This post originally appeared on the blog of Rabbis Without Borders, MyJewishLearning.com

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/blog/rabbis-without-borders/2014/01/12/home/

ImageWhere is home?  Is it where you live, even if it is temporary?  Is it where you grew up?  Is it the place where your parents or grandparents and their families originated?

Home might also be a special place where the heart resides even if it isn’t our place of residence. The Jewish people have held Israel in their hearts for over three millennia.

Home could also be the place where we have grown up or come of age. At a recent event I met someone with whom I had an immediate connection — we shared the history of the same childhood home synagogue in Philadelphia. Neither of us have been there in decades, but the connection to this home bonded us.

And of course, home is where we live, if we are fortunate enough to have stable housing — something we cannot take for granted.

I’ve been ruminating on this for the last couple of weeks as various manifestations of “home” have been in my face.

I spent a week with my husband and two of our kids in the Bay area of California. We stayed in an Airbnb rental in Berkeley and experienced being paying guests in a stranger’s home — it was much more comfortable than a hotel. I wondered how it would feel to have people staying in my home who were paying consumers. We spent a day talking about whether and how we would consider being hosts, renting all or part of our house for SuperBowl weekend (since we live in NJ, not far from the stadium, where hotel rooms are scarce.)

We walked around downtown Berkeley for six days, confronted with a very present and aggressively begging homeless population. The streets are their home. We talked about how homeless people can feel invisible as the streets fill with people who avert their eyes as they pass them by.

Even with unusually frigid weather in New Jersey, it was so nice to come home.  But soon the political scandal engulfing my state caught my attention. Maybe it was the sleazy drama of it all, but something drew me into listening to a long press conference and reading endless columns of reactions and analysis.  My home, New Jersey, was being maligned. I felt protective of my home state — I wanted to tell the world about the great hiking and biking, lush farmland and gardens in my home state. Please don’t think of New Jersey as traffic and the turnpike and slimy politicians. It’s my home.

This week the Modern Language Association debated one-sided resolutions criticizing Israel, way out of proportion to rebukes to the other nations of the world, and I felt protective of my other “home.”  I am fortunate to have spent enough time in Israel to relate to the land personally; it’s not an abstract feeling of attachment.

We who are fortunate to have comfortable places to call home, with perhaps the means to share with guests, or the opportunity for multiple special places of “home,” are truly living with the blessing of holiness. Jewish tradition has many names for God, including the oft-used “hamakom“– meaning, “the place.”

The homeless people who claim their spot on the street, staying day-after-day in “their” place, are striving for the same shelter under “Divine wings.” They deserve to not be invisible; they too are created in the Divine image.

In this week’s Torah reading (Yitro),the Israelites, newly freed from slavery, had to figure out how to make a home in the wilderness. It was not easy. But thanks to Yitro, Moses’s father-in-law, they organized themselves into a representational polity that took the needs of all the people into account.

When we care for each other, as if we are guests in each others homes, we find “hamakom.” Home is where we are respected, seen, nurtured and fully alive as ourselves. It takes eyes that see and hearts that care for “home” to realized. That is the blessing we can make real in our world.

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It can be tiring to hear snarky “jokes” about New Jersey from folks who think it is funny to make fun of the Garden State.  I think New Jersey is a great place to live, for many reasons.  Today I am not just happy to live in New Jersey, I am filled with pride. Today we are not the butt of jokes — this day was the first day of legal same-sex marriage.  Today was also the day that Governor Chris Christie dropped the appeal that would have once again challenged the rights of gays and lesbians to wed their beloveds in this great state.  Thank you, Governor Christie, for letting the people decide. And thank you, New Jersey, for arriving at this place of justice.

I was thrilled to officiate at the wedding of a New Jersey couple who rushed to wed in New York just after the defeat of DOMA in the summer.  They were anxious to sanctify their 3 decades plus as a family, and to reap the legal benefits that had been withheld for all this time.   Now the floodgates are opening for gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey — it’s wedding season!

Today there is much to celebrate.  To all of the couples who can now be counted as equals to their straight family and friends, accorded the same legal and cultural recognition that others have long enjoyed — we wish Mazal Tov — Congratulations!