This Land Was Made For You and Me

R. Dr. Asher Meir writes:

The Torah emphasizes in many places a positive, welcoming approach to the stranger or immigrant. Indeed, this attitude is described as one of the foremost lessons of our exile in Egypt. For instance, it is forbidden to take advantage of the alien’s vulnerability:

And don’t oppress the stranger nor pressure him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:20) Don’t pressure the stranger; and you know the feelings of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

The Torah even relates specifically to a refugee, one who is fleeing persecution:

Don’t turn in a slave to his master, when he flees to you from his master. Let him dwell with you in your midst, in the place he chooses in one of your gates as suits him; don’t oppress him. (Deuteronomy 23:16)

Note also that the Torah condemns the nations of Ammon and Moav for failing to show compassion to the people of Israel when we were refugees. (Deuteronomy 23:4-5.)

Some of the verses commanding compassion for a “stranger” refer to a proselyte and others refer to a true foreigner, but the underlying ethical message is the same.

Indeed, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook wrote that having strangers among us is an essential element of a Jewish settlement. (Responsa Daat Cohen 235)

The passage clearly implies that R. Kook’s assertion that “having strangers among us is an essential element of a Jewish settlement” is rooted in “the underlying ethical message” of “a positive, welcoming approach to the stranger or immigrant” – but this is a gross distortion of what R. Kook actually wrote, which is that non-Jews are needed by Jewish settlements to serve as Shabbos goyim (i.e., “to do the work that Jews won’t do”):

החליבה בש”ק על ידי ישראל הוא איסור גמור וחילול שבת נורא, וחס ושלום להורות בזה צד קולא, ואין שום דרך כי אם לחלוב בשבת על ידי נכרי כמו שעשו אבותינו מעולם, ובכלל אי אפשר לישוב יהודי שלא ימצא בתוכו גם כן נכרים אחדים, לפי ההכרח של איזה דברים המותרים להעשות בשבת ויום טוב דוקא על ידי נכרים, וחוקי תוה”ק הם בודאי יותר חזקים באין ערוך מכל מנהגי בדאות שבדאו להם אנשים, והם חיינו ואורך ימינו ויסוד תחייתינו על אדמת הקודש.1

I encountered the above while preparing for a talk that I recently gave on immigration and Jewish law; the recording and accompanying handout are available at the Internet Archive, as are the recording and handout of a talk covering much of the same ground that I gave within the framework of my Reading Responsa series.

  1. עיין ר’ חיים י’ פלס, בבעיות החליבה בשבת בהתישבות הדתית בא”י (סקירה הסטורית), ברקאי קובץ ב’ (סתיו תשמ”ה), עמודים 108-32, ובפרט עמודים 109-12 בענין עמדת ר’ קוק; ר’ זאב וייטמן, חלב שנחלב בשבת באיסור, נתיב החלב ג’ (אדר תש”ע) עמודים 65-74, ובפרט אות ד’ “התנגדות הרב קוק להיתרי חליבה ע”י יהודי”; ר’ מרדכי וולנוב, חלב ‘מהדרין’, חלב מהדרין []

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