When I taught high school English, my students would glean important messages and themes by looking for motifs – what phrases or ideas were repeated in the text? Repetition of ideas and concepts in text is a clue that it is important or central to the text.
In our holy text, “welcoming the stranger,” and variations on that theme appear at least 36 times, shaping our moral imperative to provide refuge and asylum to the oppressed. We can think of it as “paying it forward.” The Ramban interprets this directive as “… I avenged your cause on them, because I behold the tears of such who are oppressed and have no comforter, and on the side of their oppressors there is power… likewise, you shall not afflict the widow and the orphan for I will hear their cry.” As Jews, we are intimately familiar with the power structures that allow oppression to exist, and as Jews, we are obligated to upend these power structures as they exist. Today’s program explores the use of the federal budget as a reflection of our shared values of tikkun olam, b’tselem elohim, compassion and dignity.
Each person coming across our southern border has a story that is both universally shared and unique to them. The danger lies in viewing groups of people as a monolith, failing to see the humanity in each individual. We must guard ourselves from falling into the trap of prejudice, as commanded in Deuteronomy, “You shall seek information and investigate.” This means thinking critically and thoughtfully about how our asylum and refugee policies are enacted at our borders, and compel our elected officials to create a budget that honors our shared humanity.
[sources: sefaria.org, chabad.org]
[October 30, 2022 – Bend the Arc House Party, Welcoming the Stranger with a Moral Budget]