As thousands of Central American refugees walk toward the US border seeking asylum, some Americans anguish at the prospect of being "invaded" by "criminals" and others, at the prospect of the US Army and Border Patrol greeting them with gas, bullets, incarceration and deportation. When will our leaders and foreign governments create just policies to address this horrific human tragedy? Will cutting off foreign aid to countries of Central America stop the flow of refugees?
How we treat others in need is a major theme in this week's Parsha, Vayera. Abraham, sitting in front of his tent healing from his recent circumcision, looks up and sees three men standing before him. Forgetting his personal discomfort, he, immediately, jumps up and greets them urging them "take some water, bathe your feet and rest under the tree..." He then calls Sarah and, together, they prepare food for them. This is the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim, welcoming guests.
Later in the Parsha we learn of the story of Hagar, who along with Ishmael, is expelled from the tent of Sarah. They could no longer live in the same household. Hagar and Ishmael are now refugees. Abraham provides them with water and bread for their journey. The narrative then relates how God feels their pain, provides them with well water and promises that they too "will become a great nation."
In our tradition, we welcome the stranger and provide for refugees as Divine imperatives and Miztvhot. As we see in our country and throughout the world, to fulfill this moral and sacred imperative is challenging. Few countries have met this challenge successfully and courageously. Germany, with an ugly history of causing so much suffering and causing millions to become refugees, is making atonement. What the government of Israel continues to do to dominate another people, to relocate them, to demolish their homes is offensive to the teachings of Abraham, the teachings of Chesed and Loving-kindness. Let's not be afraid to talk about this. B'Shalom, Reb David