This week, our vort on Shavuot/Parshat Naso is being sponsored Jonathan and Debbie Sassen of Ramat Beit Shemesh is dedicated in honor of the upcoming Chassuna of their daughter Lini to Josh Schultz. To the Sassen family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
This year, Shavu’ot falls out on Yom Revi’i followed on its heels by Shabbos Parshat Naso. Thus it was deemed fitting that this vort relate to both regarding the Ger, Ba’alei Teshuva and Olim Chadashim.
The lessons gleaned from Chag HaShavu’ot, as well as Parshat Naso 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 Matan Torah.
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)
The importance of these common threads connecting Chag HaShavuot with our Parshat Naso in carving out national unity would, or should extend to the nurture 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, toward new arrivals — be they Ger Tzaddikim, Ba’alei Teshuvah or Olim Chadashim (new residents).
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” (page 312), attributes to Sforno comments regarding “…committing treachery toward Hashem” to the effect that:
…This refers to one who steals from a convert to Judaism. Harming him is considered a trespass against the Almighty because this person had the idealism to come to Almighty’s Torah. One desecrates the Almighty’s name in his [the Gers’] eyes by deceiving him.
A person who comes to Torah on his own volition does so because of the beautiful and uplifted ideas he hears about Torah principles.He made his decision on the assumption that those who follow Torah will act towards him in accordance with all of the Torah laws pertaining to interperssonal relations. If someone cheats him financially or in some other way wrongs him, he will not only suffer a monetary loss. Rather, he might also feel disillusioned with his decision to accept a Torah way of life…. The importance of not harming a convert can be seen from the fact that Torah warns us about this in numerous places.
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.
This author has developed and written on Shavu’ot over the years focusing 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 Tzeddek. 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.
There is an old axiom that was heard back in Philadelphia, in the “Old Country” 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 Teshuvah has traveled. Chavel Chomer, that all Jews can’t know and internalize the road that the Ger Tzaddik, or the Ba’al Teshuvah 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. The same might be said of attitudes of some native-born Israelis toward an Oleh Chadash (new resident).
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)
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. would constitute a treachery against Hashem which will eventually have to be answered for by the perpetrators.
As with the Ger Tzeddek, an indigenous klal — whether local or national, can’t possibly know the road travelled by a Ba’al Teshuva, or the Oleh Chadash who, heretofore, lived in a foreign land, or the road travelled by those from whom the Ba’al Teshuva or 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, the Ba’al Teshuva or the Oleh Chadash with feelings of either superiority or priority entitlements because of “their hard lives”, because of their army service, or 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; Ba’al Teshuva or 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, by virtue of the sufferings of those from whom he descended, 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, double standards or outright discrimination.
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.
This author should extend discussion this year to one additional important sector of Am Yisrael badly in need of fairness, sensitivity, honesty, merit and respect — the elderly, be they native-born or Olim. Having observed from afar over recent years, via the experiences of my parents, prior to their respective passings, with the services available in the United States: facilities for the elderly based on their individual medical/psychological needs; senior patient advocacy, astute management of seniors’ financial affairs, and overall kindness and sensitivity to each senior’s medical and personal/family circumstances, this author, in observing elderly care here, can only conclude that care for the needs of senior citizens in their advanced years in Israel, when compared with the above, might at some levels be lacking.
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. We reflect on Shavu’ot about the story of Ruth, the Ger Tzeddeket who clung to Naomi saying;
“Do not urge me to leave you, to go back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people are my people, and your G’d is my G’d; where you die, I will die and there I will be buried. Thus may Hashem do to me — and more! — if anything but death separates me from you.” (Megillat Ruth, Artscroll Tanach series, Perek 1, posukim 14-17, pages 79-81)
There was no mandate, no earthly obligation for Ruth to follow Naomi. She could have done what her sister-in-law Orpah did — they were both widowed of Naomi and Elimelech’s sons Machlon and Kilyon. When after the deaths of her husband and two sons, Naomi sought to return to Eretz Yisrael and bid the two widows to return to their Moabite people and land. Orpah tearfully left Naomi and returned to Moav, while Ruth clung to Naomi and her Jewishness thus charting her life unalterably along a Jewish path.
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.
The Sefer Shem Mishmuel explains (pages 302 – 304):
We can sub-divide all mitzvot, and indeed, all human endeavors into three spheres: thought, speech and action. There are some Mitzvot which require a Jew to think in a particular way. For example, the first of the Ten Commandments demands belief in Hashem.
Other Mitzvot are dependent on speech. For example, one must verbally recall Shabbos…. not lie to the Beis Din or speak badly of another. Finally, there are many Mitzvot which utilize the Jew’s power of action. There are requirements to put on tefillin, shake the lulav, eat matzah, etc.
…Each of these three divisions reflect different interactions between man and Hashem.
Action… is entirely in an individual’s domain. He is not forced to do anything that he doesn’t want to do.
The actions of the Jew determine everything, even the ultimate success or failure of the peoples of the world. This idea is illustrated by Chazal:
“After Yisrael did that wicked act [the sin of the golden calf], Hashem wanted to grab the tablets from Moshe. However Moshe prevailed and snatched them back.”
To conclude, the actions of a Jew can have enormous consequences for good or for bad. Literally, everything depends upon it. And it could be that when the Jews received the Torah at Sinai they had all this in mind when they proclaimed: “All that Hashem has said, we will do and hear.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 24, posuk 7)
It’s important to focus on Ruth’s impact and her legacy, by way of the descendents of her union with Bo’az leading to Dovid HaMelech, and ultimately to the Ge’ula Shleima, the Ultimate Redemption, may we act in ways to hasten seeing and living it in our times. It is also important to focus on the kindnesses of Bo’az toward Ruth, as a paradigm for how we should act with kindness, honesty, sensitivity, fairness, honesty and merit toward the Ger, as well as the Ba’al Teshuvah, the Oleh Chadash and yes, the Elderly among us.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of two and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone 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, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Chag Some’ach and 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.