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After recounting the circumstances in which a whole generation of Israelites was denied entry into the Promised Land by Higher Authority, the Torah details the measures of grain and wine that accompanied each offering in the Tabernacle/Temple. It ends, rather surprisingly, with the insistence on giving equal treatment to the stranger:
If a convert wishes to… make an offering… he shall do it the same way as you… There is one law… for all of you, including the stranger who lives with you (15:14-16).
The general requirement for the Israelites to treat converts as their own does not appear to fit in with the intricacies of the content of voluntary and festive offerings. And this connection is made later in this Parasha:
If a person accidentally sins (understood by the Rabbis as accidental idol-worship), he shall bring a one-year old goat as a sin offering… the same law applies to… a convert - there is one law for all of you (15:27-29).
In addition, the laws of the korban pesach (the mandatory Passover offering) include the same for the stranger:
This is the law of the (korban) pesach… there is one law for the citizen and the convert who lives with you (Ex. 12:48-49).
And later on, for those whose korban pesach had to be brought a month later:
The same law applies to the convert and to the citizen (9:14).
The Torah's repeated insistence on giving similar treatment to converts in Temple-associated matters may be explained as follows:
Many Jews today function on two levels, the universalist and particularist. He may well function at the universalist level with people he meets irrespective of race and religious affinity. That includes at work, in business in politics, sporting activities, and shared interests. They may read the same books and enjoy the same audio-visual materials.
In other more paticularist areas, the same Jews prefer to be exclusively amongst themselves. That includes in the synagogue, and in the practical observance of Sabbath and Festivals. Typically, a guest arrives for the Friday night meal. If he or she fits in with the socio-religious Shabbat-observant household norms, the atmosphere is an enhanced version of the usual. He responds appropriately to the cues at the right moment, and finds himself talking, rather than making conversation. In other words he comfortably fits in. Otherwise, enabling him or her to fit in takes effort.
The Temple is the extreme situation where the participants instinctively feel affinity with those they regard as their own people. They want to 'talk', not 'make conversation'. It is the natural instinct of those who have been practicing Israelites for generations to want to be with those who are equally comfortable with it, rather than with newcomers who have not had 'what's going on' inbred into to them, and 'ask too many questions'.
That is what the Torah means by insisting that there is one law for all. A convert is to be welcomed as one of the community in all aspects of life - even in situations where the old-timers might feel a little 'awkward…'
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
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.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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