No Less Than Thirty-Six*
The amount of times the Torah commands us to care for, protect, or support the stranger. More than any other mitzvah.
When the professor of a class turns to the board (chalk, white, or Smart) and writes something down, you can be certain it is going to appear on the final. Literary repetition in the Bible is God’s Smartboard and will most certainly be on the Test. Though the phrasing may reflect word changes, the thematic repetition as a narrative tool indicates the importance of this leitmotif. God is really, REALLY serious about the treatment of strangers.
An undercurrent of hate and fear in this country has surged forth in recent weeks with the passage of an illegal-immigration bill, signed into law, in the state of Arizona. While the country was busy debating the constitutionality and humanity of Arizona SB 1070, also known as the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” the Arizona Department of Education ordered school districts to remove from the classroom teachers whose English was heavily-accented or whose speech is ungrammatical.
Yes, we have immigration laws that must be upheld. Yes, it is important that our children have teachers who model proper grammar. But the way in which these laws and policies are being written and implemented leave little question as to the motivation driving them.
Hatred of the other. The stranger. The immigrant. The alien. The man with dark skin. The woman who swallows “the ending sounds of words, as they sometimes do in Spanish.” It’s not the Caucasian man born in Europe. Or the woman from South Carolina.
The drug trafficking that makes its way across the border is a legitimate concern. As is the manner in which we attempt to control it.
As this issue continues to be debated in the public arena, let us not forget that we too were “strangers in a strange land.” Throughout most of our history. Rashi suggests that when the Torah says “you know the feelings of the stranger,” it is the recollection of our painful experience in Mitzrayim that instructs us to “know how painful it is when (we) oppress him” (Comment on Exodus 22:20, 23:9).
Mere days remain before we stand again at Sinai. Now is the time to heed God’s Call. Now is the time to take God’s Test.
Please take a moment and sign an Open Letter Supporting Humane Immigration Reform. It was drafted by Justice Team members from IKAR.
*36, 33, 24 — different sources share different numbers.