Shavuot/Parshat Naso 5783: Shavuot, Naso and the Ger Tzedek

Shalom Friends;

Our combined Shavuot and Parsha Naso vort is being sponsored by David and Tzippora Leichter of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated lilui nishmas his Grandmother, Sarah bat Yehuda.. To the Leichter 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.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3


Shavuot/Parshat Naso 5783: Shavuot, Naso and the Ger Tzedek

by Moshe Burt

The placement in Torah of Parshat Naso in close proximity to the Yom Tov of Shavuot is with good reason as this author sees a direct connection between the two. This year, Shavuot immediately precedes Shabbos Parshat Naso.

This author has developed and written on Shavuot 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 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.

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 Shavuot 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.” (As rendered to English in 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 gone the way of her sister-in-law Orpah — 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.

Through the ages, to today, the Ger Tzedek, whatever his background, feels a spark — a “pintele yid” in searching for truth, for the one true faith and finding HaKadosh Borchu.

At Shavuot, this author hearkens back to 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 Teshuvah, toward the Ger Tzeddek. The same might be said of attitudes of some native-born Israelis toward an Oleh Chadash (new resident) or a long-time Oleh.

Remember, that Avraham Avinu.was very concerned for his son Yitzchak who was, shall we say, the first “sabra.” For that reason, Avraham sent Eliezer to back to his ancestral home which he, Avraham, had departed, to find a wife for Yitzchak. The Artscroll Stone Chumash on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 23, posukim 1-10:

Yitzchak’s mate had to be a worthy successor to his mother… a woman who would be not only a wife and a mother, but a Matriarch.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin summarizes the posukim regarding sending his servant, Eliezer, to travel to his (Avraham’s) former homeland seeking a wife for Yitzchak in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text” (Volume One, Sefer Breish’t, pages 107-110):

As Avraham’s life draws near its end, he turns to his trusted servant, Eliezer, and instructs him to return to his homeland, Aram Naharaim, in order to find a wife for Yitzchak. He specifies that he does not want Yitzchak to marry a woman from the Canaanite nations…(Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 24, posukim 1-9) …. Padan Aram, mentioned in the text as the birthplace of Rivka and the home of her extended family, (ibid, Perek 25, posuk 20) refers to a specific region within Aram Naharaim.

Complicating matters is the fact that there seem to be no difference between the inhabitants of Canaan and the inhabitants of Aram Naharaim. Both locations were populated by idol [avodah zora] worshipers.

Some classical commentators suggest that Avraham specifically wanted wife chosen for Yitzchak from his own family.

The Midrash HaGadol suggests two reasons for this preference. Firstly, Avraham reasoned… “The people I should first convert to Judaism are the members of my family.” Secondly, Avraham believed that… his family were “closer to repentance.” (Midrash HaGadol, Sefer Breish’t, 24:4)

Avraham… begins to fear [for the future]: “… I began in this land as a stranger. I came from a foreign land, and have always been able to maintain my distance from those within Canaan. Yitzchak, however, is different. My son was born here. He is too close to those around him. He is familiar only with this culture, with this population and with this land. How do I know that he will learn to discern the dangers that surround him…. that he will be able to distance himself from the elements of society counterproductive to his spiritual development? How do I know that he will maintain the appropriate balance and truly be a ger v’toshav?”

Avraham then sets about guaranteeing the continuation of his legacy…. Yitzchak’s wife will, it is to be hoped, be able to see herself as a ger v’toshav. She will begin with a natural distance from the Canaanites surrounding her. Given her foreign background, she will have a head start in maintaining the perspective needed to discern and confront the dangers around them.

The Patriarch hopes that his son’s wife will ensure the survival of the Jews by maintaining the delicate balance of self-definition that he himself has achieved.

It seems to this author that Avraham sought, in Yitzchak’s mate, to perpetuate Judaism through Rivka and the positive values she acquired in her previous land. As such, native born Israelis need to respect the values of Olim as well as those of their fellow native borns.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin writes in his summary of our Parsha Naso, in his Sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text,” Sefer Bamidbar (page 29, 31), listing Hashem’s instructions to Moshe concerning:

The temporary exile of individuals afflicted with specific types of tumah (ritual impurity) from various sections of the camp; laws regarding theft and subsequent denial of responsibility; laws governing a sota, a married woman whose behavior raises suspicion of adultery; the laws of a Nazir, an individual who takes upon himself increased religious obligation; and the rules of Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing.

Central in the Parsha is a section consisting of disparate legal themes, including Laws concerning theft and false denial of financial obligation.

This vort links the laws regarding theft and subsequent denial of financial responsibility, particularly as they relate to various types of deceit or treachery by a Jew toward a convert to Judaism (Ger Tzeddik) and contrasts such deplorable treatment of a Ger Tzeddik with the kindnesses extended by Bo’az toward Rus, who clung to Naomi and Judaism and who ultimately was progenitor (noun: a biologically related ancestor) of Dovid HaMelech.

Near the beginning of Parsha Naso,Torah states:

“Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying, ‘Speak to the B’nei Yisrael: A man or woman who commits any of man’s sins, by committing a trespass against Hashem, and that person shall become guilty –‘” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 5, posukim 5-6 as rendered to English in the Saperstein Edition “The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary”)

Rashi notes:

…The passage about one who robs and swears falsely with regard to his robbery, this is the subject which is spoken about in Parshat Vayikra: [“If a person will sin] and commit a trespass against Hashem — and be deceitful toward his friend, etc.” It is reiterated here because of two points, the second [of which] is regarding the convert [the Ger Tzeddik]. (Rashi on Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 5, posuk 6 as rendered to English in the Saperstein Edition “The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary,” pages 42-43).

In the next posuk, the Torah states:

“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 as rendered to English in the Saperstein Edition “The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary,” pages 43).

The Artscroll Stone Chumash notes on the posuk:

“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 Hashem himself, for He defends the defenseless.” (Artscroll Stone Chumash on Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 5, posuk 7, page 752)

Torah states in the following posuk:

“And if the man has no redeemer to whom to return the debt, the returned debt is for Hashem, for the Kohen, aside from the ram of atonement with which he [the sinner] shall provide him[self] atonement. ” Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 5, posuk 8 as rendered to English in the Saperstein Edition “The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary,” pages 43-44).

Rav Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (on Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 5, posukim 6, page 312), attributes to Sforno comments regarding the Hebrew phrase “V’Ashmah hanefesh hahi [pronounced hahe],” rendered to English as “…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 interpersonal 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.

The Sforno cited above 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.

It’s important to focus on Ruth’s impact and her legacy, by way of Boaz’s kindnesses and the descendants of their union, leading to Dovid HaMelech, and B’Ezrat Hashem 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.

This author feels personally comforted by both the Ramat Beit Shemesh community’s care and kindnesses extended toward elderly members. May it be that this attentiveness and sensitivity, both on the communal, medical and governmental levels, toward seniors’ medical/psychological increases ten-fold.

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, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his third year at home in Eretz Yisrael and has embarked on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nine 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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!!!

Good Yom Tov 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.