Monday, December 31, 2007

The Emperor has no clothes - Eternal Jewish Family & Daas Torah

A very strange thing has happened. Despite my many postings and requests for one simple thing - the halachic guidelines of Eternal Jewish - EJF has produced nothing. This leads to the rather unfortunate conclusion that there is in fact no halachic justification for their specific program of proselytization. As the wise lawyer said, "If you have evidence you produce the evidence, otherwise you yell and scream and pound the table."

Conversion is a great problem today. Whether we are talking about intermarried couples or the children of intermarried couples or even ordinary conversion. The way this issue is handled strongly influences the nature of the Jewish people for future generations. However we are not dealing with Torah prohibitions but rather rabbinic laws and social policy issues. EJF claims to be relying on the halachic rulings of Rav Moshe Feinstein. In fact Rav Moshe does permit conversion of intermarried spouses. In other words even if the motivation is not for the sake of heaven but rather to stay in the marriage - as long as they agree to keep all the mitzvos they are good gerim bedieved. At the same time he says he himself has nothing to do with conversion. He advised those who wanted to convert the spouse to find some other rabbi who is willing to do it. He refuses because of the very poor success rate for these conversions and wants nothing to do with the whole enterprise of conversion. Rav Chaim Ozer states a similar position. They are both acknowledging that it is permissible to convert these spouses - but by and large it is just producing non-observant converts. Thus EJF seems to be following the narrow technical rulings of Rav Moshe and Rav Chaim Ozer - but not their Daas Torah.

This makes their activities even stranger since they have spared no expense to show that they are following the guidance of gedolei Torah. However, they have produced no evidence that in fact the gedolim are supporting their specific program. I have cited a letter from Rav Efrati - that Rav Eliashiv's standard response as to how to deal with intermarried couples is to shun them - except in the case where they and their community thinks that they are in fact Jewish. Where is the letter from Rav Eliashiv that he approves of proselytizing intermarried couples? Where is the letter from Rav Dovid or Rav Reuven Feinstein that their father approved of the policies of EJF?

Some have claimed that the mere association of many of our gedolim with EJF shows that they support its policies - even though they have not explicity stated it. I had the opportunity recently to speak with a talmid muvhok of one of the star speakers at the recent Washington convention of EJF. I asked him why his rebbe went. He replied, "When my rebbe returned from the convention he said it was shtus v'hevel." I asked so why did he go? The answer was that his yeshiva needed the money.

If EJF's goal is simply to raise the standard of geirus - that is great. But then why is there a need for all their conventions and the millions they spend to convince non-Jews to convert? How many times do you need to say "we want to raise the standards". Where are their guidelines. What are their recommendations dealing with non-Jews entering kiruv programs or into yeshivos in the hope that they will convert? What does it mean that they produced a handbook of these guidelines but as Rabbi Tropper informed me they "withdrew it from circulation 2 years ago because some things weren't clear."

I am still waiting to hear their reply.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rav Chaim Ozer Grodinski zt"l - conversion of intermarried couples is very problematic II

Rav Chaim Ozer Grodinski (Achiezer 3:26):

Question: You asked regarding a non‑Jewish woman who was married to a Jew by a civil marriage in America. Now she came to you and wants to be converted. You thought that perhaps there is a basis to be lenient because if he is not accepted by a good beis din with tevila and acceptance of mitzvos she will go to the beis din of the Reform movement. Then she will convert not according to the halacha. However you note that Rav Posen was inclined to be strict in this matter since the conversion is only for the sake of marriage and ever after conversion she will not observe halacha and therefore it is not correct to be involved in this type of conversion.



6) As for the halacha, it would seem obvious that a good beis din should not accept her as a convert since her motivation is clearly for the sake of marriage and therefore even after marriage she is prohibited to him…This that you are concerned that she will go to the Reform, it is in fact a genuine concern since the Reform movement does not do conversion according to the halacha. It is stated in Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 268:3) that the acceptance of mitzvos is necessary…and according to the understanding of the Reform movement the acceptance would be accepting some but not all the mitzvos and would be invalid. Nevertheless we should not be concerned with this possibility. A valid beis din should only deal with circumstances which are presented by the poskim. Furthermore we can not permit even a small prohibition in order to save another from a larger prohibtion…. And if the conversion is done she will definitely not observe the laws of niddah and mikveh and this will lead to kares….

