Friday, March 22, 2013

The Ger: Rising Higher and Higher!

                               Parashas Tzav
                               Elevating The Ger [Noahide]
                               Rabbi David Katz

In Parashas Tzav we are introduced in more familiar terms with various Offerings of the Temple, and when in relation to the Ger [Noahide], the Olah may resonate more than the others. If we could take this moment to skip laterally into a completely Ger – dominated headspace in the context of the Olah [Bird] Offering, we may humbly find ourselves on the threshold of the official Ger, who seeks to be a part of Yisrael. His universe is brought to highlight in the Talmud Krisos 8-9, where we learn the laws of the Ger, in context to either convert, or simply be a Ger [as the Zohar would call this: Ger Tzedek – convert and Ger Tzedek Vadai – Ger literal (and for sure)] who seeks the closeness of Israel to compliment his relationship with Hashem.

The Talmud Krisos mentions the Ger along with those needing an atonement for various reasons, yet his needs are separate from the others, as he is like a Nazarite [who both he and the Ger have in common a need for the Temple to be in existence in order to fully achieve each of his endeavors] who’s Offering is not from sin, but from completion of procedure. The Ger who wishes to become a “Ger Gamur” [a convert] is required to undergo circumcision, mikvah, and a special two-bird Offering [Olah] upon which he will be considered Jewish from then on and a member of Israel. Let us not however forget the Ger [Toshav] who by his own volition sees no reason for a combined ritual of mikvah, circumcision, and Offering, for he desires to simply dwell amongst Israel appreciating the closeness of Hashem and the Jewish People. The Talmud informs that his lone need in times of the Temple is to offer the Olah [two birds – Turtledoves; hence Kol HaTor? – (Redemption and the Ger Tzedek)…the analogies are many, since Vayikra 1:15 states “one bird” in line with the one bird assumption of Kol Hator (Voice of the Turtledove), yet with halacha being two birds (2=1 theory) representing Ger Toshav and Tzedek] and being consistent with Jewish Thought, his Nefesh will be prepared [a full Ger Toshav, having eliminated the pull of a Non-Jewish World on his soul] to join Israel.

In these terms the effective difference halachically between the Ger and the Ger Gamor [convert] is based on whether they brought an Olah, or along with the Olah an accompanied circumcision and mikvah [ritual dunk with explicit intent of annulling the Ger upon the Offering of the Olah, which is the last mechanism in the order].

When we turn to Halachas of the Rambam on these matters we arrive to two essential places: Machsori Kaparah [based on our Talmud here] and Issurei Biah [the classic Rambam on Ger Toshav]. The M’’K laws show that while the Rambam quotes our Talmud quite clearly, he interestingly adds a few words for commentary, as his wish is to render the law fittingly for the Ger Gamor [convert; Gamor in Hebrew can mean either complete, or even more fitting – finished] illustrated by his inclusion of the mikvah and the circumcision [1:2]; the halacha works through just as the nature of the Talmud in Krisos. The lasting feeling from the Rambam was however, that his need to clarify two out of the three pre-requisites of the Ger is something of note and that we actually encounter this same dynamic elsewhere in his laws of Ger – the Ger Toshav.

In the Laws of Issurei Biah of the Rambam [14: (1),7-8 we learn exactly what is a Ger Toshav based on Talmud Avodah Zara; however after becoming verse in the previously mentioned Rambam laws of the Ger, apparently there is another apparatus involved, that of the Ger Gamor [in the negative!].

To quote the Rambam [14:7 –on the Ger Toshav; based on Avodah Zara 64b]: Which is a Ger Toshav – this “Goy” [idolater – halachically] that brought onto himself not to serve in a foreign way, and has accepted the Seven Laws of Noah [2 out of the four scenarios in Avodah Zara 64b], AND HE IS NOT CIRCUMCIZED OR RITUALLY DUNKED [MIKVAH] [as added in Rambam above], we bring him in /”accept him” – he is a Righteous/Pious of the Nations. And why do we call him Toshav? – Because we are permitted to dwell him amongst us in the Land of Israel, as explained in A.Z. 64b. Notice that the Rambam [aside from rendering that the Ger Toshav DOES exist today as opposed to the Ger Toshav [proper and not of the Chasidei umot haolam, i.e. did not nec. Accept seven laws of Noah in 14:8] has issued the additional terms “dunk” and “circumcise” while leaving out an obvious omission of the Olah / Offering! For this the Rambam was forced to express Toshav! [dwelling amongst Israel] and these laws are in the category of those [if they are] wishing to convert to Israel.
Now back to Krisos – and to tie in these two Rambam’s. This answers the biggest question on the Rambam: why was he forced to link Ger Toshav with the Righteous of the Nations; wouldn’t Ger be enough if forced to expand Biblically? One must conclude the [ger] TOSHAV is the Rambam bringing us back to Krisos, and the education one must have to go through not only with how to convert, but to be a GER [toshav] as well! Otherwise the person who rejects idolatry might as well be called a Righteous of the Nations and leave it at that – to which the Rambam clearly saw the need to take it that extra step and in accordance with a revelation from the Talmud in Krisos.

