Friday, May 3, 2013

Living Amongst God's Gerim

Parashas Behar [& Bechukosai]
Shulchan Hashem – Living With Gerim In The Land
Rabbi David Katz

In this week’s double Parasha of Behar and Bechukosai, Hashem closes the Heart of the Torah, as Vayikra gives way to Bamidbar, and we can now properly focus on coming into the Land, coinciding with the holiday Shavuot. Yet as the famous analogy goes, a candle gives off its greatest light just before it fires off its last sparks; in Behar that candle is the Ger and the Light is his identity that shines forever. Again, the same as was with Emor, the Ger is richest in his revolution of the Sinai revelation, with the most essential Ger Torah pouring out before God, thus making the amount of Ger Torah in concentration a rare opportunity to know him in these few Parshiot. Of the essential elements, what stands out the most, each in a unique way would be the following four issues of Gerim in the Land: The Sabbath in the Land, The Yovel [in proximity of the Ger and the command to not taunt him], Jews in the Land, and where the Land identifies the Ger.

In Vayikra 25:6 the verse educates about the Sabbath of the Land where on a 7-year cycle, the seventh year is for Hashem, and the natural fruits will be for [amongst others] the Gerim. Rashi and commentators point out that the Ger reference can also suit workers of the Land, and the term “your dweller” [your – תושב Toshav] can come to include the Nachri who is doubly identified as a traveler – dweller. This bares significant identification as to the nature of the Nachri, as previously he was identified as a Ger Toshav under the quality of having rejected idolatry while in the Land, eating non-kosher meat, and still yet not having accepted the Seven Laws of Noach. This is hand in glove to the verse later on in  the Torah that bases the Jewish – Ger relationship to be based on  Tzedakkah in the form of giving non – kosher meat to the Ger [Toshav] and HAVING to SELL the meat to a Nachri.

This week provides the source that if the Nachri [not quite removed from idolatry abroad to qualify as a type of Ger] is on stay in the Land, he is termed a Toshav, would be able to be given the meat [as opposed to being sold], and he may enjoy Hashem’s fruits of the Land. Not only do we now have knowledge of a “who is who” in the Ger World, but even more important, the words “Ger” and “Toshav” have skyrocketed to ultra-complex! As we will see, the Land is very dynamic [especially when a Temple is erect], and the general term for people will be either Ger or Toshav or some combination. The task of the Torah scholar [Ger or Jew] is to know these terms, identify with them, and educate them, as the essence of the Oral Torah [within the Written Torah] is best expressed in a pure form through the Torah of the Ger, as Moses commanded at Sinai before Hashem spoke, in what was the purest expression of Torah, and served as the platform of post-Sinai exegesis.

The Ger Toshav in his highest form, one where he is legally a Ger in every sense, and all Torah Law concerning him is accepted [even to the stringent opinions, i.e. in a time where the Rambam would say we accept him (outright and not in a depressed state) as he enjoys full status] can only come about if there is a Jubilee Year in operation. Aside from the fact that this is a known halachic fact, the Torah gives clear definition of this reality by a close proximity of the Jubilee law contained in key verses that highlight the integrity of the Ger. 

The closeness of the two topics show just how literally they are both intertwined with each other. The current condition of the Ger Toshav [of exile] and attempts to usher in redemption are both contingent on the Jubilee, as it is this 50th year that serves as a common denominator that can produce an all-encompassing redemption for all peoples. As fate would have it, ironically to focus on the true nature of the Ger Toshav is to bring redemption under the rug called Jubilee, as the Ger Toshav technically fits on either side of the Jubilee; 
again showing just how mutually tight and eternally impacting these two really are.

The Ger is sandwiched into the Jubilee verses also contains a portion of the famous command to not taunt the Ger and your fellow man. The Talmud even states that a Jew who is a Baal Teshuva [a returnee to Judaism] is considered a Ger and to taunt him with his past is a violation of the Torah. The Ger is specifically mentioned [in clear terms, demonstrating that this is not always a Ger-Convert] in that one may not remind him [in regards of his Torah learning] of his non-kosher eating [commanded] habits. And finally on this point, the Torah compares a Jewish impoverished worker to a “Toshav” [yet another definition of Toshav] and thus forbids one to taunt him, as one would taunt the Ger [thus relating the Jew to a Ger]. One can easily see how broad and encompassing the Ger is, and how far – reaching his Torah flows, and once applied by association becomes a strong representative of the Oral Torah, even in the Written.

