CAREFUL WITH ‘GER’
With regard to “We were strangers” (Tradition Today, March 30), a prevalent mistake is to apply the Torah term ger to non-Jewish infiltrators and refugees in Israel.
The term ger appears in the Torah in connection with 46 commandments and, depending on the context, refers to two types of individuals: the ger tzedek or the ger toshav.
The former is a gentile who undergoes conversion and commits to observing all the mitzvot, becoming a full Jew: “There will be one law for you and for the ger who lives among you; as for you, so will it be for the ger, before the Lord” (Numbers 15).
The latter is a superior Noahide – a non-Jew who believes in the God of Israel and the Torah, and wishes to observe more than just the seven Noahide laws – but one who is unwilling or unable to become a full Jew: He is “the ger who is in your gates” (Exodus 20) and is not allowed to be put to work on the Sabbath. He is in your gates and not sitting at your Sabbath table, but nevertheless wishes to become formally affiliated by attachment to the Jewish people.
The Talmud states that in the Messianic future, conversion to the status of Jew will no longer be available and that most of humanity will ultimately become gerim toshavim: “The ger will join them and be attached to the House of Jacob” (Isaiah 14).
AMNON GOLDBERG Safed