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December 13, 2002 - Image 63

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-12-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Torah Portion

Respect For Family And Stranger
Are Both Ingrained In The Torah

(Abraham twice and Isaac) who are
afraid they will be killed so their
wives may be taken. We are also pre-
sented with the rape and kidnapping
with impunity of Dena, Jacob's
daughter, by the privileged son of the
king. Likewise, we see the treatment
n this week's Torah portion, we
of the strangers in the city of Sodom.
are presented with a resolution
These behaviors stand in sharp
of sorts of two major themes
contrast to the treatment of strangers
in the Book of Genesis. One of
by Abraham and even by Lot, as well
these themes is the strife within fam-
as by the continual demand of the
ilies, particularly between siblings.
Torah to "love the stranger"
The other motif is the victimization
(Leviticus 20:34).
of the vulnerable, particularly the
In fact, the Talmud
stranger.
("Baba Metzia" 59b)
From the story of the
counts 36 (or 46 according
very first brothers, Cain and
to another opinion) times
Abel, through the genera-
the Torah makes such a
tions of Isaac and Ishmael,
demand. Similarly, the
Jacob and Esau, Joseph and
Torah in many places pro-
his brothers, we have story
hibits the harassment of
after story of brotherly jeal-
the vulnerable (for example
ousy, conflict and hatred.
Exodus 23:20-23).
The very birth and names of
In our Torah portion,
the tribes of Israel reflect the
Joseph is reunited with his
RABBI
rivalry and jealousy of the -
family; it would seem with
ELIEZER
sisters Rachel and Leah. This
love and without rancor.
rivalry reaches a climax with
COHEN
Pharaoh, king of Egypt,
the conspiracy of his broth-
Special to the
very generously invites
ers to actually murder
Jewish News
them all to come to Egypt
Joseph — his survival is
even in the midst of the
assured only by the fortu-
famine. Perhaps this is
itous arrival of a caravan to whom he
what the Torah is referring to in
is sold as a slave.
Deuteronomy 23:8: "Do not abhor
It is only with Joseph's own sons,
the Egyptians because you were like a
Menashe and Ephraim, that we seem
stranger in his land."
to have no conflict between brothers,
The troubles portrayed in the sto-
even though the younger supplants
ries of Genesis are certainly caution-
the elder. Finally, with Moses and
ary tales, but even clearer and more
Aaron we have clearly demonstrated
to the point are the numerous areas
love and cooperation between broth-
in the commandments where we are
ers (even though Moses is the
prohibited from behaving improperly
younger) that would seem ideal.
toward one another, whether within
Whereas the narratives in Genesis
our own families, within our nation
relate those troubles, in the legal
or toward the outsider.
parts of the Torah we are command-
The Torah is the instruction man-
ed not to "hate your brother" (literal-
ual to create a loving and concerned
ly and figuratively); not "to take
society with justice and regard for all
revenge nor bear a grudge;" but
people. Oh, that we would but heed
rather to "love your fellows"
its message. ❑
(Leviticus 19:17-18).
Likewise, we are warned "not to
treat as the firstborn the son of the
beloved wife before the son of the
hated wife, the actual firstborn"
What other mitzvot in the Torah
(Deuteronomy 22:15-16) or "to marry
promote brotherly, or national,
two sisters, which causes rivalry ... "
love and concern for the
(Leviticus 1 8:1 8).
stranger? Why does it seem so
The theme found throughout the
difficult for people to get along,
Book of Genesis of the victimization
particularly within the same fam-
of the weaker, particularly the
ily? What can we do personally
stranger, can be seen through the
to promote these Torah ideals?
recurring story of the strangers
Why are these commandments
so often not emphasized as much
as the ritual laws?
Eliezer Cohen is rabbi of Congregation

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Shabbat Vayi gash:
Genesis 44:18-47:27;
Ezekiel 37:15-28.

I

Conversations

Or Chadash.

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12/LE

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61

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