On today, the first day of Passover, Sharon Astyk writes about welcoming the stranger. Excerpt:
One of the central pieces of the Passover story, then, which is so important we tell it twice, on two separate nights, is this – you were a refugee, and you should know what it is like. And you must remember those who are still strangers, who are still seeking refuge. You must open your doors to them – for real. If we do not, we face the possibility of condemning a world of refugees to death.
The world was once much poorer than we are, and across the world, a surprisingly universal awareness of how important generosity and hospitality were emerged. We in America are richer than the kings of old in many ways, and instead of making us less fearful, more generous, our wealth has made us more afraid of scarcity. My faith, and every single other religion, culture and ethical system I’ve ever heard of, though, tells the story of the stranger in disguise. The stranger who appears in the form of someone desperately poor and in need, and who turns out to be a god, or an angel, a king or a hero in disguise. Those who turn the stranger away are punished. Those who welcome them in are rewarded.
In Judaism, it is Elijah who walks the world in the form of a stranger. And at this season of the year, at Pesach, just as the first new foods are coming, but before we are overwhelmed with plenty, we are to open our doors and call out that all who are hungry should come and eat. Because the stranger might be Elijah – because hospitality to the stranger is an obligation. Because we were strangers before in the Land of Egypt. At this point and this moment, we are obligated to share – before we know the final accounting of the harvest, before plenty is certain, we should still share – because the stranger may welcome us someday. Because we too may be the stranger.