The Uncounted Convert
The placement of one section of parashas Naso struck me when reviewing the parashah last week. We just has a parashah and a half of counting the Jewish People — first the 12 shevatim, then the levi’im. By sheivet and clan. And each one given it’s place in the camp.
Immediately after (Bamidbar 5:1-4) there is a short section about the tamei people who must temporarily leave that camp.
And then there is a section about the sin of stealing from a convert. (5:5-10) If someone steals, they have to repay an extra fifth as a penalty. But, if the theft is from a convert who subsequently dies leaving no Jewish children, there are no heirs to make restitution. Instead the money is given to a kohein (v. 9) as a representative of Hashem (v. 8).
The convert has no sheivet and no beis av. One might have thought that, like the tamei person, he was being excluded as inferior to the born Jew. So the Torah sets up a contrast with those who were actually, although temporarily, excluded.
The convert’s heir is the Creator Himself. The point the placement of these pesuqim teaches is that the geir isn’t counted among the shevatim because he is G-d’s. Not further from Hashem than the rest of us. Closer.
Ingenious! And, like many deep thoughts that go to the heart of what it means to be a Jew, eminently debatable.