When someone asks me “where is your home?” I equivocate.
“I live in Cincinnati, OH.” However, the arrangement feels temporary – welcoming, friendly, accepting, and comfortable – but temporary.
By contrast, I do feel at home in Israel even though I do not live there. As David Hume noted, reason can be trumped by emotion, and my relationship to Israel is a case in point.
Rabbi Joseph Baer Soloveitchik distinguished between two covenants in Jewish life: a ברית גורל – a covenant of fate and a ברית יעוד – a covenant of destiny. The covenant of fate is associated with Passover. It is an inescapable truth of our history. It chooses us. The covenant of destiny is associated with Shavuot. It requires our active acceptance. We choose it.
My relationship to Israel is elective. I feel an inexplicable, non-rational, perhaps trans-rational attachment not only to Israel the place, but also to Israelis the people as well as to Hebrew, the language. In this respect, I feel that I am moving towards Shavuot, a state of being which I hope to celebrate when the place I am living and the place I feel at home will be the same – Israel.
Then and there the covenant of fate and the covenant of destiny will be one.
Jan Katzew serves as Director of Service Learning at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati. Prior to his move to Cincinnati, Jan served as Director of Lifelong Learning at the Union for Reform Judaism. Jan is a rabbi and he earned his doctorate at Hebrew University in Jewish Thought and Education. His relationship to Israel is more personal than professional and more emotional than intellectual. Nevertheless, he has a deep and longstanding commitment to Israel engagement for Jews at all ages, stages, and settings.