Parashas Lech Lecha
Abraham My Lover – The First Ger Tzedek
Rabbi David Katz
God loves Abraham. Abraham was a Ger. Abraham loves God. Under these terms, one will conclude and realize the true meaning of the text, “Abraham My Lover” – and that this Love is unconditional, running the gauntlet of every faction of Love contained in the Torah. If you want – Love God, Love Israel, Love Jews, Love Gerim, Love Torah, Love your neighbor, Love your wife, Love your son – every true love on Earth, then perhaps one should invest time into understanding Abraham, the first [Ger Tzedek] of all Gerim. To put it simply, Jews are commanded to Love [to which the commentators will apologize for the difficulty that runs towards perceived impossibility of this command] while the Ger [i.e. Abraham] simply falls in love.
To first understand matters, we as people don’t dictate our emotional affairs with God [when undeserved]. If I feel like loving God [or at least convince myself of this new religious flavor] there is no guarantee that God will openly Love me back. Yes God loves us all, yet as Torah will show time and time again, if one is so bold as to claim to Love the God of Israel, your grace period is quite short, and soon you will have the merit of meeting “Mr. Test” – for any serious follower of Torah will have his faith based on love tested promptly by God. Yet the Torah is littered with exceptions to the rule no matter what; sometimes it’s the widow, or the orphan, or the Levite….or the Ger. And always remember, God Loves the Ger. He just does.
Yes we try to Love God and sometimes it works out and sometimes we stumble in our efforts, not different than any flesh and blood relationship. Where God is different, is that His side of the equation is not based on a flesh and blood [emotional] response. God might weigh it out as a test as was mentioned, He could enter merit into the equation, this could be a matter of repentance; there are essentially a myriad of ways that God will act towards a human yearning for Him. At that rate all we can say is that God is Good, righteous, Just, and the True Judge. Some will experience a clear path to God, others will be met with challenges. Yet the biggest perceived impediment to God’s Love [as the Love is always there, that’s the point of the effort and the Torah on the matter to encourage the Servant of God to Love God through various agencies and Mitzvot, all leading to Love Hashem your God] might not be in the ingredients of which we approach Him, rather in the withdrawal of the subject’s own Love! In fact if one is compelled to Love God from trial, one can ask why do good people suffer, and if from the source of Blessing, one can belittle the actual dynamic taking place as a perceived happenstance.
Underneath the complexities of Life and Love – “He loves me/He loves me not” – for whatever reason, and all of one’s struggles and life made easy moment’s, the relationship might be different than you ever imagined, in fact, you may be operating the Abraham program, all the while you are searching for merit in Abraham! In other words, as you search for God, and to offer Love to Him, He may have already found you; Joe average may be perhaps something different to God. Sometimes God pours out His love for the sake of His love, and this becomes the foundation of being a Ger [Tzedek]. Should this be the case, instead of “trying” to Love God, one would need to realize “God loves me!” – I am a Ger, and at that point, it becomes the journey of falling in Love.
The Torah is for Jews and Gerim. Jews are commanded to Love God, Love your fellow, Love the Ger, etc. One could even say this is one reason why God created the Jews out of the World’s Gerim, to be a Nation that would forever be charged and bound to the task of preserving the art of Love. Moses reiterates often in the Book of Devarim, “What does Hashem your God want from you – only to Love Hashem your God!” This is the very premise of the Shema, in which we proclaim a Love for God after declaring his unique One-ness over His peoples. This begs the question then, as to the nature of the Ger – if he really even exists.
The good news is that he does exist, and the journey of the Ger is unique in the eyes of God, for if Noah found grace in the eyes of God, we can at least say the same thing about every Ger; one could call it the Naaman moment, when one realizes he is having a God/Jewish moment, and needs the prophet of Israel stat! Ok, not always is there a prophet of Israel standing nearby, but thanks to God’s providence [mazal], Jews and [invisible/unknown] Gerim are intertwined, and have been since God said “I am Hashem Your God, and even going back to Shem and Abraham where it all began to take its current shape. Thus for every Naaman moment, a Jew [even if unbeknownst to himself] will have his “be a light to the nations moment” – and this is where the falling into Love begins, not much different to Naaman, who departs from Elisha the Prophet, in order to properly fall in Love, and fall out of idolatry.
