By Laura Seymour
One of the best parts of being the J camp director is the time I spend with the campers, and best of all is when we sing together. Each summer I update our camp songbook, keeping the songs we love and adding new ones. Songs teach lessons and this one, “Inside,” from the Peter, Paul and Mary album “Around the Campfire” with words and music by Paul G. Hill and Noel Paul Stookey, not only is a great camp song but teaches a lesson from Pirke Avot 4:27. Rabbi Meir says: “Do not look at the jug, but at what is in it; there is a new jug filled with old wine, and an old jug that does not even contain new wine.”
Say you’re at a pie contest. Let’s say that you’re the judge
And there’s lemon, lime, and watermelon rind, And one that looks like fudge.
You can’t tell which pie you like the best, if you only eat the crust.
In order to complete the test,
A bite of filling is a must (a bite of filling is a must).
CHORUS: Inside, inside, that’s the most important part.
Inside, inside, that’s the place you’ve got to start.
Inside, inside, that’s where you’ll find the heart of the matter.
Let’s say you’re at a birthday party and let’s say you’ve just turned eight.
And there are presents everywhere and all of them look great.
You can’t tell which one’s your favorite by just looking at the bow.
To pick one out from all the rest, unwrap each present, then you’ll know.
(Unwrap each present, then you’ll know.) (CHORUS)
Let’s say you’re at a library and there’s stacks and stacks of books
There’s even stacks on top of stacks everywhere you look.
There are stories about mystery and sports and famous lovers.
To pick one out from all the rest, you’ve got to open up the covers.
(You have to open up the covers.) (CHORUS)
BRIDGE: Children are the very best, each one a joy and pride
Just how we know, I bet you guessed. We took the time to look inside… (CHORUS)
Every Jewish home needs a Tanach (Bible), a siddur (prayer book) and Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Fathers, Talmud) — and that is just a beginning. You can find Torah everywhere you look — start looking at the songs that touch you. What are the messages? Peter, Paul and Mary came from a specific era but the messages they sing come from those of our sages.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.
By Laura Seymour