to act to the foreigner within our gates as we would want to be treated in our homes: bringing books of the Koran to a mosque that have been vandalized.
Parashat Lech Lecha:
The road is long and winding, I fall down and get up
I’ll never stop walking, I fall down and get up
Cross a bridge and another bridge, I fall down and get up
The road is so long, but I stand firm and hold my head high.
(from the song Nofel VeKam (I fall down and get up) by Israeli rap band “Shabak Samech”)
1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.
5 He took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot… and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem…
8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel…
9 Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
10 and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.
19 Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!
20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had
3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel
11 … and Lot set out toward the east.
17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.
18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents.
13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own…”
16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here…
6 Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
8 And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress…”
Wandering, migration and feelings of foreignness accompany us throughout this entire Parasha and leaves us tired, exhausted. Everyone is moving all the time, fleeing, being exiled, going, returning…
I want to tell the text, “Give me a minute to breathe, a moment of quiet.”
Disquiet comes from the fear that the foreigner can be abused and exploited. There are those who own the land, and those who have no place.
Abraham leaves his home and birthplace on a new path, an educational mission.
And God, like a good educator, brings him and his descendants into a web of experiences, long periods of wandering and fleeing which will add up and be internalized, hopefully, in the nation’s DNA.
These experiences come to dwell within the system of Biblical law.
Here are a few examples:
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. (Leviticus 19:33)
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:18)
Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. (Deuteronomy 24:17)
Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.
Then all the people shall say, Amen! (Deuteronomy 27:19)
Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country. (Deuteronomy 23:8)
And also, what you hate, don’t do unto your peer.
Abraham’s journey teaches us that even if we are the landowners, we must remember the experience of migration and make sure to act to the foreigner within our gates as we would want to be treated in our homes.
To what extent are we meeting this challenge? To what extent are we implementing this lesson, the educational path which Abraham outlined for us?
May you have a peaceful Shabbat blessed with a feeling of home enveloping and protecting you.
Thank you to my friend Dr. Gabi Barzelai for his eye-opening and heartwarming comments.