Clone of Jewish Perspectives on Immigrants and Immigration


"JTA Op-Ed: Judaism is always ‘tikkun olam’—and more" by Rabbi Eric Yoffie 2

The work of social justice, absent text study and ritual practice as a foundation, is inauthentic and will not sustain itself. Indeed, I have found that the work of "tikkun olam," for all its rewards, is lonely and discouraging work, and only by absorbing the light of the Shabbat candles and by studying and worshiping with a strong, dynamic Jewish community can I immunize myself against the cynicism and alienation that surround me.

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What is tikkun olam? What isn’t it?
2. How does ritual practice complement social justice work? Why are both important?

Leviticus Rabbah 4:6

Translation Original
A man in a boat began to drill a hole under his seat. His fellow passengers protested. "What concern is it of yours?" he responded. "I am making a hole under my seat, not yours." They replied: "That is so, but when the water comes in-it will sink the whole boat and we will all drown." [Translation by Hillel and Panim]
תני רשב"י משל לבני אדם שהיו יושבין בספינה נטל אחד מהן מקדח והתחיל קודח תחתיו אמרו לו חבריו מה אתה יושב ועושה אמר להם מה אכפת לכם לא תחתי אני קודח אמרו לו שהמים עולין ומציפין עלינו את הספינה

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. This text serves as an important example of areivut, or the concept that every Jew is responsible for all other Jews. How does it demonstrate this principle?
2. Have you had experiences in which you have felt bound up, or responsible, for other Jews?
3. Do you feel responsible for other communities or groups in the same way? Which other communities and why?

Avot d’Rabbi Natan, 1:30 - B

Translation Original
Rabbi Ahai ben Yoshiya says: One who purchases grain in the market - to what may such a person be likened? To an infant whose mother died, and they pass the baby from door to door among wetnurses and still the baby is not satisfied. One who buys bread in the marketplace - to what may such a person be likened? It is as if they are dead and buried. But one who eats from their own (they have grown themselves) is like an infant raised at its mother’s breasts. [Translation by Hazon. Edited for gender neutrality]
רבי אחאי בן יאשיה אומר הלוקח תבואה מן השוק למה הוא דומה לתינוק שמתה אמו ומחזירין אותו על פתחי מיניקות אחרות ואינו שבע. הלוקח פת מן השוק למה הוא דומה כאלו חפור וקבור. האוכל משלו דומה לתינוק המתגדל על שדי אמו

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. How is growing your own wheat different than buying grain in the market? Why is buying your bread worse than both?
2. Why is it important for us to maintain such an intimate connection to our food?
3. How can we improve our food consumption patters to better follow the Avot d’Rabbi Natan?

GENESIS 12:1-4 The Eternal said to Abram, "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from the house of your father to the land that I will show you, and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will expand your name, and it will be a blessing, and I will bless those that bless you, and I will curse those that curse you, and all the families of the world will be blessed in you."  Abram went when the Eternal spoke to him.

 LEVITICUS 19:33-34 When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong them. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God.

NUMBERS 15:14-16  If, throughout the ages, a /ger/ has taken up residence with you or who lives among you…. There shall be one law for you and for the resident /ger/; it shall be a law for all time throughout the ages. You and the /ger/ shall be alike before God; the same ritual and the same rule shall apply to you and to the /ger /who resides among you.

PSALMS 39:13  Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my cry; do not disregard my tears; for like all my forebears I am a stranger, resident with You.

EZEKIEL 47:13, 21-23  Thus said the Lord God: These shall be the boundaries of the land that you shall allot to the twelve tribes of Israel, Joseph receiving two portions. . . This land you shall divide for yourselves among the tribes of Israel. You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the /gerim /who reside among you, who have begotten children among you. You shall treat them as Israelite citizens; they shall receive allotments along with you among the tribes of Israel. You shall give the /ger/ an allotment within the tribe where s/he resides, declares the Lord God.

 YALKUT SHIMONI, GENESIS 1:13 God gathered the dust [of the first human] from the four corners of the world - red, black, white and green. Red is the blood, black is the inards and green for the body. Why from the four corners of the earth? So that if one comes from the east to the west and arrives arrives at the end of his life as he nears departing from the world, it will not be said to him, "This land is not the dust of your body, it's of mine. Go back to where you were created." Rather, every place that a person walks, from there she was created and from there she will return."

EMMANUEL LEVINAS, NINE TALMUDIC READINGS, " TOWARD THE OTHER," P. 27 To punish children for the faults of their parents is less dreadful than to tolerate impunity when the stranger is injured. Let passersby know this: in Israel, princes die a horrible death because strangers were injured by the sovereign. The respect for the stranger and the sanctification of the name of the Eternal are strangely equivalent.