Thursday, March 20, 2008

Valid conversions are not always good for the Jewish people - Rabbeinu Bachye

[translated by R' Eliyahu Munk]

Rabbeinu Bachye[1](Devarim 21:14):. The sequences of our passages in this chapter are reminiscent of Isaiah 24,18 where the prophet tells us that when one has managed to escape one kind of terror, one will find oneself entrapped by a different kind of trap. The sum total of the moral/ethical teaching of these verses is that even marriages which are permitted by the Torah are not necessarily suitable union;. The marriages to prisoners of war are a prime example of such unions. Even though the women in question have converted to Judaism! This is not considered a complete (ideal) conversion. It is assumed that the woman in question converted out of fear, i.e. physical fear of otherwise being executed. Even when someone volunteers to become a proselyte with no pressure from any cases which we can detect, the sages (Yevamot 47) have instructed the judges performing the conversion to carefully examine the prospective proselyte’s background to determine if he or she is converting for ulterior motives, i.e. Not because of genuine religious conviction. Money, position, etc., may an be reasons which attract a Gentile to become Jewish. In the case of males more likely than not they have their eyes on a Jewish girl whom they wish to marry. Judiasm is different from other religions which are soul snatchers, missionary by definition. The reason is that we are a rational religion, not one which wishes to embrace all of mankind. Some of the other religions, Islam in particular, are imbued with th fervor to ram their beliefs down the throats of people whom they perceive to be pagans. Sometimes all kinds of enticements, both material and spiritual, are offered to the potential convert in order to get him to embrace a particular new fath. This is what Daniel already prophesied about (Daniel 7,20) “and a mouth speaking haughty words.” Daniel 7,25 also deals with the same phenomenon describing efforts at converting others to one’s belief being made my leaders of religious cults. In Daniel 11,36 Daniel harps on the same subject once more. Once the prospective convert to Judaism has been checked out and no ulterior motives have been discovered which would make us doubt his sincerity, he is advised of the yoke of Torah legislation and what is implied by joining the Jewish people. (Maimonides Hilchat Issurey Bi-ah 13,14). All of this is designed to make the prospective convert reconsider his plans to become Jewish. During the reign of David prospective converts were rejected as it was suspected that these converts were inspired by fear of the growing power of the Jewish state. In Solomon’s time they wele also not accepted as it was suspected that they were motivated by the affluence and security offered by King Solomon’s empire. (compare Maimonides Hilchot Issurey Bi-ah 13,14-15) Despite these rulings, there were many converts during the reign of David and Solomon, and once local courts had conducted such conversions and the converts had undergone ritual immersion the higher courts did not revoke these conversions. Although Solomon who married numerous women of pagan ancestry converted all them of.them prior to marrying them, and Shimshon too did not marry until after the lady had been converted, seeing these conversions were due to ulterior motives, scripture continues to describe the women in question as if they had remained Gentiles and sleeping with them was forbidden. The outcome of these “marriages.. testifies to the fact that they were flawed from the beginning. The Book of Kings accuses Solomon of building altars for the former deities his various foreign-born wives served, although he personally did nothing of the sort. The fact that he did not interfere with such goings on is placed at his doorstep. (compare Kings I chapter 11) our sages in Yevamot 47 that converts are as serious a plague for our sages in Yevamot 47 that converts are as serious a plague for the Jewih people as is the dreaded skin disease tzoraaat. The reason for this attitude is that experience has shown that the majority of converts abandoned their former religion only because of material advantages to be attained by becoming Jewish. Not only that, these converts have a habit of leading natural born Jews astray. Once these people have become legal converts. The first time such converts led the natural born Jews astray was during the episode of the golden calf, whereas a short time later the same thing occurred in Numbers 11,4 when.a group of peop\e described by Ihe Torah as asafsaf instigated the craving for meat which resulted in misearble death. Sifri Behaalotcha 86 attributes all this to these converts. Time and again such fair-weather converts have become the bane of our people. Just as we learned from the order in which these last few paragraphs have been arranged that one sin brings in its wake another sin, we can learn from another sequence of paragraphs that one commandment meticulously observed will bring in its wake the fulfillment of other commandments.

