There is a lot going on in these days before Passover. Cleaning our houses, shopping for food, cooking that food… and then of course, eating that food as we tell the story of our freedom from the slavery of Egypt. We are catching up on halachot (laws) of keeping kosher during the Pessach holiday. Some of us are giving charity to the people who need help making their own seder night come true.
In short, we are getting ready for one of the biggest mitzva-observing weeks of the Jewish year.
Unfortunately, I can’t help but realize there is one mitzva (commandment) that many Jews do not keep at this time of year – or any time of year, in fact. That is the laws dealing with converts to Judaism. It’s interesting, because it is very much related to the fact that we Jews were strangers in Egypt, and from that experience God commanded us not to make converts to Judaism feel like awkward strangers once they have accepted Judaism and been accepted to Judaism. The Hebrew/Jewish word for convert from the Talmud is “ger tzedek”, a righteous stranger; it was meant to be a term of endearment and respect.
Why does this get ignored? Why do people insist on taunting converts about their status, about being a ‘real’ Jew or not, after they have gone through the processes? Why does the State of Israel, of all institutions, do this to fellow Jews? What happened to a person going through the intense trial to becoming a Jew and then being able to live as though they were always Jewish in the eyes of their peers? What happened to “דן לכף זכות”, benefit of the doubt, and also not making assumptions? More importantly: What happened to the Jewish tenet that embarrassing your fellow man being equal to murder in the eyes of God?
That is how I learned it growing up in yeshiva – that was the happy clappy theory. In reality, it is completely different. In practice, ‘religious’ Jews couldn’t give a crap about this issue in Judaism. And that infuriates me. This is not like the gay issue; this one is spelled out: be kind to the ger tzedek once s/he has stepped out of the mikva, and don’t taunt him with his/her past.
Like so much else in Orthodox Judaism, halachas and mitzvot and laws have been bastardized and fenced in by ridiculous cautions that make spiritual experiences become painful unnecessarily.
Not that this is a direct correlation, but this rant makes me realize that I haven’t called or considered myself Modern Orthodox in a really long time. And I don’t think I ever will again.