Parshat Matot Masei: Appreciating the Struggles For Freedom
I am writing my weekly Torah portion blog on Monday, to highlight a personal fast I am undertaking today.
In the Torah portion of Masei , we read a dry and detailed list of all the places through which b’nai yisrael passed on the way to their Promised Land. Occasionally, the Torah includes a parenthetical detail about some incident, which occurred in a specific place. As boring as the list appears to be, the Torah offers a subtle message: The journey from Egypt to Israel would be challenging.
Israel would pass through communities hostile to them. They would struggle to maintain their optimism about the future; setting their sight on the ultimate goal of living in peace and freedom. Along the way, they met with hostile tribes, which threatened violence if the Israelites dared to pass throughout their territory. The journey to freedom was indeed a precarious and uncertain one.
We Jews have traveled on such journeys far too often. In our contemporary times that journey took us through the ghettos and concentration camps of Europe, through the oppressive dictatorships of the USSR and Arab lands, and through the prolonged civil wars of Ethiopia. We understand the pain and fear of being an unwanted stranger.
Today, other immigrant communities are experiencing their own precarious journeys. Naturally, our nation must legislate immigration laws which protect our society; yet present zero-tolerance policies are creating an atmosphere of fear and cruelty; far beyond the parameters of fairness.. I join my Rabbinic movement in opposing the zero-tolerance policy. I do so not out of partisan political conviction but out of loyalty to the Jewish traditions, which demand that we embrace the stranger in the spirit of fairness and compassion.
I am fasting today; to call attention to the 2400 children separated from their parents along the US Mexican border. Several organizations have joined to undertake a 24-day fast in their honor. The fast project is sponsored by Break Bread Not Families, an umbrella organization which includes both The Robert F Kennedy Human Rights and LUPE, a community union founded by the late Cesar Chavez. The fast is being joined by leaders and activists throughout the country. My modest participation is a way to recognize not only the children along the border, but to acknowledge centuries of Jews who — from biblical times through our own era — have endured the agonies of being a stranger.
An Early Shabbat Shalom,