Monday, October 28, 2019

Genesis: a World without Borders?

Two important lessons from the Book of Genesis:

1. There is only one human race.

We are all cousins. There is no superior lineage or ethnicity, since we all descend from the same one man and woman. No one's blood is any redder, and no one's skin color is any more evolved or refined. We are all human, no more and no less.

There are no races. Just one human family. Let's learn to get along.

2. Every human is original to everywhere on earth. Borders are artificial.

Ibid 2:7 "And the Lord God formed man of dust from the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the soul of life..."

Our sages interpret it to mean Planet Earth, i.e. that God gathered dust from the entire earth, from all four directions, so that wherever a human would die, the earth would accept him for burial (Rashi, Midrash Tanchuma Pekudei 3, Sanhedrin 38a).

If you are human, then since "you are from the earth," then "to the earth you shall return" (ibid 3:9). And since you were formed of the dust from all over earth, it follows that anywhere on earth is an appropriate place into which to return.

While this has specific implications in Jewish law (for example, that a corpse found in the wilderness is to be interred in the precise spot it was discovered), there is deeper symbolism here.

If every place on earth is a suitable place to be buried, then it most certainly is also an appropriate place to live.

Let no one ever suggest that a certain land is exclusive for certain humans to live, and not for others. Those others were created from the dust of that land, so they are indigenous for all intents and purposes. How dare you exclude them from that land of whose dust their bodies were fashioned?

Borders are artificial constructs. By right, all humans ought to be welcome in every single inch of the earth, inhabitable or otherwise.

Of course, humans were enjoined to respect the natural habitat, fauna and flora, resources, etc., just as Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden not just "to develop it," but also "to preserve it," (ibid 2:15). Likewise, humans were commanded by God to respect the lives and properties of others, as well as the law of the land (דינא דמלכותא). 

Nevertheless, the law of the land should never seek to prohibit a migrating law-abiding human from settling within their border. Such a law would be unjust, as it prevents a child of Adam from returning to the earth from which he hails.

Perhaps this is why the Torah adjures us: "Love the stranger who sojourns in your midst.

Coming from afar, he might seem strange to you, but his body is no stranger to the soil upon which you walk.

He's just coming home to the terrain of his humble origin that you both share in common.

Our connection to the earth (adamah) is what makes us all human, all descendants of Adam.

Let's embrace that.

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