[1] רבנו בחיי (דברים כא:יד): ונסמכה לפרשה זו של יפת תואר פרשת כי תהיין לאיש שתי נשים האחת אהובה והאחת שנואה, ללמדך שאשת יפת תואר זו לא התירה התורה אלא בקושי גדול, ולא דיברה תורה אלא כנגד יצר הרע, שהרי לסוף הוא שונא אותה, ואם יש לו בן ממנה יהיה בן סורר ומורה, לכך סמך לה כי יהיה לאיש בן סורר ומורה, וכן מצינו בדוד שלקח את מעכה בתו של תלמי מלך גשור בצאתו למלחמה יצא ממנו אבשלום שבקש להרגו, ושכב עם נשיו לעיני כל ישראל, ועשה כמה מחלוקת בישראל ונהרגו על ידו אלפים ורבבות מישראל. ועוד היה בזה מדה כנגד מדה, הוא חטא בבת שבע ונענש באבשלום בנו שהוא בנו של בת אל נכר, הוא שכתוב (שמואל ב יב, יא) הנני מקים עליך רעה מביתך. וסמיך ליה עוד פרשת וכי יהיה באיש חטא משפט מות והומת, ללמדך שאם ינצל מן הפחד ילכד בפח:

ולמדנו מתוך סמיכות פרשיות אלו שעבירה גוררת עבירה, שהרי נישואין הללו אינן ראוין, ואף על פי שנתגיירה אין זה גירות שלמה שלא עשתה כן אלא מיראה ומפחד החרב, שאפילו מי שבא להתגייר מעצמו אמרו חז"ל (יבמות מז.) שבודקין אחריו שמא בשביל ממון הוא מתגייר או בשביל שררה שיזכה בו או בשביל הפחד או בשביל חשק, ואם הוא איש שמא נתן עיניו באשה יהודית ואם היא אשה שמא עיניה נתנה בבחור מבחורי ישראל, זה דרך תורתנו, לא כשאר התורות שמחזרין אחר האומות ורוצים להרחיב אמונתם בהם, זו באה לנצח ולהתגבר בכח החרב לכל מי שימאן להאמין, וזו באה לנצח בכח הדברים ודברי חלקות ופתויין ויחפאו על ה' דברים אשר לא כן, והוא שהתנבא עליהם דניאל ופם ממלל רברבן (דניאל ז, ח), וכתיב (שם, כה) ומלין לצד עלאה ימלל וגו', ויסבר להשניה זמנין ודת, כלומר שיחשוב לשנות המועדים והתורה שלנו ולא יעלה בידו, זהו לשון ויסבר, וכתיב עוד (שם יא, לו) ועל אל אלים ידבר נפלאות. ואחר שבודקין אחריו ואין מוציאין לו עילה, מודיעין אותו עול המצוות והטורח שיש בעשייתן כדי שיפרוש:

ולפיכך לא קבלו גרים בימי דוד ושלמה, בימי דוד שמא מן הפחד חזרו, בימי שלמה שמא מחמת המלכות והטובה שהיו בה ישראל חזרו, שכל החוזר מן האומות בשביל דבר מהבלי העולם אינו מגרי הצדק, ואף על פי כן היו הגרים בימי דוד ושלמה הרבה, והיו בית דין הגדול חוששים להם, לא דוחין אותן אחר שטבלו מכל מקום, ולא מקבלין אותן עד שתראה אחריתן. ולפי שגייר שלמה נשים ונשאן, וכן שמשון גייר ונשא, והדבר ידוע שלא חזרו אלא בשביל תליית דבר ולא על פי בית דין גיירום, חשבן הכתוב כאילו הן נכריות ובאיסורן עומדות. ועוד שהוכיח סופן על תחילתן שהן היו עובדות העבודה זרה שלהן ובנו להן במות, והעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו הוא בנאן, שנאמר (מלכים א יא, ז) אז יבנה שלמה במה. ולכך דרשו חז"ל (יבמות מז ע"ב) קשים גרים לישראל כנגע צרעת, שרובן חוזרין בשביל דבר ומטעין את ישראל, וקשה הדבר לפרוש מהן אחר שנתגיירו, ובכל מקום מצינו שהיו הגרים לישראל סיבה למכשולות ונזקים, במדבר במעשה העגל ערב רב היו סיבה, וכן בשאלת הבשר והאספסוף אשר בקרבו (במדבר יא, ד), אלו הגרים, הם היו תחילה לכל הרעות וראשית מדון:


  1. Everyone is presently at loggerheads in Israel over conversion KeHalachah as the latest article below shows.

    If such chaos reigns in Israel, and the authority of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate is attacked from it's left in the Israeli Knesset and from its right by the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur, it is not hard to see how it (the Israeli Chief Rabbinate) becomes vulnerable to contradicatory claims from the American RCA and from Rabbi Tropper's EJF with each one determined to show that they have the ear and the confidence of Israeli Chief Rabbi Amar when in all probability he has little time to examine in detail, intervene in and take definitive positions on claims on his name and authority from either the RCA or EJF or anyone else in America.

    Thus when either the RCA or EJF tout Rav Amar's "haskoma" or support to anything they may claim or say in America it'sd no wonder different "conclusions" or "agreements" are heard, and unless they can come up with a clear-cut letter or written teshuva (and Rav Amar is quite a Talmid Chochem with lomdishe seforim to his credit) typed up or written on his OFFICIAL letterhead as Chief Sephardic Rabbi of the State of Israel, things said in his name should not have any reliability nor much relevance or credence based on his own fragile and complicated status in Israel itself as it grapples internally with its own horrendous geirus crisis.

