Neshama Saver wrote:
Rabbi, my views are my own. I cannot reference any sources. I am speaking from the heart, utilizing my life experiences growing up in the extreme frei world.
But that was exactly my point. Judaism is a top down organization based on Torah principles given to Moshe at Sinai and elucidated and developed by Torah scholars throughout the ages. It is not a debating society or a free-for-all. The guiding principles and values already exist. While there are legitimate differences of opinion – the starting point is trying to ascertain what G‑d wants based on a thorough study of relevant sources and a sensitive understanding of the nature of the problem. One can not go over to a computer expert and tell him what to do without knowing what a computer is nor can one legitimately involve oneself in legal or medical issues without study – so to is it necessary to have an immersion in Torah before making pronouncements on what G‑d wants and what the solution to Jewish problems are. The Reform movement speaks from the heart. Socialism speaks from the heart. Democracy speaks from the heart. Christians and Moslems speak from the heart – as do missionaries. Torah Judaism first asks what has G‑d told us to do. The Torah specifically says in Bamidbar (16:39): And it shall be to you for a fringe, that you may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that you seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, which incline you to go astray; One of the major episodes in the Torah – the rebellion of Korach – came about because Korach said that his commonsense led him to reject the Torah Moshe gave to the Jews. Study the commentaries to Bamidbar (chapters 16 and 17) and you should experience déjà vu. Korach and his followers were so sure that they knew more than Moshe that they were willing and did in fact bet their lives on this belief. However to have a say in the Torah world – it is not enough to be wise, sensitive and caring. It is necessary to also be knowledgeable about Torah. Your heartfelt view might in fact by correct – but without validation from the Torah as understood by a talmid chachom – it is at most a possibly legitimate Jewish view. Avos (2:5) says a man ignorant of Torah can not be pious. That is because piety itself has to be defined and validated by Torah knowledge.
The criticism of you and those who wish to shut EJF and other kiruv organizations down is not personal. It is all about saving Jews. If organizations like EJF and the other kiruv groups ceased to exist, then Torah Judaism would hemorrhage even worse than it is now.
You keep repeating this assertion that I am trying to shut EJF and other kiruv organizations. That statement is simply and utterly false. Where have I ever said such a thing. I have repeatedly said that I am simply trying to ascertain the halachic basis for what they are doing. Just as I insist on judging what you say based on whether it is consistent with Torah sources – I also insist that rabbis justify what they are doing. The huge collection of responsa literature has been generated by the greatest rabbis providing what they consider the Torah basis for what they are doing. This has always been the Jewish way of doing things. I had an extensive exchange of letters with Rabbi Tropper in which I repeatedly asked him for the Torah basis for what he is doing. The answers he gave were irrelevant to my question – for reasons I still have not been able to discover. If he has said something similar to what you have been saying and cited sources for it that made sense – I would have no problem accepting it. He has not provided a single source to justify his actions.
Let me be more specific. Some of what you have been asserting is dealt with in the literature of conversion “leshem ishus” (for the sake of marriage). A very erudite English discussion of this is found in Rabbi Dovid Bleich’s volume I of “Contemporary Halachic Problems” in a chapter entitled “The conversion crisis.” He cites major rabbis who say that while there is a prohibition of converting someone who says that they are converting just to marry a Jew – if they are already intermarried then it is permitted to convert the non-Jewish spouse as long as that spouse is sincerely interested in keeping the mitzvos and since they are already married we don’t reject the conversion as being “for the sake of marriage.” There are those rabbis who will do the conversion only if the Jewish spouse agrees to be totally observant. So the battle you are fighting has already been fought – but that is not my issue. EJF is has two different programs – which seem to be contradictory. On the one hand they have announced that they want to upgrade – i.e., make conversion more difficult by setting higher standards worldwide. On the other hand they are running after intermarried couples and spending millions of dollars to convince them to convert. I will acknowledge the possibility that they might in fact have an acceptable rationale for the second part – but for some strange reason they have refused to share this rationale with me. Rav Sternbuch an the Bedatz has asked them for their rationale – they have not been given it to them either. I have not been able to obtain a single written defense of this program – despite the fact that some of the greatest rabbis in the world today are associated with his organization. It is not as if this rationale doesn’t exist because Rabbi Tropper himself wrote to me that in 2005 they had a written manual that dealt with these issues. He said the manual was withdrawn 18 months ago because it was “unclear.” Thus my concern has never been to close down EJF. I am just asking them the question every Jew has the right to ask – “please tell me the Torah basis for your actions.”
