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Welcoming migrants: drawing inspiration from biblical wisdom.

Bernard Hadjadj

The sentencing of Cédric Herrou, a farmer from Breil-sur-Roya, on Tuesday August 8, to a four-month suspended prison sentence shocked me. Certainly he contravened the law of the Republic but did he not behave in accordance with ethics? Is this decision based on law fair? This question led me to seek answers in ancient texts. In these few lines, I give you some food for thought.

Communalism supposes separate groups living side by side in a given territory. On the other hand, the nation or the national community presupposes living with the other; " with " and not " to the side " which is a source of indifference. The Bible, this old book that some have hastened to store in the old attics of history is nevertheless rich in lessons:

« If your brother comes to fall, if you see his fortune waver, support him, even if he is a stranger and a newcomer, and let him live with you. (Leviticus 25,35)

May the foreigner, the one who has just immigrated to your country, live Along with you ! It should be noted that “living” does not mean “surviving”, which implies offering foreigners decent living conditions.

Rashi of Troyes, famous biblical exegete (1040-1105), will define what is meant by foreigner:

The foreigner-inhabitant, the ger-tochav, “He is someone who has pledged not to indulge in idolatry; but who consumes neveloth (carrion). Here is also the explanation given by the Maharal of Prague following Rashi: "What is the ger-tochav ? He is the one who decided not to worship foreign deities, and to refrain from eating animals killed in a non-ritual way (Nevelot). "

We can understand that the foreigner, by refraining from practicing idolatry, must respect the foundations of this welcoming society which was built in fidelity to the one God and against idolatry. Mutatis mutandis, one could say that he must respect the foundations of the Republic while keeping its customs (the consumption of carrion referring to that of animals not killed ritually).

These foundations are specified in article 1 of the constitution:

“France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It ensures equality before the law of all citizens without distinction of origin, race or religion. She respects all beliefs. »

This is how anyone living on French soil must be in the Republic and respect its laws.

This is what André Néher tells us explaining the thought of the Maharal of Prague: “The pacifying environment in the life of men is not the neutrality of a void which would be neither-one-nor-the-other, but the fullness of an alliance encompassing one and the other. other, but the fullness of an alliance encompassing both, in respect for one-and-the-other, by the completion of one-by-the-other. »[1]

The integration of the Jews within the host nations was very early considered as an imperative in the biblical texts; we can judge by this recommendation inspired by the Prophet Jeremiah, more than 26 centuries ago, to his co-religionists exiled in Babylon:

« Thus says the Eternal-Cebaot, God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and inhabit them, plant gardens and eat their fruits. Marry women and bear sons and daughters; give wives to your sons, husbands to your daughters, that they may have children. Multiply there and do not diminish in number. Work finally for the prosperity of the city where I relegated you and implore God in its favor; for its prosperity is the guarantee of your prosperity. » (Jeremiah 29,4-7)

Another biblical prescription, the creation of cities of refuge, can inspire our attitude towards welcoming refugees:

« You will choose cities fit to serve you as cities of asylum: there will take refuge the murderer, homicide by imprudence. These cities will serve, among you, as asylum against the avenger of blood, so that the murderer does not die before having appeared before the assembly to be judged. (Num. 35, 11-12)

The Oral Torah throughout the midrash specifies that the Great Sanhedrin had the duty to ensure that all roads leading to the cities of refuge were easily passable and well marked.[2]

Modernity of the biblical text at a time when Europe is facing a wave of migrants.

This biblical tradition will be taken up by two philosophers: Emmanuel Lévinas and Jacques Derrida. Emmanuel Lévinas about social inequalities writes: “ Doesn't the avenger or redeemer of "hot-hearted" blood lurk around us, in the form of popular anger, a spirit of revolt or even delinquency in our suburbs, the result of the social imbalance in which we live? installed? »

Jacques Derrida took part in the initiative of the International Parliament of Writers for the creation of cities of refuge. Affirm the duty of hospitality to welcome foreigners in general, exiles, refugees, deportees, stateless persons with dignity.

Old tradition of biblical welcome and hospitality initiated “in the beginning” by the patriarch Abraham. Fundamental ethics of the Torah which makes Jacques Derrida say: It is the culture itself and it is not one ethic among others. Insofar as it affects the ethos, namely the dwelling, the home, the place of the familiar stay as much as the way of being there, the way of relating to oneself and to others, to others as to one's own or as to strangers, ethics is hospitality, it is through and through co-extensive with the experience of hospitality, however one opens it up or limits it. »

  1. André NEHER, The well of exile, tradition and modernity of the thought of the Maharal of Prague, p.150, cerf,1991.
  2. Devarim, The Midrash Recounts, p. 288, Salomon Haim Lehiani edition, 2013.


  • Lazarus
    Posted August 14 11h29 0Likes

    Mr. Hadjadj is right and the Israeli government should take inspiration from the Maharal of Prague to allow the 5 million poor Palestinian refugees to settle in Israel.
    This article is further proof of the de facto alliance between the Jewish left, which uses the Torah against Zionism and the enemies of the Jewish people.

  • Delpard
    Posted August 14 16h30 0Likes

    In general, the articles I read on this site are the expression of common sense, culture, and sometimes even imbued with a keen intelligence. What I have read reflects the depth of stupidity. I do not know who this gentleman is, but I would be ready to condemn him for mediocrity of thought. In prison for mediocrity as in Montherllant's play "the dead queen". There he could join the mediocrities whom the West likes because they are against Israel and against common sense.

  • Patricia JS Cambay
    Posted August 15 0h27 0Likes

    The content of this article is magnificent and I knew most of the thoughts apart from that of Derrida, the latter having never been my cup of tea, or Lévinas with whom I often did not agree.
    Having said that, I would allow myself to add that as far as the shape is concerned, it is not comparable to what we are currently experiencing. The vast majority of migrants are not exiles, refugees, deportees or stateless persons. These “strangers” arrive at us by the hundreds of thousands, even millions, and are “imposed” on the inhabitants of the places. What is not in Biblical thought.
    Decidedly, I have the impression that our “intellectuals” have forgotten that Wisdom does not mean accepting everything, far from it, and it is precisely the Bible that knows how to teach us this. To be wise does not mean to be stupid but to be “consequent”.

  • Patricia JS Cambay
    Posted August 15 0h44 0Likes

    As for this Cédric Herrou, he certainly did not act out of love for ethics otherwise he would have kept them at home. Moreover, there was a recurrence, so he knew what he was doing and on what slippery slope he was heading. He will be able to better sell his olive production…..

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