The Talmud Krisos [once it has established for us the various necessary rituals to be either a Ger Gamor or a Ger Toshav, the question comes up of the nature concerning what to do in case of a time when the Temple is not standing to receive the Ger and his Offering; would we then not accept Gerim?! [asks the Talmud]

The Talmud answers with a verse from Bamidbar 15:14 “When a Ger dwells with you or is among you throughout your generations and he shall perform a Fire Offering to Hashem [Olah] – as You do, he shall do.” [15:15- For the congregation the same decree shall be for you and for the Ger who dwells an eternal decree for your generations like you like the Ger shall it be before Hashem [16] One Torah and one Mishpat will be for ya’ll and to the Ger who dwells with you.” The Talmud understands [this verse as an answer to converts – Gerim Gamorim and to Ger Toshavim as well] this verse as a clear definition of “Toshav”, and thus would there ever be a time that we DON’T accept Gerim? – Israel thus always accepts the Ger, both Gamor and Toshav.

However the Talmud does agree that indeed the Temple does not stand today, and thus there must be a plan B for the Olah / Bird Offering portion of the Ger [both Gamor and Toshav respectively], and that substitution is the observation of Shabbat [thus for the Ger Gamor this is in align with a proper conversion from the methodology proposed on Yevamot 48b that a convert must traverse the path of the Ger Toshav and onwards towards the Ger Tzedek until Ger Tzedek [not Vadai] and Gamor. For the Ger Toshav this would be the equivalent of the third [of four opinions] opinion in A.Z.  of accepting the whole Torah in nature [which is the most accurate definition of the Ger Toshav, even if he doesn’t proactively keep more than his requirement, as by nature within his accepting the law as if on Sinai, he is logically bound to these three positions stated in A.Z. of rejecting idolatry, accepting Noahide Law, and eating non-kosher meat, as if to say he accepts the Torah save for this law.] with a Toshav status.

As made clear in the Rambam, Toshav means we are allowed to dwell with the Ger in Israel, and the commentaries go onto explain [logically even] that abroad, in a time that even Jews are forbidden in the Land, the Ger may dwell alongside Israel [Jews]. The practical depth to this equation is to say the World’s ultimate truthful expression is that it exists under control of “Dat Yisrael” – Torah rule, and that Shabbat is Fri-Sat concurring with Torah Law. This would dictate that the Ger who wishes such a lifestyle [functioning as a precursor to a Land experience should the Jubillee Come along with the Temple] would take up learning Derech Eretz [proper Torah conduct] of how to dwell amongst Israel; namely the foundation that unites all of these principles is the observance of the Jewish Shabbat in close proximity of the Jew as explained in the Ten Commandments.

To put it simply: Toshav to the Rambam is to see Avodah Zara 64b [and the 3-4 opinions] in conjunction with Krisos [with the end result of a keeping of Shabbat]; this would formulate [in the Rambam’s vision] a Ger Toshav, and the Talmud explains this as such:
In Krisos Once the precedent is set of the Shabbat observance [to which the opinions vary of how a Ger is to keep the Shabbat, ranging in variables based on a Jewish Yom Tov (holiday such as Passover, which is NOT Shabbat); he is to cater to the needs/feeding (literal/non-literal) of his body – “Ochel Nefesh”; whether the Ger Toshav, or even an idolater. The Talmud “Shabbos” makes this claim along with the Navi Is.: 6-6-7, and this is most applicable for any stringent view that holds a time without a Temple all Non-Jews are a status of idolater until a formal council of Law is formed with the onset of jubilee], it goes on to list what is a Ger Toshav today?

