Parasha Shelach Bamidbar
Torah Instructions on Role of Gentiles
There is a very important community teaching contained in this week's parasha, a teaching that has been neglected by Israel since the Babylonian captivity, a teaching that caused no small controversy when preached by the early Messianic Community, a teaching that to this day results in division among those who have in any way sought to combine Torah and Messiah in the community of Israel. This essential part of the Torah is as follows:
Numbers 15:14 "An alien who lives with you, or who takes up permanent residence among you, and wishes to offer an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the LORD, shall do as you do. 15 As for the assembly, there shall be for both you and the resident alien a single statute, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you and the alien shall be alike before the LORD. 16 You and the alien who resides with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance."This is certainly not the only place in the Torah where this is stated but this is rather explicit. There is to be one law, one regulation, one way of doing things for those who are native born and those who are not. The 'you' in this verse were the descendants of Avraham, Yitzach and Ya'akov who were promised the land. The 'alien' or 'sojourner' is the geyr, someone from the 'outside' who has chosen to dwell with the people.
You will notice that as the geyr continually appears in the Torah, his 'label' never changes. He is never called a 'child of Avraham', an 'adopted son' or anything else that would indicate what modern Judaism understands as conversion. A proselyte in Judaism since the Babylonian captivity means that one becomes a son or daughter of Avraham through circumcision (if male) and mikveh and one has all the rights and responsibilities that entails. And after going through this process, the Talmud reminds the community that it is forbidden to remind a convert he is a convert, so calling him a geyr, as does the Torah, would be improper. Since the Torah recognizes the difference and has no problem doing so, the Talmud must be talking about something that developed later, something that was not part of the original plan for the community.
The geyr, however, keeps his label, there is something that differentiates him from the native born. Since there is that something, which could be his lack of circumcision, the Torah wants to insure that he is not excluded just because he does not have the right blood in his veins. When the geyr offers a sacrifice, he is to do it just as the native born. The low wall around the second temple that kept the gentiles out was not part of the original plan, these was no such thing in the Mishkan. For the gentile who wants to be part of the community, there is one teaching and one law. There are not the 'noachide' laws for the Gentiles and Torah for the Jew. There is one law and one teaching and it is to be so throughout your generations.
An Israelite is not something that is determined by birth but by covenant relationship, by becoming part of a religious and political entity in this world we call Israel. An entity like that cannot exist in harmony when there are different laws for different classes of people. God knew that, He knew that if Israel was to fulfill her mission in being a light to the nations and taking the truth to them, there had to be a place, an equal place, for those who came in from those nations and embraced that truth. Therefore, throughout the Torah, the native born are reminded that everyone who embraces the covenant has the same rights and responsibilities. In our parasha, Calev is a perfect example, Calev the Kennizzite (See Gen 15:19, it is exactly the same word, he is not a descendant of Esav). Calev was a leader among the tribe of Judah, a highly respected and distinguished man. Today, Calev the Kenizzite would find himself on the outside looking in in most Messianic, Nazarene and traditional Jewish communities. The Torah says it is not to be so. Let us start judging people not on the basis of birth but on the basis of covenant faithfulness.