• Jodi Samuels

Home is Where the Heart is


I met Gavin when I was 18 on a street corner in Jerusalem. He was lost and asked if I could speak English. The rest is history.


We had no money and wanted to make aliya - move to Israel. Gavin had student loans from medical school so we decided to go to outback places in Australia and New Zealand where Gavin worked with the Flying Doctor Service. Think of the show Northern Exposure where the doctor flies into remote communities and brings with him mail, pharmacy prescriptions and - in those days - exchange video cassettes!


Within 7 years, I lived in 27 apartments in 9 different locations. We finally made it to Sydney and I finished my university undergraduate and masters degrees in Australia. After going to university in Australia I felt Australian. Then we won Green Cards to move to the United States. Our stay in Manhattan was supposed to last 2 years, but it lasted 14 years instead. When we got married we had a 2 year plan to move to Israel. Finally, after 20 plus 2 years, we moved to the Holy Land.


Then my identity crisis started. I was finally “home” and I was lost. I don’t feel Israeli, I loved living in New York but I never felt American and over the years I stopped feeling Australian or South African. I hold citizenship to all places, yet no place feels like home. I realized “home is where the heart is.”


In this week's Torah portion Balak, we learn how Bilam is hired by the king of Moab to curse the Jewish people, and how that curse is transformed into words of blessing: "How good are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel," says the parsha. "Stretching out like brooks, like gardens by a river." (Numbers 24:5-6).


The sages explain that the tents are the homes that hold our values. It’s not talking about fancy homes or specific countries but the internal quality of our homes. For 2000 years the Jewish home kept the wandering Jews in exile Jewish. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z'l stated, “We begin to achieve greatness where we pass on our values to the next generation.”


Shabbat shalom