7) I was asked a number of times after the Revolution concerning a non‑Jew who is married to a Jew by civil marriage and now she wants to convert and be married with chupah and kiddushin because they want to raise their children according to Judaism. And they also assert that if the beis din does not convert them the Jewish husband will convert to Christianity. Is it permitted lechatchila to convert her? I saw that Rav Shlomo Kluger permitted conversion in such a case even lechatchila…I found support for this view from the Rambam (Pe’er HaDor #132) concerning a young man who bought a slave and she lives in his house – is the court obligated to take her from his house….The Rambam replied that clearly from the Torah it is necessary to take her from his house… however in actuality she should either be taken out of the house or she should be freed and he should marry her even though this violates the halacha…He says it is better to minimize sin and permit repentance…that in essence this is an emergency situations… However the details of the Rambam’s case are not clear. Nevetheless it is clear that he is saying that in order to allow teshuva sometimes certain laws are ignored. … This seems to support the views of Rav Shlomo Kluger. Nevertheless the Rambam is apparently not dealing with conversion per se but rather with the problem of freeing a slave… In the case of conversion it would require that the beis din sin in order to help someone – which is not permissable. Nevertheless it would appear in this case that if she is not converted she will stay married to him anyway so therefore the conversion is not for the sake of marriage…It would therefore seem based on the evaluation of the beis din that there is a basis to be lenient in this case and to rely on the ruling of Rav Shlomo Kluger.


However 22 years later Rav Chaim Ozer Grodinski seems to have reversed his previous lenient views and now prohibits conversion for the sake of marriage even when the intermarried couple has children.


Rav Chaim Ozer Grodinski (Achiezer 3:28):

Concerning the common practice of converting women who are married to Jews - according to the straight halacha it is not corrrect to convert them. That is because they are converting for the sake of marriage. Therefore even after marriage she is prohibited to him as is clear from the Rashba (#1205). While previously I had written to be lenient in these cases and I based myself on the Rambam (Pe’er HaDor 132) and Rav Shlomo Kluger also paskened leniently in an actual case. Nevertheless the fact is that there is not genuine acceptance of mitzvos in these cases. It is quite obvious that their hearts are not with the Jewish people since they do not observe Shabbos or niddah and they eat unkosher food as I wrote in the previous letter. This problem has already been noted by by the Beis Yitzchok who concluded that a proper beis din would not be involved in this. And regarding the issue of governing the non‑Jewish children…However the writer is correct that a good beis din should not be involved in this type of conversion. Nevertheless I don’t see that it is proper that the rabbis of the generation should make an open protest against conversion. That is because in the eyes of the masses it would be viewed as a chilul HaShem to prevent the women to convert and in particular their children since according to the straight halacha it is possible to convert them.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l - conversion of intermarried couples is very problematic I

Y.D. (1:157): Question: Concerning a convert who does not accept the obligation of doing mitzvos is he considered a convert? Answer: It is clear and obvious that he is not a convert at all even after the fact. This is also what my father actually ruled in Strabin. He said in such a case that the person was not a ger in any sense whether for leniencies or strictness. That is because the acceptance of mitzvos is an absolutely necessary condition to become a convert (Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 268:3). Even if the person asserts he is accepting the mitzvos – if we are aware that he is not actually accepting them – his assertion is meaningless. While it is true that if a person is converting for the sake of marriage it is valid after the fact – but that is only if he is fully and truly accepting the mitzvos for the sake of marriage. This is clear and obvious. All this was stated explicity by my father when he ruled in this case. I really don’t understand the reason why some rabbis err in this matter. Even according to their mistaken view that the acceptance of mitzvos is not required – what is the benefit that they are providing for the Jewish people in accepting as converts those who don’t accept the mitzvos. It is certain that G‑d does not approve nor is it desirable for the Jewish people that such converts become mixed into the Jewish people. It is simply obvious that such a person is not considered a convert.

Y.D. (1:159): …In general this whole enterprise of conversion for the sake of marriage is displeasing to me. Therefore I refrain from involvement in it. Not only from the halachic viewpoint that one should not convert someone for the sake of marriage lechatchila, but also because of the reason - that it is almost certain based on our experience - that they are not actually accepting the obligation to do mitzvos. They are just making empty assertions that they will keep the mitzvos. The fact is that without the acceptance of doing all the mitzvos – even one detail (Berchoros 30) - that they are not to be accepted. This is not comparable to Shabbos (68) of a person converting in isolation amongst the non-Jewish population and he doesn’t know about Shabbos or the prohibition against idolatry – nevertheless he is considered a genuine convert since he is fully and sincerely accepting all the obligation encumbent on a member of the Jewish people. Such an acceptance is valid since it an acceptance of the entire Torah – even though he does not know what these halachos are. In fact concerning every prospective convert it is not necessary to inform him of all the mitzvos before he converts. After the fact it is not necessary to inform him of anything as is clear in the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch sif 12. However if he in fact is not accepting the obligation to do all the mitzvos he is not accepted as a convert. This is the essence of conversion. However it is a fact that the majority of converts in this land who convert because of marriage – they do not actually accept to do the mitzvos even though they assert they are. It is well known that they are lying. That is because they are not concerned about being more religious than their husbands who are non observant and transgress all the laws of the Torah. However perhaps in the present case that you are asking me about - she will truly accept the obligation of doing mitzvos. Therefore I am not making a ruling about the validity of the present case to you because there are many rabbis in New York who accept this type of convert. Therefore there is no reason for me to say that it is prohibited to accept her. However I personally am not happy with this. My father also did not find it acceptable but did not say it was prohibited to accept such converts. Therefore you should do according to your understanding of the situation and how urgent you perceive it….

