D’var Torah For Friday, February 17, 2022

Parashat Mishpatim contains a vast collection of mitzvot concerning worship, serfdom, injuries, property law, moral behavior and various religious observances. If Yitro, with the Ten Commandments, represents the lofty and the sacred, or the why of Judaism, then Mishpatim is a beginning of a conversation about the how to do Judaism. This includes the mitzvah, “you shall not wrong nor oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”[1]

According to Rabbi and scholar Dr. Reuven Firestone, “In fact, the commandment to care for the stranger is mentioned more time than any other commandment in the Torah — more even than the command to love God (v’ahavta). According to the Talmud, Rabbi Eliezer the Great noted that “the Torah warns 36 times, and some say 46 times, not to oppress the stranger” (Babylonian Talmud, Bava M’tzia 59b).”[2]

A significant part of our Jewish journey is defined by how we treat the stranger. Several years ago, our congregation, in partnership with the Islamic Center of Rockland, in conjunction with HIAS, began pulling together resources to engage in their Welcome the Stranger Initiative. Together we have been working to help an Afghan refugee family find housing, employment, schooling, transportation, and other resources as they are acclimating to life here in the Rockland County.

With support from the Westchester Jewish Coalition for Immigration, we are honored to once again welcome a refugee into our community and to learn his story, and also be reminded why the work we are doing is so important and so impactful.

Please join us either in person or virtually as we will be welcoming Daryosh Ahmadi who was evacuated from Afghanistan on October 25, 2021. First, he and his family were housed in a refugee camp in Abu Dhabi for almost 10 months. Then they came to the United States on August 9, 2022. 

And then stay for the delicious treats provided by Meals by Mahnaz, a bakery founded by Mahnaz, a refugee who in November 2017, as a young mother with 3 children left everything, she had known behind in Afghanistan to follow her husband to safety and a new life in the United States. Their lives were in danger because of the work her husband had done to support the American military.[3]

We are also looking forward to welcoming our partners from the Islamic Center as well. It looks to be a powerful and moving evening. We are proud of the work that we have done as a congregation and as a community, and we hope you will join us in the work we will continue to do to more than not merely wronging or oppressing the stranger, but to welcome them and embrace them. For that is the sacred work we have been tasked with since our Exodus from Egypt.

Shabbat Shalom


[1] Exodus 22:20

[2] https://reformjudaism.org/learning/torah-study/torah-commentary/commandment-love-and-help-stranger

[3] https://mealsbymahnaz.com/pages/story