There’s a lot to teach at the farm: proper care of animals, understanding the life cycle, respecting the planet. From husbandry and handling, laws of Kashrut featuring our pig Pudge, or Ba’al Tashit that teaches us not to waste or destroy the Earth, we infuse Judaism into all we do.
Last week, we had an opportunity for a different kind of Jewish ritual on our farm. Katie Evilsizer, our Farm Director, introduced us to the newest member of our farm: a duck with no name. Rabbi Andrew Terkel saw this as a moment of opportunity – to conduct a mock Baby Naming ceremony for our duck.
Mock ceremonies are an equally important and silly part of camp. Often, units have mock Jewish Weddings as their evening programs, our younger units partake in mock Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. With the arrival of our duck, Rabbi Terkel saw this as another opportunity to create Jewish Ritual in a different realm of camp.
With llamas, sheep, goats, rabbits, Pudge, chickens, fiddle crabs, and millipedes in attendance, our ducks joined the Jewish people.
Instead of the traditional prayers of a Baby Naming, we opted for a prayer for nature by Rabbi Nachman.
May I express there everything in my heart,
and may all the foliage of the field –
all grasses, trees, and plants –
awake at my coming,
to send the powers of their life into the words of my prayer
so that my prayer and speech are made whole
through the life and spirit of all growing things,
which are made as one by their transcendent Source.
May I then pour out the words of my heart
before your Presence like water, O L-rd,
and lift up my hands to You in worship,
on my behalf, and that of my children!
The result was incredibly, and somewhat surprisingly, spiritual. Taking a moment to acknowledge nature, to take the time to name our duck, Solomon, in the tradition of the Jewish people. Judaism is in all we do at camp, and to bring ritual and respect to the smallest of things is something so special and unique to this place and time.
We will continue this summer thinking of ways to bring Jewish ritual in areas of camp that do not obviously relate to prayer and practice. While holding a Baby Naming ceremony for a duck may not be the most “kosher” of practices, the lesson and spirituality it brought to our campers and staff is what sticks with us. And one day, when our campers become Jewish Adults, we hope they’ll think back to the time they participated in a Baby Naming ceremony, albeit on an animal at the farm, and think about using these rituals going forward in their own (or their animals’) life cycle events.