This year, our Parsha Naso falls out on the Shabbos after Shavuot, but the lessons regarding national unity as expressed by the Kohanim in the Birchat Kohanim, and fairness, honesty in dealings and interelationships between all types of Jews are pertinent for all-time, not just as paradigm for Mattan Torah.
The importance of these common threads in carving out national unity would, or should extend to the nuture and acceptance of Ba’alei Teshuva into the observant community, as well as to an attitude of respect, acceptance and cooperation by an indigenous Jewish kehal, be it on a national level or a local one, for new arrivals — be they Ger Tzaddikim or Olim Chadashim.
Near the beginning of Parsha Naso, Hashem speaks to Moshe telling him to speak to the B’nai Yisrael as follows;
“… A man or woman who commits any of man’s sins, by committing treachery toward Hashem.” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 5, posuk 6)
R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman) illustrates and emphasizes this treachery by way of equation of man’s sins in his business dealings with committing a breach of trust against Hashem (Hirsch Chumash, Sefer BaMidbar, commentary on Perek 5, posuk 6, pages 68-69):
Every… sin against one’s fellow man is also a breach of trust against Hashem; for… Hashem is the Guarantor of honesty in business dealings between men. The breach of trust is especially serious if the person takes an oath and invokes the Name of Hashem in order to prove his honesty. In such a case, the appeal to Hashem is exploited in order to conceal an injustice. The debt owed to one’s fellow man becomes, as a result of the oath, a debt owed to Hashem. It is elevated to sacred status because the oath taker claims that he is “close to Hashem”; he as it were, wraps himself in the Me’il [the robe — Rashbam: garment of honor — Stone Chumash Parsha Tetzaveh, page 467] of the Kohen, and his treachery against his fellow thereby becomes Me’ilah [in modern day Israeli Iv’rit = embezzlement].
Rav Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah,” attributes to Sforno comments to the effect that:
“… this refers to one who steals from a convert to Judaism.”
Parshiyot HaShevu’ot which this author has developed and said over through the years have tended to focus on the middot of honesty and Ahavat Chinom for our fellow Jews and the impact that a lack of these middot makes on our collective mindset at various levels; from personal, to business, to learning, to the levels of governing and politics. It seems that a paradigm of these middot is how we are taught to treat the Ger Tzeddik. We are taught to go above and beyond the norm –to go, in the vernacular which evolved from American Pro-Football, beyond “the full nine yards” in extending kindnesses to a Ger Tzeddek.
Rav Pliskin continues as follows;
“A person who comes to Torah on his own volition does so because of the beautiful and elevated ideas he hears regarding Torah principles. He made his decision on the assumption that those who follow the Torah will act toward him in accordance with all the Torah laws pertaining to interpersonal relations. If someone cheats him financially or in some other way wrongs him, he [the Ger Tzeddik] will not only suffer a monetary loss. Rather, he might also feel disillusioned with his decision to accept a Torah way of life.
The Ger Tzeddek has usually given up very much because of his ideals and will experience much pain from his disappointment that the people he is in contact with do not meet the Torah standards he expected of them. The importance of not harming a convert can be seen from the fact that Torah warns us about this in a number of places. From the negative we can learn the positive. The merit of acting with love and kindness toward a convert is great.” (“Growth Through Torah”, page 312)
There is an old axiom that amongst Religious Jews that he who was born, raised and has lived his entire life as a Religious Jew can’t fit into the shoes or know the road that the Ba’al Teshuva has traveled. Chavel Chomer, that all Jews can’t know and internalize the road that the Ger Tzaddik has traveled in his evolution toward the Emmet of Judaism. But often, there seems to be a chauvinism shown amongst some of those who are frum-from-birth toward the Ba’al Teshuva, the Ger Tzeddek, or the Oleh Chadash.
As with the Ger Tzeddek, an indigenous klal — whether local or national, can’t possibly know the road travelled by the Oleh Chadash (new resident) who, heretofore, lived in a foreign land, or the road travelled by those from whom the oleh chadash descended, it seems obvious, yet often disregarded — tread upon with the Eikev — with the heel, that the indigenous klal ought not to use the intricate nuances of their language, or so-called “local customs” to trick, to put “obstacles in the way of the blind” — the oleh chadash — the new resident who made aliyah from a foreign land. The indigenous klal — whether local or national, must also not walk before either the Ger Tzeddek or the Oleh Chadash with feelings of superiority or priority entitlements because of “their hard lives”, because of their army service, because of their pain as terrorist victims or loss of loved ones on the battlefield.
