Foreign Relations: Ki Tetze 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How do we best resist making overgeneralizations about those who are different from us? Why is it tempting to draw inaccurate conclusions about how everyone in a particular group acts?

While the Torah doesn’t always take kindly to those in some foreign nations, a passage in our portion this week gives two groups the benefit of the doubt:

The Pitch: “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your kinsman. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land.” – Deuteronomy 23:8

Swing #1: “The expression Edomite (deriving as it does from adom; ‘red’) may be taken as an allegory for sin, for it is written in the Book of Isaiah (1:18): ‘Though your sins be red like crimson …’ Hence the Scriptural verse may be interpreted as follows: ‘Do not regard your sins as wasted threads of crimson, for you can turn them into your brothers by transforming them into merits through true repentance, and they will speak in your favor, as the Sages say: “Acts of insolence will become as merits for him.”’” – Yesod HaTorah

Swing #2: “On the subject of Edom, Bruce C. Cresson says that ‘it is scarcely hyperbolic to say that never a kind word is spoken about Edom in the Old Testament’ … Bert Dicou contends that Edom assumes the position of the representative of foreign nations deserving of divine judgment … [Roger] Syren classifies only Deuteronomy 2:4-6 and 23:7-8 as positive.” – Frank Anthony Spina, The Faith of the Outsider: Exclusion and Inclusion in the Biblical Story

Swing #3: “The word [ger] may be used of individuals or groups. Abraham was a ger at Hebron, and Moses in Midian. A man of Bethlehem went with his family to settle as a ger in Moab. The Israelites were gerim in Egypt.” – Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators seem to think that we need to make a special effort to welcome those of other nationalities? Are human beings instinctively suspicious of those who are different than us? Can this verse from the Torah be applied to the way that we treat foreigners, immigrants, and diverse populations within the United States?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: This Shabbat will be our second annual “Camp Shabbat”. On Saturday, August 25th, feel free to dress casually for services — ideally while wearing a t-shirt from a Jewish summer camp! We’ll be singing songs and doing other rituals to remind us of the best moments of the camp experience.

The Big Inning at the End: Welcoming the foreigner has benefited the game of baseball greatly. This year, a record-high 27 percent of Major Leaguers were born outside the United States.

Shabbat Shalom!