Hashem makes it very clear in regards to the Land of Israel, that the Land is HIS and not to anyone else, even the Jewish People. What Hashem has decreed is that of the Gerim in the World, he has selected a Nation to be stationed on His land [as all Gerim are stationed on the Lands of the World, each being pulled after their prophetically given names, as King David said, “Hashem places names in the land, not desolation.”], and their job is to work it [i.e. the Land with a Temple on it for the peoples of the World to come to], much like Adam, Noah, and Shem before them; hence Abraham had to come by means of Lech Lecha [Go for you to the Land!]. The Jewish people for this reason [and from this angle] are Jews, and Hashem allows them a portion in the Seventh Year, as a way of uniting with the Creator vis a vis the Land.

In the Ger Torah commands such as don’t taunt him and even this law of the Jews on the Land, a famous saying of King David is called upon for context, when he says, “I am a Ger.” The interesting revelation of this iconic statement from King David is that he is not being cute or overly righteous, for as we have learned, King David is simply giving us Pshat, or the simple meaning of Torah. It just so happens that King David is also showing us just how deep Torah is, and the extent one must internalize it, to benefit from its wisdom. David has mastered the art of bringing Torah to life, as he is able to express on his own terms, real Torah concepts such as Jews in the Land that belongs to Hashem, and its implications of reality.

The rest of the Ger associations of the Parsha are equally monumental and illuminate the full scope of the Ger. Amongst the relatively many verses and commentary in Behar, the Ger may be any of the following scenarios that the verses detail.

The Sifsei Chachamim commentary gives the most authentic and direct account that a Ger Toshav and Ger Tzedek can be of the same quality, in contrast of the Ger Tzedek convert, and he explains the difference, and thus how to distinguish between the two. We learn about “Toshavim” which may sound like a [better] term of endearment to the Ger, but when investigated in Behar, this illuminates the vast bow of the Ger in different places of context. As a Toshav in the generic sense, he may be a Ger Tzedek, or [God Forbid] he may be a bred slave, an asset of equity seen as a movable! The Torah permits it, Toshav is the term, and now all the more so one must know which type of Toshav the Torah is in reference of at any time. This is not to speak ill of the Ger, quite the opposite, it comes to express the need to know him, in every way possible, and to prevent out of context relationships with him, for the sake of the Land and the People. The point to be taken from him is that he is a unique person, truly made in the Image of God, as his Torah gives testimony of this; one must Love the Ger.

The Parasha gives many proofs to lingering questions, such as who is the Nachri, Ger Tzedek, Toshav, Ger, Ger Toshav [in all forms], Jew-Ger, Jew-Toshav, etc. to the extent that if the Ger wasn’t physically at Sinai [schism for the sake of repairing schism], he certainly was the center of attention at any rate, based on the Parsha that implies Sinai [along with Parashas Jethro for the same reasons]. An interesting way to summarize this story, is that the only place in the Torah that spells out the word [to trust (God)] [Bitachon] in letter after letter is found in Behar, and in the place that it speaks of dwelling securely in the Land. I think Hashem’s message is loud and clear and does need too much explanation: To dwell securely in a Land that abandons its labor every seven years because it is God’s Land and thus one must have faith in God, one must realize the Ger. The Parasha makes it difficult with all of its pilpul of the Ger [such that Jews seemed to have avoided it until today], yet the message of Sinai is, was, and will always be clear: ladies and gentlemen, we need the Ger - all Ger, even the Jewish ones, even the one’s outside the Land. For you were Gerim too, all of you, whoever you are – urges Hashem.

Now is the time to start dwelling securely into what Hashem is engineering in front of our eyes, leading us all to his Land, to His Zion, to His Temple, to His Holy of Holies, in what will be the final transaction of possessions between the two Gerim, two Kings even, David and Aravnah, who picked up where Shem and Abraham left off, until the Moshiach will come and redeem the Gerim, may it be soon in our days. Amen.

Don't Forget Audio Shiurim - Parasha Motzie Shabbat  10 P.M.
                                           Wed 11 P.M. Torat Gerim / Noahide


Anonymous said...

Excellent Rabbi... we learned about this ,this Shabbos. Thank you! Bebe Tracy

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