Who among this indigenous klal can know the pain and suffering of their fellow Jew, the oleh chadash, instilled as a result of the Sho’ah, of generations of pogroms, abuse, persecution and more?? It seems obvious that every Jew, that every Oleh Chadash has at least the same merit as the indigenous Israeli Jew, that he merits the same rights to live, earn a living, receive justice in legal proceedings and appropriate, adequate, transparent medical care, etc. in Eretz Yisrael as does the indigenous klal — the native-born — without what might be called the local double-talk.
And the Ba’alei Teshuva and the Ger Tzeddik have earned and deserve the merit, by virtue of the road that they’ve travelled to achieve closeness with Hashem, of being considered fairly for shidduchim based on who they are, what they’ve achieved and continue to achieve in growing in Yiddishkiet. In short, all upright, righteous Jews, be they Ba’alei Teshuva, the Ger Tzeddik, the Oleh Chadash are Holy and merit V’Ahavta L’Rei’echa Komocha from their fellow Jews.
In Megillat Ruth, one receives an indication that the road traveled by Ruth was more substantial than love, admiration for Na’omi and concern for her welfare.
The Sforno apparently equates cheating or wronging a Ger Tzeddik with “committing treachery toward Hashem.” And it would seem that this S’forno would/should extend beyond the Ger Tzeddik to the Ba’al Teshuva who seeks closeness to Hashem and to the Oleh from a foreign land who starts a new life in Eretz HaKodesh. For we see that Na’omi’s return to Eretz Yisrael with her daughter-in-law, the Ger’es, that Ruth was treated with respect, acceptance and kindness. The chessed shown by Bo’az and his community toward Ruth should serve as a paradigm, not only for treatment of the Ger Tzeddek, but for treatment of the Ba’al Teshuva or new Olim as well — on a systemic national level as well as on a local communal level.
Above, we spoke of Perek 5, posuk 6 in Parsha Naso regarding the “sins of man” and “treachery against Hashem.” The very next posuk of our Parsha reads;
“They shall confess the sin that they committed; he shall make restitution for his guilt in his principal amount and add a fifth to it.” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 5, posuk 7)
“The Midrash Says”, comments regarding the punishment of the Jewish thief who steals from a Ger or from any other Jew, as follows;
“When the gentile nations heard about this mitzvah, they exclaimed, How great is this G’d who formulates laws that benefit those who observe them.”
“The Midrash Says” continues by saying;
“The Almighty …is more lenient, as it were, with sins against him personally than with a wrong committed by a man against his fellow.”
This applies not only to a sin committed against a native Jew but equally against a Ger Tzeddek, a non-Jew who converted Leshaim Shamayim.”
Rabbi Artscroll says on the posuk that:
“This law regarding proselytes was especially relevant now that their status was accentuated by the organization of the Sh’vatim. Since proselytes, not belonging to any of the 12 tribes, encamped separately, the Torah now gives the law regarding the theft of their property. This… teaches that financial treachery toward a fellow Jew is tantamount to treachery against G’d himself, for he defends the defenseless.” (Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 752)
It would therefore also seem that any treachery, not just monetary, done toward a fellow Jew, at whatever level of religiosity and under whatever guise; trickery, withholding information, speech, etc. constitutes a treachery against Hashem which will eventually have to be answered for by the perpetrators.
So it seems that there is a link to national unity which weaves through the aspects of our parsha noted above; Birchat Kohanim, the importance of caring for the Ger Tzeddik and the diversity and unique expression within the national unity of the offerings brought by the Sh’vatim at the inauguration of the Mishkan.
We can only be a unity, as expressed by both the Mishkan offerings and by the Birchat Kohanim, when we treat our fellow Jew, including our brother; the Ger Tzeddik, the Ba’al Teshuvah and, yes, the Oleh Chadash with kindness, care and honesty.
It is through the Birchat Kohanim;
“May Hashem bless you and keep you. May Hashem make His Face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May Hashem lift up His Countenance on you and give you peace”
that Hashem instructed Moshe to teach Aaron HaKohen, and in turn, all of the Kohanim, that, as L’lmod Ulamed cites both Yerushalmi Berachos, Perek 9, Halacha 1 and Rambam Mishnayos, Sanhedrin, Perek 5;
The Kohen must direct his words [to the B’nei Yisrael], to urge them to act in accordance with Hashem’s Will. If they do so, Hashem will provide for their welfare without the need for any intermediaries.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage, backbone and moral stength of conviction to prevent both the eviction of Jews from their homes in all or any part of Eretz Yisrael and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima — the Ultimate Redemption bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim” — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.