Elul 1: Rabbi Sharon Brous ~ My First Roommate

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I was young and earnest with a dream summer internship at the Justice Department, living in dorms crowded with college kids from around the country. My roommate was coming a week late and I anxiously awaited her arrival, certain we’d be best friends forever. Way too early one morning, there was a knock on my door. “Hi. I’m your roommate” she said coolly, pushing past me. “So happy to finally meet you!” I said. “Where are you working this summer?” No answer. “Have you lived in DC before?” Still no answer. “There’re some great people on our floor – I’d love to introduce you …” She wouldn’t even make eye contact with me! My face started to burn – I turned and walked out of the room, embarrassed by what an easy cry I was. I called my folks, convinced that this was going to be the worst summer of my life. Should I try to switch rooms? Get an apartment? Pack up and escape back to New York?

I avoided the dorms until late that night, and when I finally returned I was relieved to see that the lights were out and nightmare roommate was sound asleep. As I tiptoed in, I noticed a note on my pillow:

I’m so sorry we didn’t have time to connect more today. My name is Cathy, and I’m working on the Hill. I just want to let you know that I’m deaf, so if I’m not looking directly at you, I won’t know that you’re talking to me. Sorry – should have mentioned that this morning – it’s always awkward when I meet new people. By the way, I saw that you’re reading Invisible Man. That’s my favorite book! Can’t wait to get to know you this summer.

Al het she’hatanu l’fanekha – for the sin that I committed before You by assuming the worst of Your children. Please forgive me.


Rabbi Sharon Brous is the founding rabbi of IKAR, a spiritual community dedicated to reanimating Jewish life by standing at the intersection of soulful, inventive religious practice and a deep commitment to social justice. www.ikar-la.org