Welcoming the Convert into the Family of Israel

Israel's responsibilities toward converts begin with equal protection, but ultimately require the full integration of the convert into the family of Israel.

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The similarity of verse 5 of Psalm 128--"May God bless you…"--and Numbers 6:24 supports this artful connection between the conclusion of the psalm and the priestly blessing (Numbers 6) that follows soon after the laws concerning civil law protection for the convert in Numbers 5.

The underlying message of Numbers Rabbah 8, taken as a whole, is clear; protection of the rights of the convert is a first and necessary step, but ultimately, the people of Israel must take responsibility for emulating God's love of the convert. This love, and the peace it engenders, will allow the convert and the descendants of converts to integrate fully into the family of Israel.

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Jeffrey Spitzer is Chair of the Department of Talmud and Rabbinics at Gann Academy, The New Jewish High School, Waltham, Mass., and a member of the Institute's Tichon Fellows Program.