By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, February 5, 2009

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