A couple of days ago, my daughter Gabi left for Israel. I can tell from the photos posted on Facebook by her group leader that all is going well. In the next week or so, my three other children will depart for various lengths of time to go to summer camp. The house that has been our busy home for the past ten years will feel very different without them around. (Don’t worry – Jodi and I will figure out how to get through this ordeal!)
While the kids are all very excited for their adventures this summer, they can leave with smiles on their faces because they can be confident that their home will be waiting for them upon their return. The precious items in their rooms will be right where they left them (unless of, course, they left said items on the floor!). They will have a familiar and safe place to land upon the conclusion of their summer fun.
There are many interesting topics in the week’s double Torah portion – Mattot-Mas’ei. However, one theme is clearly the angst that the Israelites feel as a result of not being settled, of not having someplace to call home.
We see this manifested in the request made by the tribes of Reuven and Gad together with half of Menasheh. Without having seen the Land of Canaan which God promised to them, these two and a half tribes come to Moses and ask if they can settle east of the Promised Land. After years and years of wandering in the wilderness, they simply wanted someplace to call home. It’s understandable.
This concept leapt off the page of the Torah for me this week as I look around our synagogue building. We are hosting four families through Family Promise who have no place else to call home. The temporary shelter set up in our social hall is the closest thing that they have to a home this week.
What a wonderful mitzvah to be able to provide food and shelter for families going through a difficult stretch! If only they didn’t need our help and they had a place to call home.
Unfortunately, we know that there will always be people who need a little help from time to time. That is why our congregation’s participation in Family Promise is so important. When many congregations split up the responsibility – and within those congregations, many volunteers pitch in – the huge task becomes manageable. As our tradition teaches us “It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it (Pirkei Avot 2:16).”
We still need a few volunteers to complete the work of our hosting this week and next. We also need the ongoing support of as many members of our community as possible in order to give these families a home when they have no place else to call home.