Pirke Avot 3:15--Rabbi Elazar of Modin said, one who desecrates sacred objects, one who disgraces the festivals, one who shames his fellow in public, one who annuls the covenant of our forefather Abraham, or one who interprets the Torah not in accordance with Jewish law — even if he has Torah [study] and good deeds, he has no share in the World to Come.
June 15, 2018
2 Tamuz 5778
Shabbat Korach Numbers 16:1-18:32
Yes! I am entering into the political fray again because of this awful decision of our government to separate children from their parents, to house them in makeshift detention centers, and to seemingly do this in the name of God or at least that is how our Attorney General Jeff Sessions framed it yesterday. This is how it was reported in The Forward:
“Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution,” Sessions said at a speech to law enforcement officers in Indiana. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.” When asked about Sessions’ quote at the daily White House press conference, Huckabee Sanders echoed the idea. “It is very biblical to enforce the law, that is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” she said.
I am not an expert on the New Testament, but this quote was taken so out of context. (Many quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Bible are used out of context which is another story.) The response to this poorly used quote has come from many religious leaders and organizations. First of all, the Bible, either Bible, is not the foundation of our legal system. Yes, many of our laws parallel the two texts, but the words of the Bible hold no legal place. In fact, using the text to justify a legal governmental decision may cross over the separation of church and state that we guard so closely. Danny Maseng wrote, “There is a reason for separation of church and state in America. It was done as much to protect religion from government oppression as it was to protect the government from religious oppression. We are all poorer when religion is used as an implement of destruction to wage political wars.”
The Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center posted a response to this deplorable action on its website (here is the link—I urge you to read it https://rac.org/blog/2018/06/13/jewish-organizations-trump-administration-families-belong-together. It concludes with the following:
Our Jewish faith demands of us concern for the stranger in our midst. Our own people’s history as “strangers” reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today and compels our commitment to an immigration system in this country that is compassionate and just. We urge you to immediately rescind the “zero tolerance” policy and uphold the values of family unity and justice on which our nation was built.
Their statement joins 26 other Jewish organizations together (the list is at the end) in condemning this action and looking around on the internet several Orthodox Jewish organizations offered condemnation as well.
The Torah tells us over and over again to take care of the stranger in our midst. Jewish teaching reminds us to value the stranger. In Leviticus 19:33-34 we read, “33When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. 34The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am Adonai your God.”
Do I have to remind you how children were torn from their mother’s arms during the Shoah? Do I need to remind you of detention camps? Not only were there camps in Europe, but we locked up those of Japanese heritage right here at home.
What is this fear our leaders have about immigrants? Yes, we should have legal immigration, but we also have the words of Emma Lazarus on our Statue of Liberty,
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Our nation is losing its moral values and its moral center. We should find ways to embrace those who want to come here. We should shelter those who need refuge from the atrocities they face at home. We should lift up the children and nurture them so that they can be proud of this country.
I know that I am all over the place, but I am angry at how we are treating the stranger. I am scared at the harm we are causing to the children. I am frustrated that our leaders are not working harder to find a solution. This has to end, and we need to find a better way.
When you light your Shabbat candles this evening light one for the children who are sleeping in makeshift shelters and crying for their mothers. Light the other candle for our leaders so that they can see what we are becoming as a nation.
Rabbi Jon Adland
- American Conference of Cantors
- American Jewish Committee (AJC)
- American Jewish World Service
- Anti-Defamation League
- B’nai B’rith International
- Bend the Arc Jewish Action
- Central Conference of American Rabbis
- Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
- Jewish Council for Public Affairs
- Jewish Labor Committee
- Jewish Women International
- Men of Reform Judaism
- National Association of Jewish Legislators
- National Council of Jewish Women
- Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies
- NFTY – The Reform Jewish Youth Movement
- Rabbinical Assembly
- Reconstructing Judaism
- Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
- The Workmen's Circle
- T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
- Union for Reform Judaism
- United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
- Uri L'Tzedek, The Orthodox Social Justice Movement
- Women of Reform Judaism