‘Illegal’ Missing From Rabbi’s Essay
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‘Illegal’ Missing From Rabbi’s Essay

In a rebuke to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Rabbi Saul Berman’s opinion column, “Torah Views On Immigrants: Let The Bible Speak For Itself” (July 13), draws upon such figures as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph to illustrate how some of the major personalities in the Torah were immigrants in need. Rabbi Berman goes on to point to the fact that, according to Torah law, immigrants are to be given the same legal protections as citizens.

It is always risky to try to shoehorn one’s political or ideological agenda into the Bible’s narrative. For every proof in one direction, an opposing view can be elicited as well from the same Bible.

Missing from Rabbi Berman’s article was one key word — “illegal.” The immigrants that the United States and the AG are dealing with are illegal ones. [Editor’s Note: Some are asylum-seekers.] No one is questioning the status of legal immigrants, which is how most of our ancestors arrived. In fact, both Presidents Obama and Clinton spoke very passionately about the need to welcome immigrants yet at the same time to be vigilant in upholding our country’s commitment to law by rejecting illegal immigration.

Indeed, we find in the Torah that Moses and Joshua were faced with aliens who entered the community under a subterfuge. Moses faced a group of Canaanites and Joshua faced Givonites who misrepresented their status. See Rashi (Deuteronomy 29:10) and Joshua (9:4-21). In both cases the illegals were assigned to menial labor.

Of course, I am not advocating separation of families, or any undue punishment for the illegals. I do, however, feel it necessary to point out that we must distinguish between legal and illegal immigration. We also must be cautious before drawing on the Bible for a biased, even if seemingly noble, purpose.

Kew Gardens Hills, Queens

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