Being neighbor: to who?

good_samaritanWho is my neighbor? But because he wished to justify himself… And who is my neighbor?” One wonders why the scholar did not “quit while he was ahead?” It is almost as though the scholar’s first question was entrée to the real question about who is (or is not) neighbor. In Leviticus 19 the word root neighbor (-ger) include fellow Israelites, but also stranger and travelers. While that Semitic custom remained present in Jesus’ time, the Pharisees also professed extensive limitations on interactions with non-Jews. (m. Abodah Zarah 1:1, 2:1-2, 4:9-10) To “justify himself” the scholar raises the disputed question about the identity of the neighbor. When the scholar added the Leviticus text, one may well speculate that the scholar’s understanding was that “neighbor” included only one’s fellow Israelite. Continue reading