Monday, September 20, 2010

Home is... Judaism?

In the last three weeks, I have spent more time in the company of Jews, doing singularly Jewish things, than I have done in the last twelve months. First, I went to Colorado to witness my brother's Bar Mitzvah - a coming of age ceremony, usually celebrated at the age of 13. Saturday was Yom Kippur, the final part of the Jewish New Year celebration which began ten days prior (Sept 8) with Rosh Hashana.

For those unfamiliar with Judaism, my basic understanding is that Rosh Hashana is a celebration of gratitude that we made it through the previous year. After the ceremony, we eat apples and honey to start the next year off on a sweet note.

Then we spend the next ten days (the Days of Awe), contemplating the previous year and cleaning up our affairs - recognizing when we didn't quite live up to our expectations of ourselves (and god), and asking forgiveness from people we had wronged.

At the end of this ten-day period, we go into Yom Kippur, which is known as the Day of Atonement. Beginning the night before, we fast, spend the day apologizing for all the things we have done wrong, and begging god's forgiveness. We also pray for the following year to be a good one for us and our families.

While Yom Kippur is a relatively somber occasion, I find the liturgy to be both beautiful and deeply touching. It is less about how we are outwardly, and more about whether we are experiencing and sharing the love and joy in which we were created.

And yet, during the entire morning service (two hours plus), I was in tears. This last year (from September to September) has been incredibly chaotic for me. This time last year, I was in the company of Jews from around the world in the middle of Paris. I had no inkling of the craziness that would be coming. It was a time of peace for me, feeling (finally) completely at home in France, having lived there a year. So many good things were happening.

Now here I am in this new/old location, feeling homesick for a place I had left nine months ago, and also strangely at home here. The thoughts I had went something like this: Oh the last year has sucked so badly; I miss Paris; I miss my friends; I've lived three places in the last 12 months; I am so pissed that we had to leave; where can I find peace?; did I have to leave Paris to find it?; I don't want to stop being angry about leaving; but I want to be happy. I don't want this to be the place I am happiest. I don't want this place to be home. Yet here is everyone welcoming me with open arms. What does home mean, anyway?


So now it' s Monday, and I am still musing. What does it mean to be home? Can home be in more than one place? Can I love here and still wish I was elsewhere?

One of my teachers would surely say that I can find home in the liturgy of my religion. I wonder if that is what will happen. As I get older, and move more and more often, maybe my home will be Judaism. I find that surprising, but also hopeful.