How to Relate to Converts
“When a proselyte dwells among you in your land, do not scorn him. The proselyte who dwells with you shall be like a native among you, and you shall love him like yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt - I am the L-rd your
Through these two brief verses Abarbanel brings out a number of profound insights. Having just warned the Children of Israel to distance themselves from the abominable practices and false beliefs of the Canaanite nations that they would soon be encountering, there was a legitimate fear that they would reject converts due to their previous actions and beliefs. Therefore,
Abarbanel then offers a unique insight into Torah’s reason for being careful with converts: “For you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” At first glance there isn’t any connection between our experience in Egypt and a Canaanite’s experience as a convert to Judaism. We were aliens in that we did not abandonour culture, language and beliefs. The Canaanite convert is doing exactly the opposite; he is abandoninghis past. The Egyptians scorned us for what we held onto.The Children of Israel are being adjured not to scorn the convert for what he abandoned! What
Finally, the verse that immediately follows states, “You shall not commit a perversion in justice, in measures of length, weight or volume.” (Leviticus 19:35) The immediate proximity of the two verses is not coincidental. Previously (Leviticus 19:15) the Torah used the exact same expression: “You shall not commit a perversion of justice.” Abarbanel says that the earlier verse is a general warning that applies to our dealings with the entire Jewish nation. Here, however, we are being warned specifically not to pervert justice generally in our dealings with converts, and specifically in terms of honest weights and measures. Every action that is considered a forbidden perversion of justice in regard to the “regular” Jew is equally a forbidden perversion of justice in regard to the convert.