“We don’t have any money,” Allison blurted out, “We can’t carry money today, otherwise we would give you some.”
I felt my cheeks redden for both of us as I looked at the homeless man’s face and waited for a response. How stupid it must seem to not carry money when we had plenty at home! Here we were voluntarily starving ourselves when he was begging money for food. I wondered if he would even believe us.
“I know,” he said with an interesting twinkle, “It’s y’all’s special day of atonement. What do you call it? Yom Kippur, isn’t that why you all are all dressed up?”
I was agape.
“Yeah, Yom Kippur…” Allison sounded similarly shocked.
“Now, I think that sounds like a pretty good idea, getting rid of all your sins at once like that. I heard about it before; I listen to a lot of religious talk. Where are you girls from?”
We struck up a conversation with the man and before long our discomfort started to subside. We had unthinkingly judged him, as people so often do, based upon his ragged clothes and apparent lack of money—and this was clearly a lesson in not judging other people. Allison asked if he wanted to come with us to break fast in a few hours, but he declined.
“You all don’t need to feel bad for me. I’m not really homeless, you see.”
We looked at him skeptically. Was he a con artist? Was he crazy?
“Oh, I don’t have a physical home, but I’m good with the Universe. My soul has a home within my body, so wherever I end up, I’ll be all right.”
To this day, I have never felt so humbled by such unexpected wisdom.
May we all find ourselves open to such wisdom during the High Holy Days, and may our fasts remind all of our souls of home.