It is here, the Ger Toshav is born, and the path of the Ger Tzedek begins; he need not search for Abraham outside of himself in a mythological what if scenario, for he is now a student of Abraham, finally realized as a Lover of God in God’s eyes. This is where the path to the Garden of Eden and joining hands with the Shechinah will fill the heart of the Ger. God loves the Ger, and the Ger Loves God – not much different from Shir Hashirim, and the Love that King Solomon compares to the Holy of Holies.
The Ger in Love, who loves by responding to and recognizing God’s love upon him, for simply realizing that he is a noble Ger to God, will literally fall in Love on many levels and to many furthest extents. He will Love Israel, Love the Jews, Love his fellow man, etc. – in short, for every Torah precept of Love, the Ger is there. The irony is in his relationship with the Jew, for the Jew knows not of this Love, struggles with his inclinations that counter love, and even denounces the Love of the Ger; the entire time the Ger is there in Brotherhood for the Jew, yet the Jew remains blind to the Divine dynamic. Oddly, this scenario plays out throughout the entire Torah, from Kain and Able, Yishmael and Isaac, all the way until today. For all that the Jew is challenged by the yolk of Heaven, the Ger has fallen into place, and has become a standing partner in Serving God.
How ironic is it then, that Loving Ger should be discouraged from Torah, prayer, Brotherhood, Mitzvot, song and dance, etc. To put it mildly, the Ger has been put into a place of Love, and his soul’s desire now is to express this Love! – all in the name of serving God from Love, and most uniquely from the lack of command, rather from the very fact that God has Loved him, and he has seen this Love and acts to preserve it for eternity. The Ger under the spread wings of the Shekinah, will delight in the path of Torah such that the Zohar explains that this is the way to healing all of the World’s sufferings […urging people to accept their divine role and place, such that God’s Love reaches all of the Torah’s subjects; Gerim, Priests, Levites, etc. All must be realized and accepted to find content within the soul, and this alleviates suffering].
The crown jewel to such philosophy is the Shabbat, for it resonates in the exact light of the Noahide Laws. Just as one takes the Laws in the fashion as Moses taught at Sinai, so too a Ger is to take Shabbat. Not for his sake is he to take Shabbat, but to join the Brit of Yisrael [who is sworn to guard preservation that God created the World as represented by Shabbat; this serves as the World’s continued existence as well], as an expression of Amen to the Jewish command of Shabbat. The Torah hints at this by stating “My Sabbaths you shall keep” – implying two peoples’ Sabbaths; along with commentary that suggests this is the deeper appreciation as to why Hashem created Shabbat in the first place, was for World Peace between those who keep the Torah.
In short, God Loves the Ger. The Ger Loves God. Abraham was called by God His Lover, and the Ger from then on until the end of time shall be subjected to falling in Love. There is nothing to fear from such providence, for one’s salvation is finally find this Love; Blessed is the Ger to be of the first to know God’s Love, and Blessed is Am Yisrael to have a faithful Lover/Brother in the Ger. One day the Jews with give back the light and Love the Ger as he was created to do, but ironically, by that time, the Ger’s Love will already have played its part in bringing Moshiach. Torah of Moshiach? – learn to Love, and that journey began with the Ger. You may even want to call him Tzedek…like Abraham who loved God, as the father of all Gerim, and who fulfilled the Torah’s deepest desire, in making Gerim. As Torah states, God loves the Ger, and there is no greater Honor to God, than having Gerim return to walk the Divine path.
Audio Shiur Tonite Sunday 11 P.M. [Tzfat Time]