Rabbi Miriam's Blog
This week, I attended the Board of Rabbis’ Yom Iyun (day of study). Every year, rabbis from the larger Los Angeles metropolitan area gather before the High Holy Days for a day of study. It is always a wonderful day, filled with camaraderie and stimulating study topics.
One of the workshops I attended was about immigration. A panel of four colleagues discussed the need to change some of the current U.S. immigration laws. One common denominator was our responsibility to remember that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were immigrants to Egypt, looking for food for their families because of famine in their own country of Canaan. Many immigrants today are leaving their home for the same reason. They are looking for food.
Each one of us has an American family immigration story. Some of us are blessed to possess four generations of stories, while others have very current immigration stories. Some are sad, having to be separated from the family, and some are very happy, where families after many years of separation finally reunite. The question we are challenged with is whether our own families would have made it to the U.S., under the current immigration laws?
Our Jewish memory is strong. In our Torah portion this week, we are asked, once we are in Israel to take a basket of the first fruits to the Temple and make a declaration that is somewhat troubling. Moses instructs the people to say, “My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there… The Egyptians dealt harshly with us… We cried to God and God heard our plea and freed us from Egypt… and gave us this land.”
Many commentators have asked why the Israelites need to constantly relive the immigration history of their ancestors, even while they are living in a ‘land flowing with milk and honey’, such as the “Golden Medina”? We all know the answer, right? It is gratitude!
Yes, we should help make immigration laws caring and kind and, at the same time, also accountable and responsible. I would not want to see the U.S. in a few years in the same predicament that England, Sweden, and other European countries are facing. Yet, when we remember our immigrant ancestors and their life transforming experiences coming here, we identify with their sacrifices, which guarantee us, their next generation, to have it better than they had it. My basket is full with fruits of gratitude, I know yours is also. May we continue to enjoy gratitude through God’s love, grace and mercy. Amen.
Ahavat Torah of West Los Angeles
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.