Reposted with thanks to Craig Taubman and Jewels of Elul 

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 founder and spiritual leader of IKAR in Los Angeles, 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. Sharon has also served as Wexner faculty, for which we are very grateful. 

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