Civil/Human Rights

 

Leviticus 19:33-34

Translation Original
When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God. [JPS translation]
וְכִי יָגוּר אִתְּךָ גֵּר בְּאַרְצְכֶם לֹא תוֹנוּ אֹתוֹ: כְּאֶזְרָח מִכֶּם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם הַגֵּר הַגָּר אִתְּכֶם וְאָהַבְתָּ לוֹ כָּמוֹךָ כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲנִי ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם:

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Who are the players in this text – seen and unseen?
2. What power dynamics are at play?
3. What are common ways that foreigners are not treated as equals? In what ways do government policies about immigration impact this?


Leviticus 19:29

Translation Original
Do not degrade your daughter and make her a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry and the land be filled with depravity. [JPS translation]
אַל תְּחַלֵּל אֶת בִּתְּךָ לְהַזְנוֹתָהּ וְלֹא תִזְנֶה הָאָרֶץ וּמָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ זִמָּה:

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Who are the players in this text – seen and unseen?
2. What power dynamics are at play?
3. This text suggests that allowing one person to be degraded will result in a society falling into depravity. In what ways is this true? Bring examples from the world today.


Exodus 21:33-34

Translation Original
When a person opens a pit, or digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the one responsible for the pit must make restitution; he or she shall pay the price to the owner, but shall keep the dead animal. [JPS translation]
וְכִי יִפְתַּח אִישׁ בּוֹר אוֹ כִּי יִכְרֶה אִישׁ בֹּר וְלֹא יְכַסֶּנּוּ וְנָפַל שָׁמָּה שּׁוֹר אוֹ חֲמוֹר: בַּעַל הַבּוֹר יְשַׁלֵּם כֶּסֶף יָשִׁיב לִבְעָלָיו וְהַמֵּת יִהְיֶה לּוֹ:

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Who are the players in this text – seen and unseen?
2. What power dynamics are at play?
3. What are the implications of this text on broader issues of negligence and responsibility?


Exodus 12:49

Translation Original
There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you. [JPS translation]
תּוֹרָה אַחַת יִהְיֶה לָאֶזְרָח וְלַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתוֹכְכֶם:

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Who are the players in this text – seen and unseen?
2. What power dynamics are at play?
3. How might the statement of this text guide the way we set public policy in our own societies?


Deuteronomy 26:5-8

Translation Original
You shall then recite as follows before Adonai your God: "My father was a fugitive Aramean; he went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us. We cried to Adonai, the God of our fathers, and Adonai heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery and our oppression. Adonai freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents. [JPS translation, edited for gender-neutrality]
וְעָנִיתָ וְאָמַרְתָּ לִפְנֵי ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי וַיֵּרֶד מִצְרַיְמָה וַיָּגָר שָׁם בִּמְתֵי מְעָט וַיְהִי שָׁם לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל עָצוּם וָרָב: וַיָּרֵעוּ אֹתָנוּ הַמִּצְרִים וַיְעַנּוּנוּ וַיִּתְּנוּ עָלֵינוּ עֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה: וַנִּצְעַק אֶל ה' אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֵינוּ וַיִּשְׁמַע ה' אֶת קֹלֵנוּ וַיַּרְא אֶת עָנְיֵנוּ וְאֶת עֲמָלֵנוּ וְאֶת לַחֲצֵנוּ: וַיּוֹצִאֵנוּ ה' מִמִּצְרַיִם בְּיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרֹעַ נְטוּיָה וּבְמֹרָא גָּדֹל וּבְאֹתוֹת וּבְמֹפְתִים:

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Who are the players in this text – seen and unseen?
2. What power dynamics are at play?
3. What social justice themes emerge from this text?


Deuteronomy 22:8

Translation Original
When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you do not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone should fall from it. [JPS translation]
כִּי תִבְנֶה בַּיִת חָדָשׁ וְעָשִׂיתָ מַעֲקֶה לְגַגֶּךָ וְלֹא תָשִׂים דָּמִים בְּבֵיתֶךָ כִּי יִפֹּל הַנֹּפֵל מִמֶּנּוּ:

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Who are the players in this text – seen and unseen?
2. What power dynamics are at play?
3. What is the danger this text is mitigating against?
4. Taken broadly, what does this text command of us today?


