I’m happy to be back from OSRUI. I enjoyed two weeks connecting with campers and
staff, helping them create authentic and inspiring experiences of mind, body, spirit, and
of Jewish virtue. Today, I include a blog entry I co-wrote with my fellow faculty
member, Rabbi Carlie Daniels of Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette. While I introduced our four
middot (virtues) last week, here we reflect on how they manifest during our
tiyulim—our field trips. Rabbi Daniels writes about rock climbing, and I reflect on
The Moshavah chanichim (campers) just returned from their final tiyulim, trips, of the
session, and we, the segel (unit faculty), were happy to accompany them on these
journeys. The tiyulim took numerous forms this week: hiking, biking, and rock climbing.
The madrichim (counselors) worked hard to facilitate meaningful experiences for the
chanichim, and graciously allowed us as segel to be part of their shared experience. We
in turn delighted in helping them understand the power of these moments to shape
their leadership, empower their spirituality, and deepen their respect for nature.
Over the past four weeks in our tochnit boker (morning programs) the chanichim,
campers, have explored various leadership styles, and besides learning how to be a
more effective leader, they have focused on Jewish middot, virtues, that will help them
in their leadership development. The tiyulim were an excellent laboratory to test out
these middot in a real-life experience.
The rock climbing tiyul experienced some of the best climbing and took in some of the
Midwest’s most picturesque views at Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin. Amateur and more
experienced climbers travel to Devil’s Lake to challenge themselves on the 1,000+
climbing routes on the mountain. The chanichim (campers) challenged themselves to
complete climbs that ranged in difficulty. Each chanich, camper, practiced ometz,
perseverance or courage, and kavod, respect. The chanichim displayed ometz when
they pushed themselves and each other to try new climbs and overcome their fears as
they faced the challenges of each route. The climbs not only required physical strength,
but also mental fortitude and problem-solving skills as they individually, and as a group,
navigated the mountain. The chanichim also served as critical partners to each other in
the role of the belayer. The belayer and climber relationship requires proper
communication and kavod, respect, to first check that both the climber and belayer
were ready, and continued communication and respect as the climber ascended up the
rockface. The chanchim really stepped up and showed great kavod when they helped
each other through the climbs. They encouraged each other at all times, even when
they did not make it to the top on the first try! The ometz, perseverance, and kavod,
respect, that the chanichim displayed on the rock climbing tiyul was truly inspiring!
Being immersed in nature allows the chanichim to strengthen and explore their own
spirituality. Throughout the tiyulim, campers exclaimed “Ma rabu ma’asecha, Adonai,”
“How great are your works, O God!” when they saw a beautiful view. On the last
morning of our trip, the rock climbing tiyul hiked to the top of the bluff to watch the
sunrise. Looking down from the bluff, the cloudy mist-covered sun emerged from the
The biking tiyul was an exercise in Type-2 fun, an activity that was amazing and fun but
ultimately fostered as much resilience as it did joy.
While indeed there was plenty of joy to go around, much of the trip was gritty and
demanding. The tough trails, the rugged roads, the heat and humidity—all challenged
our resolve. All summoned our ometz, our perseverance.
But we are also called to derekh eretz, community-mindedness— accomplished by
cheering fellow bikers up steep hills; and shared commitment to carrying group gear
made life on the trail a lot easier for all of us.
In practicing derekh eretz, we learned more about kavod, or respect, and demonstrated
it when we got off our bikes to pick up another’s fallen water bottle or pannier bag or in
sharing great sense of individual and collective accomplishment.
And finally, just as our collective kavod brought us closer to one another, it also helped
us draw nearer to God, teva (nature), and other aspects of our human spirit. In
addition to appreciating Mother Nature, we found inspiration in a special opportunity to
practice our tsumat lev, our capacity for spiritual mindfulness. We rode to a very long,
dark tunnel formerly used by trains, and then we walked into the black. The experience
was frightening but also exhilarating. We quietly sang prayers and other songs. We put
our faith to work. We took little baby steps and all made it through.
Our tiyulim came to an end. But that was ok. We’d grown tired. It was time to return to
OSRUI and rest—and then regale the rest of our friends with our stories and memories.
Long live Mosh! Long live OSRUI!
Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good!
Rabbi Carlie Daniels and Rabbi Craig Marantz