Children: Isaiah's Promise of Consolation and Hope

This week, in the spirit of consolation, I'd like to focus on one more image of children: happy kids at Jewish summer camp. It may sound trite, but it's not at all. With all the ups and downs of Jewish history, it was never a given that so many children would be assembled that we would need to build more places for them to settle, per Isaiah's vision. And yet, there has been lots of demand for positive, educational, fun, immersive Jewish experiences in this generation -- so much so that over the past decade or so, new Jewish summer camps have been popping up everywhere: regional camps, sports camps, arts camps, tech camps, and more.

In every Shabbat throughout the year, Jews traditionally read two types of scriptural passages in synagogue: Torah and Haftorah.  Torah always comes from the first five books of the Bible, Genesis/Bereishit through Deuteronomy/Devarim; Haftorah readings are selections from somewhere in Prophets/Nevi'im.  The haftarot for most Shabbatot of the year were selected because of similarities (of theme or language) between them and the Torah portions they accompany -- in fact, I often love playing the game in shul of trying to figure out the link between Torah and Haftorah readings.  This time of year, however, that pattern breaks down.  For seven weeks -- beginning on the Shabbat immediately following Tisha B'Av and continuing until just before Rosh Hashanah -- the haftorah has no connection to the Torah portion of the week.  Instead, we read a series of special haftarot labeled "haftarot of consolation."

These seven readings, all taken from the prophet Isaiah, are intended to help us pivot from the deep trauma and grief associated with Tisha B'Av, towards the healing and introspection of "return" which characterizes the High Holidays.  The texts themselves are a mixed bag, offering the kind of wide emotional range that's probably appropriate for a people still reeling from destruction and exile.  To me, the most beautiful lines are the ones that offer promise, a vision of repair, and hope for the future.

In this week's haftorah, many of those lines of promise have to do with children. "Swiftly your children are coming."  "Look up all around you and see: They are all assembled, are come to you!"  "The children you thought you had lost shall yet say in your hearing, 'The place is too crowded for me; make room for me to settle.'"

It's a gorgeous vision Isaiah brings us: that exile and destruction will be reversed when so many children return that they need more space!  In the midst of our reeling, this passage reassures us that although we may be suffering now, our children will pave the way to a brighter future.  And this is a theme that really resonates in this year, which feels like it's been "the year of the children" -- from the brave and articulate youth of Parkland, to the movement to reunite immigrant children and parents, and now to the push to register the next crop of young voters in time for the upcoming midterm elections.  

This week, in the spirit of consolation, I'd like to focus on one more image of children: happy kids at Jewish summer camp.  It may sound trite, but it's not at all.  With all the ups and downs of Jewish history, it was never a given that so many children would be assembled that we would need to build more places for them to settle, per Isaiah's vision.  And yet, there has been lots of demand for positive, educational, fun, immersive Jewish experiences in this generation -- so much so that over the past decade or so, new Jewish summer camps have been popping up everywhere: regional camps, sports camps, arts camps, tech camps, and more.  

We're proud that so many Kavana kids spent time at Jewish summer camps this season! The range of camps they're attending speaks to the fact that in this pluralistic community, we sincerely hope that each individual will find the right fit in order to create personal meaning and forge positive Jewish identity.  Below are a couple of snapshots of some Kavana campers in action at various places.  (If your kids were also at Jewish summer camps this year, please let us know and share photos with us too!)  As we imagine them singing around campfires and tables, making beautiful art, engaging in competitions for "color wars," and learning new melodies to Jewish prayers, we are witnessing a fulfillment of Isaiah's vision.  May children continue to assemble in great numbers, signifying return and hope for the future for us, for the Jewish people, and for all humanity.