December 7, 2023 /
As these last few weeks have unfolded, many of us have looked out onto our American landscape and wondered, “how do I make sense of what is happening, how do we move forward?” Many of us have found great dismay over what has been happening to families crossing the border and have been appalled with how our country has treated some of the most vulnerable of the world. In truth, this practice has been happening for a long time and has transcended presidential administrations, and I wish we had been appalled sooner.
My answers to your questions are that we should respond as Jews. We should look past party lines and go back to our tradition. One of the first lessons we learn about humanity is that we are all created Betzelem Elohim, in the image of God. Each one of us has the Divine Spark within, and each one of us has the capacity for holiness. Yes, I do believe that we have serious immigration issues in our country and we have laws that are not capable of dealing with them appropriately. I also believe that there are many ways that we may go about solving them and that each one of us is entitled to our own answers on how to do it. I will not engage in that political debate. What I will call on us to do is to remember the religious and ethical imperatives that our tradition has taught us; that each one of us, no matter our stature, should be treated with dignity and respect.
I call on all of us, when we engage in these debates, to do so as a machloket b’shem shamayim, a debate not for our own sake or glory or even political victory, but rather for the sake of heaven. In having this debate, we should treat each other with dignity and respect and not as enemies. And, as we engage in these debates, we should remember that the outcome affects real human beings.
I am sure as the weeks, months, and years progress we will be up in arms about other actions as well. When we find ourselves in these situations again, as we do right now, let us continually ask ourselves, “what does our faith dictate from us and how should we encounter one another as a Jew?”
Philip N. Bazeley