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There is a Mitzva in this week’s Parsha that commands us to be sensitive to strang

ers: ‫“ – םירצמ ץראב םתייה םירג יכ ונצחלת אלו הנות אל רגו‬You shall not hurt a stranger and
Living in countries that are not ours has been the travail of our people for tho
usands of years. Our exile in Mitzrayim was the first of many. Indeed, we know
what it is like to be strangers. What is known to the Gentiles as ‘the Jewish Pr
oblem’, is to us simply ‘Galut’. The word ‫ רג‬translates as both stranger and convert. My
Rebbe, HaRav Machlis shlita, suggests that perhaps in our pasuk, both translati
ons are correct. The convert is estranged from his family and his community. H
e is alone and entering a world that is foreign to him.
The Gemara in Mesechet Bava Metziya teaches that there are 36 references in the
Torah teaching sensitivity towards the ‫רג‬. There are few if any other commandments
with so many references. The Gemara is observing how seriously the Torah takes
showing sensitivity to the ‫ – רג‬maybe more than any other Mitzvah. Chazal compares tho
se whom the Torah commands to love; Hashem, your fellow Jew and the convert – ‫ר‬. ‫תא תבהאו‬
onsa comments that we are not obligated to love our parents but we must love the
stranger just as we must love Hashem and our fellow Jew.

The Sefer HaChinuch teaches from the words ‫ רגה תא םתבהאו‬in Parshat Ekev that we are suppos
compassion for any person who is not in their home town — anyone out of their elem
ent, whether it is the new kid in school or the girl who dresses or talks differ
ently. Technically, they are not converts but maybe they share the same sense o
f alienation. We’ve all experienced times when we have felt the odd man out. It i
s a difficult and lonely situation to endure. Our pasuk adjures us to be sensit
ive to those who feel alienated because we were too, in Egypt.
Professor Nechama Lebowitz suggests that G-d put us in Mitzrayim so that we coul
d experience what it feels like to be persecuted and alienated, so that we could
be sensitive to those who go through similar experiences. Elie Weisel stood be
fore the UN years ago and said that our experience in the Shoah gives us the res
ponsibility to stand up against racism and ethnic cleansing anywhere in the worl
d. Similarly, the Torah teaches ‫ — םירצמ ץראב םתייה םירג יכ‬we need to be sensitive to the
e we were strangers.
Melanie and I are married baruch Hashem, for over 14 years. However, our story
dates back not to when we met almost 21 years ago but to 1966.
My parents were newly married and met a new young couple in their Shul on Shabba
t; they invited them over to their apartment for Kiddush. They have been my par
ents’ close friends ever since and they are my in-laws.
I can attribute my marriage to the sensitivity displayed by my amazing parents t
o the newcomers over 45 years ago. By breaking down the barriers between people
and by looking out for the oppressed and being sensitive to those going through
new experiences, we are fulfilling ‫םירצמ ץראב םתייה םירג יכ‬. Therefore, the next time you
or your school or your neighborhood, or someone who is a victim of hatred or pr
ejudice, remember how it must have felt to be a Jew in Egypt, Spain, Germany, Po
land or any number of countries where we felt like strangers.
Shabbat Shalom!
Elie Mayer