Getting ready for Passover is much more than cleaning and throwing out chametz. There is a whole mindset that has to go with this process. If you’re doing it right, you are thinking about the exodus from Egypt… whether or not it really happened like it says in Torah. You should be thinking about being a stranger in a foreign land. The editors of Torah thought this was so important, so central to the core of being a Jew that the line is repeated at least 6 times:
- You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Ex. 22:20).
- You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the soul of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Ex.23:9).
- 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 (Lev.19:34).
- You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deut.10:19)
- You shall not hate an Egyptian, for you were stranger in his land (Deut.23:8).
- Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment (Deut. 24:22)
If you are a bible believer, you know these are not suggestions. If you’re Jewish, this was probably a big part of your growing up Jewish. If you’re Christian, you find the same sentiment in the books of your bible. It doesn’t much matter who said; it was said, it was inscribed, it was taught. You’d think we’d all get the message.
But we haven’t.
Last Friday at a visit to the border, Feckless Leader announced:
Our country is full. Can’t take you anymore.
Too bad First Nations of the Americas didn’t get to say that when the Spaniards, the British, the Portuguese, or the Dutch showed up. Mighta saved everyone a whole lotta pain if they hung up a sign, “Harbor lot full.”
Come to think of it, this whole world is a work of immigration in progress. It started in Africa and fanned out. We know this. This is science, genetics, and patterns of debris. Waves of migration created politics. It turned families into clans, clans into tribes, tribes into villages, villages into towns, towns into cities, and cities into nation states.
This country was built on immigration. In every generation a new ethnic group arrived, was bullied, was badly treated, and, for the most part, progressed past that. Some groups did better than others, but every non-First Nation person in this country started their sojourn in America as an immigrant. Saying this country is full is tantamount to saying that there’s no room for any more sand at the beach.
On this night, as I write this blog, Israel is poised to go to the polls in the morning in not dissimilar circumstances. They are facing possibly the most important election they have ever faced. Bibi’s continued alignment with Feckless Leader puts not just Israel at risk, but the diaspora as well. And while we may not have a vote in tomorrow’s election, we have a stake in the continued existence of the State of Israel.
We are at one of those pivotal moments in history. What happens in Israel is going to impact large parts of the world. If Bibi continues on as prime minister, a deeper wedge will be driven into Jewish life world over, and that would only fester. In the ultra-Orthodox quest to zealotry, they have shunned their own people, turned away the stranger, and have broken the most basic of mitzvot. And they want to structure the coalition that forms the next government…and enable Netanyahu to dash all hope of a respite from war. That is the opposite of what Pesach is about.
What happens here in the next few days as Feckless plays musical cabinet positions will drive a wedge deeper into the national character of this nation. The removal of Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen is long overdue, but her replacement, Kevin McAleenan, is considered to be an even greater hard-liner on immigration. But he has already friends in high places.
Stephen Miller, the lone man standing, is thought to be running this mockery of immigration control. Miller is the wicked son…the one who excludes himself from his own people:
What does the wicked son say? “What does this this mean to you?” To you and not to him. Since he excludes himself from the community, he has denied a basic principle of Judaism. You should shake him by saying to him: “It is for the sake of this, what G-d did for me when I left Egypt. For me and not for him. If he was there he would not have been redeemed.” The Passover Haggadah
For me and not for him.
This is the ultimate damnation, a fundamental excommunication not for heresy, not for scoffing G-d or some anti-religious act, but for excluding oneself from the community. This is self-inflicted. And that makes it powerfully evil and possibly unforgivable. This guy advocates for the separation of families at the border. He has been called a white nationalist and a racist. If you don’t remember, Stephen Miller was a sophomore at Duke when the lacrosse scandal erupted, and it was Miller’s face on the talking heads shows even before there were charges handed down. This is a guy who, if he had had been running immigration at the turn of the 19th century, would’ve turned away his own grandparents.
The kiddies will gather for the seders for the first time in several years. Senior Son and Mrs. Senior Son, who have always celebrated Passover in Milwaukee, will be here together for the very first time. First seder is with the extended family. It’s cousin time and watching the little cousins run amok makes me shimmer with happiness. Second seder night will have friends and family alike, and the conversation a little more freewheeling, and the topics meant for kids and adults alike. We will talk about welcoming people, about opening the doors of our hearts. We will talk about what we need to take when we leave Egypt.
And I am sure we will talk about what happens next in this country. We see what is happening…Pittsburgh, St. Cloud, and now, Norman, Oklahoma. Our heads are not in the sand. We are aware. We are vigilant. We are not delusional.
Yes, Passover is a time for deep cleaning the house, the kitchen, and our heads. This year, for me especially, this is a time to consider what all this mean to us. All of us. We truly all do come from one place. It’s time to remember that…just as we remember that we were strangers in the land of Egypt.