With Shavuot coming on Yom Shishi this year, with Shabbos following on its heels, there are various common threads between Shabbos Parsha Naso Chag HaShavuos. One such thread is the importance of caring for the Ger Tzeddik.
In Divrei Torah I develop and say over, I tend to focus on the middot of honesty and Ahavat Chinom for our fellow Jews and the impact that a lack of these middot make on our collective mindset at various levels; from personal, to business, to learning, to the levels of governing and politics. And I end off with the wish and the Bracha that we strive to perfect these middot and that the Geula should hasten to arrive. And it seems to me 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 Tzeddik.
In fact, our Parsha Naso as says as follows; “… A man or woman who commits any of man’s sins, by committing treachery toward Hashem (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 5, posuk 6) 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.”
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. He 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. 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.
In the Artscroll Megillas Ruth, there is a short commentary on the words “V’Shem Ishto Na’ami”, “for his wife’s name was Na’ami, for her actions were pleasant and sweet (Midrash translation).” Surely, as a role model, she was worthy of emulation. But I have not seen, in earthly terms or understanding, any Sefer clearly enunciate the road traveled Ruth which led to her adamant desire to become a Ger’es. This desire had to be a divine spark. For nowhere do we learn how it was that Ruth and Orpah, sisters, daughters of Moabite royalty came to be joined in marraige with Mach and Killion, the sons of the Elimelech.
The Artscroll Shavuot Machsor’s (page 488) introduction to Megillat Ruth says that various reasons are given for reading Sefer Ruth on Shavuot;
–The story of Ruth’s becoming a Ger’es takes place from ‘the beginning of the barley harvest ‘through ‘the end of the wheat harvest. This period includes Shavuot.
— The giving of the Torah marked the entrance of B’nai Yisrael into the Covenant with Hashem, the beginning of the Jewish nation. Megillat Ruth tells how Ruth entered that Covenant.
— Megillat Ruth is the history of the roots of Dovid HaMelech. The last verse, which traces the line of Boaz’s descendants, ends with mentioning Dovid. Since Shavuot is the traditional Yahrtzeit for Dovid HaMelech (Yerushalmi Chaggigah 2:3) and his birthday, we read Ruth on Shavuot (Tevuos Shor).
The Artscroll introduction to The Book of Ruth also brings the question; “Who can withdraw purity from impurity?” (Sefer Job, Perek 14, posuk 3) The comentary continues, “Avraham came from Terach, Hezekiah from Achaz, Yoshia from Omon, Mordechai from Shi’i, Yisrael from the nations, the World to come from this world. Who could do this? Who could command this? Who could decree this? No one but the only One on earth.” (Bamidbar Rabbah Perek 19, posuk 1).
The introduction continues; “The sparks of goodness are scattered throughout creation. One was with Lot and remained glimmering even in the moral filth of Sodom. To salvage that spark, Hashem sent the angel Rafael, who, after healing Avraham, went to Sodom to save Lot, bearer of the spark that would become the soul of David. It went down through the generations until the time came for it to leave the impurity of Moav and enter the Jewish nation through Ruth.”
“Lot’s spark travelled through his Moabite descendents for seven centuries until it reached it’s ultimate destination. When the proper time came, Ruth went from the field of Moav to the field of Boaz. While popular wisdom held that no Moabite could ever enter the land of Hashem, [Boaz] the scion of Yehudah, leader of his people, unearthed the long-neglected law that a Moabitess was not forbidden to marry a Jew. One fateful night, the last one of Boaz’s life, the spark of Lot and the brilliance of Yehudah were united as Ruth and Boaz were married. That night, Oved, the grandfather of David, was conceived.”
In our times, such a true story of intense determination to become a Ger is recorded in the sefer, “Migrant Soul”, authored by Rabbi Avi Shafran. The sefer relates the story of a Catholic descendent of two tribes of American Indians who is drawn to Judaism as a teenager and later, after having married an assimilated Jewish woman, he becomes doggedly determined to become a Jew.
The sefer tells of the twists and turns in his path to Yiddishkiet –the couple first becomes connected with a Reform Synagogue. Not being spiritually fulfilled, he turns to the Conservative movement and finally, to the Religious Community. And while searching for true Yiddishkeit, his formerly assimilated wife joins him in his path to Observance, to “the real deal.”
Above, I 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 adds 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; as trickery, as withholding information, in speech, etc. constitutes a treachery against Hashem which will eventually have to be answered for by the perpetrators.
May it be in this year and beyond, that our brethren; the refugee families from Gush Katif and the Shomron (may they soon be restored to new homes and neighborhoods, Bati Knesset, Yeshivot in Gush Katif and the Shomron and only happiness and success for all time), as well as our dear brother, Jonathan Pollard (may he soon know freedom and long life in Eretz Yisrael) be central in our thoughts, prayers, chassadim and actions. May this abominable period of history called hitnatkut be as a bad dream.
May we be zocha in this coming year to take giant steps toward fulfilling 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 the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Good Yom Tov, Good Shabbos!
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.