Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This week's parsha - Ekev: Loving the proselyte

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah;

וַאֲהַבְתֶּם אֶת הַגֵּר כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם
“You should love the ger because you were gerim in Mitzraim.”

The Rambam says in Hilchos Deios (6) explains;
הלכה ג': מצוה על כל אדם לאהוב את כל אחד ואחד מישראל כגופו שנאמר ואהבת לרעך כמוך לפיכך צריך לספר בשבחו ולחוס על ממונו כאשר הוא חס על ממון עצמו ורוצה בכבוד עצמו...

הלכה ד': אהבת הגר שבא ונכנס תחת כנפי השכינה שתי מצות עשה אחת מפני שהוא בכלל ריעים ואחת מפני שהוא גר והתורה אמרה ואהבתם את הגר צוה על אהבת הגר כמו שצוה על אהבת עצמו שנאמר ואהבת את ה' אלהיך הקב"ה עצמו אוהב גרים שנאמר ואוהב גר

הלכה ג': “It is a mitzvah for everyone person to love everyone from klal yisrael as himself as the passuk says ‘ואהבת לרעך כמוך’ – ‘you should love your friend as yourself’. Therefore he has to speak of his praise and be concerned about his money just as he is concerned for his own money and wants himself to be honoured… “

הלכה ד': “The love of the proselyte who has come and has entered beneath the כנפי השכינה is two mitzvos, one because he is included in the ‘friends’ and another mitzva is that he is a proselyte and the Torah said ‘You should love the proselyte.’ The Torah commanded concerning loving the proselyte just as it commanded concerning loving Hashem as the passuk says [in Shema] ‘ואהבת את ה' אלהיך’. Ha’kodosh Baruch Hu Himself Loves proselytes as the passuk says ‘ואוהב גר’ – ‘Hashem loves the proselyte [to give him bread and clothing]’.”

The Rambam is difficult to understand;
  • In הלכה ג', the Rambam begins “It is a mitzvah on every member of klal yisrael…” In הלכה ד' the Rambam begins “The love of the proselyte…” Why does the Rambam change from defining the mitzva in the first halacha, to describing the context of the mitzva in the second halacha?
  • Why does the Rambam repeat the mitzvah of ואהבת לרעך כמוך in the second halacha? The Rambam could have said in the first halacha that the mitzvah of ואהבת לרעך כמוך includes proselytes. Then the Rambam could simply have said a second halacha that there is an additional mitzvah of אהבת הגר for the proselyte. Of course we could count for ourselves and we would know that for the ger there are two mitzvos?
  • Why does the Rambam mention in the second halacha the fact that the proselyte came and was ונכנס תחת כנפי השכינה? Why does the Rambam mention that Hashem commanded us to love the proselyte as He commanded us to love Him? Why does the Rambam say that Hashem loves proselytes? In Mishneh Torah the Rambam does not talk about the extent of the obligation that we have to perform mitzvos, he simply tells us the halacha?
  • Why does the Rambam in הלכה ג' describe actions that a person is obligated to do because of the mitzvah of ואהבת לרעך כמוך, but in הלכה ד' he just says there is a mitzva to love the ger and does not describe any actions that we are obligated to do because of this?
The Rambam in Igros Ha’Rambam (chelek 1, pg. 240) says;
דע שחובה שחיבתנו תורה לגרים גדולה היא: על האב ועל האם נצטוינו בכיבוד ובמורא, ועל הנביאים לשמע להם, ואפשר שיכבד אדם ויירא וישמע ממי שאינו אוהבו, ועל הגרים צונו באהבה דבר המסור ללב "ואהבתם את הגר" כמו שצונו לאהוב את שמו "ואהבת את ה' אלוקיך"...
“You should know that the obligation that the Torah gave us towards gerim is a great obligation. Concerning parents we are commanded to respect and honour them, concerning neviim we are commanded to listen to them, and it is possible that a person could honour, respect and listen to someone whom they do not love. However concerning gerim we are commanded to love them, which is a thing that relates to the heart. The passuk says “You should love the ger” just as we are commanded to love Hashem as the passuk says “You should love Hashem.”

