Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Conversion: To Be or Not To Be

How does one know if he is Jewish or not? The Laws of Conversion are very dicey once it is known that there may not be a strict level of observance. It is best to not hastily judge without seeing what goes into a halachic decision of conversion.

The outcome is very serious: Amalek has come into Judaism by improper marriage/conversion. The flip side is that Moshiach comes from conversion! (Ruth/David)

The Talmud says that Converts are harsher than thorns - for the very fact that when it goes wrong, a terrible evil (Erev Katan) can infiltrate Am Yisrael. Yet the merit of Israel, can be traced through Gerim!

Conversion is very serious, very high, and very controversial - when there is reason to doubt... If the Jews would just keep the Torah, the problem would be minimal if even existent at all!
( As the article says, earlier times had less to fear, as observance was standard)

Ask the Rabbi: Controversies over appropriate standards for conversion to Judaism have abounded since the Enlightenment period. Controversies over appropriate standards for conversion to Judaism have abounded since the Enlightenment period and continue to confound in Israel and across the Diaspora. Medieval Jewry did not struggle with this issue, since Jewish social norms generally expected observance of Halacha, and certainly from a proselyte. In this regard, converts followed the model of Ruth, who declared to her mother-in-law Naomi, “Your people shall by my people and your God shall be my God” (Ruth 1:16). Conversion to a minority religion regularly subjugated to persecution was also relatively rare. Modern Jewish life, which features a plurality of cultural lifestyles in open societies, has broken this assumption and created great debates within the rabbinic world. The formal procedure for conversion remains fairly simple: immersion in a mikve (ritual bath), circumcision for men and, in Temple times, an animal sacrifice. The most central criterion for conversion remains the acceptance to perform the commandments and the motivation behind this consent. The Sages did not want people to convert for financial or political gain or for the sake of marriage, for example. Potential converts were warned of the hardships that Jews might suffer as well as the punishments for sin. Once deemed sincere, they were taught various elements of Jewish law and required to take upon the yoke of Heaven. Maimonides significantly added the necessity of teaching the theological underpinnings of Judaism, a requirement not specified by the Talmud. This conception of conversion raises a problem with converting children, who are presumed not to have the intellect necessary to take upon this responsibility. The Talmud, however, asserts that the judicial court serves as their guardian and can accept for them this categorical benefit. Once reaching the age of majority, the child can repudiate her Jewishness, but is presumed to consent if she continues to behave according to typical Jewish practice. This paternalistic approach was challenged in the modern era in which the rabbinic judges fear that the child will be raised in a non-observant home, thereby setting her up to sin and become liable for punishment. Rabbis Abraham Isaac Kook and Yosef Elyashiv contend that the judicial court may not convert a child unless they are confident that she will grow up to become religious. While agreeing that this is preferable, Rabbi Chaim Grodzinsky asserts that it remains meritorious for a child to convert as long as she will become generally observant, since despite her potential sins, she will accrue many benefits. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef believes that one can convert a child from a non-observant home if they remain committed to educating the child in a religious setting which will make it realistic that she will ultimately become consistently observant. This position was shared by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who further contemplated the possibility that it always remains meritorious for the child to enjoy the sanctity of the Jewish people while her sins will be exculpated because she acts out of ignorance. A more complex case involves adult conversions in which the rabbinic court doubts whether the convert truly intends to become fully observant. The Talmud asserts that if a potential convert accepts everything except one aspect of Jewish law, the court should reject the candidacy. As such, many decisors, including Rabbi Feinstein, have argued that Jewish conversion requires intent to completely observe Jewish law. To prevent intermarriage, Rabbi Grodzinsky more leniently ruled that as long as one generally intends to observe the basic facets of Jewish law, even if their performance will be lackluster in certain areas, the conversion should be permitted. His basic claim – that the Talmud only excluded those who explicitly conditioned their conversion on not observing certain laws – was more radically applied by Rabbi David Tzvi Hoffman. To prevent the severe sin of intermarriage, he allowed a non-Jewish woman to convert even though he understood that she would continue to live with her husband who was a kohen (member of the priestly line) and thus prohibited from marrying a convert. Other scholars, such as Rabbi Avraham Kahana-Shapira, criticized these rulings as unfounded hairsplitting and burying one's head in the sand. The most lenient position was advocated by Rabbi Benzion Uziel, who asserted that even if we know a potential convert will not be fully observant, judges can minimally tolerate a more generic acceptance of Jewish law with the hope that the convert will eventually become observant to avoid a sinful life. His general approach has been advocated by some contemporary Israeli figures who want to preserve the Jewish identity of Israelis who have definitive Jewish lineage and are fully integrated on a nationalistic level, even if they are not halachically Jewish by birth. Nonetheless, the preponderance of decisors have rejected this position, leaving conversion standards as a divisive debate. The writer, online editor of Tradition, teaches at Yeshivat Hakotel.

In The Merit Of Conversion - May The Exile End Soon!
[It is through Milah that Israel has Zchus - Conversion adds to this merit mightily!]


Anonymous said...

Dear Rabbi,

Did you ever hear of anyone who was accepted by a beit din and lived as an observant Jew for many years and then decided they were never Jewish in the first place and went on to live like a gentile? Is such a thing possible?

Klishlishi said...

