Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann
Treat With Care
"And you shall love the proselyte, for you were
foreigners in the land of Egypt. (10:19)"
Countless times in the Torah we are warned to take special care of
the ger - the proselyte who has taken the bold step of forsaking his
nation and his heritage, and joined hands with the Children of Israel.
(I say "countless" times quite literally; the Midrashim seem to be in
disagreement as to just how many times the Torah touches on this
concept. See Tanchuma (Vayikra 2) "In 48 places Hashem warned
us about proselytes..." Bava Metzia (59b) mentions either 36 or 46.
Tosafos in Kiddushin (70b) writes that we are warned in 24 places.)
Often, as it is here, the warning is accompanied with the reasoning
that, "you too were strangers in Egypt." In what specific way does our
experience in Egypt offers us a degree of insight into the importance
of this mitzvah?
Recently, to our great sorrow and grief, the children of the Bobover
Rebbe zt"l observed the customary shiva (seven day) period following
his death. As is to be expected, the amount of people, both men and
women, who came to be menachem aveil (comfort the mourners)
was both inspiring and overwhelming. From all over the world, people
flocked to Boro Park, Brooklyn, to comfort the family and pay their
last respects to the memory of the Rebbe.
Entire volumes could be written based solely on the stories and
anecdotes related to the Rebbe zt"l's family over those few days.
Amazingly, a number of women who came to comfort the Rebbe's
daughters told of an almost identical experience. One of them told
her story as follows:
"I am a divorcee. I have no children and very little family.
I live a very lonely life. I was told that the best time for me
to go to the Rebbe was late at night, when all the other
visitors had already left, so that I wouldn't feel
uncomfortable sitting around in a roomful of men awaiting
my turn. I was the last person to see the Rebbe that night.
"When we had finished talking, the Rebbe asked my how
I planned to get home. I told him that I didn't live far away,
and I was going to walk.
"'So late at night?' the Rebbe asked. 'No - you can't walk!'
The Rebbe picked up the phone, and called me a car-
service. 'Go downstairs,' he said, 'I'll be there soon.'
"I went downstairs to wait for the car-service. Soon
afterwards, the Rebbe was there too. He waited until I was
safely in the car, and only then did he retreat into his
"Soon after I arrived home, my telephone rang. 'Who could
possibly be calling this late at night?' I thought. It was the
Rebbe. 'Hello - this is the Bobover Ruv. I just wanted to
make sure you arrived home safely.' 'Yes, thank you
Rebbe, I'm fine.'
"Now I know, I told myself, why I went to the Rebbe.
Because he cares. Sometimes the burden of being alone
is too much to bear. After all, who really cares if I get
home safely, or if I was run over by a car, G-d forbid? No
one knows, and no one cares. So what if I die? The fact
that the Rebbe actually cared whether or not I got home
safely meant so much to me. It gave me the courage and
strength to go on living."
The fledgling Jewish nation spent over two hundred years as
unwanted foreigners and as slaves in Egypt. We can only imagine, as
the years went by and generations passed, the tremendous feeling of
abandonment they must have felt. What kept them going? What gave
them the strength never to give up hope? Two words. "Pakod
pakaditi - I have surely remembered you. (Shemos 3:16)" These two
words were given by Yosef to his brothers before dying in Egypt. They
were passed down from generation to generation. And it was with
these two words that Moshe was instructed to introduce himself as
the redeemer of Israel. As long as they remembered that Hashem still
remembered - that He still cared - hope wouldn't die.
"And you shall love the proselyte." There is no one more lonely than
the foreigner, who has forsaken friends and family, and come alone
to become a Jew. Show him your love. Show him you care. "For you
were foreigners in the land of Egypt." As a nation, you experienced
first hand what it's like to live as an outcast; and you saw that with the
comforting words "I have surely remembered you" the hardships were
just a little easier to bear.
There are, among k'lal Yisrael, so many dejected souls. We are told
to love our fellow Jew, just as we are told to love the ger. Yet what
does our love have to offer them; love can not heal the sick, nor
make rich the poor. There are times we wish with all our hearts that
there was something more we could do to alleviate their suffering. Yet
sometimes all it takes is showing we care - that they are important to
us, that we love them, and that it makes a difference if they get
Have a good Shabbos.
****** This week's publication was sponsored by Mr.
Hershy Weinberg, in memory of his father R' Meshulam
Zalman ben R' Yisrael Avraham. ******
Text Copyright © 2000 Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann and Project Genesis, Inc.