  • Why does the Rambam say that the obligation to love the ger is great because it is something that relates to the heart? The mitzva of ואהבת לרעך כמוך also relates to the heart?

Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner z”l (Pachad Yitzchak, Pesach 8) explains as follows;
There is a grammatical difference between the passuk of ואהבת לרעך כמוך and the passuk of וַאֲהַבְתֶּם אֶת הַגֵּר. In the first passuk the Torah uses a lamed - לרעך, in the second passuk the Torah says אֶת. The difference is that in the first passuk the Torah is saying that you should act towards your friend amicably, in the second passuk the Torah is telling you that you have an obligation to actually love the ger - אֶת הַגֵּר.

That is why in the first halacha the Rambam lists actions that you are obligated to do because of the mitzva of ואהבת לרעך כמוך, whereas in the second halacha he does not list any actions. This is because regarding ואהבת לרעך כמוך, the obligation is in your actions towards your friend. In the second halacha however the obligation is a chovos ha’levovos, it is a obligation to actually feel love towards the ger.

This is also why the Rambam in Igros Ha’Rambam says that the mitzva of loving the ger is a great mitzva and comparable to the mitzva to love Hashem, because the mitzva of loving the ger is a davar hamassur le’lev – it is an obligation of the heart. We see from the Rambam that the mitzva of ואהבת לרעך כמוך is not a davar hamassur le’lev because it is a mitzva that obligates you to act nicely towards someone else, but there is no obligation to actually feel love for them. Certainly if you do feel love for them this is a great virtue, but it is not the minimal obligation required by the halacha. This differs to the obligation to love the ger which is an obligation to feel respect, admiration and love for them.

How do you feel love?
In order to be able to feel love towards someone, we have to recognize their virtues. Therefore the Rambam explains that the virtue of the ger that we have to recognize is that he is בא ונכנס תחת כנפי השכינה – he has left everything that he had behind in order to come and be close to Hashem.

Even if a person has a virtue, if he is not part of a society the people in that society will not love them. If a society is exclusive, then regardless of the virtues of anyone outside that society, the people within the society will not love them because they do not relate to them personally. Their virtues may generate interest, but these will not be a cause for love.

Therefore the Rambam gives an introduction to the mitzvah to love the ger by reiterating the mitzva of ואהבת לרעך כמוך and explaining that this also applies to the ger;
אחת מפני שהוא בכלל ריעים
“The ger is included in ‘friends’.“

If the ger was not included in friends, it would not be possible to add any further obligation of love towards him because he would not be within the friendship circle at all. The passuk says in Vayikra (19:34):
כְּאֶזְרָח מִכֶּם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם הַגֵּר הַגָּר אִתְּכֶם וְאָהַבְתָּ לוֹ כָּמוֹךָ...
“Like the native from you the ger will be to you, and you should love him as yourself…”

Without saying that the ger will be like a native, it would not be possible to include him in the mitzva of וְאָהַבְתָּ לוֹ כָּמוֹךָ.

After the Rambam has explained that the ger is included in ‘friends’, he adds;
והתורה אמרה ואהבתם את הגר
“And also the Torah says that you should love the ger.”

As the Rambam explains in Igros Ha’Rambam - the mitzva of loving the ger carries a greater obligation than the mitzva of ואהבת לרעך כמוך – because this mitzva is a duty of the heart and is not just an obligation to be nice. Therefore here the Rambam does not list practical actions that are required, becuase this is not an actionable mitzva - rather it is a duty of the heart.

Nevertheless, this mitzva can only start once the ger is included in ‘friends’, because otherwise recognition of his virtue that he has come to be close to Hashem, would not be able to be a cause for love towards him.

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