Voices from the field

Moving Toward Shavu'ot

By Rabbi Jan Katzew

Originally published in 50 Days of Israel, April 17, 2014

When someone asks me “where is your home?” I equivocate.

US and Israeli flag waving“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 (brit goral, "a covenant of fate") and a ברית יעוד (brit yiud, "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 Shavu'ot. 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 Shavu'ot, 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.