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Based upon edited excerpts by R' Chava Bahle's* responsa on the Ger Toshav (the NonJew).

מעיד אני עלי את השמים ואת הארץ בין גוי ובין ישראל בין איש ובין אשה בין

 

עבד בין שפחה הכל לפי מעשה שעושה כך רוח הקודש שורה עלין

Behold I stand to call upon heaven and earth (to witness) that a person, whether Gentile or Jew, man or woman, slave or free man, according to the deeds he does the spirit of G-d rests upon him. Tana D’bei Eliyahu Rabba 10:1

 

The Non-Jew in the Shul

CONSERVATIVE – Most liberal
Conservative rabbis cite the Mekhilta on the idea that there are “different categories of non-Jews in their relationship with the God of Israel and the people of Israel[3]
”:
One shall say “I am the Lord’s” (Isaiah 44:5), that is: All of me is the Lord’s and there is no admixture of sin in me. Another shall call himself by the name of Jacob (ibid.), these are the righteous proselytes. And another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord (ibid.). These are the repentant sinners; and surname himself by the name of Israel (ibid.), these are the God-fearing ones (literally, fearers of heaven).Mekhitla, Mishpatim, Tractate Nezikin XVIIIThe responsum concludes that there was a category (between Jews and pagans) comprised of gentiles who regarded Judaism as a great ideal, but who did not accept the requirements to become gerei tzedek, full proselytes. They were known as “God Fearers” (yirei HaShem) or “Fearers of Heaven” (yirei shamayim), and were found in the synagogues throughout the ancient Diaspora.It further suggested re’ah as a possible category for the position of our non-Jewish members. The command to “love your neighbor [re’acha] as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) linguistically parallels that verse from Deuteronomy (“love the ger”).

RECONSTRUCTIONIST – More liberal than Reform
A Reconstructionist Task Force issued a major position paper on Boundaries and Opportunities: The Role of Non-Jews in JRF Congregations.  Non-Jews are allowed to be members under circumscribed conditions – when they are married to Jews or are former spouses of Jews co-raising Jewish children– the Task Force recommends barring these non-Jewish members from holding top offices, chairing important committees, or participating fully in certain aspects of ritual, such as leading public worship or aliyot.

 REFORM – More restrictive than Reconstructionist or Conservative
In a responsum on “Gentiles in a Jewish Congregation”, Reform states that, "We cannot include [an unconverted non-Jew] in our membership. This would after all, entail their participation in every aspect of synagogue life, the right to lead services, the right to help determine policy or synagogue members. It would be inappropriate to have unconverted Gentiles participate in these aspects of congregation life." [1]
  
However, the non-Jewish widow of a Jewish man may donate the funds to build a religious school and administrative wing of a synagogue, which will bear the name of the Jew and non-Jew.[2]
   
See also:  “Gentile Participation in Synagogue Ritual,” CCAR Responsa, Contemporary American Reform Responsa, http://data.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/respdisp.pl?file=5&year=5754 

ORTHODOX  As Rabbi Daniel Siegel has pointed out, some Orthodox thinkers define all Jews as falling into two categories: frum [observant from an Orthodox perspective] or “not yet frum.”Bnai Noach:7 Noachide laws (called sheva mitzvoth bnai noach) define the path that God gave to the non-Jewish peoples of the world (Mishna Torah, Melakhim 8:11), and it is a path that has an integrated relationship with the Jewish path: “The Children of Noah are co-religionists of the Children of Israel,” says one Orthodox source.7 Mitzvot:Just Laws, prohibit blasphemy, idolatry, sexual immorality, murder, theft, eating the limb of a living animal.

[1]  “Gentiles in a Jewish Congregation”, Contemporary American Reform Responsa of the CCAR, http://www.data.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/respdisp.pl?file=161&year=carr.

[2]  “Naming a Building After a Non-Jew”, Contemporary American Reform Responsa of the CCAR, http://www.data.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/respdisp.pl?file=144&year=carr.

