Visiting Day, the Holiest Day of the Year?

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    Visiting Day, the Holiest Day of the Year?

    by Rabbi Dani Locker.

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    Visiting day. Every camper, staff member and camp administrator understand both the contagious excitement and the palpable trepidation of the day. Is it a holy day? Well, in some circles, it is referred to as palm Sunday (in reference to the not- so- subtle requests for tips), but that’s not quite what I had in mind.

    What is Visiting Day?

    To children, visiting day was simple. Mom and Dad would come to camp laden with care packages, cash (eagerly anticipated) and kisses (begrudgingly accepted). I remember vividly as a tweenage camper proudly giving my parents the grand tour of the campus. The baseball field where I scored the winning run (at least in my imagination), the dining room where I developed a stomach ache, the camp synagogue, the only air conditioned building on campus, and of course the canteen (where we needed to check my balance). The greatest source of pride, of course, came from my bunk, with the perfectly made bed, and the thinly folded tee shirts in my cubby so neatly arranged they could have been stacked indefinitely without toppling. It was this phenomenon, a camp of 350 boys, without a speck or spider on any floor, and without a wrinkle on any garment, which was to me the most amazing accomplishment.

    This great feat did not come without a price. Campers stayed up late sweeping, folding and (mostly) concealing. Years later as a counselor, I recall remaining awake all night mopping, refolding, re-refolding and re- re-refolding. It was said that happy parents, upon seeing a neat cubby would be the most generous tippers.

    Yet it always bothered me. Surely none of these parents (most of whom had been to camp themselves as kids) really believed that this is what camp looked like the other 54 (or so) days! And what about the Jewish trait of honesty? Were the camp administrators, normally so ethically conscious, regularly lecturing about honesty and respect… were they acting hypocritically? Perhaps we should leave a few cans of Pepsi (or better yet, Mountain Dew) strewn near the volleyball court. Maybe a few loose socks should chance to peek out of an overflowing laundry bag. Perhaps the parents would be better off running into a skunk or two as they pass the dumpsters behind the kitchen, just a tad overloaded. Why the devious trickery (as so it seemed)? Why the sleepless nights and missed precious hours of potential basketball games and BBQs?

    I’m sure I’m not the first one to pose this, the ultimate philosophical proof to a bored kid that his time would be more productive at the pool than trying to match up socks. It is for this reason that our Camp Director, wishing to preempt would- be rebels like myself, would annually provide his explanation. Every parent knows that we clean up on visiting day. Therefore, upon entering the hallowed campgrounds, the impression of said parent is not to take the camp’s condition at face value, but to assume that today it looks better than it normally does (an astute assessment, as we’ve described). Therefore (he reasoned), if we don’t clean camp thoroughly, and instead leave it in it’s normal state, the parents will all assume it’s usually so much worse! By sprucing up the property, making all the beds (and yes, squeezing out those toothpaste tubes) and presenting camp at its best, in fact we were helping display the most honest representation of our summer home. That it is usually a bit worse (but not horribly so) than it appeared on visiting day. I believe I can add to the esteemed administrator’s assertion. Not only does it convince the parents, but the campers as well. For at least a few days after visiting day, campers, amazed at their own success, have the confidence and motivation to maintain a higher level of cleanliness and order.

    On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, we sort of act like a kid (or counselor) on visiting day. We clean up our act as much as we can. For a few days beforehand, perhaps, we’re extra generous, handing out charity, petitioning our acquaintances for forgiveness. On Yom Kippur itself, we show up to the synagogue early (hopefully it has air conditioning) and pray with true devotion, unencumbered by thoughts of food or drink. Dressed in white, we loudly declare Blessed is the name of the glory of His Kingdom for all eternity as the angels do. We make use of our spare time to study, and of course are conscientious not to stoop to gossip.

    But is it real? Why the show? Do we really believe, or do we think G-d believes that we’ll maintain this facade all year? Will we pray with such fervor come November? Will we spend spare time studying when March Madness rolls around? Who are we fooling?

    Perhaps equally important, we can look, amazed at our won success. Did I really spend a few hours praying with sincere and (nearly) uninterrupted concentration? I truly forgave the relative who insulted me last year. Maybe, just maybe I can be better this year. Perhaps I can maintain, if not Yom Kippur levels of goodness, at least something beyond my past accomplishments.

    Perhaps this year, I’ll really score the winning run.

    Rabbi Dani Locker is the founding Director of Camp Nageela West and the Director of the Nageela Hebrew School in Las Vegas.




    Agreed, babbler, nice!

    But what’s even nicer, and astonishing (!) is that you found this 5 year old piece in time for 10 Yemei Teshuva!


    I sometimes look for threads with no replies on purpose, and I confess I looked under the topic of “Yom Kippur”:)


    I love this!!! I also feel relieved because anytime my father comes over to my place I clean everything up to look presentable for his presence. We do do the same for Hashem… and it’s more than okay 🙂

    Yay thanks for sharing!

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