Homeless Bigotry

Leviticus Hizkuni: Emor

 

Homeless Bigotry

Real estate often determines ones social standing in the world. A homeless person is generally at the lowest socioeconomic level in our society, while the owners of the largest and most opulent mansions are typically masters of the world. The rest of humanity fills some spectrum in-between, with gradations as to neighborhood, size and quality of ones dwelling, number of occupants per room and more distinctions commensurate with ones financial standing, wherewithal or social predilection.

The Torah is highly sensitive to disadvantaged classes and repeatedly goes out of its way to include consideration of women, slaves and strangers in our cornucopia of commandments.

Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) wonders why specifically for the Festival of Sukkot (when we leave our homes and sit in huts) does the Torah single out the “resident” as having to leave his home and does not include the “stranger.”

Hizkuni explains that the Torah does not mention the stranger for the very simple reason that the stranger in those days was typically a person with no permanent abode. He was at best subject to the vagaries of some landlord and did not have the wealth, inheritance or ancestral land to have a stable residence called home. The Torah does not need to tell him to leave his cushy home and live in a hut. His existence is already precarious.

It is the land owner, the “resident” with a permanent dwelling that needs to be commanded to abandon his home temporarily. Hizkuni highlights that Sukkot is celebrated at the end of the harvest. It is celebrated at a time when the house will be overflowing with produce as well as all the results of a person’s material gain. It is exactly at that point that the Torah commands us to leave our comfortable existence. Hizkuni is afraid that the success will get to our heads. We will think that it is “our hand” that achieved this success. We may forget that it is purely God’s blessing that has bestowed wealth upon us.

Therefore, it is exactly at the height of our achievement that the Torah needs to command and remind us that nothing is permanent. That the walls and roof that surround us should not be taken for granted. That at a moments notice, we too can become homeless and our material possessions turned to nothing. The stranger, the homeless, know this lesson in their bones. It is the comfortable class, the home owners, the “resident” that needs to be specifically commanded and taken out of his comfort zone to better appreciate God’s munificence.

May we always remember to appreciate the most basic elements of life. They may seem trivial and mundane, but they are blessings nonetheless.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To my sister and brother-in-law, JJ and Elisha Kahen. Though they are surrounded by comfort they are ever-humble. Their hosting makes one feel like a visiting monarch.

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