This week’s parsha is Mishpatim and consists of 53 mitzvot, the promise of the Land of Israel to the Israelites and Moses ascending Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights. The parsha details God laying down the law to his children many of them specific, archaic and stringent. These include laws pertaining to murder, kidnapping and theft, many of which face capital punishment. Much of God’s legal outline is objectively callous and archaic. God’s arbitrary punishments and contradictions, in my eyes diminish his credibility as a credible moral source.
Despite the near impossibility for me to reconcile these laws with modern life I nonetheless take one particular message that stands out to me in my life, that speaks further than God laying down the law and refers explicitly to the Jewish people and their social responsibility. He says “And you shall not mistreat a stranger, nor shall you oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”.
This message is perhaps more relevant now than ever. The world is currently facing its biggest migration crisis since the end of the 2nd World War. This time it is not us Jews making our way across the European Continent, but it is the Syrians, Iraqis, etc who are seeking refuge from war, poverty and oppression.
To think that many members of our community were once in a similar situation, without a safe home makes it absolutely our responsibility to protect and support the refugees of the world, irrespective of their religion, race or sex (as quoted in the Israeli Declaration of Independence).
It should not be the position of the Jewish community to pander to public fear-mongering against the refugees of the world. The rise of right-wing populist politics in the Western world is leading us in the wrong direction. It is leading us towards hatred, discrimination and divisiveness. Even as much as raising donations for basic food and clothing to send to the Calais jungle and to refugees around the world is an example of a small but necessary part of individuals doing their bit. Both as a movement that believes in ‘Tikkun Olam’ (healing the world) and as equal members of British society, it is surely time for us as a community to stand in solidarity with the refugees.