Away With All Borders: The Immigration Mess

Credit: Jan Padover (janpadover.com).

Immigration opens up a complicated set of ethical and spiritual questions, and it’s time to confront them directly.

Every country in the world uses oppressive and sometimes violent means to keep out those whom it does not want, and these actions are almost always based on both capitalist economic rationales (“there is not enough to go around, so don’t let others share it”) and racist feelings toward others (“they don’t deserve what we deserve because they are less valuable or less truly human than we are”). There is also this phony argument: “My great great-grandparents built up this country; therefore, I am entitled to it because I inherited their genes.”

Our claim to own this part of the earth that we call “our country” because we currently live on it is fundamentally problematic. The notion of ownership of the earth and its products is a convenient fiction popularized in each generation by the latest set of victors in struggles for land that have been going on for at least the last 12,000 years. With this concept the winners justify their current power to exclude others from that land. This way of valorizing the ethos of “might makes right” has been going on for many thousands of years.

The notion that we “own” the land on which we live, foreign though this notion was to many indigenous cultures, seems so intuitive to people in modern, global, capitalist societies that it almost seems sacrilegious to question it. Yet that was precisely what the Torah and Jewish tradition set out to do over two thousand years ago.

A Spiritual Critique of Land Ownership

The Torah approaches the question of land ownership (Leviticus 25) by commanding that every seventh year be considered a Sabbatical year in which all work on the land is prohibited—no planting or harvesting. Anything that grows on that land is considered ownerless and hence available for the poor and the homeless to take. Those who have inherited land are expected during the Sabbatical year to live off of food that has been planted and harvested previously. Moreover, all debts are automatically canceled on the seventh year. The Torah goes on to ordain that at the end of the seventh cycle of seven years (or in other words, every fifty years), the last Sabbatical year will be followed by yet another year of no work—the Jubilee year, during which all land will be redistributed back to the original (essentially equal) distribution of the land among and within the twelve tribes.

...

{{{subscriber}}}
The rest of this article is only available to subscribers and NSP members -- subscribe or join now to read the rest! We sent an email and postcard to all current members and subscribers explaining how to register for our members-only area. If you remember the username and password you created for Tikkun, click on the blue “log in” link below. If you’re already registered but have forgotten your user ID or password, go to www.tikkun.org/forgot for automated instant assistance. If you are a member or subscriber who still needs to register, email miriam@tikkun.org or call 510-644-1200 for help -- registration is easy and you only have to do it once.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun, chair of the interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue-Without-Walls in San Francisco and Berkeley, California. He is the author of eleven books, including two national bestsellers—The Left Hand of God and Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation. His most recent book, Embracing Israel/Palestine, is available on Kindle from Amazon.com and in hard copy from tikkun.org/eip. He welcomes your responses and invites you to join with him by joining the Network of Spiritual Progressives (membership comes with a subscription to Tikkun magazine). You can contact him at rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com.
 

Source Citation

Lerner, Michael. Away With All Borders: The Immigration Mess. Tikkun 28(3): 22.

tags: Activism, Immigration, Spiritual Politics, US Politics   
Tip Jar Email Bookmark and Share RSS Print
Get Tikkun by Email -- FREE

COMMENT POLICY Please read our comments policy. We invite constructive disagreement but do not accept personal attacks and hateful comments. We reserve the right to block hecklers who repost comments that have been deleted. We do have automated spam filters that sometimes miscategorize legitimate comments as spam. If you don't see your comment within ten minutes, please click here to contact us. Due to our small staff it may take up to 48 hours to get your comment posted.

One Response to Away With All Borders: The Immigration Mess

  1. Jeffery Hokans August 25, 2013 at 1:00 am

    I keep hearing the words from the theme to “Exodus” when I read this. ‘This land is mine, God gave this land to me ‘. Leon Uris has given us quite a paradox to chew on. Revisiting the Jubilee/Sabbatical ethic for a modern update should be very instructive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*