Commenting on parashat Chayei Sarah (“Our moral compass needs to be recalibrated,” Nov. 21), Rabbi Jessica Shimberg avers that the Hittites’ offer to give Abraham a burial plot was a gracious act toward a stranger. She contrasts this kindness with the reported mistreatment of people at our southern border. Respectfully, I would offer these observations:
• There are commentaries that believe the Hittites’ generosity a sham. Ephron, the plot’s owner, “not only had no intention of making a gift, he hypocritically implied to Abraham that he expected an outrageously high price for the plot.” (“The Stone Chumash,” Page 108)
• Rabbi Shimberg opines that “our moral compass needs to be recalibrated,” viz. what is happening at the border. Yes, we are commanded to treat the stranger well. But Jewish tradition also teaches that strangers are obligated to obey the laws of their host community – which prima facie is not the case here.
• Affirming the teaching, “the law of the land is the law”, Jews immigrated here legally; they were determined to be good citizens by obeying the law. It is documented that this is not the case when it comes to many of those at the southern border (nota bene: “many,” not all!).
Indeed, Torah is the instrument by which a Jew’s moral compass should be calibrated. But when it comes to the issue of illegal immigration, the Torah is more exacting than this Rabbi Shimberg would have us believe.
Rabbi Cary Kozberg