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Strategies against intermarriage I - Syrian Jews

Please read the following article from the New York Times by Zev Chafets

Money in New York

The Sy Empire

Published: October 14, 2007

"In school, though, the SY kids mixed with other children, not only J-Dubs but also gentiles. The gentiles posed the gravest concern. Friendships with them developed, love affairs sprouted. There were intermarriages. Some Christian partners even volunteered to convert to Judaism.

Enter the rabbis with their Edict, in 1935. They wanted to build an iron wall of self-separation around the community. They couldn’t do this the Hassidic way, dressing the men in costumes of ancient design, physically segregating women and making sure that children received nothing in the way of useful secular education. After all, the Syrian men couldn’t be expected to make money if they looked like figures from 18th-century Poland.

And so the rabbis turned to the heart of the matter: matrimony. Most American Jewish communities in those days (and many today) viewed intermarriage as a taboo. Conversion, however, was a loophole. The Edict intended to close that loophole. It proclaimed, “No male or female member of our community has the right to intermarry with non-Jews; this law covers conversion, which we consider to be fictitious and valueless.”

Monday, December 24, 2007

"drop dead!" vs. "you are not acting leshem shamayim"

Recently I was harshly criticized on this blog by two individuals. One told me to "drop dead!" while the other accused me of not acting "leshem shamayim". The question has been raised why I treated the one who told me to "drop dead!" with respect while I told the one who questioned my integrity that his views were stupid and nonsense? To understand my response one needs to understand a puzzling gemora in Berachos (33a), All those who are lacking in daas - it is prohibited to have mercy on them.

When I was a learning this gemora in yeshiva, I asked one of my rebbeim, "How could it be that a person lacking in knowledge should not be treated kindly. Isn't such a person in great need of mercy?" He replied that I misunderstood the term "daas." It doesn't mean intelligence or understanding. Daas means seichel. In other words a person who doesn't act in accord with his knowledge is said to be lacking in seichel or daas. It is not a question whether he has a high or low level of knowledge or intelligence but just whether he has integrated his knowledge into his behavior. Since the person has the ability to act better - we are not doing him a favor by letting him get by with acting on a lower level than he is capable of acting.

The critic who told me to "drop dead!" was in fact acting with great seichel - but he comes from a world where such harsh and coarse expressions are acceptable way of expressing one's views. From his cultural background his arguments were consistent - he viewed me as creating a spiritual holocaust and he communicated his passionate feelings in a way he felt was appropriate. He in fact is ignorant of the halacha and the critical importance of halachic analysis. His culture values independent free speech - not authority or scholarship. It values passionate expressions of one's feelings and concerns. So I responded respectfully - because he was in his own way being respectful to me. On the other hand the 2nd critic who questioned my integrity and motivation - he shares the same culture I do. However he is lacking in seichel. While acknowledging that I am raising a legitimate and appropriate question - he attacked me because I wasn't concerning myself with bigger problems that were beyond mine and his ablity to correct. That is simply a lack of seichel. He obviously was more concerned with pesonally attacking me than he was about the issue - since any improvement should be welcome.

I mention this because it has ramifications for the issue of kiruv and geirus. People who are being brought in to our community by both kiruv programs and through conversion - have a different culture with different values. Inevitably we will be influenced by them - and are being influenced by them - as they are being influenced by us. It is obviously encumbent on us to treat the newcomers with respect and dignity - but also to realize that the programs have long term consequences for our communities and families. Simply taking a bean counting approach - that we need to minimize the amount of sin in our brothers and sisters - often fails to adequate evaluate the consequences. As Rav Sternbuch has pointed out, running after those who have violated the prohibition of intermarriage conveys a major change in how serious intermarriage is seen. It should be an open discussion whether it is worth paying that price. Are we recovering lost souls at the expense of creating more lost souls? The whole picture needs to be discussed - and it is not. Where are the studies? Where are the statistics? What is the success rate of conversion - both where there is high standard of the acceptance of mitzvos and where there is a low standard. What consequences do these programs have on our communities and schools? All the anecdotal evidence being thrown around is of little value in helping make intelligent decisions for the future of the Jewish people.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Stupid assertion! - Only work on big problems

Blogger Daas Torah said...

