“There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you” Exodus 12:49

By Rabbi Brian Fox, January 21, 2010

While one might go along with medieval commentators and limit this verse to proselytes or to Passover laws, for many that is just not good enough. We see this in the context of the Holiness Code of Leviticus 19 (verse 34): “The strangers who reside with you shall be to you as your citizens.”

For good or evil, we want Torah to give us equity. Torah should express our highest ideals. Whether life is lived in Israel or in the diaspora, we earnestly want to be proud of being Jewish. Whether Israel should be a state of Jews or a Jewish state was the core conflict between Ahad Ha’am and Herzl. There must be one law for the sabra and the Palestinian.

So, too, might the debate raging in this country over admissions policy at JFS be seen to be in conflict with the ideal of equity of this parashah. So how can we live with the one-law rule? If we abandon the rule of one law for everyone, can we honestly be able to call ourselves “Torah-true”?

The whole debate seems to be part of a larger context: religion and secularism seem to be condemned to constant friction. We who love Israel want nothing to threaten her security. Those who labour for Jewish schools dare not allow anything to threaten the work of generations. Yet we want to live in a world which is free from aggressive militancy and policies of discrimination. Maybe we are expecting too much of the Torah. That is exactly the Jewish way.

It is as if the Messiah is knocking on the door of the Jewish people and we dare not let her/him in. Some have called this a “messianic burden”. So be it. A religion without ideals just beyond the reach of its adherents is not worth living. Ideals serve as beacons. The stars guided sailors throughout history. They never reached the stars. They did reach their destination.

Last updated: 4:11pm, January 21 2010