by Jan Willem van der Hoeven, ICZC
Yes, let’s clean up this land, Mr. Yishai!
But let’s have the courage to do so in accordance with G-d’s Word.
Throughout Israel’s history there have been those from among the nations who have joined with the people of G-d. The Tanach addresses and emphasizes this phenomenon. At the time of the Exodus we read how a multitude of strangers joined the Israelites as they made their way out of Egypt.
A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds–a great deal of livestock. (Exodus 12:38)
The Bible makes special mention of Ruth from Moab and Rahab from Jericho, both of whom became part of the people of Israel; the Moabite woman even became the grandmother of the illustrious King David!!
The Torah expressly enjoins Israel to be good and fair to strangers choosing to live as loyal citizens within the borders of the land.
And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the L-rd, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.” (Exodus 12:48-49)
‘And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the L-rd your G-d. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel make special mention of those strangers who would desire to stay and live in Israel’s midst.
Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the L-rd speak, saying, “The L-rd has utterly separated me from His people”; nor let the eunuch say, “Here I am, a dry tree.” For thus says the L-rd: “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56:3-5)
It shall be that you will divide it by lot as an inheritance for yourselves, and for the strangers who dwell among you and who bear children among you. They shall be to you as native-born among the children of Israel; they shall have an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And it shall be that in whatever tribe the stranger dwells, there you shall give him his inheritance,” says the L-rd G-d. (Ezekiel 47:22-23)
Even in the book of Esther we read the amazing verse how, when the fortune of the people who had been threatened by Haman was changed by the decree of Ahasuerus, many Persians joined the Jewish people!!
So there were always accepted strangers among the people of Israel accepted by them and by their G-d!
And in every province and city, wherever the king’s command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them. (Esther 8:17)
The emphasis in all these verses about strangers is that they are willing to be loyal to the G-d and people of Israel; they are not a fifth column for Israel’s enemies as, sadly, most Israel’s Muslim Arabs are today. One has to be willing to come under the wings of the G-d and people of Israel. Ruth and Rahab are excellent examples for this. They chose for the people and G-d of Israel, as Ruth so wonderfully expressed to Naomi: Let your G-d be my G-d and your people my people. To strangers such as these G-d Himself – as we have seen from the already-quoted Tanach passages – wants Israel to be accommodating and kind.
May Israel fear the L-rd G-d for, just as He said, they were once strangers too in Egypt and should therefore be just and good to the stranger who, in love and loyalty, wants to live among them!