Today’s Ger Toshav would have gone through these steps:
      Be like Naaman Kings2 ch5
·        Keep a Chazal Shabbat as listed
·        Applies to any Non-Jew
·        3 Opinions of Avodah Zara 64b [no idolatry, 7 Laws, Torah, i.e. Shabbat]
·        Applies to Ger of every kind
Within context of Rambam as per these Talmudic resources; there are other opinions, but the Rambam seems to address the appropriate Talmudic resources with the most accuracy
The Rayvid commentary to the Rambam suggests even though today we have such chemistry between the Jew and the Ger, we must not lose sight that we are still in exile, both the Jew and the Ger, as seen by the very fact that he can’t bring his Offering that his Nefesh craves.  Our relationship will be a bit uncomfortable by nature, as to allow Hashem to hear our plight, and to encourage the Temple to come to us speedily in our days.
The “Fourth Opinion” in Avodah Zara 64b states that the wine of the Ger is kosher and not kosher. It is kosher if he attends to it in the house of a Jew, and non – kosher if it was attended to solely in the location of the Ger. The Talmud explains we trust him as our brother in our house and in his, only he may remain plugged into a society [that may even affect him and his ability of performance of the Law; to this extent he is still our brother] that has the power to overburden him, and could potentially harm the wine, making it forbidden for consumption.

The point is that this entire discussion [even the location of the laws of the Rambam] is the urging and craving on both sides to lose the schism that was divinely placed at Sinai. The Ger and Jew both know that schism exists, and will always exist, and for this [especially in exile] we must operate in schism now in these days. Should we forget [and hold in our hearts unlike the Rayvid] and seek to transcend schism, our un-kosher worlds are there to serve as reminder for us. The Ger knows that he can’t invite the Jew over because of these scenarios that are imposed from his Non-Jewish [non-Dat Yisrael] World, and the Jew should be ashamed by his world’s lack of Light to the Nations mindset, and acts accordingly not in the best interests of the Jew’s guest the Ger. Both are painfully reminded of the cruel nature of reality that is enforced by exile in terms that shall be simply called: schism.
There is however a light at the end of the tunnel [no pun intended] where the schism is torn away and the Ger and the Jew may dwell to some extent without schism, either as the Ger Toshav or the Ger Gamor with the advent of an Israel that stands most erect with the Beis Hamikdash. Before the giving of the Torah, Israel/Gerim received four prominent commandments that shall wipe away schism forever in the eyes of God: Red Heifer, Shabbat, Honoring Parents, and Statutes.

For the schism to go away, the Ger may take heart of his cooperation of the preparation of the Red Heifer, and to stand in purity in the Temple, as illustrated by the Para Adumah verses and commentary. The statutes govern a proper repentance like the story of Naaman, and thus the Ger Toshav by nature is an experience of non-schism. Honoring one’s parents exists between rav and student, thus when the Ger and Jew share in Torah, the schism is forgotten. And finally the Shabbat serves as the ultimate seal of two people, as the prophet Isaiah explains that the Non-Jew [if an idolater then even the more so the Ger!] and Jew who both take witness to the Shabbat as the belief of reality - Hashem Created Creation culminating on Shabbat, a Day for Hashem, the Ger and the Jew stand shoulder to shoulder in the Temple, without schism, praising Unity before Hashem [anything else would be idolatry!] Thus through these four commandments schism is suspended from Hashem’s Creation.

The Ger knows that he is not born of the Jewish People, and should he realize that he seeks the closeness of either Hashem or Israel [to go along with his born closeness of either], the Torah has given good counsel and teaching for the Ger to achieve his dreams. In the Parsha we learn of the Olah, a bird Offering. For the Jew this may be just another law, and the book is closed until a later time, and it is believed that no change [ever] comes to the World. But through knowledge of the Ger and his World, and all that he represents, this Olah / bird Offering – may be his dream come true if there would be just one in the World willing to reveal the dream of the Ger.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you: the Olah. Where you wish [or not wish] to go with this Offering, is in your hands, but it should be known, for the Olah – the sky is the limit [no pun intended], and as always – the choice is yours. If we are to choose Life, then we are to choose Light. If you are to see Light, then Mankind got to see Life…”In those Days, the Land will be filled with the Knowledge of Hashem.” May this Olah always be expressed in these sublime terms, being the true satisfaction that Hashem intended – one that knows not of schism, but is a beacon of Light and Life, a unique Offering [korban], one truly close to Hashem, no matter what you call it.

Class Motzie Shabbat 10 P.M. Israel [no clock change yet] - Parsha In-Depth

And as always Wed 11P.M. The Ger Series - All issues of the Ger [from Verses in Torah]


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