“You must love the ger for you were gerim in the Land of Egypt” Deuteronomy 10.19


Only three objects are described as requiring our love: God (Deuteronomy 6:5), our fellow (Leviticus 19:18) and the ger.  

In contemporary parlance we use the word ger to describe a convert, but it seems to be somewhat more ambiguous in the Torah. From the root “to live”, the biblical ger seems to be a “sojourner”, someone who is foreign to you but chooses to live among you. Perhaps in our own day the best translation of ger is “expat”. 

Why does the Torah need to separately identify the commandment here to love the ger? Wouldn’t this person, whoever they are, be included in the Levitical instruction to “love your fellow as yourself”? 

The conclusion we reach is that the ger must be defined by their difference from us (meaning, they are not our fellow). However, what makes them the object of our love is our shared experience; they are gerim now and we were once gerim in the Land of Egypt. 

Thus, some people we love because they themselves are similar to us and some people we love because their experiences resemble our own. What does it even mean to be commanded to love, however? Is love something that can be ordered or coerced upon us? 

Hebrew perhaps helps illumines our dilemma, in that the word for love, ahavah, and the word for unity, echad, both add up to thirteen. Thirteen, like the attributes of God whom we are also commanded to love. 

If we imagine that what we asked is simply to have positive feelings towards God, towards each other, towards the ger, we are potentially missing the point. 

Christian notions of divine love are fairly foreign to Judaism. Instead, the love we are asked to implement is unity. To love God, we aim to unify our aims with God’s, and to love each other, we must be united.
To love the ger as we are told to do this week, we must see that our experiences and those of others, many of whom appear quite foreign to us, are united,  intertwined and inseparable. 

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