Parashas Eikev: Shem My Lover […and the “Gerim” I Love]
Rabbi David Katz
In this week’s Parsha of Eikev we come face to face with perhaps the most puzzling question a Noahide can ask: “what is a Noahide in God’s eyes?” Parashas Eikev sheds light on this topic as it is one of the major locations in the Torah that specifically defines a Jew’s intimate partnership / relationship issues that will [and should] come up between Jew and Gentile. The other main source in the Five Books of Moses being in Parashas Mishpatim [chapter 22:20] that clearly states: “Do not taunt or oppress the ‘Ger’, for you all were ‘Gerim’ in the Land of Egypt.” [The term “Ger” (loosely translated as stranger or dweller), Rashi (the Bible commentator) translates in very simple and easy to understand terms (which is also devoid of any connotation or context) the following definition: “Every usage of term “Ger” is the following: A man that is not born of this particular nation, but rather came from another nation to dwell there.”] Now that we have [finally] defined the “Ger”, what is it then practically? To put it simply a Ger can be connoted as a dweller, a stranger, a convert to Judaism, or a Noahide [which in Hebrew the exact wordage is “Ger Toshav” – ‘Ger – Dweller.] Now that we have a “definition” of the Noahide, there is a clear path to follow; the path will ultimately end up with Shem, who is termed: “Shem My Lover” [to Hashem.]
In Tanna D’Bei Eliyahu, an ancient work of Midrash from the teachings of Elijah the Prophet, Shem is identified as “Shem my Lover,” a title that he and Abraham share on common ground; obviously since Shem came first, the teaching of Love of God would have been a part of Abraham’s reception of Torah from Shem as the two met at The Temple Mount. Now that there is a precedent of a “Ben Noah” and his Love of God, the pressing question would be one of how the Noahides relate to Shem in this fashion, and what is their relationship personally to Hashem?
There is a very interesting way to read the Torah in the verse at hand in our Parsha that relates to the Ger; and since the usage of Ger can swing to either the convert or the Noahide, Torah logic would dictate that we can ascribe context to either. We see a clear example in the Midrash in regards to Jethro in this same exact vain, as to whether he is a convert to Judaism or a Noahide.
The verse of Devarim 10:18 (19) says the following: “and the Lover, the Ger, give to him bread and jacket… (19) And you shall love the Ger, since Gerim (Ger in plural) you all were in Egypt.” The commentaries point out that this kindness is of the exact same request that Jacob personally asked Hashem to give him upon his fleeing from Esau, showing the importance of these two tokens of kindness. The revelation in verse 18 is this expression “the Lover, the Ger” – as most would translate this as a command form: Love the Ger!...Now that the Torah explains how to read this verse, the pathways of understanding Noahides and their relationship to Hashem become utterly endless; as it will always connect back to, “Shem my Lover.”
I would like to clearly express what the Midrash has to offer about this Love affair with the Ger/Noahide and Hashem. The Midrash on verse 10:19 in Devarim gives three powerful accounts showing how precious the Noahide is to God, as Lovers of God; which again goes back to the Father of the concept: Shem my Lover.
The first example the Midrash offers on the verse, begins by offering praise to the Ger/Noahide as stating explicitly that they are “Beloved” to Hashem and spoken as such in each place they are mentioned in the Torah. The Torah states, “don’t harass”, “don’t taunt or oppress”, “you should Love the Ger”, “you should know their soul [nefesh]”, etc; thus making its stance indisputable of how Hashem feels about the Ger. The Midrash goes on to state a Midrash based on these quotes, and it asks a question: who does the King Love more, “he who loves the King” or “he whom the King Loves?” The Midrash then answers, “he whom the King Loves”, as it says, “The Lover, the Ger.” One need not then ponder about the nature of Israel and their Love affair with Hashem at the same time, for the Midrash says in so many words, that the King Loves them both, and even compares them both to each other!
[This is in respect to them both Loving God. Should it rise into one’s mind then what is the task of Mankind that will separate one’s self from the pack and open the Gates of True Righteousness- the Talmud says, “All is in the hands of Heaven except for the Fear of Heaven. It was this that seals the book of Koheles written by King Solomon and upon which Moses says to Israel, “What does Hashem want from you – to Fear Hashem your God! Yet let us not lose sight of our immediate goal, as it says in the Shema: you shall Love Hashem your God!]
Israel is called slaves to God, while the Gerim are called slaves to God. Israel is called Servants of God. Gerim are called Servants of God. Israel is called Lovers of God. The Gerim are called Lovers of God. Israel has a covenant. The Ger has a covenant. Israel has favor. Gerim have favor. Israel is kept. Gerim are kept. To this extent and praise of the Noahides, Abraham and David respectively referred to themselves as “Gerim.”
The Midrash ends with a parable about a shepherd who goes out to graze his sheep. The flock is normal in every way, only one day there was a particular deer who was determined to join the herd, and be regular to come in and go out like all the rest. The king who was with the shepherd fell in love with the deer, and he commanded his men to give food and drink to this deer and to cater to its needs even more than the other animals! The men asked the King – “but why? – The King has many animals that belong to the King!” The King responded, “These animals, this is their nature, to graze with us, but the deer, this is not his way!” “Their way is not to go with Man and his grazing – and he has forsaken his environment to come with us! He left behind his family to graze by us…” Therefore the Torah says, “You shall Love the Ger” and most importantly Hashem Himself keeps the Ger [/Noahide.]
Thus now we can see what an aspect of Shem’s relationship with Hashem was, as he was called Shem My Lover. To this extent, the Noahides are to this day called Lovers of God, and are seen as partners in the Love of God with Hashem. If there was ever a definition of what the Noahide is to Hashem, this would serve as the answer in the name of Rashi and the Torah: A people going back to Shem who are not naturally found amongst Israel, who not only have a burning Love of God, but God Loves them as much as God Loved Shem the founder of the entire system of how Man can relate to God. For this, the Noahide shares with Shem the term of endearment, “Lovers of God” said from Hashem Himself.
|Good Shabbos Le'Kulam!|