God Loves the Stranger: Introduction | Reconstructing Judaism

God Loves the Stranger: Introduction

Article

God Loves the Stranger

—Deuteronomy 10:18

When I take these words deeply into my being, my flesh and blood, there is enormous relief. I am no longer struggling to protect the limited ideas I have about who I am. I am no longer projecting endlessly limited ideas of who you are. I am free. No one is a stranger. Everyone including my so-called enemies is an infinitely complex and precious creature. My labels, categories, and strategies to protect myself from them are paltry in comparison with their sacred mystery.

In our everyday lives, the stranger is sometimes the refugee, sometimes the person of color, age, youth, accent, small or large body, deafness, blindness, baldness, or different view, different neighborhood, different family or lover, profession, or power. There is no limit to who the stranger can be. In fact, some of our most challenging strangers may be those we live with and those we have loved or tried to love.

To see and understand this is the purpose of practice. To provide the social and cultural conditions to deepen this understanding is the purpose of all efforts toward justice and peace. The idea that God loves the stranger unites our inner work and our outer work. The inner work shines light, again and again, on the false conclusions I draw about my self. When I look carefully, calmly, through the lens of divine love, I see that I am none of these labels. I am indeed a stranger even to my own awareness. Now I inhabit this mood, this moment of joy or sadness, fear or envy, generosity, clarity, or confusion. Then it changes.

When I remember that God loves the stranger, the very category of stranger ceases to have meaning. God’s love is undifferentiated, unconfined, unlimited. It is an expression of the reality of deepest unity and interconnection of all life in the cosmos, drawn from a single source, ever spiraling, expanding, and returning. All other beings are working with their own limited ideas of who they are and who I am, just as I am working with mine. There is no difference that is substantial.

When I am receptive to the love of the stranger who lives within my own heart and mind, I can extend this love to the other, to one I think I know and to one I do not know. Without exception. This attitude aspires to create a world that is moving toward a more equitable distribution of resources and opportunities, a world of respect and sharing, a world saturated with the recognition of unity and love. This is a world where Black lives really matter and a refugee is received with interest, care, and empathy.

These stories and poems, teachings and meditative exercises are a product of a spiritual practice both in formal settings and in the ordinary life of a seeker, a Jewish woman in her eighth decade of life, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother who is trying to let God love her. It is my hope that they inspire you toward your own practices and your own embrace of the stranger that God loves.

(This is the introduction of God Loves the Stranger: Stories, Poems, Prayers )

Spiritual Practice
Rabbi and Author

Related Resources

High Holiday Message from Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D.

At Rosh Hashanah, as we turn to new beginnings, we seek to repent—to do teshuvah—for what we have done wrong. And we can also affirmatively foster ourselves toward resilience—toward a thriving, loving outlook in spite of whatever challenges we encounter in life. In this video, I explore themes of resilience embedded into Jewish practice.

Video

Welcoming Those Who Are Close

Sometimes we need to consciously welcome those who “should” already feel close.

Article

Hospitality and Spirit

Rabbi Shefa Gold reflects on creating a spiritual community of welcome

Article

Welcoming Strangers Through AirBnB: A Spiritual Practice

As empty nesters open their home to strangers via AirBnB, they find that hospitality has spiritual lessons to teach.

Article
News and Blogs

Keeping the Faith: Resilience in the Jewish Tradition

In an essay for eJewishPhilanthropy, Rabbi Deborah Waxman delves into Jewish history and tradition around resilience — the focus of our new podcast, Hashivenu.

News

The Hebrew Word For Patience

Rabbi Jacob Staub reflects on the spirituality of anger, patience, and healing. 

Article

Nitzavim and Teshuvah

Study sheet on the relationship between Parashat Nitzavim and themes of teshuvah.

Document

What is the purpose of the tzitzit (fringes)?

What is the meaning of the fringes (tzitzit) on a Jewish prayer shawl (tallit)? Rabbi Toba Spitzer examines the sources. 

Document

Ki Tavo and the Practice of Joy

What does it mean to be commanded to be joyful? Rabbi Toba Spitzer unpacks this imperative from Parashat Ki Tavo.

Document

What is "Coveting"?

The Ten Commandments tell us not to “covet.” What does that mean? This study sheet explores sources related to this issue.

Document

Teshuvah and Compassion

This study sheet on teshuvah and compassion draws our attention to the interplay between our ability to forgive others, and God's ability to forgive us. 

Document

Teshuvah: A Reconstructionist Perspective

A study sheet on the evolving concept of teshuvah over the ages.

Document

Can a Reconstructionist Sin?

Since Reconstructionist Judaism affirms a conception of God as a force, power or process — but not as a supernatural Being who can be addressed and can respond — what happens to the notion of sin? Rabbi Richard Hirsh argues that Reconstructionist theology makes it more, not less, important that we take on the responsibility for judgment, atonement, apology and repentance

Article

Reconstructing Halakha

What does Reconstructionism have to do with Jewish law? According to Daniel Cederbaum, far more than you think. 

Article

Finding Forgiveness

A perspective on forgiveness as a spiritual practice as well as a moral act

Article