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September 8, 2012 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Nitzavim

In Deut. 29:9-10 Moses says: “You stand this day, all of you, before God … [including] even your strangers within the camp, from wood-gatherers to the filler of water”.

Some translators say this line refers to converts- but Nachmanides cites Tanchuma  (a Midrashic text) stating that some Canannites “came to him to make peace with him… [and] he immediately made them hewers of wood and drawers of water.”

Moses presumably had to deal with a problem not unknown to modern societies: how to deal with immigrants from a radically different cultural background.  Do you try to assimilate them?  Do you exclude them?

According to this Midrash, Moses allowed them to come in but to “start at the bottom” as a lower class- probably the only plausible thing to do in a tribal theocracy, since to give heathens any power at all would be to create a high risk of idolatry.

In our democratic society such as the modern U.S. or Europe the problem is a little more difficult.  If you exclude them, you lose a pool of workers that might help support an aging society.   If you are too generous to them, native workers get resentful.  And if you let them in but keep them at the bottom forever you create a ticked-off underclass, much like the Muslim underclasses of Europe.  And because democratic societies deem ethnic cleansing unkosher, they aren’t quite prepared to deal with the latter problem.

 

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