Anonymous said...

to all the critics:

If you are so bothered by his proseltyzing (and there is for your criticism) how come we do not hear you critizing the real crminals; those who fool people to say the are converted and there is no kabbalat hamitzvot and they arE REAL GOYIM!amongst us by *your* rabbis! making money from these phoney conversions t support the eydems in kollel?! THis is the real crime; not the ones who make a cnversion According to shulchan oruch (tropper asks for kabbolas hamitzvot; they are gerim -and if go bad they are like yisroel mumor) the converts from your rabbis who do not ask for kabbolas hamitzvot are goyim gemurim. IF yu really think leshem shomayim i would hear you criticize and put ads on the JP with the names of the criminals.


The answer to your question is so obvious I am surprised you are asking it. The rabbis who are doing these things typically deny that they are doing that which you accuse them of doing. It is difficult to produce irrefutable legal evidence of these activities. In contrast what EJF does is being done openly with great publicity. They are proud of everything they do. I am simply asking for the halachic basis for that which they acknowledge they are doing.

Furthermore, what nonsensical arguments you are making. I am dealing with issues that are readily solvable. Why should I tackle problems that are way beyond my resources? Why aren't you taking care of them. I have no obligation to solve all the problems in the world - even if they are much greater than the ones I am involved in.

Why are you so foolish in saying I shouldn't be raising legitimate concerns - especially since you acknowledge that they are legitimate.

You are bravely making anonymous pronouncements on an insignificant blog - why don't you stand up and do something?

There is a famous parable of the Chofets Chaim. A ship traveling in the Pacific stopped at an uninhabited island to take on fresh water. The passengers were allows to wander along the beach for a short time but were warned to return to the boats when they heard the warning bells. One of the passengers stumbled on a treasure chest half buried in the sand - it was full of money and jewels. He was filling his pockets when he heard the warning bells. He quickly emptied his pockets of all that he had collected saying - "if I can't get it all I am not taking any."

This is your attitude. I shouldn't waste my time helping improve the system if I can't correct the whole mess.

Where are the brave souls to help the Jewish people in this time of dire need ? Instead I hear from cowards who "courageously" condemn me for asking a legitimate question but don't have the guts to publicly work against the rot that is in the system.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The issue is - What is the halachic basis of EJF?

It is time to remind everyone what is the concern of the Bedatz and why I have posted material on this blog. It is simply ascertaining the halachic basis of what Eternal Jewish Family is doing with intermarried couples. Once the purported halachic basis is ascertained - to have poskim evaluate the assertions and either agree, disagree or suggest modifications. There are no published teshuvos dealing with their activities. There are no letters explaining what they are doing. Why?

The issue has been raised repeatedly as to why I am discussing only EJF when there are other organizations and rabbis who have problematic conversion programs. I don't understand the relevance of the question. How does the existence of a greater problem minimize the fact that this organization - with great fanfare - has announced that they are raising the standards of conversion so that they will be universally acceptable? They themselves have asserted that their reason for existence is to create the gold standard of conforming to halacha. How does their announced goal conform with what they are actually doing? Furthermore why have they introduced a program of seminars to enourage the non-Jewish spouse to convert. They are spending millions of dollars to convince people who are uncertain that it is desirable to be Jewish. Why is this needed?

Related to this is a question I was asked by a charedi rosh yeshiva this morning. "One of the horror stories that EJF has told to illustrate the low halachic standards of others is that a woman went to mikva for her conversion and it was discovered afterwards that she was wearing contact lenses. It is well known that Rav Moshe held that contact lenses are not a chatzitza - even though it is best to remove them. But how can they claim to be following Rav Moshe's psakim and at the same time tell such stories?"

I am not accusing Rabbi Tropper of corruption, or trying to become rich from a conversion racket. I am not trying to close down EJF. As far as I know Rabbi Tropper is an ehrliche yid, a solid talmid chachom, someone who has devoted his life to help the Jewish people. I am saying that despite all my efforts on behalf of the Bedatz, I have not been able to get my concerns addressed. He did take the time and effort for an extended exchange of e-mails - but I could not get him to answer my questions. I find this very puzzling. If the tables were reversed, I don't think it would take me more than 5 minutes to explain what is going on. Rav Tropper is a much greater talmid chachom than I am - and yet he has not produced an answer. He has not produced a letter from Rav Dovid or Rav Reuven Feinstein explaining how Rav Moshe permitted what is happening. He has not produced a letter from Rav Eliashiv to explain the justification for their actitivites. Why?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Response to Neshama Saver's defense of EJF II

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.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Response to Neshama Saver's defense of EJF I

Neshama Saver wrote [his comments are in italics]:

I shall call myself the "Neshama Saver" from now on to differentiate myself from the numerous other Anonymous' out there.

I would never be so full of hubris to say I understand the will of Hashem. I am a simple, modest, shomer Shabbos, glatt-kosher-only eating, synagogue-attending simple Yid. I will attempt to answer your questions to the best of my ability. I am not a Rav, even though I read & study Torah, Bavli, and other frum sources profusely.

