Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Is beis din obligated to convert non-Jews?

15 comments :

  1. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3840097,00.html

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  2. What I would like to know is how the logic of retroactively nullifying conversions that's described in the YNet article fits in with the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah (268:2), where it states at the end of the seif:

    שאם חזר לסורו הרי הוא כישראל מומר שאם קדש קדושיו קדושין

    ?

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  3. Anonymous said...

    What I would like to know is how the logic of retroactively nullifying conversions that's described in the YNet article fits in with the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah (268:2), where it states at the end of the seif:

    שאם חזר לסורו הרי הוא כישראל מומר שאם קדש קדושיו קדושין
    ===============
    There is a simple distinction. If a person sincerely converts and then reverts to his previous state - he is still a Jew.

    However if it seems clear that he never intended to keep the mitzvos then his conversion doesn't mean anything and he was never a Jew.

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  4. Maybe I'm "living in a cave", but... With perhaps one exception , every ger I have ever known or known of has accepted the Torah and Mitzvos and lives a frum lifestyle. (I probably know several dozen gerim). So, when I see a number like 1276 out of 1313 were designated as "converts" - meaning that their conversions were likely invalid - I have to become suspicious that something else is going on.

    Also, it seems that asking such questions during a divorce opens up many possibilities of motzoi shem ra that often come out during these times.

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  5. "There is a simple distinction. If a person sincerely converts and then reverts to his previous state - he is still a Jew. However if it seems clear that he never intended to keep the mitzvos then his conversion doesn't mean anything and he was never a Jew."

    This is not so simple at all. Based on its source in the Rambam it seems that the ger needs to accept the consequences of the commandments, so that he can't later avoid punishment by saying "Had I known I wouldn't have accepted them."

    But if he accepted the consequences then he remains a ger even if he always intended to worship avodah zarah, even when he stood before the beis din. In the words of the Rambam, "Af al pi she-nigleh sodan."

    This is simplest and clearest pshat in the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch. Everything else is pilpul of one form or another. This is also the historical position of non-Ashkenazic gedolim, today including Rav Mazuz and Rav Ovadia Yosef's haskamah-through-silence for Rav Amsalem's recent book on "Zera Yisrael". This is the current position also taken by the many Zionist Torah scholars, though many of them (including Rav Druckman) prefer to be machmir lekhatechillah. All of the above are no less gedolim than Rav Elyashiv or Rav Sternbuch. All sides are entitled to their opinions, which should be honored within their own communities. As we have recently seen, the illusion of "universal standards" is not only wrong but also highly dangerous.

    Note that the position that "he never really intended to keep the mitzvos" is highly untenable in reality. One can never really know what a person did or didn't intend to do or what they will or will not do, and it is hard to say that a maaseh beis din should be completely dependent on something that cannot possibly be measured. Nor can the mitzvah of loving the ger *ever* be fulfilled if even the status of even the most sincere person and his descendants are really forever in limbo, depending on retroactive analysis of his sincerity before the beis din. If the psak truly is as Rav Eidensohn and the Ashkenazic charedi gedolim say, then loving the ger by definition becomes an impossible, cruel joke.

    As for Rav Eidensohn's campaign against proselytization (which while certainly not the reality in galus still has no halakhic basis whatsoever to prohibit it), he should read Rav Amsalem's new book. I'll also mention that my wife and I are personal friends with a number of Bnei Menasheh, and I've found Rav Eidensohn's comments on these topics to combine ignorance with human cruelty. I understand that cruelty is not his goal, but I hope he will realize that his quest to promote what he (and his rebbe) consider halakhic truth comes at personal expense to others no less sincere than he.

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  6. This is not so simple at all. Based on its source in the Rambam it seems that the ger needs to accept the consequences of the commandments, so that he can't later avoid punishment by saying "Had I known I wouldn't have accepted them."
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    Your arguments don't seem to be based in the sources. There are even religious Zionist scholars accept the following.

    Bechoros (30b): A non-Jew who comes to convert and he accepts all obligations except for one thing – he is not to be accepted as a convert. R’ Yose said that he is not accepted even if he refuses to accept any details of even the rabbinic decrees.

