When Jessica Bravo of Costa Mesa, California, went to speak to her congressional representative, Dana Rohrabacher, on February 6, about immigration reform, she received a response she likely didn’t expect. She told Rohrabacher that she, a college student, was an undocumented American applying for continuing legal status under the DREAM act. Congressman Rohrabacher replied angrily that he hates illegals. He pointed a finger at Jessica, saying, “Who are you, that you think you are so important?” He asked if she had signed in at his office with her address. She said yes, and he quipped back, “Now I know where you live!”
In an online article, Bravo declared who she believes she is with these words: Who am I? I am a person who the president of the United States and even members of Rep. Rohrabacher’s own party think should be given a chance at citizenship…I believe that every person is created in God’s image with dignity and unique worth…. I believe in American values of hard work, improving yourself through education and serving your community. But most of all I am a human being — not “an illegal” and not an “alien.” I am a person, and no matter how vigorously you disagree with me I deserve to be treated like one. I am ready and willing to try this meeting again, and I am praying for the congressman to have a change of heart.”
In light of Jessica Bravo’s response to her congressman, I was thinking about my favorite verse from this week’s Torah reading, Exodus Chapter 25 Verse 8: VA-ASU LI MIKDASH, V’SHACHANTI B’TOCHAM. Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them – or in their midst. The “I” in the verse is God, and the question is, “What does it mean to have God dwelling among us?” I believe that God dwells among us when we see ourselves and other people with a divine lens. That is just what Jessica Bravo suggested – she wants to be seen as a human being, created in God’s image. She wanted to be treated with respect. When we adopt God’s lens vantage point, we might begin to see more clearly and focus on the strengths of the people around us, rather than dwelling on their faults and limitations. We would put into practice the saying of the rabbis in Pirkei Avot – Find yourself a teacher, get yourself a study partner/colleague/friend, and give everyone the benefit of the doubt – think about them as positively as possible. That is truly the beginning of human equality. And it is when we reach that goal that our sanctuary, and our community, and the world, truly could be called MIKDASH, a zone of holiness, in which God dwells among us. May we adopt the vision that will continue to enable us to see the divine in each other. And let us say Amen.