Please tell me the basis for your Torah views since it is obviously not from rabbinical authorities – which you have not cited nor are you a Torah authority yourself. You haven’t cited any authoritative texts to bolster your views so I am assuming you are not basing yourself on these either. Your assertions certainly appear to be as if they are coming from one who really knows the will of G‑d as the Biblical prophets. In fact our sages respond to your style of argument by saying “these are only prophetic-like utterances.” [Eiruvin (70b), Bava Basra (12a) etc.] That is why I suggested you speak to the rabbis of EJF who are certainly accomplished talmidei chachomim. You are obviously a mature and intelligent adult – but you are making assertions as to halacha and public policy of Torah true Jews. You are criticizing me –as someone who is immoral and as one who doesn’t understand what G‑d wants. Again – what are the Jewish foundations of your criticizing of my activities. Keeping mitzvos does not make someone an authority on Judaism. The mishna in Avos (1:16) says “Make for yourself a Rav and keep away from doubt” – who is your Rav and your authoritative source of knowledge about Judaism. Did your rabbis tell you that the way to disagree with Torah scholars is to tell them to “drop dead?”

1) What I was trying to get across with my statement is that I am independent of EJF, and what I say or do has nothing to do with them. As long as I and my wife are keeping Torah, are shomer Shabbos, keep the laws of purity, eat glatt, and live a frum lifestyle, etc, they have nothing to say to us regarding what we say, do or write. That goes for any Torah-Jewish organization. This is not the Catholic Church, where one must listen to the Pope & the Magesterium or else face repercussions. Same things hold for every beis din on this planet. They don't care what I say as long as we are keeping a Torah lifestyle. Plus, I am a strong advocate of freedom of speech.

Again I find this assertion astounding. I can’t imagine any rabbi agreeing with this statement. There is a whole body of Torah literature called hashkofa. There is a halachic category of apikores or heretic. You are asserting that as long as you are orthoprax (mitzva observing) who can think and say anything you want and don’t care whether it is considered Jewish. Do you think you have the right as a Jew to assert that G‑d is physical or that the Torah wasn’t given to Moshe on Sinai – chas v’shalom?

2) …Should every Jewish male married to a goya who is seriously going through the process of gerus, divorce their wives, throw away their gentile (for now) kids, and move on. Dear sir, halachachly that may or may not be the correct thing to do. But nobody is going to do so, especially the millions of us raised, through no fault of our own, secular.

Again you are saying – the halacha is not relevant?!. Have you ever studied the halachos concerning conversion? Are you aware of the literature dealing with “leshem ishus” (conversion for the sake of marriage.) If you have – than please cite which rabbinical sources agree with what you are saying. Are you saying that a person who was born as a mamzer should not be stigmatized because it was “no fault of his own.?” That a cohen should be able to marry a divorcee because it is not his fault he fell in love with her? Are you saying that adultery should not be punishable by death because they were truly in love? What if you found out your wife was actually your biological sister - would you stay married? Would you stay married if you found out your wife was Jewish and had been married before and had not received a get from the first husband?

What EJF does is not proselytizing.

They are trying to to right a wrong that almost two centuries of being frei, secular and Torah-less perpetuated on the overwhelming majority of Yidden, especially in the U.S.

Proselytizing means trying to change a person’s religious beliefs. Trying to convince a person to convert to Judaism is proselytizing. If you want to assert that even though Judaism never proselytized but it needs to now because circumstances are different – I am open to hearing the justification. However you and EJF are both asserting that making great efforts to convince someone to convert to Judaism is not proselytizing. You are simply saying that justified proselytizing is not proselytizing. That is a great example of “doublethink”

3)I would love to honor you by sharing more about myself, but as I said in an earlier post, I do not wish to be blackballed into cherum purgatory for the rest of my life.

I don’t understand what you are afraid of – even from EJF?

I will tell you what I can. Yes, I 100% observe Shabbos, yontif, kashrus and as many mitzvos as I can. I decided to become religious as a result of being married to a goya. …I'm not sure if you are being facetious when you say it took courage to do what I did. But I am not the only one. I have met scores of couples in similar situations, and they have told me I have been a sort of beacon in the pitch black world of mixed marriage-land. If I can do it, so can they.

I am not being facetious. I admire people who strive for the truth – in spite of great obstacles. I also admire those who are willing to present their views for public discussion and possible rejection. I admire these people – including yourself - even though I might disagree with them.

My wife has decided to convert for many reasons. One has to do with children. Another is me badgering her over & over with the truth of Torah that it finally took hold, and she truly sees it also as the truth.

Are your children converted? Are they enrolled in yeshiva? If you decided not to keep mitzvos and didn’t insist on your wife converting – would she still convert? After all a non‑Jew can still be righteous and get the World to Come. Does she really want to be a Jewess independent of making you happy?

I found out about EJF from their ads. WE were already involved for years with kiruv groups and had already attended numerous shabbatons, retreats, classes, etc.

Were you referred to the EJF by a rabbi or did you contact them on your own through their application form on the internet or through the contact number on their ads?

