Friday, November 19, 2021

The Conversion Psak: Some Comments and One Observation

If and when the dust settles, one consequence will remain. The status of every convert over the last decades is potentially in jeopardy. No one can change this – not after the passing of Rav Moshe zt”l and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, when we lost the last figures whose piskei halacha would be accepted by all parts of the Torah world. Today, what one authority says will be rejected by another. This is what makes gerus different from a psak in hilchos muktzah or giving a hechsher on a restaurant. If someone disagrees with the muktzah psak or finds the resturant’s standards wanting, he doesn’t have to move the object or patronize the eatery. If the decision is objectionable, the consequences are mostly local and circumscribed. Gerus is different. Its effects are felt for all time, and in a plethora of applications. It doesn’t matter if objections are valid or not. If there is room to question a gerus, it will be questioned, and there is no objective way to quiet the questioners. Some – many – people will treat the conversion with suspicion. 

 The only way to safeguard against this is to operate conversion courts according to standards acceptable to all. Many will strain against this. It is not fair, they say, to limit the discretion of the rav who follows some different standard. Perhaps. But it is less fair and exceedingly cruel to imply to a conversion candidate that his/her gerus is in order, knowing that many people will question it. It is foolish and naïve to think that a court employing the standard of some daas yachid will somehow “get away with it” unnoticed.

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