21/22 February 2020, 26/27 Shvat 5780

Humanity has been well used to expressing suspicion and even hatred for those other than us.

We naturally cleave to and feel comfortable with those who feel like us. The eugenics conversation entering Downing Street this week echoes such ideas.

Humanity’s greatest crimes have been committed against the outsider, the stranger. We have seen the casualties of this for centuries. So it is all the more arresting to read:

“You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger: You were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 23:9).

It cuts through all the other verses in this week’s portion as it should; a clear-eyed focus on what matters. 36 times this verses is repeated in various forms in the Torah. It seems to remind there is always a choice how to think, believe, speak and behave. I appreciate its simplicity even when other messages and texts around it are not.

Empathy was and is a Jewish commandment.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom