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Thought for the Day: Ger Tzedek Means Coming Home

I got to mincha about a minute early yesterday... not long enough to pick up a seifer.  Still... there I am waiting to start, so I picked up a seifer on the table in front of me.  "Kad haKemach" by Rabeinu Bachaya, newly reprinted with n'kudos.  Cool.  So I picked it up and randomly opened it; I had less than a minute, after all.  Turns out the seifer is in alef-bais order and I had opened to the middle of "os gimel", only to see a short paragraph with the heading "Ger".  I love random.  It was short, so I started reading.

A quote from Iyov (that I could more or less translate; nice to see I really am making progress in ivris)... the Torah warns about the treatment of geirim 36 times (interesting)... a Yisrael who travels from one city to another is called a "ger" (interesting; I never heard that before)... a ger is also someone from the "umos ha'olam" who goes through the geirus process and returns to the faith of Yisrael... also a goy who accepts not to worship false gods is called a ger toshav (resident alien)... WAIT!!! Let me look at that again... "returns to the faith of Yisrael"?!?

Rereading yet again just to make sure: someone from the "umos ha'olam" (nations of the world) who goes through the geirus process and returns to the faith of Yisrael is called a "ger".  He is called a "ger tzedek" (literally: honest/just sojourner) because he has come to take shelter under the wings of the divine presence.

I was (and am) stunned.  In one line the Rabeinu Bachaya had transformed me from a resident alien to a chozeres b'tshuva.  Yes, yes, I know; the souls of those would later become geirim were also at Har Sinai, and our souls always wanted to accept the Torah, and so on.  All nice things to know and be told, but they still boil down to acceptance of outsiders into the fold.  Willing and gracious acceptance, to be sure; but still outsiders.  The Kad haKemach says something qualitatively different.  Up till now I understood "ben Avraham Avinu" to mean that he was the spiritual adopted parent of us orphans.  Now we are really Jews who were lost among the goyim who have finally found our way back.  That makes Avraham Avinu not so much an adopted father as paradigm ger.  He showed the way, and we who were also lost among the nations have also found our way home; with Avraham Avinu as our guide.

I davened a whole different mincha.  Shazam!  (Ok, ok... still some residual tarnish from our time away.)


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