The foreigner

The foreigner
by Lilian van der WelShalom, dear children!

This month one of the things about which you can read in the Bible is caring for the foreigner. We learn that we should behave right towards the foreigner. In this scripture are two commandments about taking care of the foreigner: in Shemot/ Exodus chapter 22 verse 21 (verse 20 in the Hebrew Bible ) and chapter 23 verse 9. In fact, they are prohibitions. You are not to wrong nor oppress the foreigner. And that is because we ourselves have also been foreigners in the land of Egypt. Throughout the Bible there are many mitsvot (instructions) about the foreigner (as many as 36 places). It is very special that both commandments and prohibitions are given about this matter. Why?

In the Bible it is made very clear that also non-Jews should be welcome to the people of Israel. If you are new somewhere, you still have to learn everything. There should be room for that. Now and then, congregations are also visited by new people, who are not familiar with the customs of that particular place. They need to feel welcome. That has to do with caring. And we should handle the foreigner justly. To do that, we need to remember what it was like to be oppressed, in order to know how that this would be if anyone would suffer this because of us. When the people of Israel lived in slavery in Egypt, the people were not allowed to choose what they themselves wanted to do.

They had to live according to the instructions of the Egyptians, and eat the things they were given to eat by them. And Egypt served other gods. In this way it was made very difficult to serve Hashem over there. They were not able to do their Jewish things anymore.
This way, the people had no freedom living among the Egyptians. So it is not for no reason that in the Tora is written so many times about behaving right towards the foreigner. We have to consider that what we do has to be right. Often actions are more impressive than words. We cannot speak the loving words of the Tora and scaring the foreigner away at the same time.Someone who has been oppressed in the past, is running a slightly greater risk
of becoming an oppressor himself. Some children are bullied severely and then it can happen that being somewhere else they become a bully themselves. It does not sound that logical, but very often it does work that way. So it is very important to remember that oppression is good to no-one, because it has severe consequences. Children who are bullied often become fearful and insecure. In some cases they stay that way when they grow up.

So think very carefully how you behave towards your friends. Vajikra / Leviticus 25 verse 23 says that Hashem says that the land belongs to Him and that every member of the people of Israel is only a foreigner and a temporary resident with Him. Thus it is made clear that no-one can think he is better than someone else. Jews and foreigners, they should take good care of one another.Text to remember: Hear my prayer, Adonai, Listen to my cry, don’t be deaf  to my weeping; for with you, I am just a traveler passing through, like all my ancestors. (Tehillim/ Psalm 39:13)