    Rav Eliashiv[[In their appeal, the appellants had argued that that it is irrelevant whether a convert observes mitzvos or not, because his acceptance of mitzvos is based on the moment he converted, ba'asher hu sham. In reply to this claim that one cannot invalidate conversions bedi'eved, the Pesak Din cites an important pesak issued in 5744/1984 and signed by Rav Yisrael Kanievski (the Steipler Gaon), Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Eliezer Man Shach, and Rav Elyashiv, which states: "To our great sorrow, lately there have been many cases of converts, where it turns out that a high percentage of them had no intention of accepting the observance of Torah and mitzvos upon themselves when they were converting. We hereby warn that it is an extrememly great prohibition to accept converts unless one is convinced that they indeed truly intend to accept upon themselves the yoke of Torah and mitzvos. It is simple and clear that conversion without the acceptance of Torah and mitzvos is not conversion, even bedi'eved."

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  7. It is rather amazing how you reject the teshuvos of mainstream gedolim as being wrong or irrelvant and your assertion that

    "Note that the position that "he never really intended to keep the mitzvos" is highly untenable in reality."

    is simply not true.

    Please cite the teshuvos that you so easily dismiss and explain why you disagree with them.

    As it stands now you are simply barging into a serious discussion waving a book and telling everyone that they are stupid.

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  8. If we all agree that a sincere acceptance of mitzvos *at the time* of conversion occurred, I think the question really is this:

    1) If a person keeps mitzvos for only 10 minutes, were they serious? Probably not.

    2) If a person keeps mitzvos for 1 year and then goes OTD, were they serious? Maybe.

    3) If a person remains frum for 30 years and then goes OTD, were they serious? ...

    In the case of divorce... marital problems can cause people to do all sorts of irrational, life changing, things that they would never consider doing under normal circumstances. What I'm reading from the YNet article is that any kind of purposeful disregard for a mitzva - even years later under dire conditions - is enough (according to R. Yaakobi) to prove that the convert was not serious at the time of the conversion.

    This is not the same impression I get from the 5744 tshuva cited above where it says, "...when they were converting." And, it seems, for those who believe that its possible to decide decades later that a slip in mitzva observance (after many years of observance) proves what initial intentions were... I don't see how the situation describes in the Shulchan Aruch could possibly ever be applied.

    Thoughts?

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  9. In the case of divorce... marital problems can cause people to do all sorts of irrational, life changing, things that they would never consider doing under normal circumstances. What I'm reading from the YNet article is that any kind of purposeful disregard for a mitzva - even years later under dire conditions - is enough (according to R. Yaakobi) to prove that the convert was not serious at the time of the conversion.
    ==============
    I would not take the YNET article at face value. That is not what any of the poskim say

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  10. Recipients and PublicityFebruary 3, 2010 at 8:16 PM

    "Is beis din obligated to convert non-Jews?"

    Answer: NO!!!

    May as well ask if a bais din is "obligated" to give out free ice creams or trips to your favorite vacation spots?

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  11. I wonder what the genetic balance is today of those descended from Am Yisroel who left mitzrayim, vs strangers who have somehow joined and are called Jews (over the past 3000 years).

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  12. May as well ask if a bais din is "obligated" to give out free ice creams or trips to your favorite vacation spots?
    --------------------

    If someone takes on the the commitment to eat ice cream, can their conversion be nullified retroactively?

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  13. are the Taliban Lost Jews (Ephraim)

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1142690.html


    wait till we get this lot living in the west bank - they will kill anyone who nullifies their conversions!

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  14. What I find troubling about the Ynet article is that the lack of mitzvah observance years after conversion, in and of itself, can seemingly serve as basis for questioning the initial validity of the geirus.

    It's one thing if a beis din finds that, at the time of conversion, the convert lived in a thoroughly secular neighborhood, had no shabbos-observing friends, and demonstrably had no plans to integrate him/herself into any religiously observant community of any type. But, if all that the beis din finds is that, say, 10 years after undergoing geirus, the ger no longer keeps shabbos or kashrus, how can this information by itself cast any suspicion on the halachic validity of the geirus?

    I would disagree with anyone saying that making a determination that a ger lacked commitment to halachic observance at the time of conversion, even years down the line, is impossible. However, I'd like to think that doing so would require an extremely high level of proof on part of any beis din making such a decision.

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  15. "if all that the beis din finds is that, say, 10 years after undergoing geirus, the ger no longer keeps shabbos or kashrus, how can this information by itself cast any suspicion on the halachic validity of the geirus?"

    I do not think that any Beit Din would raise suspicions on this scenario, rather they would raise supicions mostly in the early scenario "... the time of conversion, the convert lived in a thoroughly secular neighborhood, had no shabbos-observing friends, and demonstrably had no plans to integrate him/herself into any religiously observant community of any type...".

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