I like to find the little messages within the parshiot, within each of the sections of our Torah. And they are always there. In each parashah there is a big story, a development of an idea in the middle of which, or at the end of which, suddenly sometimes, or more naturally at other times, a thought, a descent of line or lineament arises, that does not always have the weight of a mitzvah, but it does become a sort of maxim to follow. In general, with an ethical or moral content.
The most visible text of our parashah has to do with the most detailed description regarding the festivities and celebrations of Israel, which have entered the Hebrew calendar dehoraita—of origin in the Torah. While the children of Israel march on an arduous journey through the desert, Moshe conveys to them the exact minutiae of each event that they will have to observe, the day they arrive in the Promised Land: eight MOADIM—consecrated times.
And suddenly, like someone who says something in passing in the middle of a conversation, the text surprises us with a pasuk about equal application of the laws to both a member of the People of Israel and a foreigner.
To speak today of equalizing the laws of the natives of a place when applying them to a foreigner sounds almost ridiculous. Actually, if we keep it as something written, as an aspirational ideal, it is understood. But in our world of visas between countries with migration processes that are sometimes humiliating, with refugees in camps in subhuman conditions and governments that close their borders to entire ethnic groups discriminated against in marginal settlements, the text of our parashah sounds like an imaginary and unattainable world.
The text is clear: “מִשְׁפַּט אֶחָד יִהְיֶה לָכֶם כַּגֵּר כָּאֶזְרָח יִהְיֶה כִּי אֲנִי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם׃ ” “You shall have one standard in the application of the law, for stranger and citizen alike: for I am the Lord your God” (Vaikra 24:22). But what is sadly true is that if the Torah deals with marking something, it is because no one respected what is being marked. In other words, surely the society at that time would have a treatment to foreigners similar to what we have today in various places of our complicated world. Awful.
It is that our world, which came with rigid organizations for years with castes sometimes more and sometimes less defined, and with marked social classes... this world has changed. With effort or sometimes just with divine providence (or luck, depending on the case) touching you with its wand, your life can change.
This becomes even more visible and changing in a world that strives for globalization, because we are all aware of everything and open to the possibilities of all corners of the Earth; then, the integration of differences is even more distinguished and more intense.
Because there are more and more pilgrims. There are more and more foreigners. And each time, those pilgrims or foreigners are more different. And the challenge of acceptance, inclusion and equality is even greater.
But let's be frank: when we talk about others, about the world around us or about distant worlds like the refugee camps in Europe, we like to nod our heads recognizing the horror that this implies, understanding how bad the world is.
On the contrary, when we refer to our closest little worlds, it is generally difficult for us to recognize these faults and injustices. It is hard for us to see when we ourselves are the ones who impose distances and limits, sometimes hateful, to someone who is different from us in their modus vivendi.
It is difficult for us to accept someone who is not of our “caste”. It is hard for us to accept someone who chooses a different religion. It costs us something more if the choice has to do with our religion, but with a different orientation within it. It costs us even more if the sexual choice differs from ours or if the capabilities of the other are different from ours. Many of us WORK to accept, in the conscience of those we find difficult to accept. And many others do not even question it.
Perhaps they are thinking about situations like the ones described, and perhaps they find it increasingly difficult to nod their heads, as the circle closes more and more around their surroundings, showing that each one has something to change with respect to their neighbor.
But I'll tell you something: THAT'S WHAT IT'S ABOUT!
The parashah speaks to each of us. It does not speak to the world at large. The challenge is not only collective of a people. It is also, and above all... INDIVIDUAL.
We are in the middle of the counting of the Omer. The one that prepares us in 49 steps to arrive somewhat purer, somewhat more whole to the most solemn moment of our entire existence as a people and as individuals: the giving of the Torah and the acceptance of it in our hearts and in our lives.
“Mishpat echad ihié lachem, kager, kaezrach ihié.” There will be only one law for you, for the pilgrim as for the native, as well as for the different or the one who does not think the same. May we make it real.