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There's No Place Like Home
Dorothy got it right in the end. There’s no place like home. Home is where we start our traditions, our Jewish traditions. At home, we also make everyday choices, from the way we observe the religious holidays to the way we practice as Jews. Home is where we decide what is really important to our lives and to the lives of our families. So…what do the Wizard of Oz and Shavuot have in common?

Shavuot is the season of giving. It is when we were given The Torah, and the important Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments offer us the standard for ethical Jewish living and are considered the standard teaching guidelines for all homes. For example, in the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s home became swallowed up by a tornado and spun out of control, like a person without a purpose or faith. Then, finally regaining its balance, the house lands with a thud in a beautiful paradise. At first glance, things in Oz seem perfect. But life isn’t perfect, and sometimes things aren’t as they seem on the surface. Dorothy, a stranger in a strange land, like the Jews, knew she had to continue on her own journey to search for her family and home, even confronting her fears, and as we all know from the story, a powerful witch. But she is never truly alone on her journey. She discovers friends to share and help her with her adventure. The lines of her unlikely friendship blur between old and new, and despite their apparent outward appearances and differences, they seek the same standards. Dorothy travels forward in time, good conquers evil, and she learns she could not lose what she had in her heart all along.

Shavuot is a festival of rejoicing and new beginnings. It is the time to decorate the home with greens, plant flowers, register for a Jewish study class or perform a mitzvah for the sake of the mitzvah. Time can too easily slip away from us. Life can pass you by if you wait for just the right time to act on an idea. Don’t wait to make your own Jewish traditions at home and to increase your Jewish IQ. Picture the wicked witch’s hourglass running out of sand as you read this... Let’s make each moment count, stand up and be counted, make time as special as possible throughout our lives, wherever we are, and call home. We have been given great gifts from G-d. Shavuot reminds us to rejoice not only in the giving of the Torah, but in the everyday miracles that ultimately enrich our lives and homes. “Over the rainbow” is within our grasp, because when we grasp even small parts of holiness, we can impact the world.

I’ve been thinking about things differently since I first began my exploration with the wonderful JLI classes taught by the inspiring Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pereira. As a Reform Jew who grew up in the 60’s, at first I was intimidated, but as I made the decision to improve my Jewish education through JLI, I realized how comfortable I felt, as if at home, among many new friends. Through JLI, I have made the time to gain new religious knowledge and develop spiritually. JLI has literally transformed me from an assimilated woman in Richmond, not unlike Kansas for Dorothy, to a more mature woman, with new-found knowledge of Oz. You can guess where I’m going with this. But the point is, I’m committed to working on my relationship with G-d, furthering my knowledge, becoming a better person.

The JLI classes have offered me the opportunity to now more carefully consider my life. I have come to realize that time and space are connected, and creation hasn’t stopped yet. It’s still expanding as I too change and transform in life. The name of the game is to improve ourselves, but there’s still much work to be done. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited by each day’s prospects, big and small. The yellow brick road may be long, it may twist and turn in all different directions, with the good and bad, and with some unexpected surprises along the way, but nevertheless, my life is an exciting journey. Like Dorothy, I know home is what I make it, where I make it, and how I make it. Home is a state of mind. I don’t need the sparkly red shoes to bring me home. I’m already here. Home sweet home!

-Terry L. Schultz

Copyright 2007. Virginia Jewish Life Magazine.