[א ד ם . לר ב ו ת א ת הג ר ים [י ר ו ש ל מ י שק ל ים ש״א ה ״ ד
Man: To include converts
The Gemara is coming to teach us that converts are considered part of the Jewish people and are included in this verse. That is very important because this verse seems to be saying that only people who are considered to be "From You (plural)" (from the Jewish people) are allowed to bring Korbanos (sacrifices).
Furthermore, the Midrash Tanchuma (2) on this week's parsha comes to teach us how positive some viewed converts. It says:
אמר רבי יהודה בר שלום:
אתה מוצא ארבעים ושמונה פעמים הזהיר הקדוש ברוך הוא בתורה על הגרים, וכנגדן הזהיר על עבודה זרה.
אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא: דיו שהניח עבודה זרה ובא אצלכם, אני מזהירך שתאהבהו, שאני אוהבו, שנאמר: ואוהב גר לתת לו לחם ושמלה וגו' (דב' י יח:
Rabbi Yehuda the son of Shalom (Shalom means peace, perhaps this is hinting at something) said, you will find 48 times that G-D warns the Jewish people [to be kind to converts] and congruent to this G-D also warns [the Jewish people] about not worshiping Idols 48 times. G-D is saying, "It is enough [that the convert] abandoned his or her idol worship and came to be with you. I am warning you that you should love him or her, for I love him or her." As it says (Devarim 10:18), "G-D loves the convert and gives him (or her) food and clothing."
The last source that is favorable to converts that I will quote (there are many) is found in a Tosfos in Kiddushin (71a). It is humorous, because the name of the Baalei Tosfos (Opinion in the commentary) makes known that this commentator is, in fact, himself a convert.
וה ״ ר
אב ר ה ם גר פי רש לפ י שה ג ר י ן בק י א י ן
במ צ ו ת ומ ד ק ד ק י ן בהם קש י ם הם
לישראל כס פ ח ת דמ ת ו ך כן הק ב ״ ה
מז כ י ר עו נ ו ת י ה ם של ישראל כשאין
עושי ן רצונו וכ ה ״ ג מצינו גבי הצ ר פ י ת
מ ״ א יז) שא מ ר ה מ ה לי ולך איש)
הא ל ה י ם (כי) בא ת אלי לה ז כ י ר א ת
עו נ י שמ ת ו ך שה ו א צד י ק גמ ו ר הי ה
נר א ה לה שמ ז כ י ר הש ם עו נ ה
Rav Avraham the convert explains [the reason converts are difficult to the Jewish people like a boil] is because they are experts in the commandments and they are extremely careful [in performing them]. Therefore, they are difficult to the Jewish people like a boil, for it is because of the converts that G-D recognizes the Jewish people's sins when they are not performing His will. This is seen in the case of the Zarephath woman (Kings 1 17:18) where she says, "And she said unto Elijah: 'What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?'" [She was worried about Elijah bringing her sin to remembrance] because he was a very righteous man and that is why G-D would remember her sins. (Thus, the righteous converts would bring G-D to remember the Jewish people's sins.)
These sources all show a very positive attitude by some of Chazal (sages) towards converts. They view converts as a welcomed addition to the ranks of the Jewish nation. These sources create love and affection for converts because they are seen as people that can only make the Jewish people better. (The Torah itself in many places, one place is quoted by the Midrash Tanchuma (Devarim 10:18), talks about how we are to love converts. I am unsure as to why so many commentators and opinions in the Gemara show what can only be described as disdain for converts. There are opinions in favor of converts in the Gemara and later sources, but there are also opinions that seem to be disgusted by converts.)
However, there is the other side of the coin as well. This, too, is a very long list of sources that do not seem to have the admiration and love for converts. Within this group there are two mini-groups. The first group explains why converts to Judaism are troublesome to the Jewish people, but it is not the converts fault inherently, there is just some other factor that causes their conversion to be difficult for the Jewish people. The second mini-group's opinion is a little more severe. They say that a convert inherently causes many problems for the Jewish people whether he or she is righteous or not. The first mini-group will be discussed first.
Rashi on Kiddushin (70b):
קשין גר י ם . שא י נם זה י ר י ם במ צ ו ת וה ר ג י ל י ם אצלם נמ ש כ י ם אצלם ול ו מ ד י ם מן מע ש י ה ם :
Converts are difficult for the Jewish people: For they are not careful with the commandments and those that are commonly around them learn from their ways (and therefore Jews learn from the converts to be lax in the commandments).
