Several weeks ago, Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler published a captivating article in Breaking Israel News. In “Are We Witnessing the Restoration of an Ancient Biblical Status for Non-Jews?”, she presented the biblical concept of ger, or foreigner, as a possible status for Torah-keeping non-Jews. Soon thereafter I posted a commentary on Rivkah’s article entitled “The Dilemma of the Ger” as the first round of what she and I both hoped to be a point-counterpoint dialogue.
I must apologize for the delay in posting Rivkah’s response to my remarks. She provide them about a month ago, but the B’ney Yosef North America Summit and its aftermath have taken much of my attention in the interim. Hopefully there will be no similar delay as we move forward.
What I hope you, the reader, will see in Rivkah’s remarks is a sincere heart seeking to make sense out of a development that is shaking her Jewish paradigms just as much as it is shaking the paradigms of those who have come from various Christian streams. You, like me, probably will disagree with some of the points she makes. In a few days I will post my next round of remarks to address those points. In the meantime, please do not let disagreement cause you to throw out Rivkah’s entire presentation. Look instead for those points of connection, and from there prayerfully see where we might build a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding.
A Jewish Response to “The Dilemma of the Ger“
Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler
I appreciate very much your willingness to engage in this conversation with me. I acknowledge that we are both trying our best to be as sensitive as possible, despite the fact that these conversations have the potential to be excruciatingly uncomfortable.
My prayer is that Hashem helps me find the words that will touch the hearts and souls of those who desire to hear what the Torah actually says regarding the non-Jew.
Let me start where you started, with the definition of the word ger. It’s a complex word in Hebrew and means so much more than stranger. For the purposes of our discussion, let’s define Ger as a 100% kosher non-Jew. Hopefully, that definition has the potential to attract the attention of those who are drawn to Torah, but who do not wish to become Jews.
As a Jew, it was eye-opening to me to learn that the Torah has a complex, deeply satisfying, designated path for non-Jews.
Most Jews understand the world as divided into Jews and non-Jews. As a result of my personal experiences engaging with sincere, spiritual and seeking people in the Hebrew Roots movement, and now with Gerim, I understand that this is a grossly oversimplified understanding.
The Torah itself offers a different taxonomy. Ger exists as an additional Torah identity, poised between Jew and non-Jew.
For those non-Jews who are connected to the Torah, who wish to remain connected to the God of Israel in the fullest possible way, but who do not want to convert and become Jews, Ger offers a roadmap.
You are certainly familiar with the idea of a Noachide. Some of the people in the Hebrew Roots movement with whom I have spoken have rejected the Noachide path because it does not offer enough spiritual richness.
They are absolutely correct.
When I speak about the Torah status of Ger, I’m speaking about something deeper and significantly more spiritually engaging than the status of Noachide. A fully developed Ger is much, much more connected to the Torah, Hashem, the Jewish people and the Land of Israel than a Noachide.
Jacques Kotze, a leader of the Ger community in Cape Town, South Africa, compiled a list of qualities that define the Ger. I want to share some of his definitions here. According to Jacques, a Ger:
- Is loyal to and has a burning love for Hashem, the Torah (Oral and Written), the Jews and the Land of Israel.
- Doesn’t see himself/herself as a second rate citizen just because he/she happens to be not a Jew. Like a husband and wife so is with Jew and non-Jew/nilveh/ger. The wife isn’t “less” than the husband nor the other way round. To bring life both are needed.
- Has an intense longing to see the end of the galut (exile).
- Has a great longing for the coming of Mashiach, the third Beis HaMikdash [Temple] and the complete Geulah (redemption).
- Understands his/her role in this process of bringing on the Geulah. (Moshiach ben Yosef).
- Has a deep attraction to and love for the esoteric (Sod/Secret/concealed) dimension of the Torah (the Torah of Shem).
- Strives daily to draw nearer to Hashem.
- Is not interested in (however by all means not at all against) conversion to become a Jew as he/she knows that he/she was created a non-Jew for a very particular purpose.
- Knows his/her purpose as a non-Jew in his/her role regarding tikkun olam (repairing the world).
I have been deeply moved by my interactions with individuals in the Hebrew Roots movement. As a Jew, I’m used to protecting myself from antisemitism. Meeting people who express such a feeling of closeness with the Jewish people is still quite novel for me. That part is exciting, and feels like a partial fulfillment of what we pray for each time we recite the Aleinu prayer.
Aleinu is recited at the end of every Jewish prayer service. It speaks of a time when all people will worship the God of Israel. This idea is expressed in this part of the Aleinu prayer:
And for all living flesh to call Your name, and for all the wicked of the Earth to turn to You. May all the world’s inhabitants recognize and know that to You every knee must bend and every tongue must swear loyalty. Before You, Adonai, our God, may all bow down, and give honor to Your precious name, and may all take upon themselves the yoke of Your rule. And may You reign over them soon and forever and always.
I have simultaneously been uncomfortable in my interactions with individuals in the Hebrew Roots movement. I am uncomfortable because there is simply no way to accept the claims of individuals in the Hebrew Roots movement and remain within the parameters of the Torah.
There is no Torah category for Hebrews who are, in your words, “inextricably attached to Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ), whom we believe to be our Messiah, and whom we do believe is the incarnation of Almighty God.”
As much as I admire the sincere search for emet (truth) and the personal price that many individuals in the Hebrew Roots movement have paid for following their spiritual inclinations, the Torah does not provide me a way to accept the claim of a person who identifies as a Hebrew but who remains attached to Yeshua. With the Torah as my guide, it is simply not a possibility.
There can be no denying that the price of accepting upon oneself the elevated status of Ger is to separate from belief in Yeshua as Messiah. I understand that that price will be too high for many, perhaps most. Nevertheless, I would be remiss if I didn’t present Ger as an option for a kosher Torah identity, as honestly as I can.
In the event that there are any, among the readers of this dialog, who are curious to know more about Ger as a Torah status, I encourage you to be in touch with Russell Kirk, who is a leader among Gerim. He has agreed to engage in further discussion with any reader who has questions. Russell lives in Texas and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.