Monday, December 14, 2015

remember you too were strangers

"The central insight at Sinai is this: the God of the universe is the God of freedom and transcendence; the God that has made possible the liberation from Egypt; the God that ensures that the way things will be need not be the way they have been; the God that enables us to break the chain of negativity and pain that links the generations.
"The specific way Torah insists that human beings can break the chain of cruelty is in our treatment of the powerless, the widow, the orphan, and most particularly the stranger...Why would we be tempted to oppress the stranger? Precisely because the children of Israel function psychologically like all other human beings, by repeating the behavior generated by earlier traumatic events, but now from the position of being the agent who is inflicting it rather than suffering from it.
"But...Torah says, 'No! don't do it! You don't have to do it. You can break the chain of suffering, you can transcend it. You do not have to pass on the pain that was delivered to you to the next generation, or to the people over whom you [currently] have power, or to the people with whom you have contact. You do not have to recreate Egypt! The logic of oppression that has ruled every society is not the only possible way things could be. In fact, the universe is governed by another logic. And so, you must not oppress the powerless; one standard of behavior must be adopted for you and for the powerless; not two.'"
--from Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation by Michael Lerner

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