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Where are you from?

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil
March 9, 2017

It’s the middle of the coldest January in 50 years. Two friends are sitting in a bar in Saskatchewan – Canada, arguing over their vacation plans. Today is the beginning of their holidays, and they still haven’t decided where they’re going. Finally one of them stands up, and says, “OK. Here’s the thing. We want to go someplace hot. We want to get as far away from Saskatchewan as we can get. Let’s get a globe!” So they procure a globe, and placing a finger on Saskatchewan, they turn it over and look. Australia seems to be as far away from Saskatchewan as you can get, so they decide that’s where they’re going.

Still in their parkas and sealskin mitts, they head to the airport and climb on a plane. The next day, they arrive in Sydney. They decide, just for devilment, that they’re going to fly (still in their parkas) to the middle of the outback. They want to see the looks on the locals’ faces when they walk into the local hotel.

They arrive and go to the coffee shop for a drink. At their table, they remove their sealskin mitts, pull back their hoods, and order a tea. Conversation in the coffee shop has come to a standstill, for the time being. After some time, and much elbowing, one of the local crowd weaves his way over to the Canadians’ table.

“G’day, mates!” he pipes up cheerily. “This crowd of clowns at the next table want to know where you’re from.”

“Saskatoon,Saskatchewan” the Canadians replied.

The Aussie made his way back to his own table. “So, where are they from?” his friends demanded. “I dunno,” he replied. “They didn’t speak English.”

Where are you from?

Many of us have can trace our ancestors to different parts of the world. Perhaps your grandparents are from Europe, the Middle East, America, Asia or even Africa.

As Jews we have been nomads in the world since the destruction of our Holy Temple nearly two thousand years ago.

There are two words in Hebrew used to describe living/dwelling: גר and דר.

One who lives in London would say: I “גר” in London. I live in London.

When Yaakov’s family of 70 came down to Egypt due to the famine in Israel, Pharaoh asked them why they moved to Egypt.

They responded:

לָגּור בָארֶ ץ בָּ אנּו” – we have come to live in the land (Bereishit 47:4)

The word in Hebrew used to describe their desire to live in Egypt is לגור.

We can see from the rest of the Passuk their plan was to just temporarily live in Egypt until the famine passed over Kenaan. It was not supposed to be a permanent move, as it indeed turned out to be.

The root of the word לגור is גר – a foreigner, one who is not totally settled and comfortable with their surroundings.

גר” Ger,” also means convert, somebody who was not born Jewish and wasn’t “at home” with Judaism for a part of their life. Even after their conversion, whilst we hope they’ll feel at home as much as possible, there’re still a few special laws that only pertain to a convert, such as being extra sensitive to them and showing them more compassion and love, specific marriage laws, and so on.

Thus גר has the connotation of temporariness and of out of the ordinary/exception.

On the other hand the word דר has much more of a permanent connotation to it.

For example, an apartment is called a דירה.

In an attempt to explain the creation of the world, there’s a famous saying which says:

נתאוה הקב”ה להיות לו יתברך דירה בתחתונים

Hashem yearned for a “דירה-Dira” – a dwelling place, in the lower world(s) i.e. our world.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that just as a person residing in their own home resides in

their true nature and in all their essence, expressions, and appearances, so too Hashem yearned for a home in the lower worlds, in which he would be able to reside in all his essence, expressions, and appearances.

We see here too that דירה has the connotation of a permanent dwelling place.

Keeping this mind we can try to explain what the name of this month Adar means.

Hashem has many names and titles. One way in which he’s described, is as an א – Alef,

the אלופו של עולם, meaning, The General/beginner of the world.

The word in Hebrew used in the IDF for a major-general is (Aluf) אלוף for example.

On a very basic level, just like the letter Alef is the first letter and the “leader” of all the other letters, so too Hashem is the “Alef” of our world.


We live in a busy world in which we sometimes forget to designate the right honour to G-d. A world in which we forget to make him our constant number One!

If you visited my home the other day and were relating to others the features of my home, you probably wouldn’t take too much time to explain how I was there, and what I was doing there. It’s my home! Not much explanation needed.

On the other hand, in someone else’s home, I do stick out, and finding me there requires some mention and clarification.


אדר Adar, is a time when Hashem is an (Alef) א-דר ,an Alef who is דר ,living permanently amongst us! Hashem (the “Alef”) is so much at home during the Purim story, that he is not even mentioned as an unusual guest or character in the Megilah, BECAUSE he’s so much at home, he’s doesn’t stick out, it’s his “natural habitat!” There is not the story of Purim on one hand, and G-D on the other, which need to be connected to each other. They’re both one, and therefore there is no need to mention G-D!

Hashem is and always will be in control. This is the month in which that control radiates.

We read the Megilah which is Megaleh – reveals the true essence behind ‘natural’ events.

You might think these Saskatchewans don’t speak English, but in fact you are not assessing what is in front of you.

G-d desires an abode in this world and just like He is behind miraculous events in the Torah, He is behind our everyday life.

This is the month in which He is showing us He is at home with us.

It is up to us to search, seek and behold His Greatness – Can you see it?


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