The Torah describes Hashem as the One “Who secures the rights of the orphan and the widow, and Who loves the convert to give him bread and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18). The Torah then adds, “And you shall love the convert” (10:19). The commentator, Ibn Ezra, writes: “And since Hashem loves the convert, you are obligated to love him.”
If Hashem loves the convert, then so should we, as it is written: “And you shall go in His ways” (Deuteronomy 28:9). As human beings created in the Divine image, we are to emulate the compassionate and loving Divine attributes.
The Midrash Yalkut Shimoni finds an example of the Divine love and concern for the convert in the following verse:
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not remove completely the corner of your field as you reap, and you shall not gather the gleanings (fallen stalks) of your harvest; for the poor and the convert shall you leave them; I am Hashem, your God.” (Leviticus 23:22)
In its commentary on the above verse, Midrash Yalkut Shimoni cites the following Divine proclamations regarding the sincere convert who “converts for the sake of the Name of the Holy One, Blessed is He”:
“To Me, he is equal to one of you, as it states: ‘O Congregation! There shall be one statute for you and the convert who sojourns, an eternal decree for your generations; the convert shall be equal with you before Hashem (Numbers 15:15).’ And it also states: ‘There shall be one Teaching for the native and the convert who lives among you (Exodus 12:49).’ ”
In the next segment, Midrash Yalkut Shimoni compares a convert to a member of the Tribe of Levi. The members of this tribe were devoted to the teaching of Torah (Deuteronomy 33:10); thus, they lived in special cities among all the other tribes and were not given a portion in the Land. They were supported by tithes given to them by the other tribes. Regarding the comparison between the convert and the Levite, the Midrash teaches:
“He is equal to Me as a Levite, as it states (regarding the taking of the tithes):
‘Then the Levite shall come – for he has no portion or inheritance with you – and the convert (Deuteronomy 14:29).’
Moshe then said before the Holy One, Blessed is He: ‘Master of the Universe, is the convert the equal of a Levite to You?’ He said to him (Moshe):
‘He is great before Me, for he converted for My Name’s sake. This can be compared to a deer that grew up in the wilderness, yet came of itself and mingled with the sheep. The shepherd would give it better food and drink, and cherish it more than his own sheep. They asked him: Do you cherish this deer more than the sheep? He said to them: What effort have I gone to on behalf of my sheep! Until they grew up I had to lead them out in the morning and gather them towards evening. This deer grew up in deserts and forests; yet, it came on its own to join my sheep. It is for this reason, I cherish it.
So the Holy One, Blessed is He, said:
‘How much effort did I exert on behalf of Israel! I led them out of Egypt, I lighted their way, I brought down the manna for them, I made the quail fly to them, I brought up the well for them, and I surrounded them with clouds of glory, before they accepted my Torah. This convert, however, came on his own; thus, to Me, he is equal to an Israelite and a Levite.’ ”
As we have to begun to discuss, the converts have an important role in the Divine plan for the People of Israel and their mission in Zion; thus, a greater understanding of their role can lead us to a greater love for the converts.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen – (See below)
1. The Torah often reminds us of the Divine love and concern for converts; in fact, the Talmud teaches that the Torah has admonished us thirty-six times regarding the treatment of converts (Baba Metzia 59b). According to another view mentioned in the Talmud, it is forty-six times.
2. The gleanings of the harvest which are to be left for the poor and the converts are stalks that fall away one or two at a time. (Commentary of Rashi to Leviticus 19:9, based on Mishnah Pe’ah 6:5)