The Dilemma of the Ger: Commentary on “Has an Ancient Biblical Status for Non-Jews Reemerged After 2500 Years?”

James Tissot, The Return of the Prodigal Son.
The Return of the Prodigal Son, by James Tissot.

The Torah Awakening among Christians is creating something the world has not seen for two thousand years:  a growing body of non-Jewish people who are doing the best they can to live by God’s eternal standards (His Torah – Law, Teaching, Commandments), but who do not intend to convert to Judaism.

What is the world to do with such people?  Perhaps the more immediate question is, what are the Jewish people and the State of Israel to do with such people?

Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler explored these questions recently in an article for Breaking Israel News.  Her article, “Has an Ancient Biblical Status for Non-Jews Reemerged after 2500 Years?”, presents the biblical concept of ger, (גָּר, Strong’s H1616), or foreigner, as a possible status for Torah-keeping non-Jews.  Dr. Adler and I have shared some correspondence on this question, and hopefully will be able to continue that conversation in a point-counterpoint discussion.  Here is my initial offering.

According to Strong’s Concordance, a ger is a “sojourner; a temporary inhabitant, a newcomer lacking inherited rights; of foreigners in Israel, though conceded rights”.  The implication is that such people are not Israelites, not Hebrews, and not members of the nation or commonwealth of Israel. 

This is where we run into several issues.  The easy path is to argue these points, but that is not necessarily the wisest path.  What we all need is the path of wisdom and reconciliation, and that is what I hope to investigate.

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Fox Byte 5775: Matzot (Unleavened Bread)

מַצּוֹת

The Ossuary of Douaumont, final resting place of over 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers whose bodies were broken in the great Battle of Verdun, February 21-December 18, 1916.
The Ossuary of Douaumont, final resting place of over 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers whose bodies were broken in the great Battle of Verdun, February 21-December 18, 1916.

It was in May of 1986 that I first visited the great World War I battlefield at Verdun.  Along with Auschwitz, Verdun is on my Top 10 list of places every human being should visit to learn the extent of evil that people can inflict on one another.  Over the course of 10 months in 1916, nearly 2,500,000 French and German soldiers flung death at one another.  Total casualties cannot be known, but the estimates range nearly as high as one million, of whom 300,000 were killed in action.  The toll does not end with the soldiers; over the course of the battle nine French villages ceased to exist, and an area the size of Manhattan suffered such devastation that the French government deemed it unrecoverable and left it to nature to repair.  To this day much of the battlefield remains a poisoned wasteland and graveyard for over 100,000 missing soldiers of both sides.

France has done its best to honor the dead.  In 1932 President Albert Lebrun opened the great Ossuary at Douaumont, one of the villages destroyed in the battle.  The Ossuary ranks among the most impressive monuments of Western civilization, attempting both to remember and honor the dead, and to remind the living of their sacrifice.  Some might consider the reminders grotesque.  Beneath the Ossuary is a crypt which contains the bones of at least 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers.  They are there for all to see, together in death, having surrendered their lives that the lives of their nations might continue.  Of course their nations did continue , and still do, although much diminished and much broken, even as the bones of their lost sons and daughters.

Looking at these bones one might be reminded of another collection of bones – the ones Ezekiel saw in his vision (Ezekiel 37:1-14).  Can these bones live?  The Lord knows.  In some strange way the bones resemble matzah, the unleavened bread broken and eaten during this seven day feast after the Passover.  Perhaps that is part of the reason the Jewish sages paired Ezekiel’s vision in the Valley of the Dry Bones with the Torah readings for the Passover season.

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Fox Byte 5775 #24: Vayikra (He called)

וַיִּקְרָא

In this scene from The Cat in the Hat, the son takes action to stop the desecration of the house.  (Picture from The Cat in the Hat, read by RC Ward, on Just Books Read Aloud)
In this scene from The Cat in the Hat, the son takes action to stop the desecration of the house. (Picture from The Cat in the Hat, read by RC Ward, on Just Books Read Aloud)

A standard feature of civilization is the rules of the house, the guidelines by which a person can be welcomed into and remain peacefully within someone’s home.  At the most basic level these are rules children learn from their parents at the earliest age.  Parents explain proper behavior and children grow up doing what they have said, or suffering the consequences if they disobey.  As adults the children pass on these rules to their children so they may act properly when visiting Grandma and Grandpa.  This maintains peace in the family, not only ensuring respect for the elders, but establishing and reinforcing a foundation for loving relationships.

If this is so, then how should we approach The Cat in the Hat?  Since its publication in 1957 by Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), The Cat in the Hat has become one of the world’s most popular and successful children’s books.  Geisel wrote it as an attempt to find an easier way for children to learn to read, but his creation has become much more than that; the Cat is now a cultural icon.  The book has everything that would appeal to children:  an engaging story told in simple, silly rhyme, colorful illustrations, and an outrageous degree of irreverence for the house rules.  The story opens with a rainy day in a normal house, where a Boy and his sister Sally are left at home with nothing to do while their Mother is out.  Suddenly their quiet boredom is interrupted by the entrance of the Cat who promises, “Lots of good fun that is funny”.  He then proceeds to violate every rule of the house by using everything he sees – including the pet Fish in its bowl – as a plaything.  Just when we think it can get no worse, the Cat introduces his friends Thing 1 and Thing 2.  The three anarchic intruders accelerate the mayhem, and in a very short time everything that is sacred, including Mother’s new gown and her bedroom furniture, have suffered violence.  At the height of the disaster, the Fish alerts the children to the approach of their Mother and urges them to do something to stop the destruction.  The Boy jumps into action, grabbing a large net with which he captures the Things and orders the Cat to pack them up and take them away.

With the intruders gone, the children and the Fish contemplate how to clean up the enormous mess.  To their surprise, the Cat returns with a machine that puts everything back in order just in time.  Thus The Cat in the Hat ends on a good note, with the house rules mended.  Yet that is not the end of the lesson.  While Dr. Seuss may not have intended it, his story resembles the tale of another Son concerned about violation of the house rules established by His Parent:

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.  And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.”  (Matthew 21:12-13 NASB)

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