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Thanksgiving

The Commandment to Love and Help the Stranger

This week, the Israelites are instructed that after they enter the Promised Land and begin to farm it, each head of household is to fill a basket with the very first fruits produced there and bring it to Jerusalem. They are to bring the basket before the priest and recite a story that we read every year in our Pesach seders:

My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us. We cried out to the Eternal, the God of our ancestors, and the Eternal heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. The Eternal freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents, bringing us to this place and giving us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, Eternal One, have given me (Deuteronomy 26:5-10).

D'var Torah By: 
Caring for the Stranger in Our Midst
Davar Acher By: 
Jeremy R. Weisblatt

Rabbi Firestone captures and explains the meaning of one of the most important mitzvot found within our Torah — the command to care for the stranger within our midst. His commentary takes us through the numerous variations on this sacred charge and some of the practical ways our Torah instructed our ancestors, and the following generations, regarding this commandment. By showing the outside world how central caring for the stranger is to our community, our Torah aims to demonstrate the inclusiveness and kindness of the community of Israel. An important part of this commandment is something vital to our religious and communal life: it refers both to newly arrived strangers and those who are already in our midst, including the fatherless and the widow. Sadly, this inherent aspect of the commandment — to welcome, remember, and care for those already within our community — too often goes unmentioned.

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