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Daily manna from the Torah by Dr Ketriel Blad

Mishpatim 18-5


Exodus 23:6-19

Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits… Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.

Ex. 23:6, 9 NIV

Why is HaShem so interested in the weak?

There are many commandments that protect the weak in the society. Here we have two verses that highlight the importance of being careful not to harm the poor or foreigner in any way. The reason that the Eternal gives to not oppress the foreigner is that the people know how it feels to be foreigners. The emotional impact of being foreigners in Egypt must have remained for more than a generation because it is the basis for this commandment. Children born from Yehoshua's (Joshua) generation didn't experience the bondage or the feeling of being foreigners anymore. However, the Torah speaks of that feeling as if it had remained in the people forever.

This teaches us that even if we haven't experienced what a foreigner experiences in a personal way, we must remember the generations that went through that in Egypt and we must make an effort to try to put ourselves in the shoes of the foreigner to feel what he feels.  

I remember the first time that I was in Spain alone living in a house in which everyone spoke only Spanish and Valencian. At that time I didn't speak Spanish and it was very difficult for me to communicate with the family whom I lived with. I remember sitting at the table and not being able to ask for sugar, because I didn't know the word for it in Spanish. When I had the need to go to the washroom I couldn't excuse myself to leave the table and the others gave me weird looks, like I was ignorant. I felt totally alone, isolated, and abandoned with my frustration of not being able to communicate my most basic needs.

In that moment, I made a decision to never forget those emotions to be able to understand those foreigners that come as immigrants to a different country without being able to speak the language. It's a very humiliating feeling.

It's easy to humiliate a foreigner for the one who knows. Any attitude of despise, any belittling word, any scornful look increases the suffering and frustration of the foreigner.

HaShem knows those feelings and He wants His people never to forget what it means to be a foreigner in order to prevent an increased painful emotion that already lies in the heart of foreigners because of not being able to speak well, not knowing the culture that well, not knowing where to get things, not understanding jokes, not thinking as the rest of the people and because of many more things.

Let's take care of the weak and let's make an effort to make their lives a bit less difficult. Stay away from any joke about the disabled, the foreigners, other ethnic groups, the ignorant, the ones from the neighbouring country and all those who are not like you. This attitude of mocking and despising others doesn't please the Eternal. The Torah teaches us to be purified and cleansed from this.

May the Eternal help us to express our love in a practical way always, as well as to those who are not like us.

Kol tuv,


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