The Stranger as a Newcomer
And He said to Abram, Know for a certainty that your seed shall be a
stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they
shall afflict them four hundred years;
I am a stranger and a sojourner with you; give me possession of a
burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.
And she bore him a son, and he called his name Gershom; for he said,
I have been a stranger in a strange land.
And if a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not wrong
I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commandments from me.
Your Bible Navigator
1. See how the word "stranger" is used
in each verse.
2. What makes people "strange"?
3. Can one feel strange in familiar surroundings? Bring one of the
verses as a proof text for your answer.
4. What makes you feel strange?
In the Talmud,
they understand "stranger" to mean the same as
"newcomer" i.e. someone who has chosen to join the
community. In other words, someone who feels strange, but wishes to
Our Rabbis taught: He who wounds the feelings of a proselyte
transgresses three negative commandments, and he who oppresses him
transgresses two commandments. How does wounding their feelings
differ from oppressing them?
We make this distinction because three separate negative commandments
are stated: You shall not wrong a stranger [i.e., a proselyte] (Exodus
23:9) And if a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall
not wrong him (Leviticus
19:33), and you shall not therefore wrong each his fellow man (Leviticus
25:17) -- a proselyte being included in 'fellow man.'
But for 'oppression' there are also three commandments which prohibit
this," and you shall not oppress him" (Exodus
22:20), Also "You shall not oppress a stranger," (Exodus
23:9) and "[If you lend money to any of my people whom are
of your poor,] you shall not take interest from him" (Exodus
22:24). which includes a proselyte! So, say instead, that
both wounding feelings and oppressing are forbidden by three
It has been taught: R. Eliezer the Great said: Why did the Torah warn
against [the wronging of] a proselyte in thirty-six, or as others
say, in forty-six, places? Because he may revert back to his evil
ways. What is the meaning of the verse, You shall neither wrong a
stranger, nor oppress him; for you were strangers in the land of
Egypt? It has been taught: R. Nathan said: Do not taunt your neighbor
with the blemish you yourself have. And thus the proverb runs: If
there is a case of hanging in a man's family record, say not to him,
'Hang this fish up for me.'
Your Talmud Navigator
1. What are the reasons for giving the stranger
(the proselyte) special consideration?
2. If stranger means proselyte, how do they understand the verse
"You shall not aggrieve a stranger or oppress him, for you were
strangers in the land of Egypt" (Exodus
Maimonides Hilchot Deot--The Laws of Behavior
The love of the stranger who has entered beneath the wings of the
Divine presence is enjoined by two Biblical commandments: One because
he is considered to be within the category of "reyim" (a
friend) and one because he is a stranger, and the Torah states:
"And you shall love the stranger..." The Holy One commanded
that we should love the stranger just as He commanded that we should
love Him, as it is written: And you shall love the lord your God. The
Holy One himself loves the stranger, as it is written: And He loves
1. Why all this emphasis on loving the stranger?
Why is Maimonides so concerned?
2. Do you think Maimonides is drawing from the Talmudic piece we have
Sources: Rabbi Avi Weinstein, Director, Hillel's
Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning. Reprinted with