Human Rights and the Road to Efratah

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In
 this week’s portion, Parashat Vayishlach, we read:

Thus Rachel died. She was buried on the road to Efratah – now Beit
 Lechem. Over her grave Jacob set up a pillar; it is the pillar  at Rachel’s grave to this day. (Genesis 35:19-20)

Jeremiah famously expanded upon these verses to introduce the tragic, iconic 
image of Rachel weeping over the exiled children of Israel:

Thus said the Lord: A cry is heard in Ramah – wailing, bitter weeping – Rachel weeping for her children. She refuses to be comforted for her
 children, who are gone. Thus said the Lord: restrain your voice from 
weeping, your eyes from shedding tears. For there is a reward for your labor, declares the Lord.  They shall return from the enemy’s land.
 And there is hope for your future, declares the Lord.  Your children 
shall return to their country. (Jeremiah
 31:15­)

While these words have been a comfort to the exiled Jewish people for centuries, we know all to well that we are not the only people to suffer the pain of exile. Given that Jews are now global citizens in the 21st century world, might we apply these sacred words to all who have been forcibly dislocated from their lands?  I am particularly mindful of this question this week, as we mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Note in particular Article 9: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”)

In honor of this important anniversary, Rabbis for Human Rights – North America has designated this Shabbat to be “Human Rights Shabbat.”  I encourage you to study and utilize their extensive new web resources to commorate this sacred milestone. This Shabbat Vayishlach, may we strengthen our resolve that we might make the vision of the Universal Declaration a reality for all who dwell on earth…

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