The awesome mesirus nefesh of that rare and remarkable breed of "out-of-the-blue" heroic proselytes of previous eras, who converted to Judaism by dint of intellectual conviction and who underwent great tribulations and even martyrdom for their new emunah eg. Tamar, Osenas, Tziporoh, Paro's daughter Basiya, Shifra, Puah, Yisro, Chovav, Rochov, Rus, Yael, Atarah, Queen Helena, Araunah, Barzillai, Yisra, Ovadiah Hanovi, the 70 sailors who sailed with Yonah Hanovi, Nevuzardan, the descendants of Homon, Sisera and Sancherev (eg.Shemaya and Avtalyon), Ben Bag Bag, Ben He He, the fathers of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Meir, Emperor Nero, Aggripas 1, King Monbaz, Abba Gullish, Ptolemy, Aristotle, Onkelos, Antoninus, Flavius Clemens, Vicilinus, Obadiah the Norman, Abraham of Ishpurk, Abraham of Augsburg, Robert of Reading, Don Lope de Vera y Alarcon, Friar Diogo da Assumpcao, Alexander Voznitzin, Count Valentin Potocki, Moses Germanus, Lord George Gordon, Warder Cresson, Abraham Kotsuji, Abraham Setsuzo, Abraham Carmell, and in this generation Rabbis Shneur Zalman Gafni, Asher Wade, Nathan Gamadzeh etc.

They are the real Gerei Tzedek amongst whose portion we pray
in the 13th blessing of the Amidah for Hashem to place us!

Anonymous said...

Klishlishi errs in four of the above mentioned 'converts': Tamar was a Jewess, Osnat was Yaakov's granddaughter (Dina's) and was adopted by Potifar, Shifra and Puah were really Yocheved & Miriam (Moshe's mother and sister). We learn, not read, the Torah.

rabbi david katz said...

i do know of such people, and this is my point: it is a very big question in halacha to determine (or to pussle)

Anonymous said...

I have also heard " A convert is like a skin disease." My rabbi gave an alternate explanation. When a righteous Ger becomes a part of a community he/she causes much discomfort to the status quo who are used to a comfortable level of observance without an enthusiastic righteous Ger putting them to shame.

Klishlishi said...

There are opinions that Tamar I was the grandaughter of Shem & that her mother was a Knaanis.

That Tamar II (daughter of David) was born before her mother's conversion.

That Osnat was the biological daughter of Zuleika.

And that Shifra & Puah were non-Jewesses.

Anonymous said...

to: AnonymousMay 2, 2012 07:21 AM

Yes, I have head this as well. You may hear the FRUM from birth tell the convert that he/she is turning them into a Ba'l Teshuva

Anonymous said...

There are many sources stating Tamar (daughter-in-law of Yehuda) was a Jewess and many sources that say that Osnat was Dina's daughter by her misfortune with Shchem and that is why the child was named Osnat. Yosef recognized the amulet she was wearing given to her by her grandfather, Yaakov Avinu. Besides reading many times about Shifra and Puah being Yocheved and Miriam; just happened to read about it also the other day in one of the Torah blogs. But as far David HaMelech's daughter, Tamar, don't know; but I thought that Dovid did not allow conversions in his reign; only when Shlomo took over, did he allow, so doubt that he would have produced a child by a non-Jew, especially not converted. But do not know about this Tamar.

Anonymous said...

Where is the evidence in the tanach that Ruth was a convert ?

Shiloh said...

Annon@12:17, what is living like a gentile? Is it ignoring the takanot of the rabbi's and living as say the Karaites who only live by the Tanach? or is it going back to their lifestyle of the gentile holiday's etc.

One cannot define a Jew as one who follows the takanot of the rabbi's because they have added to the Torah which by default would disqualify them as being a follower of Moshe and the Torah ie a Jew. I have seen many Jews (especially those who according to halachah are not Jewish ie only Jewish father) and converts (supposedly neither parent is Jewish) who have the soul of a Jew regardless of their level of manmade takanot. Then I have also seen Jews and converts who are very strict in following the matrix and let's just say for the Jews, does erev rav ring a bell and for the coverts dipping them in the mikvah does not change anything, they simply do not have the soul of a Jew no matter how you slice or dice it. Just because the halachot state one is a Jew does not actually mean this to be the case. Look at King David, as we know the story the religious declared him to be a non-Jew.

Even the Mashiach will have a story like that of Moshe, being raised by the goyim, not even realizing who he is and the source of his birth, and surely the religious will declare he is not a Jew according to the invented manmade takanot. Even if Yehovah or haShem for the religious annoints him, they will not accept what he has to say because he won't be Jewish or Jewish enough for them because he wont be a follower of the takanot of the rabbi's. Can we wake up to this fact that the rabbi's have distorted the Torah while claiming it to be the truth and the derech that Jews and in the case of goyim with the 7 laws of Noah (which I won't reveal who actually prototyped this teaching long before the rabbi's latched onto it for I will be censored because truth is too uncomfortable) has been comprimised.

You want the mystical reason of the anti-semitism, the wicked erev rav kept the Torah for themselves. Holding up the geulah, causing the suffering for the Jews and causing the invention of other major religions to get the concept of a Creator out to the masses.

Will we wake up with the looming threat of a nuclear war, I doubt it completely.

Shabbat Shalom

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