February 10, 2019

FAITH OR nATIONALISM?:

Loving the stranger (Mishpatim 5779): The Torah implies that the only counterweight to the powerful hatred of xenophobia is personal identification (Jonathan Sacks, JAN 31, 2019,Times of Israel)

There are commands that leap off the page by their sheer moral power. So it is in the case of the social legislation in Mishpatim. Amid the complex laws relating to the treatment of slaves, personal injury and property, one command in particular stands out, by virtue of its repetition (it appears twice in our parsha), and the historical-psychological reasoning that lies behind it:

Do not ill-treat a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in Egypt. (Exodus 22:20)

Do not oppress a stranger; you yourselves know how it feels to be a stranger [literally, "you know the soul of a stranger"], because you were strangers in Egypt. (Ex. 23:9)

Mishpatim contains many laws of social justice - against taking advantage of a widow or orphan, for example, or charging interest on a loan to a fellow member of the covenantal community, against bribery and injustice, and so on. The first and last of these laws, however, is the repeated command against harming a ger, a "stranger." Clearly something fundamental is at stake in the Torah's vision of a just and gracious social order. [...]

Whatever the precise number, the repetition throughout the Mosaic books is remarkable. Sometimes the stranger is mentioned along with the poor; at others, with the widow and orphan. On several occasions the Torah specifies: "You shall have the same law for the stranger as for the native-born."[2] Not only must the stranger not be wronged; he or she must be included in the positive welfare provisions of Israelite/ Jewish society. But the law goes beyond this; the stranger must be loved:

When a stranger lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The stranger living with you must be treated as one of your native- born. Love him as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 19:33-34)

This provision appears in the same chapter as the command, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). Later, in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses makes it clear that this is the attribute of God Himself:

"For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are strangers, for you yourselves were strangers in Egypt." (Deut. 10:17-19)



Posted by at February 10, 2019 7:45 AM

  

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