I, too, am an immigrant. I first came to the United States in 1995 at the age of 17. It took me 10 years to become a citizen. So, on some level, I can relate to the current global discussion regarding the refugees.
After it was revealed that at least one of the terrorists involved in last week's horrific Paris attacks gained access to France by posing as a Syrian refugee, there has been much discussion about if and how to allow refugees to settle in Western countries. Obama is adamant about allowing thousands in, but at least 32 governors have insisted that they will not allow refugees into their states.
It all boils down to a few key questions: Who are the refugees? What is their goal? Will some of them declare Jihad against America or will they be peace-loving citizens dedicated to our ideals of freedom and democracy?
Essentially, we need a tough vetting process.
The truth is, we are all immigrants in this world. Our souls were basking in Heavenly spiritual paradise before descending into this physical universe. We are here temporarily; for 70-80 years, and G-d had a vetting process for us, too. Before we joined the world, he made us promise to uphold the values of truth and kindness. And we swore! Because that was the only way to enter the world.
As immigrants, our job is to permeate the world with goodness and holiness. We need to set an example for others. Every day we ask ourselves: Are we good citizens? Are we honest and kind? Do we go out of way to help others?
Interestingly, this week's Torah portion talks about the very first refugee. Yaakov, our forefather, was running away from his hometown in Beer Sheva, Israel. His brother Esav hated him viscerally and wanted to kill him. So Yaakov fled. As he fled, he was robbed of all his possessions.
Frightened and penniless, he arrived in a new country (Charan, which is in northern Iraq) with a new language with just the clothes on his back. Despite his sorry plight, Yaakov teaches us how to act as a refugee.
First, he showed gratitude to his host community for allowing him in. Second, Yaakov took the holiness of Israel and transported it into his new country, sharing it with his new people. Although he lived in the morally depraved Charan with a deceitful father-in-law, Yaakov remained a holy Jew dedicated to honesty and kindness.
He stayed in Charan for 20 years, creating a life and amassing a fortune. He was an upstanding citizen and fathered a large family. He obeyed the laws of the land and effected those around him in positive ways.
We can all learn from Yaakov. When we behave like model immigrants, we will bring peace to the world, ushering in an era where there will be no more slaughter, bloodshed and terror: the era of Moshiach.