Introduction to a Jewish Perspective on Sanctuary (T'ruah)

Haggadah Section: -- Exodus Story

Introduction to a Jewish Perspective on Sanctuary  T’ruah : The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Loving the (Stranger?): Leviticus 19:33-34
If a ger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do her/him wrong. The ger who sojourns with you shall be like the citizen among you, and you shall love the ger as yourself, for you were gerim in the land of Egypt. I, the ETERNAL, am your God.

For discussion:
- The biblical word ger can have a variety of meanings and is often translated as “stranger.” Biblical scholar Jacob Milgrom has explained the ger as someone who can no longer return to his original home and so lives in limbo as a quasi-part of someone else’s society. More recently, Rabbi Jason Rubenstein of Mechon Hadar has suggested that the opposition between “ ger ” and “ ezrach /citizen” suggests that the word must be understood as having political overtones (e.g., foreigner, minority, undocumented immigrant, refugee). Try inserting each of these translations, or another synonym of your choice, into the verses above. What effect does that have on your understanding of this commandment?
- How does Jews’ experience, past and present, of being outsiders shape your understanding of immigration issues today?

Hakhnasat Orchim : Welcoming Guests
Study the following series of texts on the theme of welcoming guests and consider it as a possible framework for Sanctuary. What is appealing about this framework? What is problematic about it?
Talmud Shabbat 127a
Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: Hospitality toward guests is greater than receiving the Divine Presence, as [when Abraham invited his guests in] it is written: “And he said: ETERNAL, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please pass not [from Your servant]” (Genesis 18:3).

Moshe Isserles (16th century, known as Rema), comment on Shulchan Aruch OH 333:1
They are only called guests if they are staying over at your house, or if you invite guests who are sleeping at someone else’s
house [i.e. they are from out of town]. But if you invite your friends to eat with you, they are not called guests, and the meal
has not the status of a ritual meal.

Talmud Sanhedrin 109a
Our Rabbis taught: The people of Sodom were proud because of the good that the Holy Blessed One gave them. What is written of them? Job 285-8: “Earth, out of which food grows, Is changed below as if into fire. Its rocks are a source of sapphires; It contains gold dust too. No bird of prey knows the path to it; The falcon’s eye has not gazed upon it. The proud beasts have not reached it; The lion has not crossed it.” (Trans: NJPS) They said: Since bread comes forth out of [our] earth, and it has the dust of gold, why should we suffer wayfarers, who come to us only to deplete our wealth? Come, let us abolish the practice [literally: the Torahs] of travelling in our land, as it says (Job 28:4): “They open up a shaft far from where men live, [In places] forgotten by wayfarers, Destitute of men, far removed.”

Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 24
Rabbi Yehudah says: They declared in Sodom that anyone who supports a poor or needy person with bread shall be
burned to death. Pleitat*, Lot’s daughter, was married to a leading citizen of the city. She saw a poor person passing in
the city street and felt grieved for him, as it says in Job, “Did I not grieve for the needy? (30:25)” What did she do? Each day,
when she went out to draw water, she would put in her pitcher some of every food she had in the house, and she would feed the poor person. The people of Sodom said: How is it that this poor person is still alive? When they learned of the matter, they took her out and burned her. [*Her name can mean “Refugee” or “Remnant.”]

For discussion:
- In what ways does the counter-example of Sodom remind you of rhetoric used against immigrants in America today? What are the flaws in this analogy?
- How does the final strike you as a portrait of Sanctuary? What does it illuminate for you? What questions does it raise?

T’ruah : The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

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