[The shofar was blown and the 12 pesukim recited.]

1. This gathering is in honor of the boys and girls who are concluding the camp season. Here, in this holy place, we have prayed, learned Torah, and will (when we conclude) give charity. The primary reason we do these basic mitzvos is because G‑d, our Father in heaven, has so commanded. In addition, however, their performance makes it possible to receive blessings from G‑d in all one’s needs.

The summer is a time for rest and vacation. It is obvious, though, that the goal is not rest in itself, but rather to refresh oneself and gather strength in order to increase in Torah and mitzvos in the following year.

This must be done in a such a way that the individual feels joy, and that we bring joy to G‑d Himself, as the verse says, “G‑d rejoices with His creations.” In a day camp, we cause G‑d joy by creating a holy atmosphere, and, in addition to resting, devoting a portion of the day to prayer, Torah study and the performance of mitzvos. Since the camp is away from the busy city, this can be done with even more energy and liveliness. The rest is therefore more complete, and adds to one’s success in the coming year.

Such behavior shows that you have thought of how you can fulfill G‑d’s will and acted accordingly. Ahavas Yisrael requires that you influence other Jewish boys and girls to do the same. This includes enrolling them in Tzivos Hashem, which itself will increase their liveliness and interest in serving G‑d. This will bring about the unity of the entire Jewish people, and the arrival of Mashiach Now!

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2. Everything a Jew — even a young child — sees or hears must lead to increased observance of Torah and mitzvos. Certainly we can derive inspiration from the unique qualities of this day.

Today, Rosh Chodesh Elul, we began to blow the shofar. Shofar conveys the message, as the Rambam explains, that one must wake up from one’s worldly slumbers and serve G‑d. We see this function being performed in an army, where the soldiers are awakened in the morning by the blowing of an instrument. This is the specific message to Tzivos Hashem, the “army of G‑d,” to wake up and remember to serve G‑d throughout the day.

The weekly Torah portion, Shoftim, also conveys an important message, as the verse states, “You shall appoint judges and officers.” A Jew must have in his own personal life both “judges” and “officers” — “judges” to decide on the proper mode of behavior to follow, and “officers” to ensure that the decision is acted upon.

The fourth segment of the parshah, which corresponds to today, contains the verse, “You shall be complete with Hashem, your G‑d.” One is “completely” with G‑d by being aware of His presence every moment of the day. This awareness is not only for the time of prayer, learning, etc., but even while eating, playing, or going to sleep. You acquire a realization of being “with Hashem, your G‑d,” 24 hours a day. When one acts in accordance with this realization, and does so with joy, then G‑d makes him “complete” in the physical sense — completely healthy his entire life.

3. An army occasionally receives a special “order of the day,” outlining the mission which is especially important at that particular time. Once again, the Torah itself provides this mission, in the daily Torah portion mentioned above.

One aspect of being “complete” with G‑d is absolute adherence to the truth. This is something which the yetzer hora of course opposes, giving all sorts of excuses and explanations as to why the child shouldn’t tell the truth. It is important to know what sorts of arguments the yetzer hora uses, in order to be ready to ignore them and serve G‑d with determination and liveliness. In this way, the yetzer hora will be discouraged from trying in the first place.

Let’s take an example: you wake up in the morning and see a delicious treat you would love to eat. Along comes your mother or father (or counselor) and asks, “Have you already washed your hands and recited the morning blessings?”

Since you have not, the yetzer hora goes to work, and explains, “If you tell the truth, you’ll have to wash and say the blessings. In the meantime, your brother or sister will come along and eat it up before you get the chance! Therefore,” continues the yetzer hora, “listen to me. Deny the truth (just this once, of course) so they will let you eat. Later on, when they leave the room, you can wash and say the blessings. What’s so terrible? It’s only a small transgression, and anyway you’re before bar mitzvah!”

The yetzer hora must be stopped at this first step; otherwise it will cause further trouble. For example, when the child regrets having lied, and wishes to confess his misdeed to his parents or teacher, the yetzer again steps in and explains the “folly” of such an action.

“Don’t you know,” presses the yetzer, “that this admission will dishonor you? Furthermore, they might give you a punishment, such as making you give charity or learning Torah in your free time! The very admission will disgrace your parents, who have brought up such a child, and the entire Jewish nation, who have in their midst a child who eats before washing his hands! It will be a terrible Chillul Hashem!” Should the child listen, the yetzer will drag him into further lies in order to cover up the truth, etc.

This is the lesson from the verse, “You shall be complete with Hashem, your G‑d.” One should completely ignore the yetzer and say only the truth. The reason he must do so is provided by the next words of the verse: because he is “with Hashem.” Since G‑d is always with him, he would be lying directly in G‑d’s face, so to speak. Obviously, he has no choice but to be honest.

As far as the shame is concerned, it lasts for only a short moment. On the other hand, the teshuvah brings tremendous benefits, and causes G‑d great joy.

When the yetzer hora sees that this is the child’s attitude, he will be so discouraged that he will not attempt to convince him in the first place. On the contrary, the yetzer hora will be transformed into a second yetzer tov, actually helping him in his service of G‑d.

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4. It would be proper to have two additional gatherings — one between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, and the other Chol HaMoed Sukkos — to have a total of three, as we did last year. This corresponds to, and will hasten the building of the third Temple, speedily in our days. So too, three dimes will be distributed, the 10 cents alluding to the 10 commandments, the 10 utterances with which the world was created, etc.

We shall conclude with several joyous songs, and the traditional blessing we wish each other during Elul, “You shall be written and inscribed for a good year.”