By Laura Seymour
It is almost time for camp, and that means I need to start practicing the guitar again to lead camp singing.
When I ask staff and campers about what makes camp “Jewish,” the first answer is always the songs. A singing camp is a camp with ruach/spirit. We learn so much from the songs we sing and have fun doing it.
At Camp Chai, we even give out a CD of our favorite songs before camp begins — it’s called “Carpool Judaism.” If you are singing the songs, you are making the words and the lessons part of your life.
This song is one of many with the words from Pirke Avot 1:14. The song helps us understand the meaning of Hillel’s word. 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 ani li mi li. Uch’she ani l’atzmi ma ani
V’im lo achshav eimatai 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.
Myself is something special it’s the place I have to start.
But Hillel said we must make room for others in our heart.
Love yourself but care and share; don’t lock the others out.
Caring for yourself and others is what life’s all about.
Life is short, the time flies by, and just before you know
Today becomes last week and then along, 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.
Laura Seymour is director of camping and youth services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.