Today I would like to discuss the topic of boundaries and borders. But not the way you expect.
Yes, the catalyst for this talk is the uproar over the executive order signed by President Trump’s last week banning citizens of seven terrorist-prone countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia – from entering the United States for ninety days.
But I don’t want to discuss this controversy per se. I want to look at it through the eyes of the Baal Shem Tov. When we witness so much talk and passion around border controls, the Baal Shem Tov tells us that this is a sign and indicator that we need to learn from this.
Let us leave it for the pundits to fight out whether this ban is constitutional or not … whether this is simply a political/partisan debate, pitting the pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions against on another … whether these hostilities will mark the next four years … or whether what Trump did is any different than what Obama did when he placed a six-month ban on Iraqi immigration.
Instead, let us focus on the bigger issue of boundaries – boundaries between countries, nations, peoples and communities.
What lessons can learn from this boundary debate?
We find the fascinating answer, my friends, in this week’s Torah portion, which contains – believe it or not – the first case study of borders and boundaries.
By looking at the story of Mitzrayim (Egypt) – which very name means boundaries – we can learn some fundamental lessons about the issue of borders and boundaries, which can perhaps lend some civility to the present polarizing, and frankly distasteful, debates about American border control.