It is the most frequently commanded law in the Bible. It is the foundation of what should be recalled every seven days, and every single holiday throughout the Bible. It is the foundation of the identity of the physical and spiritual ancestor of half of planet earth’s human inhabitants who call themselves religious. The abuse of this law, it is warned, is the basis of the destruction of society. It is purposefully and explicitly anti-misogynist and pro-women and children.
It has many names: refugee, resident alien, illegal alien, landless, homeless. It is the law of Ger, Yatom and Almanah. It is the law that says that no matter what happens in your society, no matter how rich you become, no matter how poor you become, no matter how beleaguered, embattled, selfish, miserable, or confused, you must love the refugee, the widow, the orphan, if you want to survive on the land. As if those commandments were not repeated enough, and embedded in every single holiday and celebration, it is uttered as the most important self-identification of the ancestor of all peoples who claim this ancient religion.
Abraham says effectively this in one of his most important foreign policy speeches after much travel. He says, “I am a refugee, I have no legal status with you and I have no land. Can you please allow me to pay good money to buy one small parcel of land, so that I can bury my dear Sarah, my wife.” And the people are so deeply impressed by the honor and decency of this refugee that they insist that he bury freely, but he insists to the contrary, that everything should be by the law, and a proper ownership. Kind to his wife, honest with strangers, but shrewd with his destiny, he understands that refugees don’t fare well until they have legal title. A man ahead of his time.
In that spirit, with that memory in mind, and with a keen sense of pain over the absolute homelessness and vulnerability of the worst kind of homeless refugee, the slave, this long Biblical story culminates in no less than 36 commandments to love the refugee, to never forget your origins, going back millions of years for all of human origins, your origins as refugee.
It is as if the Bible plastered the law, rebukes about the law, stories about the law, the law as essential to anyone who claims ancestry, spiritual or otherwise, it is as if the Bible places it in every single corner of its sacred word, so that a selfish bigot might not run to try to establish a hypocritical religion and a divine connection without the refugee. And so the Bible literally sticks it in the face of the reader, no matter how much the reader may not want to think about refugees, homeless people, as if the reader would like to erase inglorious history. But the Bible comes back at you and says that if you want to erase your history as a refugee because it is inglorious I will erase you as an inglorious bastard, I will make you a refugee so that you can never deny your origin and identity.
This is tough medicine for Christians, Muslims and Jews who all claim Abraham as ancestor and godfather, but it is very good medicine. It is this medicine that gave rise to the spirit of the Enlightenment that, though darkened and tarnished by the centuries, is still with us, and still calls to us for the creation of a society that is truly enlightened, that reaches for the stars by loving and strengthening the least of us. The societies that truly win in the contests with barbarity on this planet are the ones who welcome the refugee, the bearers of human diversity and hope. America was strengthened this way, but now it will be western Europe. For in the throng of refugees lies our future, our future geniuses, our future leaders, our saviors from ourselves. They will not bury our identities, they will complete our identities, they will restore our identities, they will pull us out of barren materialism and strange narcissism, and they will remind us of our best selves and our highest destiny.