On Avraham and the Immigration Ban

By: Gideon Turk  |  February 3, 2017


The recent immigration restrictions imposed by the Trump administration that target seven countries with a majority Muslim population have come under heavy fire from across the Jewish spectrum. From J-Street to the Orthodox Union, rabbis and other leaders have bonded together to oppose a policy that unfairly targets people solely because of the religion they practice.

Yet, at Yeshiva University, when a group of students composed a moving tribute and awareness campaign about the Syrian refugee crisis on the wall outside of the Wilf Campus library earlier this week, it was torn down within 24 hours by two students who, according to witnesses, were dressed in what most would define as religious garb. These students justified their actions by saying the pictures were making them uncomfortable. How can these two yeshiva students have done this and still claim to uphold the tenets of our religion?

One of the most fundamental ideas in Judaism is that of trying to emulate our patriarchs and matriarchs in every aspect of our lives. Avraham, known for his chessed, or good deeds, would not have stood for an action like the one perpetrated by those two yeshiva students on Wednesday night. In Bereishit chapter 18, G-d is planning on destroying Sodom when Avraham mounts a protest on behalf of the number of righteous people he assumes live in the city. He questions whether G-d would destroy Sodom if there were “fifty righteous people within the city.”

Avraham is concerned for his fellow man even though he has no stake in their well being. Ibn Ezra questions the Torah’s decision to mention the words “within the city,” because the subject is obvious already given the context, making these words seem superfluous. He concludes that although there might have been tzadikim, righteous people, throughout the city of Sodom, their righteousness meant nothing because they kept to themselves. If there were 50 people in Sodom who did their good deeds in private, then their good deeds would matter not. A true tzadik is somebody who does good while immersed in the city, so their goodness is rubbed off on others and is not limited to just those immediately around them.

We are living in a time when people are being targeted and harassed for the deity they worship. That we are less than 80 years removed from being in a similar position to our Muslim brothers and sisters should be reason enough to protest the current political actions being taken against the citizens of the seven countries on President Trump’s list. But if it isn’t, the words of our Torah and the commentators on it should be.

If we don’t stand up at this time and make our voices heard against the moral wrongdoings around us, how can we make the claim that we are emulating the father of the world’s first moral monotheistic religion? Avraham, the ultimate doer of good, protested to G-d the imminent death of numerous wicked people in order to save the righteous few in Sodom. We are dealing with a case of many innocent Muslims and only a few that that our President suggests pose a “security risk” If Avraham was willing to save the many evil in his time for the few good, should we not be even more willing to save the many righteous in our times?