The Torah begins with the letter bet, the same letter that begins bayit in Hebrew, home. Some have taken this as a signal – here is your home, in the Torah. Yet it is an uneasy home, full of wandering, perplexity and challenge.
Such unease is part of the true nature of home. Commenting on the phrase ger toshav, ‘stranger-resident’ the Maggid of Dubno explains we should all feel both comfortable in the world and out of place in it, like residents and like strangers. Echoing this insight is the philosopher Adorno: “The highest form of morality is not to feel at home in one’s own home.”
The realization that things are not entirely safe, or perfect, is one that everyone in the world acknowledges in a time of pandemic. But even in normal times there is no place of perfect safety, and the awakened spirit hears the low hum of peril beneath everyday life. Therefore we are energized to make things better, to take care of one another, to improve the world. If home is flawless we need not repair and to grow. This is an unredeemed world, an imperfect home; so we have much work to do.