Traditional as well as modern Jewish works have a lot to say about our responsibilities to those who are viewed as outsiders in our society. Tonight's text study will center around five themes that emerge from these texts. As you read through the texts and consider the themes, ask yourself: Which issue resonates most with you? Which sparks your curiosity? You will have the opportunity to delve more deeply into whichever theme you most want to study.
(33) When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. (34) The 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 the LORD am your God.
1) These verses contain a number of mitsvot, or commandments. Some are positive (telling us what to do), while some are negative (telling us what not to do). How many different mitsvot do you see in these verses, and what are they?
2) The Torah provides us with the reasoning behind these laws. What is it? Why are these important things to do? Does this logic resonate with you? Why or why not?
1) What do you think it means that we "know the feelings of the stranger?" What exactly is it that Jews know or have experienced, and how might this translate into our treatment towards others?
2) The Torah includes the prohibition against oppressing the stranger 36 times! What makes strangers so vulnerable, and how might we be expected to prevent their oppression?
(יא) וְשָׂמַחְתָּ֞ לִפְנֵ֣י ׀ יקוק אֱלֹקֶ֗יךָ אַתָּ֨ה וּבִנְךָ֣ וּבִתֶּךָ֮ וְעַבְדְּךָ֣ וַאֲמָתֶךָ֒ וְהַלֵּוִי֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בִּשְׁעָרֶ֔יךָ וְהַגֵּ֛ר וְהַיָּת֥וֹם וְהָאַלְמָנָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּקִרְבֶּ֑ךָ בַּמָּק֗וֹם אֲשֶׁ֤ר יִבְחַר֙ יקוק אֱלֹקֶ֔יךָ לְשַׁכֵּ֥ן שְׁמ֖וֹ שָֽׁם׃ (יב) וְזָ֣כַרְתָּ֔ כִּי־עֶ֥בֶד הָיִ֖יתָ בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם וְשָׁמַרְתָּ֣ וְעָשִׂ֔יתָ אֶת־הַֽחֻקִּ֖ים הָאֵֽלֶּה׃ (פ)
(11) You shall rejoice before the Eternal your God with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite in your communities, and the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow in your midst, at the place where the Eternal your God will choose to establish God's name. (12) Bear in mind that you were slaves in Egypt, and take care to obey these laws.
1) In context, this verse describes the celebration of the holiday of Shavuot, but you can think about any festive occasion, Jewish or not, and imagine: How might it change your experience of a celebration to include all of these different categories of people?
2) What do you think is the connection between the commandment to have a very inclusive holiday celebration, and the need to remember that we were once slaves?
1) What might it look like to have one standard for both stranger and citizen - or to NOT have one standard for all? Can you think of historical or modern examples of laws that distinguish between populations?
2) What do you think is the connection between the commandment to have one standard and the information about God at the end of the verse?
(17) For the LORD your God is God supreme and Lord supreme, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who shows no favor and takes no bribe, (18) but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing.— (19) You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
1) What are we being asked to do in these verses, and why?
2) This is one of the sources that is referenced in texts that speak about the ways in which we might imitate God's attributes. What might taking on these characteristics look like in our lives?