EJF I believe is a great organization that can help others like us who don't know how to traverse the path we have…. That is why what you are doing infuriated me. It's not a pipe dream. The world is ripe for tens, if not, hundreds of thousands of non-Jews to join klal Yisrael. These goyim already have a heart for a Jew, Hashem, Torah & Mitzvas. Why push sincere potential converts, as well as their Jewish spouses as well as their precious children away? We should be rescuing them, not trying to destroy them.

So why not gear up for a massive program to convert goyim? What you are expressing is already mainstream in the Reform movement. Why not encourage intermarriage and then convert the non-Jewish spouse. According to you why be upset about intermarriage since it is truly an effective outreach tool?

I want to thank you for your efforts to try to explain your views to me. I apologize if some of my comments come across as too sharp or disrespectful – it was not meant as such. I do however take strong issue with your viewpoint. You have provided me – and the others reading my blog - for the first time an intimate window into what is actually going on in the world of intermarriage and EJF. Until now I had to make do with second hand reports.

With great respect and appreciation,

Saturday, December 15, 2007

This is a Torah viewpoint?

I just received two copies of the following comment. Assuming it is genuine and not a troll, it indicates a need for greater discussion - as well extra Torah lessons from his teachers. I would be very appreciative if anonymous would please contact his teachers at EJF and ask them whether they 1) agree with him 2) think that he expressed himself appropriately. If they in fact approve of his sentiments then I am willing to post an expanded version of this posting - so that I can respond to it. On the other hand if they find that it is not in accord with halacha and derech eretz than I would appreciate an apology. I welcome civil comments by anyone who wants to discuss the issues - whether they agree or disagree with me.

Anonymous said...

As a secular-raised Jew (not frum) married to a goya undergoing conversion via the EJF, I must tell you from the bottom of my hear to please drop dead.

It's because of Jews like you that 85% of our people want nothing to do with Hashem, Torah & Mitzvot.

May the Aybishter see fit to show you the errors of your close-minded ways as painlessly as possible, for your own sake. You are committing the worst of aviras. May Hashem show you mercy when He asks you why you were responsible for so many possible frum Jews being thrown back into the secular world.

December 14, 2007 6:11 PM

Friday, December 14, 2007

Moderated posting

I have received a number of supportive comments to my last posting. I did not publish them because they contained some unsupported assertions. However I do appreciate the thoughts.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

EJF smear campaign

When Rav Sternbuch warned me that my involvement in trying to clarify the halachic basis of EJF would lead to "attempts to get me" - I told him I didn't understand his concern. Unfortunately now I do. Recently someone asked me about how to deal with problematic geirus associated with certain Orthodox rabbis. I suggested contacting EJF for advice. Which they did and mentioned that I had recommended their contacting EJF. Bizarrely, however, the person received the following comments regarding myself - totally gratuitous insults as well as a grossly incorrect distortion of the Abarbanel's words. I am deleting the name of the member of EJF who responded. Furthermore the comment was entirely irrevelant to the matter being discussed. Following it is my response which I sent to EJF.

EJF wrote:

Hi, Dr. Eidensohn in his Book Titled 'Daas Torah' writes in the introduction that he gathered Different opinions Re: various Topics. He continues to write that Rav Eliyashuv , shlita Told him only To quote accepted opinions. He writes that he could not decide which ones are and which ones aren't so he brings all. Well.... in his Chapter on conversion He brings the opinion of the Abarbanel ....A Giant ....but not an Accepted Halachic opinion, That It is sufficient for a non Jew to Believe in the Thirteen Principals 'Even though he doesn't know anything from the entire Torah. It is sufficient to achieve spiritual Perfection Etc... Therfore when a NON JEW decides to CONVERT and Wants to learn torah to obtain the World to come,It is ONLY neccesary to to teach him these 13 Principals Etc..'.(See Pg 70 of above book) Maybe those Rabbi's in Florida accept the Ababarnel's Position as an accepted opinion Like Rabbi Eidenson does? Is that possible? I think Dr Eidensohn is a very Accomplished person and I'm sure He can help. I actually enjoy reading his book.

I responded to EJF with the following:
Unfortunately Rabbi "X" severely misunderstands the Abarbanel and the Rambam - whose status as a mainstream authority doesn't need my support. Furthermore I do not have a chapter on conversion in Daas Torah. The chapter which cited the Abarbanel was dealing with Principles of Faith [for a Jew] - below are the three entries included under the subheading of "Converts to Judaism must accept principles". The Rambam asserts in his commentary to Sanhedrin that if one accepts the 13 principles he will have the World to Come. The Abarbanel wrote a defense of the Rambam's 13 principles in a sefer Rosh Amana. The Abarbanel is not saying that one does not have to accept the 613 mitzvos - chas veshalom - as Rabbi "X" asserts. He is saying that since a Jew only needs acceptance of these principles to get Olam HaBah it is important that converts also be taught these principles. Therefore as converts with the acceptance of these principles he will get Olam HaBah - even if he is not a talmid chochom. Similarly a Jew who is ignorant of Torah - but accepts these principles will get Olam HaBah.

