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Ekev(Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)

Special Status

Parshat Ekev tells of the special mitzvah to love converts. Converts hold a special status in Jewish life, since they did the heroic deed of leaving their familiar surroundings, and casting their destiny with the Jewish people.

Many of our greatest ancestors - Abraham, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel - were all converts! Also the great Talmudic sages Shemaya and Avtaliyon were converts. As was Onkelos, who wrote the Aramaic translation that is printed in virtually every Hebrew Bible.

So why does the Torah require us to be especially nice to converts? The commentators explain that a born Jew has relatives who will defend him; the convert does not, and that makes him particularly vulnerable.

On a deeper level, though, God Himself protects the convert directly. That's why this parsha says to love the convert "because you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Just as the Almighty guarded us and rescued us in Egypt, so too God defends the convert.

There is a fascinating kabbalistic idea that converts already have a Jewish soul, and even stood with the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. It is said that although the non-Jewish nations originally rejected the Torah, individual members of those nations sought to accept it. And the souls of these individuals appear in every generation as converts.

By the way, this idea of "future converts being present at Mount Sinai" helps explain why one of the primary requirements for conversion to Judaism is a commitment to keep the 613 mitzvot - just as the Jews did at Mount Sinai.

Published: May 6, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Sandy Strauss, August 9, 2012 6:20 PM

Thank you.

Reading your messages makes the world of differance. I dont feel like an outcast anymore.

(6) Anonymous, August 9, 2012 12:09 PM

A flammable rock

Rabbi Shraga, I cannot stop praising and admiring the so beautiful ways you encourage and inspire your readers by instilling in us...your readers, what Torah instruction is all about it. May Hashem continues lighting your life, so that the flame continues igniting us. What a rock of support you are, thank you so very much for a well written article.

(5) Katrina, July 26, 2010 2:46 PM

@ Bob, yes, when you convert you are a son or daughter of Avraham Avinu. I shared this with many of my fellow converts. Thanks so much! This reminds me of another part of the Tanakh where it talks about a lamb who has left it's flock to join another...paralleling the Rabbi's comments here. Does anyone know where that is? I came across it once in study and have not found it since.

(4) Bob Cohen, August 8, 2009 3:40 PM

converts having a stronger tie to the patriarchs

I believe I heard once that as part of converting to Judaism, they take a Hebrew name. However as their parents are not Jewish, their name cannot include "son of" or "daughter of" so they actually become sons and daughters of Avram. That's so awesome!

(3) lachrisha smith, August 4, 2009 6:40 PM

being a convert

my family has withdrawn themselves from me.they do not understand my conversion.sometimes it seems like they never will.but ,i will never give up hope.it is very hard to be alone in this without them.but, i will go on.i will pray for them.thank you rabbi! you are a warrior!!!!!

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