Finding Wholeness

What Does It Mean To Be At Home? A Different Kind of Shalom Bayit

When I walk into a room, whether that be at work or when I’m out and about, I often do so with my head down. I don’t want to draw attention to myself, or at least that’s the story I tell myself. When I lead services at shul (synagogue), where I work, I’m so mindful of not wanting to seem like I’m giving a performance. So, I sing “small.” I don’t open my mouth that wide, which makes it harder to sing, let alone well. I deflect compliments by cracking jokes, or denying the truth of the words the other person shared. 

Who does this serve though? How does acting small serve me, my community, those I’m trying to be a role model for, the world, and the impact I have to make in it? It could be a mix of genetics, environment, or learning, but I'm not recognizing that I am a piece of the Divine or that a piece of the Divine is in me. I'm not leaning into that potential and beauty enough. It’s been clouded by society's expectations around how women should act, or how young people don’t have as much value to add in certain spaces. How careful I feel like I need to be to prevent or protect myself from being put in uncomfortable circumstances. These stories, whether there’s context to them or not, do not serve us. 

While finishing a long walk one evening, a new idea came to me. I’m so busy trying not to act like I own the place. But being cocky is completely different than acting like I’m at HOME in certain spaces. What would it mean to act like I am at home? What would it look like to be truly authentic in my work, my personal life, my community, and, most importantly, my body?

What would it look like to inhabit the spaces I'm in? What would it look like to show up in my work, my personal life, my community, and — most importantly — my body?

In Judaism, there’s a Jewish value called shalom bayit. It’s often translated as peace in the home, referring to a physical home or family. Another translation for shalom is wholeness, coming from the root word shalem. What if I believed that bayit didn't just refer to the physical home, but to the home that is my body?" What does it mean to value wholeness in the home that is my body and space in this world?

Answering these questions has helped me open my mouth more when I sing, set clear boundaries with myself and others, and create a brave space to witness myself without judgment.

It’s helped me wear what I want to wear without putting as much value on what others might say and step into more spaces with my head up. 

It’s felt scary, freeing, daunting, and empowering. While I still struggle with fostering this sense of shalom bayit, I’m seeing and feeling the benefits in different aspects of my life. 

In the coming weeks, may each of us uncover and lean into creating and sustaining shalom bayit in our own lives — and help others do the same. 

At The Well uplifts many approaches to Jewish practice. Our community draws on ancient Jewish wisdom, sometimes adapting longstanding practices to more deeply support the well-being of women and nonbinary people. See this article’s sources below. We believe Torah (sacred teachings) are always unfolding to help answer the needs of the present moment.


Making Peace in the Family, PJ Library

What Does It Mean To Be At Home? A Different Kind of Shalom Bayit
Miriam Roochvarg
Miriam Roochvarg

Miriam Roochvarg (she/her/hers) loves exploring spirituality, emotional and mental health, and relationship-building through a Jewish lens. When she's not at work as Director of Jewish Learning and Programming, at a shul in Northern Virginia, you can find her exploring local coffee shops, writing about topics that move her, and enjoying potlucks with friends. For more content or to connect with Miriam, you can follow her on Instagram: @mindfullymiriam

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