In this week’s Parsha, Naso, the Torah teaches the law known as “returning stolen property to the convert”. This law deals with a person who owes money to his friend and, in a court of law, denies owing this money. If, under oath the defendant denies the debt and then later regrets doing so he must pay the plaintiff 125% of the money owed. In addition he must bring an ashum offering as an atonement for swearing by HaShem’s Name falsely. In the event that the plaintiff has died by the time the defendant repents, the defendant pays the 125% of the stolen money to the heirs of the deceased plaintiff.
The case becomes more complicated if the deceased plaintiff was a convert to Judaism and left no children. The difficulty is that conversion is reckoned as beginning one’s life from scratch. The implication is that from a legal perspective they have no relatives. Even their natural biological relatives are no longer legally related to them. (This question is worthy of a full length discussion why this is the case, but for the sake of brevity we will leave it for now.) We therefore have a problem – to whom should the repenting defendant return the money? The Torah teaches us in this Parsha that in this case the money is given to the Kohanim.
The question is why do the Kohanim receive this money? This is money that should be given to the plaintiff or his heirs what do the priests have anything to do with him? Even if the kohein never met the plaintiff he nevertheless can take that money. Why? The Talmud explains that the money is actually given to HaKadosh baruch Hu and He gives it to the kohein. The kohein is acting as HaShem’s proxy.
Behold! The money that is actually due to the closest relative in this case is given to HaKadosh baruch Hu. The lesson the Torah is teaching us is that HaKadosh baruch Hu is the father of all converts. When there is a Jew anywhere in the world that has no person in the their life – HaKadosh baruch Hu is always there for them like a father is always there for his son. This relationship is not unique to converts but to all of the Jewish people. The only difference is that a natural born Jew has other relatives and HaShem is simply a relative among others. By contrast for the convert who has no other person in his life HaKadosh baruch Hu is his only relative.
Let us look what the Torah says in the Book of Devarim. In chapter 14:1 Moshe tells the Jewish people “You are children … to HaShem, your G.D…” Behold! The relationship of every Jew to HaShem is that of a child to his father.
Two months ago we experienced our exodus from the slavery of Egypt to freedom. Fifty days later we experienced the giving of the Torah with all that HaShem revealed of Himself at Mount Sinai. We know that HaKadosh baruch Hu is our Ruler, HaKadosh baruch Hu is our Creator, HaKadosh baruch Hu manages History and world events and He is interested in our relationship with Him. Now, still under the influence of the beautiful holiday of Shavuous, HaKadosh baruch Hu is telling us that He is our Father, too.
The responsibility we have to live up to the expectations He set out for us in His Torah now carries a new dimension. There is a difference between the subjects who want to find favor in the eyes of their king and the child who wants to find favor in the eyes of his father. The distinction lies in the yearning. One cannot compare the craving a child has for his father’s approval to the longing a subject may have for his king’s approval.
Have a wonderful Shabbos.