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Do Not Oppress a Stranger

Do Not Oppress a Stranger

Inspiration for today

Exodus 22:20

You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

וְגֵר לֹא־תוֹנֶה וְלֹא תִלְחָצֶנּוּ כִּי־גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם

Why are we commanded to be kind to the stranger so many times?

After centuries of being enslaved and persecuted by the Egyptians, the Torah commands the Jews to treat strangers kindly "for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Exodus 22:20). The specific prohibition against abusing strangers is repeated four times in the Bible: Exodus 22:20, Exodus 23:9, Leviticus 19:34, Deuteronomy 10:19.

In addition, the Torah goes into detail about how to treat the stranger no fewer than 36 times, making the stranger one of the most frequently raised themes in the Bible. God instructs His People to love the stranger and the convert, and to take extra care of those who are new to the community and alone. This stands in contrast to the people’s experience as strangers in Egypt, where they were viciously oppressed. As the People of Israel prepare to enter the Land of Israel, where they will be the masters and no longer the strangers, they are warned not to forget what it was like to be outsiders. They must do whatever they can to ease the struggles of strangers in their land. One of the expressions of being kind to the "stranger" described in the Torah is through the commandment to leaving gleanings in the field: "When you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf in the field, do not turn back to get it; it shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow—in order that Hashem your God may bless you in all your undertakings" (Deuteronomy 24:19). This form of kindness to the convert was the basis of Boaz’s treatment of Ruth the Moabite when she appeared as a destitute convert in his fields.



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