Friday, July 18, 2008

Conversion crisis - Conservative Rabbi's problematic understanding

YNET just published an essay by Rabbi Professor Golinkin - leading Conservative rabbi and scholar regarding the conversion crisis - in which he repeats the false claim that normative halacha does not require acceptance of mitzvos and that this view is unique to chareidi poskim.

Furthermore, this ruling will deter all future conversions. If a conversion can be annulled many years after it is performed, it means that all conversions are conditional – so why bother converting at all? This ruling is a desecration of God’s name, which makes a mockery of thousands of converts and hundreds of teachers and rabbis who have worked so hard to convert them.
This episode shows once again that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which was founded by Religious Zionists, is now a haredi institution opposed to all lenient approaches within Jewish law.

He relies on Rabbis Feinstein, Grodzinsky, Sternbuch, Auerbach, Kuk, Schmelkes, Yosef, Kanievsky, Shach and Elyashiv. Almost all are Haredi rabbis who are opposed to modernity, Zionism and the State of Israel

Finally, the haredi position has already led to an absurd situation: he who is strict regarding conversion is lenient regarding intermarriage. In the past, this was a Diaspora phenomenon, but now, with the mass aliyah from the Former Soviet Union, if we do not convert the Russian immigrants, they will marry our children and grandchildren!

Rabbi Sherman’s ruling is based primarily on one major premise: A convert must accept all of the mitzvot before converting and observe all the mitzvot after converting. If not, he is not Jewish and his conversion can be retroactively annulled. Furthermore, judges who performed conversions without this requirement, are ipso facto disqualified from serving as judges. [...]

Rabbi Ouziel (1880-1953), first Sephardic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, explained as follows: “It is clear from (Yevamot 47a-b) that we do not demand of him to observe the mitzvot and it is also not necessary that the Bet Din know that he will observe them, for if not, no converts will be accepted in Israel, for who will guarantee that this gentile will be loyal to all the mitzvot in the Torah! Rather, they instruct him in some of the mitzvot so that if he wants he should go away and so that he cannot say later ‘if I had known I would not have converted’. And this is before the fact, but after the fact - if they did not instruct him, it is not indispensable… (It) is permissible and a mitzvah to accept converts even though we know that they will not observe all the mitzvot because in the end they will observe them...”

Other prominent Orthodox rabbis who have taken lenient approaches towards kabbalat mitzvot include Chief Rabbi Unterman and Rabbis Kluger, Mashash, Moshe Hacohen, Berkowitz and Angel.

Thus the entire “house of cards” built by Rabbi Sherman rests on just one card: that all poskim agree that all converts must accept all mitzvot. Indeed, this is the position of most Ashkenazic Haredi rabbis since the year 1876. But it is not normative Jewish law. Normative Jewish law for 2,000 years has followed Yevamot that a convert accepts the halakhic system and its rewards and punishments, not all of the mitzvot which he has yet to learn.


I sent in the following comment which was published:

Article shows a shocking ignorance of halacha

It is unfortunate that YNET publishes an article which displays such a willful distortion of halacha - and the halachic process. It is reasonable to assume that Rabbi Dr. Gollinkin - who is known for his intelligence and familliarity of Jewish sources has read the standard work on geirus by Prof. Finkelstein of Bar Ilan.which clearly refutes the assertions made here.
Rabbi Dr. Golinkin talks here about the normative halacha as if it exists independently of the consensus greatest rabbinic authorities. Has he forgotten the rulings of Rav Herzog on these matters?
Those Orthodox rabbis he cites are not in the ball park as halachic authorities - and he well knows it. We are not just talking about chareidi rabbis. He should look at volume 19 of Techumin - a religious Zionist publication - and he will discover that they also agreed to the requirement of acceptance of mitzvos. Even such an influential moderate MO Rabbi such as Ravi Shlomo Riskin has rejected the views based on the leniencies espoused by Rav Uziel in an article in Tradition 1974.

1 comment :

  1. go to ou radio and listen to steve savitsky's around the dining room table for another point of view.

    Joel Rich


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