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'G-dů carries out the judgment of the orphan and the widow. He loves the stranger, to give him food and clothing' (10:18)
is immediately followed with:
'You shall love the stranger. For you were strangers in the land of Egypt' (10:19).
As the Ramban explains, the Israelites should learn from their previous experience that G-d does not tolerate the persecution of strangers.
It may also be suggested that as G-d wishes us to 'walk in His ways' (28:9), He enables us to do that by demanding that we take pay attention to the newcomer, keeping an eye on what he or she needs. We are thus acting as G-d's agents in His 'giving the stranger food and clothing'. The Chinuch holds that this commandment not only applies to a proselyte, but to all strangers, such as a person who is new to the job, the school, and the neighborhood.
Notice that at this point in the Torah, Moses implies to the Israelites that G-d will put right injustice to the orphan and the widow. There is nothing here about putting right injustice shown to the stranger. And that He keeps an eye on the welfare of the stranger. There is nothing about the welfare of the orphan or a widow.
This may be explained by Moses' addressing the Israelites before his death by means of his deep insight into human nature. Widows and orphans arouse the sympathy of the community, because they knew those people in previous, happier circumstances. It is natural for them to want to help, and they will continue to do so. But what when it comes to a legal dispute? In their own grief, they are easy targets being taken advantage of. Thus, Moses warns: 'G-dů carries out the judgment of the orphan and the widow'.
In contrast, the stranger has different needs. When a person joins the community for religious or geographical reason, he or she needs the help of others to 'give him food and clothing'. That includes the need to find sustenance, employment, and somewhere suitable to live. His needs are not established in the eyes of the people like those of the widow and the orphan. It takes effort on the part of the residents to place the newcomer on their social radar screens. These are the situations where the Torah commands that we love the stranger, by addressing his needs, and acting as G-d's agents in doing so.
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Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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Also by Jacob Solomon:
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