Updated: Jul 14, 2021
Parshat Devarim, the first parsha in the final book of Torah, is an account of who the Israelites had to avoid, to conquer, to bypass on their way to the land promised to them. A number of nations are named, among them are the Amorites, the Moabites, the Anakites as well as others.
Over the past years and probably since history has been recorded, people have been divided into groups, the "us" and the "them." The "them" or the "other" have developed different customs, languages and ways to accomplish things in their own distinct way. Sometimes the "other" is respected and welcomed. Often times the "other" is looked at differently, and not always with a positive light. The "other" has also been a term used politically over the centuries in ways that are not productive.
This brief poem encourages us to consider how we see the "other" in our own time and perhaps to see the "other" differently.
The Others are everywhere
We see them,
we consider them
or perhaps their place in us
is deep and hidden
even to ourselves.
The Others are different from us
They are bigger and that makes us feel small
or they are smaller and that make us feel ungainly.
The Others are richer and they don’t share
or the Others are poorer
and they squander valuable resources .
The Others are smarter and conniving,
scheming to take over our space.
Or the Others lack basic intelligence
and cannot perform as well as we do.
The Others control everything
or they can’t take control of anything at all
and leave us to do all the work.
The Others are lazy and take advantage
or they are too ambitious,
stealing jobs away from us.
We don't understand them.
Their language is different from ours.
Their customs foreign.
They make trouble
even when they don't.
We are troubled.
They are incapable
or they are sly and too capable
They do things differently
They don’t look like us.
The don't speak like us.
They don’t eat like us.
They don't dress like us.
They don’t pray like us.
They are The Others.
The Others live there,
on the other side.
We live here,
far from them.
The Others live among us.
We see them through narrowed eyes
or we choose not to see them
The Others won’t let us in
The Others won’t let us out
They let everyone in.
They take too much.
They give too much.
They deprive us of what’s ours.
Our given rights denied.
They, they, they.
So necessary in the life
of a society
The ones we blame.
The ones we fail to understand.
The ones we fail to see.
Fail to welcome.
It makes us so much bigger
so much better,
This day I begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under heaven, so that they shall tremble and quake because of you whenever they hear you mentioned.
BaMidbar 2:25 (Translation from Sefaria)