Loving the Stranger

download (2)I apologize for such a long time between posts. I promise to eventually finish the series on Trump’s election. But Trump HAS been elected, and taken office, and last week he issued a series of Executive Orders. Through these orders, Trump has restricted travel to and from 7 predominantly Muslim countries, and (at least temporarily) cut off settlement of refugees in the United States.

In the discussion that has arisen about these orders, both online and in person, I’ve made two claims without being able to back them up. The first is that the Old Testament contains 36 different passages requiring us to treat the stranger with kindness. The second is that no other topic is addressed so often in the Old Testament. I’ve been asked by a number of people to document my claim … which has required me to try to figure out where the claim comes from!

It turns out, the reference to 36 passages comes from the Talmud:.According to Rabbi Eliezer in the Talmud (Baba Metsia 59b) the Torah “warns against the wronging of a ger [Hebrew for alien, or stranger] in thirty-six places; other say, in forty-six places.” Yes, if you’re familiar with the Talmud, you’re used to there being more than one opinion on any subject! In any event, I’m glad that 36 turned out to be the LOW estimate.

As for this being the most addressed concern in the Hebrew Bible … well, I’m still working on confirming that.

And, if you want to know what ARE the 36 places, or the 46 … I don’t have an official list. But I did do a search last night for the Hebrew word “ger” using my Bible software, and I came up with 44 passages. They are set forth below.

I will probably come back here in the next day or two with more information and to fix up the formatting, but I wanted to get this up ASAP.

  1. Exodus 12:48 If an alien who resides with you wants to celebrate the passover to the L-RD, all his males shall be circumcised; then he may draw near to celebrate it; he shall be regarded as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it;
  1. Exodus 12:49 there shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.
  1. Exodus 20:10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the L-RD your G-d; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
  1. Exodus 22:21 You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
  1. Exodus 23:9   You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
  1. Exodus 23:12   Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed.
  1. Leviticus 16:29 This shall be a statute to you forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deny yourselves, and shall do no work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you.
  1. Leviticus 19:10 You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the L-RD your G-d.
  1. Leviticus 19:33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.
  1. Leviticus 19:34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the L-RD your G-d.
  1. Leviticus 23:22   When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the L-RD your G-d.
  1. Leviticus 24:22 You shall have one law for the alien and for the citizen: for I am the L-RD your G-d.
  1. Numbers 9:14 Any alien residing among you who wishes to keep the passover to the L-RD shall do so according to the statute of the passover and according to its regulation; you shall have one statute for both the resident alien and the native.
  1. Numbers 15:14 An alien who lives with you, or who takes up permanent residence among you, and wishes to offer an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the L-RD, shall do as you do.
  1. Numbers 15:15 As for the assembly, there shall be for both you and the resident alien a single statute, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you and the alien shall be alike before the L-RD.
  1. Numbers 15:16 You and the alien who resides with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance.
  1. Numbers 15:26 All the congregation of the Israelites shall be forgiven, as well as the aliens residing among them, because the whole people was involved in the error.
  1. Numbers 15:29 For both the native among the Israelites and the alien residing among them—you shall have the same law for anyone who acts in error.
  1. Numbers 35:15 These six cities shall serve as refuge for the Israelites, for the resident or transient alien among them, so that anyone who kills a person without intent may flee there.
  1. Deuteronomy 1:16 I charged your judges at that time: “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.
  1. Deuteronomy 5:14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the L-RD your G-d; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.
  1. Deuteronomy 10:18 who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.
  1. Deuteronomy 10:19 You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
  1. Deuteronomy 14:29 the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the L-RD your G-d may bless you in all the work that you undertake.
  1. Deuteronomy 16:11 Rejoice before the L-RD your G-d—you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, the Levites resident in your towns, as well as the strangers, the orphans, and the widows who are among you—at the place that the L-RD your G-d will choose as a dwelling for his name.
  1. Deuteronomy 16:14 Rejoice during your festival, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, as well as the Levites, the strangers, the orphans, and the widows resident in your towns.
  1. Deuteronomy 24:14 You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns.
  1. Deuteronomy 24:17 You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge.
  1. Deuteronomy 24:19 When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the L-RD your G-d may bless you in all your undertakings.
  1. Deuteronomy 24:20 When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.
  1. Deuteronomy 24:21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.
  1. Deuteronomy 26:11 Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the L-RD your G-d has given to you and to your house.
  1. Deuteronomy 26:12-13 When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year (which is the year of the tithe), giving it to the Levites, the aliens, the orphans, and the widows, so that they may eat their fill within your towns, then you shall say before the L-RD your G-d: “I have removed the sacred portion from the house, and I have given it to the Levites, the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows, in accordance with your entire commandment that you commanded me; I have neither transgressed nor forgotten any of your commandments:
  1. Deuteronomy 27:19 “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”
  1. Deuteronomy 29:10-12 You stand today, all of you, before the L-RD your G-d: your chiefs, your tribes, your elders and your officers, even all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and the aliens who is within your camps, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, that you may enter into the covenant with the L-RD your G-d, and into His oath which the L-RD your G-d is making with you today …
  1. Deuteronomy 31:12 Assemble the people—men, women, and children, as well as the aliens residing in your towns—so that they may hear and learn to fear the L-RD your G-d and to observe diligently all the words of this law,
  1. Psalms 146:9 The L-RD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
  1. Jeremiah 7:6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place…
  1. Jeremiah 22:3 Thus says the L-RD: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place.
  1. Ezekiel 22:7 Father and mother are treated with contempt in you; the alien residing within you suffers extortion; the orphan and the widow are wronged in you.
  1. Ezekiel 22:29 The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery; they have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the alien without redress.
  1. Ezekiel 47:22-23 You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who reside among you and have begotten children among you. They shall be to you as citizens of Israel; with you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe aliens reside, there you shall assign them their inheritance, says the L-rd G-D.
  1. Zechariah 7:10 do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.
  1. Malachi 3:5 Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the L-RD of hosts.
  • I am just under half-way through reading the Bible. I am developing my glossary and word usage patterns as I proceed so my data results are tentative. I find 173 uses of words related to the root letters of this word. There are some homonyms and it is used as both noun and verb. The range of meanings includes those related to hospitality and guest, and the verb to reside, also accumulation of goods, to amass – including storehouse, and related to terror and awe, to terrorize, and finally the lion’s or the dragon’s whelp. I will write further on this and follow your work with interest.

