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Embracing the Stranger: An Elul Exploration

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An Elul Exploration

Embracing the Stranger

Within and Without

Published in August 2019 / Elul 5779

During the Jewish month of Elul, we begin the spiritual journey toward the Yamim Noraim (the Days of Awe). Elul is a time for personal and communal introspection, as we reflect on the ways we have lived into our values and the places where we have missed the mark. We look for deeper understanding in our relationships, examine the pattern of our lives and rededicate ourselves to healing and repair.

To support you in these reflections, we’ve partnered with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and Ritualwell to create a collection of meaningful and creative High Holiday teachings, divrei torah, essays, liturgy, poetry, and art. All of the pieces in the collection address the theme of “Embracing the Stranger” - the stranger we encounter inside as we grow in self-awareness, the strangers we meet in the world around us, and the intersection between the two. Our authors are laypeople and rabbis, poets and teachers, artists and activists, and they provide a diversity of perspectives. Some of the essays are deeply personal and others meant to awaken us to injustice in our communities. They speak to issues of inclusion, disability, interfaith relationships, spirituality, hospitality and more.

We hope that these offerings inspire you in your spiritual preparations and your work toward teshuvah (repentance). Feel free to use them for personal reflection, sharing among family and friends or in your community for discussion.

Best wishes for a meaningful journey and a happy and healthy New Year. Leshanah tovah!

—Rabbi Deborah Waxman


Embracing the Stranger We See Before Us

At times, we have the opportunity and challenge of embracing strangers when we meet them face-to-face. These encounters can be deeply unsettling at first. But as barriers of difference fall, they can be deeply meaningful, even transformational. 

Illustration of Exodus 23:9
Illustration of Exodus 23:9
Syrian refugee camp
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Embracing the Stranger in the Wider World

Embracing the stranger is not just an individual journey—it's a communal calling. We are commanded as Jews to "Love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." In the face of fear, hostility, or simple disregard toward those who are different, our challenge is to lift up our common humanity.


Embracing the Stranger Within

Embracing the stranger is an endeavor that requires not just outward action, but internal effort on many levels. Both as individuals and communities, real inclusion involves rethinking of boundaries.

Many arms coming together in common purpose
Many arms coming together in common purpose
Book Cover of God Loves The Stranger
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God Loves the Stranger

In her new book, God Loves the Stranger, Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg writes: "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."

Additional Offerings from the RRA

Six Reconstructionist rabbis examine ways to welcome the stranger.

Ritual fringes grasped in hand
Ritual fringes grasped in hand

The Reconstructionist Network

Serving as central organization of the Reconstructionist movement

Training the next generation of groundbreaking rabbis

Modeling respectful conversations on pressing Jewish issues

Curating original, Jewish rituals, and convening Jewish creatives

The Reconstructionist Network