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February 7, 2015 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Mishpatim

In this coming week’s Torah portion, as in a few others, the Torah warns against oppressing strangers (Exodus 23:9).  At first glance, I thought “yawn- what else is new”?  But Rashi has an interesting spin on that, pointing out a reason for this principle: he comes from an idolatrous environment, and any injustice done to him may impel him to return to his former ways.

In other words, Rashi is arguing that oppressing strangers is especially bad because religious conversions are fragile.  If you are born Jewish, you probably aren’t going to leave Judaism just because some Jews are jerks – you kind of assume that’s just part of life.  But if you are newly Jewish (or if you move from one version of Judaism to another) you are probably doing so because of relationships; you have met a bunch of Jews (or frum Jews, if you are a baal teshuva) who seem like super people. So if these Jews suddenly stop seeming so great, the basis for your religious evolution is crushed, and it is relatively easy to revert back to your former self.

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