"Hello," a slim boy with bushy brown hair said. "My name is Jacob." Ben looked up at the new voice. "Hi" he said, "my name is Ben." The boys smiled, they liked stay-away summer camp and it was fun meeting new friends.

"Can I help you?" Jacob asked, looking at Ben's small pile of sticks. "What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to make a bow and arrow," Ben said. "I'm trying to find some nice strong sticks that I could use for the arrows, and a long springy one that could be the bow."

"That's funny," Jacob said, "this week's Torah portion is actually called Matot, which means sticks."

"Hmm," said Ben, who had learnt some Hebrew, "you're right, mateh means stick. But why did they call a Torah portion with a name that means sticks?"

"Well," answered Jacob, "that is the name which the Torah would sometimes call the twelve tribes of Israel."

"But," Ben said, "weren't the tribes called shevatim? Shevet means tribe."

"Yes," Jacob said, "the tribes had two names: shevatim and matot."

"Interesting," Ben said as he picked up a slim branch to see how strong it was. He tried bending it, but it just sort of folded over.

"I think that one just recently was cut down from the tree," Jacob said. "Look, there is still sap in it. My teacher said that shevet means a branch that is still on the tree, it is still connected to the tree and is still soft. It hasn't yet become strong and firm."

"The mateh," Jacob explained further, as he held up a hard stick from the forest floor "is a hard branch that has already fallen off the tree and is firm and strong."

"If you think about it," said Ben, who was very imaginative, "you could say that sticks are like people, when we were young we were still like the shevet, the soft branch staying at home. And then we got older and kind of got disconnected from the tree and went off to camp and things like that and now we are much tougher, like the mateh, the stick that isn't connected to the tree."

"You are right," Jacob said. "And the interesting thing is that the mateh only gets really hard after it gets disconnected from the tree. It is somehow teaching us that we only really grow in Torah and mitzvot and as a person when we disconnect ourselves and go off to camp. That's where we learn how to make friends on our own, and how to be nice to different kinds of people."

"Yes," said Ben. "We help each other out and become strong in our character like the mateh which only gets hard when it gets disconnected from the tree. You need a certain kind of independence in order to become yourself…"