This is the relevant section copied from page 70 of "Daas Torah" in the chapter dealing with Principles of Belief.

Converts to Judaism must accept principles

Rambam[i](Hilchos Issurei Bi’ah 14:2): When a person comes to convert to Judaism, he is notified about foundation principles such as the unity of G‑d and the prohibition of idol worship. This is described in detail. He is also notified of some of the minor mitzvos and some of the major mitzvos but without going into detail…

Shulchan Aruch[ii](Yoreh Deah 268:2): When a person comes to convert to Judaism, he is asked why he wants to convert. … If after being told the despised status of Jews in the world he still wants to convert, he is immediately accepted. He is then taught the foundation principles of Judaism which is G‑d’s absolute unity and the prohibition of idol worship. This is presented in detail. He is also taught some of the lighter commandments and some of the more severe ones. He is also taught the punishment for transgressing these commandments…

Abarbanel[iii] (Rosh Amana #6): You will see that the principles and doctrines which are mentioned by the Rambam are not just principles of faith or religion. The Rambam intended that they be the principles of Judaism. Meaning that those who accept and believe in them are considered as part of the Jewish people and consequently will get the World to Come as promised in the Mishna (Sanhedrin 10:1). It is as if he is saying that these principles are the precondition for Jews to obtain the World to Come. In fact the Rambam (Commentary to Sanhedrin 10:1): When a person believes fully and genuinely in all these 13 principles of faith, he is considered part of the Jewish people and it is obligatory to love him, to have mercy on him and to relate to according to all the mitzvos that G‑d has commanded concerning interpersonal relationships of love and brotherhood. In addition, even if he is a sinner because of lust and lack of self‑control—he will be punished according to his sins—nevertheless he still has the World to Come. … ” Thus the Rambam is not saying that lack of belief in any one of these principles undermines the Torah. Rather his focus was on the issue of obtaining the World to Come and who is considered to be a Jew. Thus if a person believes these 13 principles he will be viewed as a Jew and obtain the World to Come. Even though he doesn’t know anything from the entire Torah, it is sufficient to achieve spiritual perfection with the belief in these principles. Therefore, when a non‑Jew decides to convert and wants to learn Torah to obtain the World to Come, it is only necessary to teach him these 13 principles and that is enough to achieve the desired reward. Without them he will not be considered a Jew and will not get the World to Come…

[i] רמב"ם (הלכות איסורי ביאה יד:ב): ומודיעין אותו עיקרי הדת שהוא ייחוד השם ואיסור עכו"ם ומאריכין בדבר הזה ומודיעין אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות ואין מאריכין בדבר זה ומודיעין אותו עון לקט שכחה ופיאה ומעשר שני ומודיעין אותו עונשן של מצות כיצד אומרים לו הוי יודע שעד שלא באת לדת זו אם אכלת חלב אי אתה ענוש כרת אם חללת שבת אי אתה ענוש סקילה ועכשיו אחר שתתגייר אם אכלת חלב אתה ענוש כרת אם חללת שבת אתה ענוש סקילה ואין מרבין עליו ואין מדקדקין עליו שמא יגרום לטרדו ולהטותו מדרך טובה לדרך רעה שבתחלה אין מושכין את האדם אלא בדברי רצון ורכים וכן הוא אומר בחבלי אדם אמשכם ואח"כ בעבותות אהבה:

[ii] שולחן ערוך (יורה דעה רסח:ב): כשבא להתגייר אומרים לו מה ראית שבאת להתגייר ... אם אמר יודע אני ואיני כדאי להתחבר עמהם מקבלין אותו מיד ומודיעים אותו עיקרי הדת שהוא יחוד ה' ואיסור עבודת כוכבים ומאריכין עמו בדבר זה ומודיעים אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות ומודיעים אותו מקצת עונשין של מצות שאומרים לו...

