by Rabbis Wendi Geffen, Elana Perry, and Erica Asch
At our Passover Seder tables, we internalize the heart of the stranger, for we were once strangers in the land of Egypt. We remember that no one is truly free when others are oppressed.
On Pesach’s second day, we begin to count the Omer every day for 7 weeks. The rabbis of the Talmud contextualized Sephirat haOmer as the communal spiritual re-enactment of our ancestors’ journeying from Egypt to Sinai. The Kabbalists understood the Omer as an opportunity to refine and perfect our own lives through the journey of our souls. At its heart, the Omer is a time of uncertainty, of living “in-between.” When the Omer concludes on the 50th day, Shavuot, we leave our uncertainty behind as we wholeheartedly embrace the Torah and ready ourselves to step into the future with openness and determination.
That precious freedom associated with Sinai reminds us that our work is far from complete, for on Shavuot we are reminded that there are “strangers” in our midst who are still oppressed, still waiting to be embraced by a welcoming community. When we read the story of Ruth, we empathize with the “stranger” among us. Who is “Ruth” in our society today? She is the undocumented immigrant seeking both refuge and opportunity in our country. The Biblical Ruth calls upon us to shine light onto the shadowed lives of the undocumented immigrants among us, and the shattered dreams of the thousands of families torn apart by deportation. When we stand to receive the Torah, we stand with Ruth, and we accept our obligation to act.
Each Thursday of the Omer, beginning April 17, Rabbis Organizing Rabbis (ROR) will post a drash written by a colleague offering insights on the Omer and the issue of immigration. (Be sure to sign up for our email updates here!) We will renew our efforts to bring immigration reform back to the forefront of American consciousness.
ROR will also be sending out a Shavuot text study designed to be taught in congregations and communities and a liturgical supplement to be included in Shavuot services. We invite you to read them, reflect on them, and share them with your community as we experience this sacred liminal time together.
This Shavuot, we recommit ourselves to working with the modern day strangers who live among us. This Shavuot, we stand with Ruth.
Rabbis Organizing Rabbis (ROR) is a project of the Reform Movement’s social justice initiatives: the Justice and Peace Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Religious Action Center, and Just Congregations. Learn more about their powerful grassroots work for immigration reform – and join the campaign ahead – at rac.org/ror.