The book of Exodus depicts the story of the ancient Israelites’ bondage in the land of Egypt and their liberation from that bondage to serve God in the wilderness. Of all of the Torah, this is one of the most important parts in our sacred narrative as a people. The words: “because you were slaves in the land of Egypt” underpin many of the mitzvot (commandments) that the Torah gives us, teaching us:
“You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. If you do mistreat them, I will heed their outcry as soon as they cry out to Me, and My anger shall blaze forth and I will put you to the sword, and your own wives shall become widows and your children orphans. (Exodus 22:20-23)
This winter, I was once again proud to sign a letter to Congress in support of welcoming refugees into America. You can see that statement here: http://www.hias.org/1500-rabbis-sign-national-letter-calling-welcoming-refugees.
Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes: “Judaism… calls on us to love others for their own sake, in the integrity of their otherness. Judaism teaches that God grants a place in heaven to those whose religion is not the same as ours. God asks us to be true to our faith while being a blessing to others regardless of their faith. God tells us never to forget what it feels like to be a slave, to be poor, to be homeless… The greatest of [God’s] commands, the simplest yet the hardest, is this: Love the stranger. In an age of clashing civilizations, that is a vital insight.” (Future Tense: Jews, Judaism, and Israel in the Twenty-first Century, p. 83b)
I urge us all to embody the fundamental Jewish values of welcoming the stranger, looking after the weakest members of our society, and treating all humanity as created in God’s image. I urge us to act as God’s partner to help bring our country to a place of compassion and caring for all, and for all who are fleeing for their lives from countries where war is wreaking havoc on families and children. I remind us that every single member and friend of our congregation descends from those who came here from other countries, fleeing parts of the world that were unkind of and oppressive to Jews, seeking better lives in America for their children and grandchildren. We are those children and grandchildren, and have an obligation to keep the welcome mat out for those who come behind us.
I welcome your comments on and responses to Judaism’s call for social justice. I look forward to discussing these important issues with you. I can be reached at email@example.com.
Mussar continues to be the topic of our Saturday Lunch and Learn sessions. This practice helps us to be the best versions of ourselves and become more of the solution to a troubled world. Please do consider joining the group. Lunch and Learn meets on Saturday February 11th and 25th at noon. Please bring a non-meat, non-shellfish dish for yourself or to share. Email me to receive the handouts in advance.
Torah Study meets on Saturday February 11th and 25th. Coffee and Schmooze starts at 9:00 am; we begin our studies at 9:30 am. Shabbat Services take place on February 10th at 7:30 PM, and at 6:00 PM on February 24th, followed by our monthly potluck dinner at 7:00 PM. We are in need of more “potluck people” to participate in set-up and clean-up. Please let Ken know if you can participate.
As always, you can reach me with questions and concerns at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to seeing you soon!!
Kol tuv (wishing you all goodness), Rabbi Molly Karp