  • And here is a surprising result for me. I decided to have a look at the word for refuge, stem XSH, chet-samech,heh. It is used 27 times outside of the Psalms, a light peppering of the text. In the Psalms, lots of pepper, it is used 37 times exclusively of taking refuge in HaShem. So our psychological move from refugee to guest, legal alien, seen in this historical light of language usage, is a statement of taking what Mystery has delivered to us and recognizing such as having legal and sheltered status in spite of the potential for terror but including the potential for awe.

    A significant use of refuge outside the Psalms is the welcome of Ruth into Israel by Boaz: Yahweh make full payment for your work, and let your wages be full payment from Yahweh the God of Israel to whom you came to take refuge under his wings. Ruth is of course representing here a refugee from Moab, a sworn enemy of Israel. If America has any reflection of the G-d of Israel in its bones, this is the governance policy to implement, recognizing the loving-kindness of G-d that is in the stranger, even in the enemy who is stranger.

    In this story also, the root for guest is used once in verse 1. Elimelech (My God is king) becomes a guest in the fields of Moab. All this story hinges around bread and harvest of course – I was hungry and you fed me.

    It is not far on this axis of guest to refuge to the core characteristic of G-d, loving-kindness, a word with two letters common with refuge. (XSD chesed loving-kindness, XSH refuge)

    Blessings to you in these trying and perilous times.

    • I can understand you as a lawyer taking time to address this issue. I have just scanned the executive orders and I see they are far more complex than I could have imagined from the news. I point you to Psalm 69 for encouragement. There is a flood of falsity in our news (like only 109 people affected acc to T this morning – everything is going smoothly) but it will not overwhelm us though it is up to our necks. The psalm reads like it was written by Jeremiah!

      • Bob, thanks for all of these comments. I’m particularly struck by the link between stranger and refuge. Must think about that one.