This Rashi seems to be stating an observation. In Rashi's experience, he saw that converts were causing regular Jews to become more lax in the commandments. That is very possible. It shows no disdain or dislike for converts, Rashi was just stating an observation. It is worth noting that, according to Rashi, there is nothing INHERENTLY bad about converts, but many of them cause other Jews to be more lax in commandments.
There is another opinion in Tosfos (70b) that says, "The reason converts are difficult for the Jewish people like a boil is because G-D commanded the Jewish people MANY times to not cause any harm or stress to converts and it is impossible for the Jewish people not to (because of all the requirements that a convert must go through before they become Jewish, I suppose). Therefore, by the mere fact that they want to convert they cause the Jewish people to sin, but that is not their fault.
This explanation by Tosfos is also reasonable. It just states a fact of life. G-D said don't cause stress or discomfort to the convert and that is, seemingly, impossible. No one is really at fault, but it is a fact of life.
The final opinion in this mini-group is the Rambam (Hilchos of forbidden relationships 13:18):
ומפני זה אמרו חכמים קשים להם גרים לישראל כנגע צרעת שרובן חוזרין בשביל דבר ומטעין את ישראל. וקשה הדבר לפרוש מהם אחר שנתגיירו. צא ולמד מה אירע במדבר במעשה העגל ובקברות התאוה וכן רוב הנסיונות האספסוף היו בהן תחלה:
Because of this the Rabbis said that converts are difficult for the Jewish people like a patch of tzraas (mistranslated to mean leprosy) because the majority convert for some reason (like money or love of a Jew) and they cause the Jewish people to err. It is very difficult to separate these desires from the converts after they convert. Go out and learn about what happened in the desert (when the Jews left Egypt the Eirav Rav, People who lived in Egypt that were not descendants of Yaakov that left with the Jews, caused the Jews to sin) with the happening of the Golden Calf etc...
The Rambam is holding like Rashi, it seems. It is hard for anyone to leave their old life behind, even a convert. They are usually going to hold onto something from their previous life and this is very dangerous. It is just the way of human nature. But again, there is nothing INHERENTLY wrong with the convert according to this opinion.
Now we move on to the final group that tells us there is something inherently wrong with a convert. The previous two groups think converts can be righteous. In fact, if you have a righteous convert, there is nothing to worry about. This would be according to both previous groups, but not this third group. Let us start with the Maharal:
The most concise place where the Maharal makes his opinion clear is in his Drashos on the Torah (6a):
All the good that the Jewish people merit is because they are the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, or because they are chosen by G-D, but converts nullify this. Therefore, converts are called a boil, because a boil is an extra entity to a man and it nullifies the complete and pure form of a man. This leads to a lack in the man.
The Maharal discusses this idea in several places, but I think his idea is clear: Converts blemish the Jewish people because they were not born Jewish. They are inherently not good for the Jewish people. If anyone can find a different explanation for the Maharal, please let me know. The only thing I can really say for the Maharal is that he was dealing in a time when there were many Jewish people that were working very hard to kill their fellow Jews. There were many heretics and converts to Christianity that tried to destroy the Jewish way of life. Maybe this is why the Maharal says this, because he saw so many Jews that were inherently evil.
The last opinion I will bring down is Tosfos on Kiddushin (71a):
ו ר ״ י
פי ר ש דל פ י כ ך קש י ם שנ ט מ ע ו בישראל
וא י ן ה ש כ נ ה שו ר ה אל א על מש פ ח ה
מי ו ח ס ת
RI explains that therefore, converts are difficult for the Jewish people because they are mixed in with the Jewish people and the presence of G-D does not rest on people unless they are from a family with a good lineage.
This idea of pure lineage makes no sense to me, but I am sure it is based on the idea that it used to be that if you were not of pure lineage that meant you didn't really keep the commandments. Nowadays, that is certainly not the case and no one really knows who is of "pure lineage" and who is not. Either way, these ideas should be better addressed.
The most favorable Gemara I could find for converts is found in Pesachim (87b):
R. Eleazar also said: The Holy One, blessed be He, did not exile Israel among the nations save in order that proselytes might join them, for it is said: And I will sow her unto Me in the land; surely a man sows a se'ah in order to harvest many kor!
Apparently, G-D really loves converts because He exiled the Jewish people just to recruit them. That is a pretty powerful statement.
I think it is interesting to see the various attitudes that exist among the sages of the past. However, I will say this, Korbanos (sacrifices) are considered to be one of the most holiest of things a Jew could do. The mere fact that converts are included among the Jewish nation for this commandment just shows that converts are truly Jews on every level and in every sense of the word. There might be some debate about the nitty gritty parts, but G-D commanded the Jewish people to accept converts as one of their own, who are we to deny that COMMANDMENT?