Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Nitzavim

We live in such a transient world. The days when most people lived in their ancestral towns for multiple generations are gone. People live in communities for an average of 5-8 years. A Facebook poll asked the question, “How many different cities have lived in over the course of your life.” I was shocked to see that the average is now eight (including the folks who never moved). I was more shocked when I counted my own path – thirteen. I was at four before 3rd grade. I guess that makes me transient.

So, where is home base? I could call Las Vegas home, because I spent most of my youth there. My mom is still there and (thanks to Facebook) I have maintained some friends there from my youth. It is clear, though, when I come to visit – I am visiting, not coming home. I instruct every graduating High School Senior, “When you leave for college or move from the home for work, you will never come home.” Those at home continue to have lives and conversations in which we are no longer a part. We develop lives where we move; lives in which our family and friends at home have no connection. Sleeping in our own bedrooms, we are guests.

So where is home? Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter said, “There is nothing more important than a good, safe, secure home.” While we all agree, I am not sure that Ms. Carter’s assertion fully answers the question. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (Father of the renowned Supreme Court Justice) offered a better answer, “Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” Almost 200 years later, the Poet Maya Angelou spelled it out best, “I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and the dragons of home under one’s skin, at the extreme corners of one’s eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.”

For each, they echoed and expounded words from this week’s Torah portion. “The Eternal your God will once again gather you from among all the nations where you have scattered … bringing you to the land that your ancestors possessed. God will remove the barriers from your hearts, and from the hearts of your descendants; you will love the Eternal your God with all your heart and soul.” (Deut. 30:3-6)

Granted, there are some who expect this prophecy to become real when we all return to live in Israel, but the text speaks more broadly. Humanity has been scattered to the four corners of the earth. If this were about a physical ingathering, the end of the passage would be superfluous. The second piece tells us the nature of the ingathering. The barriers of our hearts will vanish. Home is not a geography. Home is not even the conversations and familiarity of everyday engagements. Home is the ability to feel the sacred relationship that holds us in meaning and value with each other, wherever we travel.

Ultimately, “home” is the ability to love intimately. By intimately, I mean, as Torah suggests, “with all your heart and soul.” When we look over our shoulders, jockey for position, withhold or withdraw, we cannot claim to be open to loving absolutely. Perhaps we are afraid of rejection, being hurt, or being disappointed? Perhaps, the best answer is to love enough to know that all this may happen but know that nothing good can happen if we start by holding back. We are not there … yet, if we are people of faith, we know that we have to work on getting there. Then, we will be returned from our scattered exile and we will know peace.

Shabbat Shalom.