Ezrach

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, February 5, 2009
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When explicating the laws against chametz on Passover, the Torah concludes that these rules are binding both to the stranger (ger) and the ezrach. An ezrach, in modern Hebrew is a citizen, and in the Bible it is often paired with ger to refer to two different kinds of residents.

A ger is an immigrant. When Abraham entreated the Hittites to sell him a plot for the burial of Sarah, he described himself as a ger, an immigrant entirely at the mercy of the natives.

An ezrach is someone native-born, with roots to the land. Very revealing is the other meaning of ezrach, a strong tree, as in “well rooted like a robust native tree [ezrach]” (Psalm 37:35). In contrast to the Roman “citizen”, which is connected to the Latin for “city”, ezrach implies a connectedness to the land, like a tree.

When the Israelites are commanded to observe the festival of Succot, they are told, “Every ezrach in Israel shall live in booths” (Leviticus 23:42). The Sages learn from this verse that “It is fitting for all of Israel to sit in one succah” (Talmud Succah 27b). A sense of community, partnership in a civil enterprise, is based on a bond with the land.

It is only nowadays that the modern world is waking up to the fact that a sense of relationship and interdependence with the land and the rest of the natural world is fundamental for the survival of our civilisation.

    Last updated: 5:22pm, February 5 2009