Friday, November 20, 2015

Immigrants (Portion Vayishlach)

Jacob arrived safely in the city of Shechem. . .

In a dangerous world, we all long for shelter and safety—just as Jacob does in this week’s portion, Vayishlach.  And in truth, most of us in CABI are blessed with secure homes and more than enough food and resources to live well.  During this week of Thanksgiving, we should not forget that we are incredibly lucky, as Jews, to live where and when we do—in the United States of America in the twenty-first century.  We enjoy privileges and prosperity that our ancestors could hardly have even imagined.

In my favorite English reading from our Reform siddur, Mishkan Tefillah, we ask God: “Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing with those in need.”  In this season, we think especially of the hungry and homeless, and of the refugees who come to this land in search of freedom and safety, just like our own forefathers and mothers.

In that spirit, I’d like to share a poem written by Alvin Greenberg—may his memory be for a blessing—a member of our Jewish community who died just a couple of months ago.  It reminds us that in the end, we are all sojourners here, with much reason to be grateful:


birds first.  and certain animals.  desert nomads.
sailors, peddlers, concert pianists, mailmen.
itinerant preachers, doctors, gamblers, lawyers,

even the sun, whose constant comings and goings
govern our lives, down to the finest detail,
telling us when to wake, what to wear and eat.

yes, just as your frightened congressman fears,
the nation’s in the hands of the immigrants,
and not just the nation, the world: everything

moves: and aboard this cosmic steamer, earth,
most of us huddle in steerage, a bundle or two
of possessions at our feet, stomachs queasy.

children crying: only knowing where we’ve been.

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