Andrew Greene (530nm330hz) wrote,
Andrew Greene

Dvar Torah: Shmot

I noticed this a few weeks ago, and wanted to capture it even though it's not fully formed.

There is a significant variant in the second of the morning berachot. While most people say שֶׁלֹּא עָשַֽׂנִי גּוֹי, the German minhag is to say שֶׁלֹּא עָשַֽׂנִי נׇכְרִי.

As I understand it, the key point of the dispute is that Avraham avinu is promised "כִּי לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל אֲשִׂימֶנּוּ.". So how can we say "שֶׁלֹּא עָשַֽׂנִי גּוֹי"?

So when we were reading Parashat Shemot, we get to Moshe's explanation of the name of his son, Gershom:

כִּי אָמַר גֵּר הָיִיתִי בְּאֶרֶץ נָכְרִיָּה

What struck me about this is that typically, it is the Hebrew text that reuses the same shoresh in various forms, and the English translation that seeks to vary the root word, in keeping with the styles of the two languages. But here, we are used to the English translation "I was a stranger in a strange land", yet the Hebrew uses two completely unrelated words. Perhaps a better, if less euphonious, translation would be "For I was an alien in a land of foreignness."

Of course my reading is inflected by the rabbinic development of the legal terms גֵּר and נׇכְרִי. But while that's a reason to tread carefully in the biblical text, it is completely reasonable in looking at the rabbinic enactment of birchot hashachar.

And in that context, the rabbis, writing in a predominantly Jewish community, could say שֶׁלֹּא עָשַֽׂנִי נׇכְרִי, thanking God that I was not created as a member of the halachic category of a נׇכְרִי.

But now many of us live in exile. We are aliens in foreign lands. Yet, I have three reasons that I can be grateful for not being a נׇכְרִי.

First is the technical legal reading. I am a Jew, and thankful for that.

But second, I am in a community of Jews; it is a warm, supportive community. I mean both my shul and the incredible greater Boston pan-denominational Jewish community. And when I am davening shacharit, whether it's with my minyan or at home, I am aware of that caring community and I feel in my bones that I am not an outsider, and I am thankful for that.

And third, I am living in a country where being a Jew, even though that means being in the minority, does not deprive me of my equal rights as a citizen. I can vote, I pay the same taxes as everyone else, I don't worry that the government will throw me in jail for observing my religion, I don't fear that my neighbors will burn down my house with my family locked inside.

And perhaps even more significant is the most insignificant lack of distinction. At least here in Massachusetts, it doesn't even enter my mind that someone might ask to see my horns or look at me in any way as a "stranger" just because I'm Jewish.

So I am thankful that, unlike our teacher Moses, I am not living בְּאֶרֶץ נָכְרִיָּה.

בָּרוּךְ ה', שֶׁלֹּא עָשַֽׂנִי נׇכְרִי
Tags: divrei torah

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