Maggid ben Yoseif / Jerusalem Torah Voice in Exile
21 Iyar 5766 / May 19, 2006

What would Jesus say about the Chicano immigration?

A parable of Jesus may apply to the attitude of Americans who resent Chicano "illegals" having jobs and citizenship in the U.S.

"Many first shall be last; and the last, first," the Gospel of Matthew quotes Jesus. "For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man, a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard." (Matthew 19:30-20:1)

These first laborers were contracted for a certain amount of shekels. Later the householder observed men idle and hired them for the same amount. He did the same at the 3rd hour, the 6th and the 9th, who only worked one hour.

Those who were hired first objected because they had labored all day in the sun and had "borne the burden and heat of the day."

Jesus answered their objection:  

Friend, I do thee no wrong; did you not agree with me for the shekels? Take yours and go your way. I will give unto this last, even as unto you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?  Is your eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many be called, but few be chosen. (Matthew 20:13-16)

The parable continues a discourse that started in 19:16, when Jesus was asked by a man what good thing he should do to have eternal life? Jesus answered that he should keep the commandments. When the man answered he had done this all of his life, Jesus told him how to be perfect by selling all he owned and giving the money as tzedekah, (giving charity), but the man had much wealth and went away sorrowful.  Then Jesus stated how difficult it was for the rich to enter into the kingdom of heaven, like trying to pass a rope (Ara. gamal) between the eye of a needle. The implication being that a rope (the rich man) must first be reduced to threads, but that with God, this was possible.  Peter then asked about the reward for those who would do this. And Jesus said,

"And every one that hath forsaken houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my name's sake1 shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life. But many first shall be last; and the last, first."  (Matthew 19:29-30)

Clearly the context of this parable conveys the envy or jealousy of the "first" toward the "last." And it all involves money, materialism and greed, evident in the attitude of the "first."

One way to make the first, last and the last first, which might also deal with this prospect of animosity is to declare a year of Jubilee, in which all debts for everyone would be forgiven. It would be interesting to know Who could possibly object to that and more interesting, Why? It was a part of the Torah economy employed by Israel once every 50 years until the Northern Tribes of Israel were exiled.

At the Jubilee, lands also reverted to their ancestral inheritances.  This would be difficult to institute in the U.S., because we have strayed so far from the ways of the Torah. But if we ever have cause to "start over" such as in the aftermath of the destruction predicted by the Hopi prophesies, it is something to keep in mind.

In biblical times, all land was inherited by sons. When daughters would marry outside of the tribe, the inheritance left the father's name and ancestral tribe's possession. When there were no sons, daughters were permitted to inherit, so long as they married within the tribe. If they were to marry outside of the tribe, a near kin of their father would inherit.  At the same time, the sons, uncles and fathers who inherited were obligated to provide for the needs of their female relations on the same land and they were permitted to live there along with their households.  It was a system of "clan welfare" that often involved caring for the elderly in a family line, or an extended family, and which did not overly burden the poor with the need to acquire land on which to live. They could always reside on the land stewarded by their father or a brother or uncle. It also allowed the elderly a dignified demise on their own land without having to sell out to satisfy Medicare requirements and live with a son or daughter as a "third wheel" in a strange environment away from their surviving friends and the other members of the family.  Finally, since the inheritance was not reduced by other siblings, who took it out of the family name, it was often substantial to care for the needs of all.

Maggid ben Yoseif

1 NOTE: The Gospel of Mark reads, "for my sake and the Gospel's," Luke reads: "for the kingdom of God's sake,"