    An interesting question is where is the present ASHKENAZIC Chief Rabbi of Israel in all of this? After all Rav Yonah Metzger was appointed with the blessings of Rav Eliashiv, as is known, and one wonders why one never hears any serious statements or what he is doing on the subject of geirus.

    Rav Metzger, like Rav Amar, did appear in one of EJF's ads as attending a conference, but what has happened in any serious fashion since then is totally unknown as one never hears anything from him. (Of course, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi has been appointed to deal with conversions, but that does not mean that Rav Metzger should take on the role of "see no evil, hear no evil, talk no evil" when the ground beneath him is boiling over with geirus tzores, as bad as or worse than the Aseres HaMakkos!

    Read on...:

    Dei'ah veDibur of 13 Adar II 5768 - March 20, 2008 reports:


    MK Rabbi Gafni: "Conversion Must Only be Done According to Halochoh."

    By Eliezer Rauchberger and Yechiel Sever

    "Conversion must only be done according to halacha," MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni declared during a Knesset Interior Committee meeting on conversion in Israel.

    Held earlier this week at the office of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the meeting was attended by Rabbinate conversion officials and Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who heads the Rabbinate's conversion system.

    Secular committee members lodged criticism against the bureaucracy in the system, claiming there is a deliberate set of obstacles and demanding the system become "friendlier" to conversion candidates.

    Rabbi Gafni noted that every government ministry has bureaucracy regardless of chareidi involvement. He condemned the ease with which non-Jews can enter Klal Yisroel, calling it "easier than joining a beer-drinking club." He noted that other religions are much harder to enter, citing the Druse who make no provision for anybody not born a Druse to become one.

    He said the committee ought to ask forgiveness from HaRav Yitzchok Peretz, who warned some twenty years ago against a massive influx of non-Jews into the country and all the problems that would result, including conversion issues. "Instead of confronting the problem back then, he was attacked for no good reason. He was right."

    Rabbi Amar told the committee members about the setup of an internal committee of inquiry to evaluate the Chief Rabbinate's conversion system. "If I'm not mistaken converts are taught the same way they were taught 50 years ago, and if a way to teach during the conversion process is found to be friendlier, we'll adopt new teaching methods," he said.

    He said the new committee to be set up will look into the procedures candidates must go through and "anything that is difficult and burdensome in the conversion process will be assessed."

    At the same time he noted, "Criminals and frauds also pass through the conversion pipes and we've used espionage and crime ID labs to cope with the problem."

    Committee Chairman Ophir Pines (Labor) hailed Rabbi Amar's announcement, saying he hopes "the change would ease the suffering today's converts have to undergo."

    MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) demanded taking the decision of who is Jewish out of the Chief Rabbinate's hands, instead transferring this authority to the Interior Minister.

    Rabbi Gafni reacted by saying, "This stance would mean dismantling the state."

    MK David Azoulai (Shas) also responded harshly to Beilin's remarks. "The moment politicians determine conversion it will be a disaster for Israel. The rabbonim and dayanim must be allowed to do their job."

    A spokesman for Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l said there can be no leniencies in the area of conversion or the setup of a "friendly" conversion system, saying the intention of the Chief Rabbi remains unclear. "Of course there can be no compromise in requiring the conversion candidate to make an earnest commitment to all of the mitzvas, without which the conversion is invalid — even bedi'eved. Therefore along with all of these efforts to streamline the conversion system, the Chief Rabbinate must once and for all clearly tell the Interior Ministry and all other government officials involved that there is no way to use conversion as a solution to the problem of the hundreds of thousands of non- Jews who came to Eretz Yisroel in recent years, and the number of genuine conversions performed over the course of a year can reasonably be expected to be to no more than a few hundred."

    On another issue, the Chief Rabbi had observed, "All of Am Yisroel was negligent in not working to bring Ethiopian Jewry into Am Yisroel." Therefore he recommended that the Interior Committee amend the law in a way that would allow rabbonim to convert the 8,000 Falashmura who remain in Ethiopia before they come to Israel and only then bring them to Israel.

    The Vaad spokesman said that the Vaad HaRabbonim "has no objection to converting Ethiopians, who all require a giyur lechumro, but to do so they would have to keep mitzvas in their entirety. They cannot be converted en masse, but each conversion candidate must be checked on an individual basis to ascertain whether he or she is genuinely prepared to accept mitzvah observance properly."

    The spokesman said that the Vaad is disappointed that the Chief Rabbinate does not come out with a clear statement that mass conversion is not possible, and it continues to issue misleading and confusing messages."

  2. Purim Sameach RaP:

    Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, in an interview with Israel Radio, said it would be hard to recognize Jews who became Jews "overnight." He compared those who come from abroad with a conversion possibly obtained in a day with someone who comes back with a bogus medical degree from abroad.


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