by Rabbi Heidi M. Cohen
There are all sorts of rules as to how we should treat others. Of course, there is the Golden Rule – treat others as you would like to be treated. Even in this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, do we notice a great deal of focus on personal confrontations – from clear prohibitions and punishments against those who strike another, causing harm or even death. How one is to treat another person with care and compassion, whether a friend or a servant. Even to take great care that one’s livestock does not cause harm to anyone or their property. We read the infamous quote, “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” (Exodus 21:24)
And while today we recognize the importance of personal responsibility and that we are to treat others fair and with compassion, what draws me to this portion today is “You shall not oppress the stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)
How many times have we found ourselves being strangers in a new “land?” Be it a new job, new school, new community? How often have we felt lost and unsure as to how to navigate this new place, feeling alone and disconnected? Yet when someone reached out and welcomed us, offered advice about how to connect, they became a warm presence bringing comfort at a very stressful time.
One of our own is now a stranger in a strange land and hopefully, we can give him strength and support.
Zach Camper just enlisted in the army and began basic training this past Friday. This is an exciting time for him and a new journey in his life. However, it is also a very lonely and scary time being a stranger in a very new “land.”
Zach will not have computer access for a number of weeks, however, he can receive written letters. As his mom, Carin Kegel, shared with me, “I have a co-worker who said that receiving something at mail call made for a very good day.”
I invite everyone to write a letter or send a post card to Zach, even if you don’t know who he is. Just say hello and let him know that his congregational family is thinking of him and is proud of him.
If there is anyone else in the congregation who has a family member serving in the armed services and you would like us to reach out to them, please, send me their information and I will make sure to pass it along in our online news.
Zach and thousands of other brave men and women serve in our nation’s armed services and we are very fortunate! They protect and defend us every day. Therefore, let us reach out and say thank you in order that we might help them feel less like a stranger in a strange land.
Pvt. Camper 118
B Company, 2nd Battalion
54th Infantry Regiment
9240 Treadwell Drive
Ft. Benning, GA 31905