Lessons from the Land of Egypt

A story is told that when a gentile came to the great Hillel and said, “Teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot,” Hillel replied, “That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others. All the rest is commentary. Now go and learn!”

The Torah also commands us, v’ahavta l’ray-acha kamocha, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Pharaoh didn’t get either of those memos, so to speak, and the Israelites lived under Egyptian slavery and oppression for 400 years, a land where they were gerim, which we can translate as “strangers,” “resident aliens” or “immigrants.”

In addition to loving our neighbor, the Torah commands us to be sure to care for a variety of groups that had likely been marginalized in the ancient world; the poor, the orphan, the widow and the stranger. As just one example of many, Exodus 22:20 commands, “You shall not wrong a ger (stranger) nor shall you oppress him, for you were gerim (strangers) in the land of Egypt.”

How are we doing with this? Are we living up to the values and ethics laid out in the Torah about caring for others? If we have a widowed friend, do we include him or her in social activities where there are mostly couples? Do we allot sufficient tzedaka resources to organizations and agencies that support the poor among us, or do we pretend they’re not really there?

And what about the ger, the stranger, the person who is different from us? Immigration to the US began before the Mayflower brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth Rock because this “new world” was seen as a haven for those seeking everything from freedom from religious persecution to greater economic opportunity in an untapped land. The United States still has so much to offer residents and strangers alike. Together we made this country what it is, and I have no doubt that together we can form an even more perfect union.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Sermons

Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun
Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun

Yom Kippur 5783 Like many of the quotes and poems that make their way into use, a poem attributed to an anonymous person in a concentration camp, or in hiding, became somewhat of an urban legend, and has often been taken out of context, as well as not accurately...

Kindness

Kol Nidre, 5783 On Rosh Hashanah, we began our prayers in the hopes of moving God, the Holy Blessed One, from kisei din, the throne or seat of judgment, to kisei rachamim, the throne or seat of compassion. Ten days later, here we are at the eve of Yom Kippur,...

Shema: Listening, Hearing and the Shofar

Rosh Hashanah 5783, Day 2 The word, “Shema.” What do you think of when you hear it? Usually, we think of “The Shema” as the verses we chant or sing from the book of Devarim, Deuteronomy, and in that context, it’s a bold theological statement. It is an idea which goes...

Latest Midrash HaZak

Bo: Telling Our Story, Enhancing our Senses
Bo: Telling Our Story, Enhancing our Senses

Bo: Telling Our Story, Enhancing our Senses Rabbi Sue Live Elwell When we turn to the texts that have accompanied many throughout the days of their lives, we look for directional signs that may be useful to us as we navigate our final days and years. As we age, we...

Emor: Questioning The Status Quo
Emor: Questioning The Status Quo

Emor: Questioning The Status Quo Dr. Betsy Stone I am fascinated by this parsha, with its juxtaposition of HOLY days and UNHOLY people. Emor begins by telling us how a Kohen may be defiled/ritually impure–by visiting a graveyard, shaving parts of their heads or...

Miketz: Preparing For Life’s Journey
Miketz: Preparing For Life’s Journey

Miketz: Preparing for Life's Journey Rabbi Dayle Friedman In Parashat Miketz, we encounter Joseph as a person growing in wisdom. For the third time in his life, he is moved to interpret a pair of dreams. As a youth, Joseph reports two dreams in which he is a center of...

Latest Personal Blogs

Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem
Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem

This past week, I participated in a Ritualwell class with Alden Solovy on "Writing From One Word of Torah." I distilled 3 stream-of-consciousness prompts on the word "Baruch/Berekh," the root of which can mean "blessing' and "knee, into this poem. Blessing my bended...

The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives
The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives

Photo: publicdomainpictures.net The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives An email from My Jewish Learning about “A Woman of Valor” prompted me to pivot the next evening’s planned adult learning session to looking at these 22 verses from Mishlei, the Book of Proverbs. These verses...

Live Long and Prosper?
Live Long and Prosper?

By Oklahoma Heritage Association, Gaylord-Pickens Museum - Author, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25656727 Live Long and Prosper? January 5, 2022 began the third year of the seven and a half-year cycle of Daf Yomi, the practice of...

Pin It on Pinterest