Deuteronomy 21:1-9

Translation Original
If, in the land that Adonai your God is assigning you to possess, someone slain is found lying in the open, the identity of the slayer not being known, your elders and magistrates shall go out and measure the distances from the corpse to the nearby towns. The elders of the town nearest to the corpse shall then take a heifer which has never been worked, which has never pulled in a yoke; and the elders of that town shall bring the heifer down to an ever-flowing wadi, which is not tilled or sown. There, in the wadi, they shall break the heifer's neck. The priests, sons of Levi, shall come forward; for Adonai your God has chosen them to minister to God and to pronounce blessing in the name of Adonai, and every lawsuit and case of assault is subject to their ruling. Then all the elders of the town nearest to the corpse shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the wadi. And they shall make this declaration: "Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done. Absolve, O Adonai, Your people Israel whom You redeemed, and do not let guilt for the blood of the innocent remain among Your people Israel." And they will be absolved of blood guilt. Thus you will remove from your midst guilt for the blood of the innocent, for you will be doing what is right in the sight of Adonai. [JPS translation, edited for gender-neutrality]
כִּי יִמָּצֵא חָלָל בָּאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ לְרִשְׁתָּהּ נֹפֵל בַּשָּׂדֶה לֹא נוֹדַע מִי הִכָּהוּ:וְיָצְאוּ זְקֵנֶיךָ וְשֹׁפְטֶיךָ וּמָדְדוּ אֶל הֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבֹת הֶחָלָל: וְהָיָה הָעִיר הַקְּרֹבָה אֶל הֶחָלָל וְלָקְחוּ זִקְנֵי הָעִיר הַהִוא עֶגְלַת בָּקָר אֲשֶׁר לֹא עֻבַּד בָּהּ אֲשֶׁר לֹא מָשְׁכָה בְּעֹל: וְהוֹרִדוּ זִקְנֵי הָעִיר הַהִוא אֶת הָעֶגְלָה אֶל נַחַל אֵיתָן אֲשֶׁר לֹא יֵעָבֵד בּוֹ וְלֹא יִזָּרֵעַ וְעָרְפוּ שָׁם אֶת הָעֶגְלָה בַּנָּחַל: וְנִגְּשׁוּ הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי לֵוִי כִּי בָם בָּחַר ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְשָׁרְתוֹ וּלְבָרֵךְ בְּשֵׁם ה' וְעַל פִּיהֶם יִהְיֶה כָּל רִיב וְכָל נָגַע: וְכֹל זִקְנֵי הָעִיר הַהִוא הַקְּרֹבִים אֶל הֶחָלָל יִרְחֲצוּ אֶת יְדֵיהֶם עַל הָעֶגְלָה הָעֲרוּפָה בַנָּחַל: וְעָנוּ וְאָמְרוּ יָדֵינוּ לֹא שָׁפְכוּ אֶת הַדָּם הַזֶּה וְעֵינֵינוּ לֹא רָאוּ: כַּפֵּר לְעַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר פָּדִיתָ ה' וְאַל תִּתֵּן דָּם נָקִי בְּקֶרֶב עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְנִכַּפֵּר לָהֶם הַדָּם: וְאַתָּה תְּבַעֵר הַדָּם הַנָּקִי מִקִּרְבֶּךָ כִּי תַעֲשֶׂה הַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינֵי ה':

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Who are the players in this text – seen and unseen?
2. What power dynamics are at play?
3. The leaders of the town are to name a responsibility they have. What is that responsibility and how far does it extend?
4. Do we have this same responsibility? If so, how far does it extend?


Deuteronomy 17:15-17

Translation Original
You shall be free to set a king over yourself, one chosen by Adonai your God. Be sure to set as king over yourself one of your own people; you must not set a foreigner over you, one who is not your kinsman. Moreover, he shall not keep many horses or send people back to Egypt to add to his horses, since Adonai has warned you, "You must not go back that way again." And he shall not have many wives, lest his heart go astray; nor shall he amass silver and gold to excess. [JPS translation, edited for gender-neutrality]
שׂוֹם תָּשִׂים עָלֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ בּוֹ מִקֶּרֶב אַחֶיךָ תָּשִׂים עָלֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ לֹא תוּכַל לָתֵת עָלֶיךָ אִישׁ נָכְרִי אֲשֶׁר לֹא אָחִיךָ הוּא: רַק לֹא יַרְבֶּה לּוֹ סוּסִים וְלֹא יָשִׁיב אֶת הָעָם מִצְרַיְמָה לְמַעַן הַרְבּוֹת סוּס וַה' אָמַר לָכֶם לֹא תֹסִפוּן לָשׁוּב בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַזֶּה עוֹד: וְלֹא יַרְבֶּה לּוֹ נָשִׁים וְלֹא יָסוּר לְבָבוֹ וְכֶסֶף וְזָהָב לֹא יַרְבֶּה לּוֹ מְאֹד:

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Who are the players in this text – seen and unseen?
2. What is the relationship between a king and the people?
3. What are the limits this text sets over the wealth acquired by governing bodies? What are the reasons for this?


