The Other

Source Sheet

This collection of texts is meant to serve as the basis for a discussion about the role of the stranger in Jewish approaches to social justice.

Text

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The epiphany of the Absolutely Other is a face by which the Other Challenges and commends me through his nakedness, through his destitution. He challenges me from his humility and from his height…The absolutely Other is the human Other. And the putting into question of the Same by the Other is a summons to respond…Hence, to be I signifies not being able to escape this responsibility.

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The Other is what I myself am not. The Other is this, not because of the Other’s character or psychology but because of the Other’s very alterity. The Other is, for example, the weak, the poor, ‘the orphan and widow,’ whereas I am the rich or the powerful.

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The ger. . . is a resident alien; he has uprooted himself (or has been uprooted) from his homeland and has taken permanent residence in the land of Israel...Having severed his ties with his original home, he has no family to turn to for support. Thus deprived of both land and family, he was generally poor, listed together with the Levite, the fatherless, and the widow among the wards of society (Deut. 26:12), and exposed to exploitation and oppression. (Ezek.22:7)...

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"For the sake of the paths of peace," said the Rabbis; non-Jews as well as Jews should be given tzedakah. This phrase has two sides. It can be understood either as grudging or as transformative. It might mean that although non-Jews are not really entitled to be helped, keeping peace in the world requires that they be given help. Or it can be understood to mean that for the sake of shalom, the highest communal good and goal, it is not only an obligation but a joy to help all human beings.

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For the rabbis, themselves living under foreign rule, it may have been inconceivable to imagine a situation in which Jews constituted the majority and non-Jews needed protection. Perhaps for this reason, the rabbis reconstructed the biblical mandate to protect the stranger as a warning not to discriminate against converts to Judaism. Such is the nature of the world: in times of personal struggle, it becomes difficult to look outward.

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We care for non-Jewish poor along with Jewish poor "mipnei darkei shalom" (because of the ways of peace); we do not keep them from the part of the harvest that belongs to the poor "mipnei darkei shalom."

מפרנסים עניי עובדי כוכבים עם עניי ישראל מפני דרכי שלום, ואין ממחין בידי עניי עובדי כוכבים בלקט שכחה ופאה מפני דרכי שלום

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[Addressing the following situation: "In recent times, there has been an increase in couples who marry gentiles in civil ceremonies, and they come to me because they want to convert and marry them so that they can make aliyah to Israel."- from the 1950s]

תשובה: אלא שכאן יש חשש אחר,שהכוונה היא לשם עליה לא'י, אך זה תלוי במצבם במדינתכם, שאם המצב הוא כך, שבתור זרים לא יוכלו להשאר במדינתכם, הרי הכוונה שלא לש'ש גלויה, אבל אם אפשר להם להשאר במדינה, אלא שהם חפיצים בארץ ישראל, הרי זו לכאורה כוונה לשם שמים, שהם עוקרים דירתם ועוזבים פרנסתם לנוע לארץ אחרת, ודווקא לא'י, הרי ניכר שכוונתם להאחז בעם ישראל, ובארצו,...ואז הרי זוהי כוונה טובה, ואין צריך למנוע את קבלתם. אבל אם אין להם אפשרות להשאר שם במדינתכם וההכרח הוא להם לעלות לא'י, הכוונה פוגמת...

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The question is apparent from the answer. It is clear from the Shulkhan Aruch (Y”D 268:12) that we do not accept converts who do so motivated by marriage…The Beit Yosef writes that ultimately, discretion is given to the court in deciding when to accept converts. If the court is certain that the convert is converting ‘for the sake of heaven’ even if the convert is also motivated by marriage, it is permitted to accept the convert. In our case, where the Jewess already had a civil marriage, and she is pregnant from him – it is clear that they will remain married even if he doesn’t convert.

השאלה מבוארת מתוך התשובה. מבואר בש'ע י'ד סי' רס'ח סעיף י'ב דאין מקבלין גר שבא להתגייר בשביל שנתן עיניו באשה יהודית...וכ' ב'י והובא בש'ך ס'ק כ'ג דמכאן יש ללמוד דהכל לפי ראות עיני הב'ד. והנה אם ברור בעיני הב'ד שעושה לשם שמים אף דנתן עיניו גם באשה יהודית יש להתיר לקבלו. והנה בנ'ד דכבר נשא היהודית בדיניהם והיא כבר הפקירה עצמה לו ומעוברת ממנו דבר ברור שתנשא לו אף שלא יתגייר, א'כ רגלים לדבר דעושה לשם שמים ועוד דאם לא נקבלו תנשא לו באיסור דאורייתא דיהודית לגוי אסורה מדאורייתא וא'כ טוב שנקבלו משתנשא לו באיסור.

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