“Immigrants!” “Foreigners!” “Refugees!” Be it the Brexit in the UK or the influx of migrants into German, recent events have led to xenophobia becoming a hot topic again. Extreme opinions being voiced on both sides of the argument often leave us struggling to know what the right choice is or how exactly we should relate to the strangers among us. It also forces us to ask ourselves some searching questions…
For us Jewish people, being a stranger or a foreigner is nothing new.
For us Jewish people, being a stranger or a foreigner is nothing new. Known as the ‘wandering people’, we’ve been going from town to town and country to country for the last couple of thousand years. We know what it’s like to be the foreigner and the outcast, even today. And yet despite our proness to wandering, God gives us some rather specific instructions of how to deal with the foreigner in our midst.
This week’s parasha, Ki Teitzei, picks up where we left off last week – poised to enter the Promised Land. It seems as if God is trying to be specific as possible in addressing a wide range of potential situations that we wil encounter in the Land. Ki Teitzei also deals with the important subject of how we treat the foreigner living in our midst – who is often grouped with those who are the most helpless – the widows and the orphans. God knows how hard it is for people to live in a strange country with different customs and a different language and so makes sure that we treat the foreigners in our midst with the utmost respect and care – just like we would treat orphans and widows. For those who wanted to join themselves to us, we had to consider them one of us. Why? Because we ourselves had been foreigners and outcasts in Egypt (See D’varim 24:17-18). We knew what it was like.
The irony behind God’s words to us through Moses is that one day, they would apply to Himself.
The irony behind God’s words to us through Moses is that one day, they would apply to Himself. One day, He would be the foreigner among us. One day, God, who was totally different to us was going to come to us, just as it is written in the prophet Yeshayahu/Isaiah: “In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Yeshayahu/Isaiah 40:3). How would we receive Him?
The answer is found in Yochanan/John 1:11: “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him”. When the Messiah Yeshua finally came, our people rejected him just as was prophesied in Yeshayahu/Isaiah 53:3-4: “He was despised and rejected by men…he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him…smitten by God…”
Reject the Messiah?! While it might seem oxymoronic for us to spurn the one we’ve been waiting for for so long it is actually not so illogical. We humans are fundamentally afraid of things that are unknown or different to us, or challenge our comfort. Our rejection of the Messiah was based on his challenge to our comfort and to being completely different to what we knew. It is really no different to our first parents’, Adam and Eve’s rejection of God’s authority over them. But instead of coming to pay us back for our rejection, God sent the Messiah to die for our sins and to rise from the dead in order to reconcile us to Himself! The message of the love of the Messiah is ultimately a message of loving the outcast and foreigner – us. For whether we like it or not, we all are in some way or another outcasts or foreigners before God – we have all corrupted ourselves and thrown off His authority over our lives.
Headlines in the news can sometimes cloud our vision or draw us away from the essence of what is really going on concerning xenophobia. And yet if we are willing to look at life from God’s perspective, we’ll see the truth that we are all foreigners and outcasts, looking for a safe place to call home. Thankfully, He’s already made that possible through the death and resurrection of the Messiah. We may have been rejected by people in the past, but He doesn’t reject us. In fact, He was willing to be rejected so that we can now be accepted. I’ve found my home. Have you?
God is a foreigner