Sorry you find that statement astounding. I know what hashkafa is. However there are hundreds of diverging paths regarding hashkafa with Torah Judaism. Which is correct? Yeshivish, Satmar, Chabad, Laewood, Monsey, YU, Rabbi Avi Weiss, Modern Machmir, Mosern Liberal, etc. These are all considered Orthodox "Jewish". As long as one stays within boundaries regarding belief, then they are all kosher, correct?…
Hashkofa is not a supermarket. A view that might be well suited to your best friend might be harmful to you. Hashkofa has to be selected to maximize spiritual growth. One should have a rabbi to help guiding in selecting the optimal hashkofa.
But more to the point. You simply don’t understand what I am trying to do. It is ironic you are accusing me of forcing everyone to think the same way. I am well aware of the variety of hashkofic views. I have even published a sefer “Daas Torah” to present the range of hashkofic views. It was cited by Rabbi Tropper in my previous posting concerning “EJF smear campaign.” He even said, “I actually enjoy reading his book.”
The scriptural & halachic references I will need to ask you to ask those involved in kiruv. I do not know… The question is "do we let them die out or do we do whatever it takes to save them?", all within halachic guidelines of course. This is how EJF differs from the Reform & Conservative. Everything is to be done according to halacha.
I am glad we are in agreement – everything is to be done according to halacha. So what is the halachic basis for what they are doing with intermarried couples? As long as we acknowledge that there are limits to what we can do to achieve the desirable goal of saving Jews – we need to know what those limits are?
Regarding proselytizing, I truly do not believe EJF is doing so. If they were, I may be for it as a way to stop the above mentioned hemorrhage. But they are not.
You still haven’t explained why their activities to convince non‑Jewish spouses to convert are not proselytizing – you and Rabbi Tropper just keep repeating “we are not proselytizing.”
Groups like EJF are part of the solution. Instead of trying to shut them down, why not take a look at the non-frum world and see what exactly is going on?
Again you repeat the falsehood that I am trying to close down EJF. I do know what is going on in the non-frum world. We are not differing in understanding the problem. We are disagreeing as to the nature of the process of providing a solution.
No info regarding my family. Privacy issues again.
I can’t conceive of how your anonymity will be compromised by saying whether your kids are converted and whether they are attending a yeshiva. Can you at least confirm or deny whether EJF makes any efforts to get the non-Jewish children of intermarried couples into kiruv organizations or yeshivos in an attempt to convince them and their non-Jewish parent to convert?
I was referred to the EJF via their advertisement.
This is interesting because Rabbi Tropper told me that they only deal with couples that have been referred to them by rabbis. I was puzzled why EJF had an application form (the pdf) on their website which did not make any reference to a referring rabbi [their online form does ask for a rabbi as reference]. Would you agree with the statement that not all couples that EJF deals with were referred to them by a rabbi?
There is a solution to our problem, and EJF has been the only group proactive in dealing with it. Now that all this pressure from you and other Rabbis has made them retreat into a corner, perhaps now it's time to have a sit down with EJF and truly make what they are doing kosher according to your standards? Those Rabbis are no slouches. I'm sure you can hammer something out.
What you write is what I originally thought was obviously true. However after repeated attempts to get them to simply explain what they are doing and why – I have severe doubts that this will ever happen. I never thought a simple request for information would be perceived as a threat and I never imagined that my time honored action of requesting the Torah principles they have used would make me be perceived as a partner with the forces of evil in the world.
… It is my pleasure to help clarify my position. …You have been very respectful. …I'm glad I can provide a window into the insane non-frum Jewish world. Frum Jews need to step up to the plate and mekarev these people, not jettison us into the Jewish dustbin of history.
I have enjoyed your candor and idealism. You have in fact been very helpful. Furthermore you don't seem to have been terrorized by our dialogue. Perhaps you can convince Rabbi Tropper that I am not leading a conspiracy to destroy all his hard work and accomplishments. I am really not a scary person and in fact most people find me very reasonable. Perhaps you can explain to him that I simply want the Torah rationale – with sources and reasoning – which justify his dealings with intermarried couples and their children.