This past week I read that a space agency was taking applications from the first group of people who want to colonize Mars. Imagine?
The most outstanding dimension of the process, in my mind, was that people knew they were only getting one-way tickets. Once there, there would be no way to return home.
I read some of the respondents’ applications, and some indicated that they would simply create a new home. Others indicated that things weren’t so great at home here.
It made me consider the meaning of home. We have houses which are our homes, but “home” is more then a physical structure. In the Talmud, Rav Yose refers to his wife as his home. In our tradition, and amongst so many, homeland is a powerful concept. There, home is related to identity and protection and the survival of a culture.
I can’t imagine leaving home forever. My home roots me. My home is the source of my life’s meaning; it contains the reference points to my past, and my family’s past, and it expresses life’s meaning through rituals of our tradition.
This week, we read about the building of the first tabernacle in the wilderness of Sinai and then we read about the building of the first Temple in Jerusalem. Those holy sites are considered the home of the Divine presence. Even God, we are taught, needs a home. The synagogue is known as a Beit Knesset, a home of gathering; we have a Beit Midrash, a home of study; and a Beit Tefillah, a home of prayer.
I was thinking…maybe it’s the idea of a Divine residence that makes “home” so special. So what’s that “Divine residence? It’s the place of family, it’s a place of learning, it’s a place of values, it’s a place of love, it’s a place for meditation, and a place for prayer and meaning.
Could it be replicated at Mars? Seems like a silly question, but maybe – just maybe – it can inspire us to consider the idea of home, coming home, being at home. There are places that are sacred, times that are sacred, and relationships that are holy. And this is where we allow God to dwell. The sacred places described in the Torah serve as reminders to a community of people; but beyond the physical, we create holiness in our words and deeds.
We are partners in building a home at our synagogue, where all feel welcome and there is a sense of belonging and a sense of warmth and love. Here too we create home.
See you in shul,
This column is dedicated to the memory of Rubin Shafran z”l