Thought for the Week: My father was a Wandering Aramean too

Written by Rabbi Josh Levy — 8 September 2015

At the beginning of last week’s parashah, Ki Tavo, we find a passage that is very familiar to many of us.

It is a short retelling of the story of the Israelites, beginning with the words “arami oved avi” – “my father was a wandering Aramean”. The passage becomes the basis of the ‘Maggid’ – the ‘telling’, the main section of the Pesach seder.

Less well known than the passage is the context from which it comes. This passage was to be recited by an Israelite who had brought the first fruits of his land to the Temple. There it would be shared out by the priests and the vulnerable, as an expression of gratitude for, as the Torah puts it, “the bounty that the Eternal your God has bestowed upon you”.

The underlying message is this: in your wealth, in your comfort, you must never forget that you were once refugees; that you were once strangers and slaves. The comforts that you now enjoy were once denied to you. And, with that knowledge, comes the responsibility to give of your bounty to those who are still as you once were – to the stranger, the fatherless and the widow.

This ethic of responsibility, coming out of our own experience – the idea that with our current position comes obligation, is expressed throughout our tradition. As the Talmud tells us: “At a time when the community is suffering no one should say ‘I will go home, and eat and drink, and be at peace with myself’”.

The relevance to today is clear.

Many of those who are seeking refuge in Europe today are the modern day equivalent of Arameans. Aram was part of what we would now call modern day Syria. It is our responsibility, as Jews, as people, as a nation – blessed as we are with bounty – to remember our past and to fulfil our responsibility in the present.

Alyth is proud to have a long tradition of support for refugees stretching back to the 1930s. Recently, this has been expressed in our monthly Refugee Drop-In, which provides support and assistance for refugees who have received indefinite leave to remain in the UK.   We are committed now to fulfilling our obligation to those seeking refuge in Europe today. You can find ways that you can help by clicking here.

“Arami oved avi”  My father was a wandering Aramean. May we do everything we can to respond to the needs of the wandering Arameans of our time.