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Mishpatim and taking care of the stranger

01/30/2019 01:57:45 PM

Jan30

Kim Bodemeer

In last week’s Torah portion, we had the dramatic scene of the revelation at Mount Sinai. There was thunder. There was lightning. There was smoke. You couldn’t help but pay attention. This week’s portion, Mishpatim, is much less dramatic, but equally important in the formation of the Jewish people. The Torah portion begins with the words, “And these are the laws that you shall set before them…” and goes on to list commandments or rules that the Israelites should live by. These rules outline among other things, the navigation of relationships, compensation when a person has been wronged and devotion to God. In reading through this list of commandments, one stood out - “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)
In today’s world, we are often bombarded by messages that are contrary to this teaching – these messages are that we should “fear” the stranger and keep him or her at arm’s length. Our tradition challenges us to push back - to be empathetic and to connect with their plight. The commandments to love and not oppress the stranger are the most repeated commandments in our tradition, appearing 36 times. Temple Shalom takes this commandment seriously.
The Temple’s Tzedek Taskforce has made immigrant and refugee rights a priority in their work and earlier this month, SHACHARIT families had the chance to pack backpacks for released detainees, offering not only much needed items, but also notes of support and love. How are you actualizing this commandment in your life?

Kim Bodemer is the Temple Shalom Director of Education and Youth Engagement

Thu, April 25 2019 20 Nisan 5779