Monday, February 11, 2008

Being friendly with gerim

Translated by Rav Chavel

Rabbeinu Bachye[1](Kad HaKemach – Ger): An Israelite who is exiled from his home town is called geir, which stems from the expression gargir, (a single berry) which has been’ separated from its root. We are commanded to provide him with food and-drink and to be kind to him. The latter is the most important of all to him. These are Solomon’s words, (Mishlei 27:3) Ointment and incense rejoice the heart, so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend from advice of the soul. The verse informs us that a person is obligated to gladden the heart; of the wanderer by supplying him with food and drink and showing him a friendly countenance, for besides oil and incense he is still in need of the sweetness of a man’s friendship. The verse states from the advice of the soul, meaning that this sweetness and friendly countenance should issue from one’s rational soul. [It should come forth] through love and esteem, not through flattery, for sweetness of [genuine] friendship will be more beneficial to the stranger than all [ material things] one can give him.

[1] רבינו בחיי (כד הקמח - ערך גר): ישראל הגולה מעירו לעיר אחרת יקרא גר מלשון גרגיר הנפרד מעיקרו, ונצטוינו בו להאכילו ולהשקותו ולהסביר לו פנים והסברת פנים חשובה לו מן הכל, והוא דברי שלמה ע"ה שאמר (משלי כז) שמן וקטרת ישמח לב ומתק רעהו מעצת נפש, הזהיר בכתוב הזה שיתחייב אדם על הגר שיספיק לו מזונות ויסביר לו פנים, והוא נקשר עם הכתוב שהזכיר למעלה ממנו שאמר (שם) כצפור נודדת מקנה וסמך לו מיד שמן וקטרת ישמח לב, כלל כל המזונות כולן וכל מה שנתבשל על האש כשמן וקטרת שהוא העשן העולה מן המזון המתבשל, והודיענו בזה כי יתחייב אדם לשמח לב האיש הנודד ממקומו בסיפוק מזונו והסברת פניו כי מלבד שיצטרך שמן וקטרת עוד יצטרך מתק רעהו, ואמר מעצת נפש כלומר שיהיה אותו מתק והסברת הפנים מעצת נפשו השכלית דרך אהבה וחיבה לא דרך חנופה כי ייטב לו מתק שפתים יותר מכל מה שהוא נותן לו, וכן דרשו ז"ל בסוף פרק אחרון של כתובות (דף קיא ב) גדול המלבין שנים לחבירו יותר ממשקהו חלב שנא' (בראשית מט) ולבן שנים מחלב אל תיקרי לבן שנים אלא ליבון שנים, ועל זה הזכיר ישעיה הנביא ע"ה (ישעיה נח) ותפק לרעב לחמך הם המזונות וחזר ואמר ותפק לרעב נפשך הוא מתק שפתים,


  1. Why is "ger" translated as "proselyte"?

    For example :Shemot 12:38 "Also a mixed multitude went up with them"

    Rashi explains: The "Eirev Rav" was comprised of a large number of non-Israelites who joined Bnai Yisrael when they left Egypt. Without the permission of Hashem, Moshe accepted them and they eventually became degenerate and took others down with them. According to the Baal Haturim, it was not the People of Israel with whom Hashem was concerned, but insincere, disloyal "strangers".

    "Ger", translated as "stranger" would make more sense in this context according to the commentators.

    Perhaps a translation of the word "Ger" can be derived from the English word "jar" which comes from the Arabic for traveler, "jar" in reference to the vessels in which water was carried for the journey.

    The word "ger" is translated as "stranger" with the naming of Moshe's son Gershon (ger sham - (I was) a stranger there ) in Shemot 2:22.

    "The "ger" within the gate' was free to eat meat which was prohibited to the Jew. (Deut 14:21). If we translate "ger" as "convert" how can this make sense? A "convert" cannot eat treif. "Ger" must be translated as "stranger" in this passuk as well.

    Where does the translation of "ger" as "proselyte" rather than "stranger" come from? I have read that the origin is in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Tanach from which the Christian version of the Old Testament is derived. The Greek original of the term, "proselytos", was possibly borrowed from colloquial speech by the Septuagint translators as an equivalent for the Hebrew "ger" ("stranger"). The translation of "ger" as "stranger," is sometimes retained in the Greek version (Ex. 12:19; Isa.14: 1, Lev. 19:34) where there can be no allusion to "proselytes" in the technical sense of the term. In those instances, "paroakos", "sojourner, alien," is used (e.g., Gen. 15:13, 23: 4,Ex. 2:22, 18:3, Deut. 14:21; II Sam. 1:13), as well as "epelytos", "foreigner" (Job 20:26)

    The Talmud makes a distinction between "ger toshav" a "foreign resident" and "ger tzeddek", "a righteous proselyte" . Could this have possibly been in response to the colloquialism that had arisen from mistranslation of the word "ger" in the Septuagint which some Jewish scholars claim was intentional in order to promote foreign ideals rather than Torah Judaism to an audience that was already Hellenized?

  2. Anonymous said...

    Why is "ger" translated as "proselyte"?

    For example :Shemot 12:38 "Also a mixed multitude went up with them"
    If your point is that the eirev rav were not converts - I think the majority view is that they were.

    Rashi (Sanhedrin 82a): Who permitted you to marry the daughter of Yisro? It is only a question because he married her before the Torah was given. When the Torah was given all the Jews had the status of Bnei Noach and it was at Sinai that all the Jews entered into the obligation to keep the mitzvos and she converted with them as well as the many converts of the eruv rav.

    Rashi (Shemos 12:38): Eiruv rav – the mixture of nations who were geirim

    Bamidbar Rabbah (15:24):[[ Nadab and Abihu were burned when they entered the Tent of Meeting, and the elders also5 were burned when they were filled with that lusting, of which it says, And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting (Num. XI, 4).6 What is implied by ‘The mixed multitude’ (asafsuf)? R. Simeon b. Abba and R. Simeon b. Menasya offer differing explanations. One of them says that they were the proselytes who came up with them out of Egypt and were gathered up (ne'esafim) into one body with them; as it says, And a mixed multitude went up also with them (Ex. XII, 38). The other says that the ’asafsuf’ were the Sanhedrin;

  3. "If your point is that the eirev rav were not converts - I think the majority view is that they were."

    Yes, I am sorry to have given the wrong impression. Even in my day school education, we learned that the "erev Rav" had "joined the nation".

    We were also taught that the erev rav did not sincerely "convert" and
    because of this numerous disasters followed during our sojourn in the desert. When I asked my Rav why only Bnai Yisrael were counted in the census and not any of the erev rav who came along, my Rav had said it was because the erev rav 100% drifted away from Judaism and took many born Jews with them, as they do in every generation.

    With regard to last week's parsha (Teruma)the Meam Loez, Rabbi Yaakov Culi,ztl said that "the collectors of the offerings for the Mishkan had to be "true Israelites", not members of the mixed multitude who had left Israel with them." Teruma, Shemot 25:1-2).

    It is clear from the language of the Passuk that Hashem did not regard the erev rav to be equal to Bnai Yisrael.

    Chas v'shalom, I am NOT trying to make the case that we should not accept converts but once again the issue of "who IS a true convert" comes into question.

    This contrasts notably to the stature of Ruth.


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