Parashat Korah

Friday, June 15, 2018 /2 Tammuz, 5778
Parashat Korah Numbers 16:1-18:32
Dear Friends,
A friend remarked to me recently that to live in Palos Verdes is to live in “splendid isolation.” It is easy to be distracted by the beauty of our area and living off of the beaten path has its benefits. Even though it may take longer to get places once we are home, we feel blessed by the splendid beauty of this place.
However, with isolation comes disconnect. And disconnect can lead to apathy. Events taking place around us show that “splendid isolation” cannot be the be all and end all. We must be engaged in the world around us and respond to unconscionable injustice when we see it.
Today injustice is happening south of us. Along the U.S.–Mexico border, young children are being forcibly removed from their parents as they try to enter this country. Many of these families escaped situations of rampant terror and violence in their country of origin. Imagine their newly found terror when, upon arriving at our border, they are separated from their children?
Can you remember being a parent of a young child? Did you ever experience that brief wave of fear when you lost sight of your child in a supermarket or in the mall? How long did that last? A minute or two? Imagine arriving to this country, not knowing the language, being in a completely unfamiliar environment and the first thing to happen is to be separated from your child; not for minutes but rather for months, not knowing where they are being detained? Family separation is happening daily because Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration are enforcing a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy of an already unjust law when it comes to border crossings and detention.
I understand and appreciate the need for laws to be enforced and yes, people are trying to enter into the country illegally; however laws need to be just and moral as well and there is nothing just or moral about taking children away from parents who are able to care and provide for them, even if they are in detention. Jeff Sessions quoted a verse from the New Testament to support his enforcement of the policy. I am not as well versed in New Testament texts, however, I don’t believe that Jesus would be supportive of Sessions’ interpretation of his teachings.
The Torah teaches, “tzedek, tzedek tirdof-Justice, justice shall you pursue. (Deut. 16:20) Why the repetition of the word ‘justice?’ To demonstrate that justice must be pursued justly. A law that separates children from their parents for this sort of ‘transgression’ is immoral. No Jewish or any religious text for that matter, I believe, would lend credence to this position.
Earlier this week, the Anti Defamation League organized twenty-six Jewish organizations in sending a letter to Sessions and Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security condemning the policy of “zero-tolerance” enforcement. Writing from a perspective of Jewish values and lessons from the Torah and our history, the letter states,
“As Jews, we understand the plight of being an immigrant fleeing violence and oppression. We believe that the United States is a nation of immigrants and how we treat the stranger reflects on the moral values and ideals of this nation. . . .
Our Jewish faith demands of us concern for the stranger in our midst. Our own people’s history as ‘strangers’ reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today and compels our commitment to an immigration system in this country that is compassionate and just.”
I wish that Evangelical Christian and Orthodox Jewish organizations had signed this letter because the administration will not be moved by our appeals. I hope and pray that the religious leaders who serve the faith communities comprised the President’s most entrenched supporters will turn to the values of our respective traditions and bring a very loud moral and just voice to this most unjust practice.
We live in splendid isolation; these children are living in cruel isolation. God willing morality, justice, and core religious values will prevail and create a more just practice for these families, who like you and me, are made in God’s image.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Charles K. Briskin