[iii] אברבנאל (ראש אמנה פרק ו'): עוד תשובב תראה שהעיקרים והיסודות ההם שזכר הרב הגדול אינם עיקרי האמונות ולא עיקרי הדת בלבלד. אבל כיון בהם הרב שיהיו עיקרי היהדות כדי שהמאמין בהם יהיה מכלל ישראל, ושעליהם אמרה המשנה, "כל ישראל שי להם חקל לעולם הבא". וכאלו אמר שהעיקרים ההם הם היסודות אשר עילהם תבנה ותכונן ירושת העולם הבא הרוחני כל אשר בשם ישראל יכונה. בהאמינו אותם אף על פי שיחטא כמה חטאות יקבל ענשו על פי מריו ועל כל פנים יהיה לו חלק לעולם הבא. ראה דברי הרב שכתב בסוף העיקרים: זה לשונו: וכאשר יהיהי בלב האדם אלו עיקרים כולם ויאמין בם הנה הוא נכנס בכלל ישראל וצירך לאהוב אותו ולחמול עליו ולעשות עמו כל מה שצוה הבורא שיעשה איש לרעהו מהאהבה והאחוה ואפילו שיעשה כל העבירות שיש בעולם מצד התאוה והיצר וגבורת טבעיו החסרים יהיה לו עונש כפי חטאתו אבל יש לו חלק לעולם הבא והוא מפושעי ישראל.... עד כאן לשונו. הנה גלה הרב בזה שלא שם עיקרים והיסיודות האלה למה שתפול התורה בביטול אחד מהם, אבל היה כוונתו לבאר אותה המשנה שאמר "כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא. ולתת רושם וגדר בו נכיר ונדע מי הוא זה ואיזה הוא אשר בשם ישראל יכונה וצדיק באמונותו יחיה ושאליו כיונה המשנה. ואמר הרב שבהאמינו אלו הי"ג עיקרים שזכר יקרא "ישראל" ויהיה בן העולם הבא. ואף על פי שלא ידע דבר אחר מכל התורה כולה די' לו להשגת השלימות הרוחני באמונת העיקרים האלה. ולכן לכל איש אישר ולגר הגר בתוכם הבאים לחסות "תחת כנפי השכינה" כשיאמר אחד מהן למדני תורה כדי שאהיה בן העולם הבא, צריך ללמדו הי"ג עיקרים האלה בלבד ועמהם הנה שכרו אותו. ובלעדיהן לא יזכר בשם "ישראל ולא יזכה לחיי העולם הבא...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Jewish Press published my article

The Jewish Press just published my article in the Letters to the Editor section

It was also mentioned in Hirhurim

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Article requested by Jewish Press

The Jewish Press requested that I send in a more detailed comment which they said they will publish in the print edition. This is what I submitted

The Bedatz’s criticism of Eternal Jewish Family

The Bedatz of the Eidah Chareidis has recently brought some disturbing developments to our attention. [This is the actual Bedatz not an unofficial offshoot]. I must note that I am not a neutral observer in this matter. I played a minor role in aiding Rav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita obtain information from the Internet as well as translating and distributing two letters. [See my blog Daas Torah - ] While I have some knowledge of Rav Moshe Feinstein’s zt”l views as the author Yad Moshe - my comments are what I have heard from Rav Sternbuch and other rabbonim.

Last Chanukah, Rav Efrati described Rav Eliashiv’s views concerning teaching Torah in a non‑observant community which has non‑Jews who think that they are Jewish. Concerning intermarried couples he says: “Rav Eliashiv, shlita has repeatedly said that those living as intermarried couples cut themselves off from the Jewish people. Furthermore he holds that we are obligated to distance ourselves from them and their society and to cut off all connection with them. However this community is different because its members mistakenly think that the non‑Jewish spouses are Jewish. Therefore it is permitted to maintain ties with the Jewish spouses in order to draw them closer through ties of love and to bring them under the wings of the Shechina.” This shunning of intermarried couples has always been the normative approach.

Nevertheless, what if a couple comes to a rabbi and asks for the non‑Jewish spouse to be converted? While there are dissenting views – there are many great rabbinical authorities which permit conversion as last resort - if the Jewish spouse becomes observant and the non‑Jewish spouse sincerely accepts the obligation to keep all mitzvos.

Why did the Bedatz issue their protest against participation in Eternal Jewish Family (EJF) – despite it being supported by many gedolei Torah? Because EJF is actively pursuing the conversion of the non‑Jewish spouse! Rav Leib Tropper, the head of the organization, has repeatedly denied proselytizing because he says he is only dealing with couples referred to him by rabbis. However it is difficult to understand his denials since proselytizing simply means trying to convince someone to change their religion. That is clearly what EJF is doing. It is a fact that Rav Tropper spends hundreds of thousands of dollars per convention to persuade a handful of uncertain or curious couples that they should become Jews. Those who are certain are not invited. These intermarried couples are given free conventions at quality resort hotels where they are wined and dined and given an intensive program by the world’s best religious motivational speakers – all in the hope that they will decide to convert.

In a recent intensive exchange of e-mails, I asked Rav Tropper the halachic rulings of Rav Moshe Feinstein he claims as the basis for EJF’s activities. His response was, “Why do you think it is prohibited?” This is an astounding justification for a radical break with the past. While in fact it is not explicitly prohibited – this radical innovation of spending millions of dollars to convince non‑Jews to convert presents serious dangers to the Jewish people. It requires acceptance or rejection through scholarly discussion in peer-reviewed responsa - as innovations have been justified in the past.

Daniel Eidensohn Ph.D.