“?לאן,” [To where?] the taxi driver at Ben-Gurion Airport asks me.
“בירושלים העתיקה עיר .לדך משגב וחמש עשרים,” [25 Misgav Ladach. The Old City of Jerusalem] I say.
After ten minutes, “?שם גר אתה” [Do you live here?].
But it’s home, I think to myself.
As alumni return on a sort of pilgrimage back to Orayta, the notion of home keeps popping up. We leave home, or at least our houses, to come to Israel. All our friends are posting on Facebook things like “Going home at Newark Airport” or “Finally home!” attached to a picture at the Kotel as they visit Israel during their winter breaks or respective alumni weeks. We reminisce about what it means to call the Old City of Jerusalem “home” for a year, and we tell the current students why we still call Orayta and the Old City “home.” What is, exactly, home?
Modern songwriters have attempted answers to his question. For Eric Church, in his “Carolina,” home is a physical place. Home may be the small and crowded but homey Orayta dorms, the Orayta roof and its view of the Kotel, or the slippery stones of the Old City. For Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in “Home,” home is about the people who surround you. Home is getting yelled at by Rav Yair about the parsha, getting a nickname from Rav Blau, or talking Heschel with a friend you haven’t seen in six months. Home can be the collection of experience, and Miranda Lambert tries to tap back into that experience in “The House that Built Me.” Home is a facet of Berkeley’s subjective idealism, a ‘mental state’ per se, and as alumni return they attempt to return to the ‘mental state’ they had while sitting in Rav Binny’s Rambam shiurim or Rabbi Aaron’s Emunah shiurim.
Coming home and reuniting with my friends from last year is not only about being in the same room once again; it is about reuniting in our shared value structure, the Torah of Am Yisrael and the unique Torah of Orayta, in our eternal homeland, Eretz Yisrael. Whether home a physical place, a group of people, or an experience, there is one thing that everyone participating in this year’s alumni week can agree upon: It’s good to be home.