Deuteronomy 16:18-20

Translation Original
You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that Adonai your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice. You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just. Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that Adonai your God is giving you. [JPS translation, edited for gender-neutrality]
שֹׁפְטִים וְשֹׁטְרִים תִּתֶּן לְךָ בְּכָל שְׁעָרֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ לִשְׁבָטֶיךָ וְשָׁפְטוּ אֶת הָעָם מִשְׁפַּט צֶדֶק: לֹא תַטֶּה מִשְׁפָּט לֹא תַכִּיר פָּנִים וְלֹא תִקַּח שֹׁחַד כִּי הַשֹּׁחַד יְעַוֵּר עֵינֵי חֲכָמִים וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִם: צֶדֶק צֶדֶק תִּרְדֹּף לְמַעַן תִּחְיֶה וְיָרַשְׁתָּ אֶת הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ:

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What is the role of government and courts of law according to this text?
2. What does the text guard against? Who is most susceptible to corruption?
3. What is the reward for pursuing justice?
4. The text repeats the word "justice" several times in this text. What effect does this repetition have?


Deuteronomy 15:12-18

Translation Original
If a fellow Hebrew, man or woman, is sold to you, s/he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall set him/her free. When you set him/her free, do not let her/him go empty-handed: Furnish her/him out of the flock, threshing floor, and vat, with which Adonai your God has blessed you. Bear in mind that you were slaves in the land of Egypt and Adonai your God redeemed you; therefore I enjoin this commandment upon you today. But should he say to you, "I do not want to leave you" --for he loves your household and is happy with you -- you shall take an awl and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall become your slave in perpetuity. Do the same with your female slave. When you do set him free, do not feel aggrieved; for in the six years he has given you double the service of a hired slave. Moreover, Adonai your God will bless you in all you do. [JPS translation, edited for gender-neutrality]
כִּי יִמָּכֵר לְךָ אָחִיךָ הָעִבְרִי אוֹ הָעִבְרִיָּה וַעֲבָדְךָ שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים וּבַשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת תְּשַׁלְּחֶנּוּ חָפְשִׁי מֵעִמָּךְ: וְכִי תְשַׁלְּחֶנּוּ חָפְשִׁי מֵעִמָּךְ לֹא תְשַׁלְּחֶנּוּ רֵיקָם: הַעֲנֵיק תַּעֲנִיק לוֹ מִצֹּאנְךָ וּמִגָּרְנְךָ וּמִיִּקְבֶךָ אֲשֶׁר בֵּרַכְךָ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ תִּתֶּן לוֹ: וְזָכַרְתָּ כִּי עֶבֶד הָיִיתָ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וַיִּפְדְּךָ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ עַל כֵּן אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ אֶת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה הַיּוֹם: וְהָיָה כִּי יֹאמַר אֵלֶיךָ לֹא אֵצֵא מֵעִמָּךְ כִּי אֲהֵבְךָ וְאֶת בֵּיתֶךָ כִּי טוֹב לוֹ עִמָּךְ: וְלָקַחְתָּ אֶת הַמַּרְצֵעַ וְנָתַתָּה בְאָזְנוֹ וּבַדֶּלֶת וְהָיָה לְךָ עֶבֶד עוֹלָם וְאַף לַאֲמָתְךָ תַּעֲשֶׂה כֵּן: לֹא יִקְשֶׁה בְעֵינֶךָ בְּשַׁלֵּחֲךָ אֹתוֹ חָפְשִׁי מֵעִמָּךְ כִּי מִשְׁנֶה שְׂכַר שָׂכִיר עֲבָדְךָ שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים וּבֵרַכְךָ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה:

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. In what ways are slaves portrayed as property in this text? In what ways are they portrayed as people? Does gender make a difference?
2. What power dynamics are at play?
3. What do you think this text says about slavery in general? How might this text inform our notions of person-hood today?