Monday, February 21, 2011

Home is the Center

Zagat’s calls it, “the best place to go for Mom’s food.”  Kitchenette is a restaurant serving up home-style food and baked goods.  Type “Mom’s Diner” into any search engine and you’ll find results pop up from all across the United States. 

What is this deep yearning for home?  The Greeks labled it “nostalgia,” an achy kind of medical condition.  In Homer’s Odyssey, following the Trojan War, Odysseus finds himself sucked into a decade-long journey home.  The sole survivor of a shipwreck, he washes up on an island full of delights, but nonetheless weeps with longing for his wife and home.  What is it about home that is so powerful?
Home is a mnemon for one’s past, the road that has led us to the present, and the springboard which flies us far into the future.  It is a place we inhabit and a place that inhabits us.  And whether our home is the “greenest”, the biggest  the “techiest,” or the most unique has nothing to do with the strength of our attachment to home.

Home is not only the personal center; it’s our national center.  The Jewish nation is only as strong as our family units.  In his 1899 essay in Harper’s Magazine, Mark Twain notes the rise and fall of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires.  Against it he contrasts the continued vigorous existence of the Jewish nation and famously asks, “What is the secret of his immortality?"  The Jewish home is a big part of that secret. 
It’s not the synagogue that’s at the core of a full Jewish life.  True, we read the Torah and pray as a minyan there, but home is where the Biblical commandments are lived.  The mezuzah on our doorways, the kosher kitchens, our annual Passover seder.  It’s home where we most meaningfully express love, caring, and compassion, learning to live beyond our own selves. 

Home provides shelter – physical and spiritual.  When our forefather Jacob descended
to Egypt, “each person came with his home.”  The only way to survive our harsh slavery
in Egypt was through the nurturing presence of our Jewish home.  One of our Shabbat
songs chimes, “In my exile to redeem me.”  How do we experience redemption in exile?
By stepping in to a Jewish home.  The harmony, peace and spiritual sustenance there is
a taste of redemption and the strength to endure the exile outside the door. 

And while home has most traditionally been identified with Mom, the number of
stay-at-home Dads is on the rise.  They must be on to something...Is it any wonder that
the landing page of a website is named "home?" 


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