In this week’s parsha we learn of the Torah’s high regard for “strangers” or “ger.” Most often, these terms are referred to as meaning a Jewish convert who is living with the Israelite tribe. The particular verse is Leviticus 19:34, “The strangers who reside with you as your citizens; you shall love each one as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” So what is the status of a Jewish convert and how should we, as modern Jews, interpret this instruction?
As we all know, Judaism is not a proselytizing religion – at least not now. There was a time when Judaism actively sought converts, but that changed with outside persecution. Nonetheless, the Torah holds very high esteem for sincere converts and commands that they be treated as equals. Equality is a very important concept in the Torah and it applied to all “strangers.” Knowing the importance of self interest in all human beings a command to love someone as “yourself” cannot be more equal.
Jews are commanded to love G-d, but G-d loves the convert. This implies a different status for the convert than that of born Jews – at least in G-d’s eyes. The argument may be made that converts have better status as Jews than those who are born Jewish since it is the convert who is loved by G-d. Let’s not go there, but consider that modern Jewish converts are just as equal to be called Jews as any other Jew no matter how defined.
Love the convert, but once they become a Jew, they are to be considered 100% the equal of any other Jew.