Parsha Mitzvot-Eikev-Mitzvah 429-Concept 14-Loving Converts
Transcribed and unedited: The next mizvah is you should love a ger. And the Rambam says it, again, in Hilchot Deiot, he says that there are two mitzvoth to love a ger, one is as a Jew, and the other is as a convert.
And the Chinuch explains that anybody who has converted has obviously left a family. If you’ve left a family, then the person is alone. When a ger converts, “KiKatan hanolad dami” its as if it’s a new born babe, he walked away from everything; even if the family hangs around, there’s still a certain break.
You have to go out of your way to love a person who has been that vulnerable. But I think, really, that this touches on another idea that is even more important, and that is that you have to learn to respect people who make choices.
A ger made a tremendous choice. We’re born as Jews, and even though we have to make choices about what we want to do with out Judaism, but basically, being neurotic, those things are natural to us. But when a person converts, that person has made a tremendous decision, a commitment to a way of life and to make something with his or her self.
That, we have to have special love and special admiration for, someone who makes that kind of choice.
Just then, there was one other thing I wanted to tell you[, this is what happens when I don’t read my notes,] on “veahavta lireiacha camocha,” you should love your friend as much as you love yourself, Rashi, in a Gemara in Shabbat, א”ל, 31A, says, “who is the friend? God.” You should learn to think of God as your friend. This is a very powerful idea. There’s a sefer called the Azharot, who said that included in the mitzvah to love converts is to go out and convince people to convert. Not everyone agrees, obviously, but its just something to think about.
Rav Sa’adia Gaon says that this is not a mitzvah because you do not need a special mitzvah to love a ger, because there’s already a mitzvah to love every Jew. The midrash says that gerim, converts, are greater in this world than the Jews were when they stood at Sinai, because the Jews at Sinai were basically forced to be there, but a person who converts isn’t forced to be there and came over to join on his own volition.