to take care of yourself first? Why is this the first message given?
- If I am only for myself, what am I? What is our responsibility for others? Why is it important to care for others?
- If not now, when? Why do we put things off for another day? It is important to act today for ourselves and for others.
- Last question: why did Hillel put these three questions together?
‘Im Ein Ani Li Mi Li’ by Debbie Friedman
Im ein a-ni li mi li.
Uch’she ani l’atzmi ma ani
V’im lo achshav eimatai
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?
Hillel was a Rabbi and he taught us what to do.
The first part of his lesson said: you must be true to you.
You have to like yourself if you expect that others should.
Having self-respect is something special, something good. CHORUS
Myself is something special, it’s the place I have to start.
But Hillel said we must make room for others in our heart.
Yes, love yourself but care and share — don’t lock the others out.
Caring for yourself and others is what life’s all about. CHORUS
Life is short, the time flies by, and just before you know.
Today becomes last week and then a long, long time ago.
Hillel said: Do what you must — act now, today, don’t wait!
Decide what is important — do it now, it’s not too late. CHORUS
This Mishnah is important to learn and remember throughout life — in school, children strive to succeed and learn for their future, but at camp we learn that as important as “myself” is, we are all part of community!
This is true throughout our lives!
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.