[3]  “The Non-Jewish Spouse and Children of a Mixed Marriage in the Synagogue,” Rabbi Kassel Abelson, The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, Rabbinical Assembly, 1988.

 

If you have specific questions about the ger toshav, you may contact Rabbi Chava Bahle at finerabbi@aol.com 

We appreciate R. Bahle allowing us to post excerpts on this topic. 

Conservative rabbis point to a motivation for welcoming reyim: that, if treated equitably, eventually they might become Jews, and this, along with the addition of Jewish children, is in the interests of the Jewish community.  For example, non-Jews are “associate members” in some Conservative shuls (i.e. Netivot Shalom).

TERMINOLOGY
1. Gerim/gerei toshavger toshav – resident who dwells with you   
2. Reyim – neighbor, fellow
3. Yirei shamayaim (yirei Hashem)  one who fears heaven (one who fears Hashem)
4. Orchim - visitor
5. B’nai noach (which includes chasidei umot haolam) – Children of Noah (Pious of the Nations)
6. Nochri -  foreigner, Christian
7.  Zar – strange, oppressor, enemy  

BIBLICAL SOURCES   Isaiah (56:7): “My House shall be a house of prayer for all peoples.”

1. Gerim/gerei toshav, ger toshav:  One of the most often repeated commandments. If a ger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not wrong him.  Rather, the ger who dwells with you shall be to you as ezrach[native; one born among you], and you shall love him as yourself; for you were gerim in the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33 - 34). “Love the ger; for you were gerim in the land of Egypt.” (Devarim 10:19-20).  Moses names his son Gershom, for he had “been a ger in a land of nochrim” (Exodus 2:22).  Israelites themselves are called gerim v’toshavim, as G-d says, “the land is mine, and you are sojourners and residents with me”. (Leviticus 25:23). Entitled to benefit from leket (gleanings of unharvested corners – Leviticus 23:22) and sh’khicha (forgotten sheaves – Deuteronomy 24:19) along with the widow and the orphan.  Invited into festival rejoicing, at Sukkot: “You shall rejoice on your festival – you, your son, your daughter, your male servant, your maidservant, the Levite, the ger, the orphan and the widow who are in your cities ... you will be completely joyous!” (Devarim 16:14 and 15).  Give offering on altar.  (Bamidbar 15:14 - 16).  Rashi, Yevamot 48b, who maintains that a resident alien (ger toshav) is obliged to observe Shabbat. 

2. Reyim:  used in Conservative Responsum
3. Yirei shamayaim (yirei Hashem): Talmud  
4. Orchim:  visitors Hachnasat orchim (welcoming visitors)
5. B’nai noach:(which includes chasidei umot haolam):  orthodox
6Nochri: “may not eat of” the Passover offering (Shemot 12:43) 
7.  Zar:  “shall not eat” of the atonement sacrifice (Shemot 29:33), zar is understood as an oppressor or enemy and later…idol worship itself (as in the Talmud tractate Avodah Zarah) were responsible for the destruction of the Temple and associated with all manner of evil. (Yoma 69b) Zar is to be put to death if he approaches the tent of meeting (i.e., Bamidbar 1:51 and 3:10).

WHY DO WE SOMETIMES MISTREAT THE GER?  R’ Bahle says - Perceptions of “danger”, “erosion”, “dilution”, “threat” result from the naming of Judaism is a fixed entity, as a davar (thing) as opposed to a tahalich (a process).  Fear and its resultant dualism (us/them, in/out, safe/dangerous). This binary model and its resultant experience of fear shape the perception of non-Jews in our midst as “other”.  Lack of understanding of a continuum of relationships.  


We need to be ever cognizant of the way we speak to and about other people.  Our approach to each individual should be as though the other individual may be Elijah.  We should strive to treat each other with kindness and respect.  
 

 

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