In Mishpatim, this week’s Torah portion, we read one of the many times in the about how we are supposed to treat the stranger. There we read:
And a stranger you shall not wrong, neither shalt you oppress him; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way–for if they cry at all unto Me, I will surely hear their cry– My wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. (Exodus 22:20-23)
We are charged to look out for the needs of the stranger for the very reason that we had the same experience. On this Rashi commented:
for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: If you taunt him, he can also taunt you and say to you, “You too emanate from strangers.” Do not reproach your neighbor with a fault that is also yours (Mechilta, B.M. 59b). Every expression of a stranger (גֵּר) means a person who was not born in that country but has come from another country to sojourn there.
The fact that our national story is born in Diaspora in Egypt means that we have a mandate to relate to other strangers. In light of this I wanted to share these images:
We cannot just through our hands up and say that the racial issues in this country are not our problems. We too need to put our hands up and work with those who are estranged by the systems power. We need to do our part to enact a rule of law that treats everyone equally.
In the words of Common in the song Glory from Selma:
Justice for all just ain’t specific enough
That’s why Rosa sat on the bus
That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up
When it go down we woman and man up
They say, “Stay down” and we stand up
We are either part of the solution or we are part of the problem.