It wasn’t the easiest first day of a program, but despite delayed flights, missed connections, and disappearing luggage, everyone got to where they were supposed to by the end of the day, and AJSS’s 60th Summer of Service began.
First days of programs always have an air of the unknown. The unknown of the participants, from the first interactions between volunteers who until now have only known their fellow participants as names or through facebook conversations. The unknown of the surroundings, of where they will be physically living, as well as the wider community they will be serving. Finally, the unknown of the future, what the next day will hold and what they will accomplish at the end of 6 weeks.
To combat the unknown, and to jumpstart the activities and interactions that will make the summer memorable, are the structures and rules that guide any program of this nature. Who helps set up for breakfast, who is on the committee that plans the weekend trip, what time work starts in the morning, what worksite restrictions and rules are in place for their safety, all these structures help guide the participants and staff into setting the tone to properly appreciate the volunteering and cultural experiences that are a mainstay of an AJSS Summer of Service.
This week’s portion in the Torah, Pinchas, also deals with the guidelines and rules to creating a smoothly running community. These rules fill the spectrum from how to treat others to how many chickens to sacrifice for this holiday versus that holiday. Some rules are still used on a daily basis, and some have been on the back-burner for some time.
What all the rules have in common, both in AJSS and in Pinchas, is that they help the community appreciate what they have. Each participant comes from a different location as a unique individual. Without these rules and guidelines they would continue to be 16 individuals. With these rules and structures, they become a community united in action, creating as a group what would be impossible as an individual.
In the coming weeks, nails will be hammered, trips will be planned and taken, and memories will be forged. But first the rules need to be set down, so that all those activities will be possible. Without rules, AJSS participants, and the Jewish people as a people, would still be stuck discussing and debating what time is dinner, as opposed to eating it.