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Blessings of home 

November 2015

I entered my childhood home for the first time 50 years ago—to be precise, on Nov. 1, 1965. I remember only sketchy details of my grandparents bringing three-year-old me and my brothers at night to our new home, where my parents greeted us with excitement and delight. So I guess my first and remaining impression of my family’s home was light and a warm embrace. To this day, when I enter 95 South Madison Ave. in Rockland County, NY, I immediately feel welcomed, comforted, and, yes, loved. I often wonder: Is there more to a house than the eye can see? We have all heard: “If the walls could only talk…” Do our homes indeed hold memories of cherished family events, do they embody the soul of a family? Do the furniture in the rooms, pictures on the walls, curtains on the windows, knick-knacks on the tables represent comfort and continuity in more than a physical way. In my family home, the memories are palpable in every room — even though, since my father still lives there, things have changed since my childhood. I find that although things may change physically — fresh paint, some new furniture —the spirit remains of a place that has been the site of life’s treasured milestones and even sorrowful events: birthdays, holidays, bar and bat mitzvah open houses, grandparents ‘wedding vow renewal, sickness, worry, and shiva. Life’s ups and downs have occurred in this structure and the walls have borne witness to the full range of emotions. So I take to heart the words of the “Birkat Habayit” — “A Blessing for the Home” that greet me when I enter the house on South Madison Avenue. Blessing for the Home Let no sadness come through this gate, Let no trouble come to this dwelling, Let no fear come through this door, Let no conflict be in this place, Let this home be filled with the blessing of joy, and peace. If this lovely prayer is seen as one enters a home, it’s clear that these are the hopes and dreams of the family. But we know that for every family — especially as we experience very age and stage of development — sadness, trouble, fear, or conflict are bound to occur. So why have this prayer? It reminds us of the goals we strive to achieve, our motivations and dreams for our lives and the lives of our loved ones. We almost certainly will face challenges, and thankfully, with a roof over our heads and family and friends to support us, the sting of these challenges is easier to bear. In a way, for me, without the challenges, the appreciation I feel for most of the 50years of my family home —years filled with blessings of joy and peace — could not be felt as strongly. And so this November I feel blessed that for the majority of my life this home has provided warmth and love and still does provide that for my father. Both my parents, for different reasons, had nomadic lives before they married. To make their life together in a permanent dwelling was indeed an accomplishment and one to praise. In Psalm 27 we read, “One thing I ask of the Lord, for this I yearn: To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold His beauty, to pray in his sanctuary.” This psalm refers to the Temple, but our homes hold the presence of God and can be the holy space we seek. May we not take for granted our dwelling places, the houses or apartments that become our homes through the years, filled with memories and events that mark these sacred places and elevate them into holy space. Happy 50th, 95South Madison Ave.! B’Shalom, Susan Werk, Educational Director

April 19,2024 /  11 Nisan 5784