We also refer to the righteous as geirim. The word ‘ger’ in Hebrew comes from the word ‘gargir’ or a piece of grain separated from its root. So to the righteous views himself alone and separated, his living quarters on earth feel only temporary. This is what King David said, ‘I am a stranger (ger) in the land do not hide your mitzvos from me’ (Tehillim 119:19). He compared himself to a sojourner (ger) ready to travel and he does not know when that time will come, and because he does not know when that time is, he must take provisions, since that time might come upon him immediately without notice. What are the provisions? They are fulfilling mitzvos; that is why King David said ‘do not hide your mitzvos from me.’
We also find that that our Forefathers were called geirim. Regarding Avraham it writes, ‘I am a stranger (ger) and an inhabitant with you’ (Breishis 23:4). Regarding Yitzchok it writes, ‘Sojourn (gur) in this land’ (Breishis 26:3). By Yaakov it writes in the first pasuk of this week’s parsha, ‘Jacob dwelt in the land of his father’s sojournings (migurei), in the land of Canaan’ (Breishis 27:1). It first says ‘Yaakov dwelt’ and not that Yaakov sojourned in the land because it previously by Esav said ‘Esav dwelt on MountSe’ir’ (Breishis 36:5) when the Torah discussed the descendants of Esav and the kings and chieftains that came from him, and that they settled in the land they were given to inherit, the land which will always be theirs; therefore the Torah is now telling us that Yaakov settled down in the Holy Land, in the land of his father’s sojourning. The reason the Torah uses the word migurei,is because we find the Torah elsewhere calls it that, ‘to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojourning in which they sojourned’ (Shemos 6:4). This is because our forefathers (specifically Avraham) were uprooted from the other side of the river, they were now immigrants (geirim) in the land that was Canaan at that time.” (Click here for end of Hebrew text)
However one can wonder why he is more special than any other Jew who performs mitzvos day in and day out, and might even expect reward for doing the mitzvos and is also careful tonot sin since he is afraid of punishment? Why aren’t we, meaning you or I, the average Joes who tries to be Torah observant, known to be tzadikim, righteous?
It must be that Rabbeinu Bachye is doing more than giving us a sign of the righteous -he is also sending us a message that you or I, or anyone can become a tzadik, it is not reserved for the elite, and he is sharing with us the formula of how to become a tzadik. We have to have the attitude that I am a ger.
We see from here that a ger has many connotations; a convert, a traveler, an immigrant. But they are all rooted in the same concept, that one is like a piece of grain separated from its root.
If a person has the attitude that he is like a convert who feels like a stranger separated from his people and family who he grew up with, and therefore feels subjugation and humility which stirs in him an urge to constantly be looking up towards Hashem in prayer for help and comfort, always increasing one’s emuna and bitachon, faith and trust in Hashem, then this is the first step in the process of becoming a tzadik. One also has to have the attitude that he is just a sojourner, a traveler through life who does not know when the end will come and therefore has to always be searching out for mitzvos to perform in the best quality he can so that he will have the proper provisions when his time does come to go from this world to the Next World. This is the second part of the formula to becoming a tzadik. Finally, one has to have an attitude that I am like an immigrant in a strange land, having no entitlements, and must respect the people around me who were living here long before I was.
With this formula of having an attitude of a ger: selfless, temporary, and humble, all being channeled into serving Hashem then it will seem, according to the Rabbeinu Bachye that one will become a tzadik.