Friday, February 8, 2008

Why Moshiach is descended from the convert Ruth

Maharal[1](Netzach Yisroel #32): From this you can understand why Moshiach will be born from another people. Dovid was a descendant of Moab while Shlomo was a descendant of Amon. When G‑d wants to bring out a new spiritual reality it is necessary to graft a branch of another tree that is different than the original Jewish stock. Obviously if He utilized the original Jewish stock than there is nothing new. Therefore when G‑d wants to bring the seed of Moshiach into the world it is necessary to graft something new onto the Jewish stock. That is the significance of Yevamos (63a)” “And through you will be blessed all the family of the earth” (Bereishis 12:3)? G‑d was saying to Avraham, “I have two good shoots to graft on to you – Ruth the Moabitess and Naamah the Ammonitess.” … The explanation of this gemora is what we have just said. These were the two new shoots needed to graft onto Jewish stock – even though there were obviously many good gerim that have converted to Judaism. Nevertheless Ruth and Naama were singled out. It was only through these two graftings that it was possible to bring a new fruit to the Jewish people which was different than anything that came before. It is important to fully understand how these two graftings were the cause of producing the new fruit. That is because it is not possible for something entirely new for the Jewish people except by means of the nations of the world. Therefore to the degree that something is farther from being Jewish - to that degree it has the potential to produce something new. That is why the totally new existence came from the nations of Amon and Moab because there are no people who are farther from the Jewish people than Amon and Moab [whose men] were specifically prohibited from marrying into the Jewish people forever (Devarim 23:4). This eternal prohibition of the members of a nation is not found concerning any other nation. Consequently it was specifically from these two nations that it was fit that Moshiach should be born since Moshiach is a totally new dimension… Don’t object that this logic would also apply to all converts because it isn’t so. Yevamos (47b) states that gerim are as difficult of Israel as a skin disease…The explanation of this is that a skin affliction is some sort of growth on a person’s skin and thus is an addition to a person who was already complete physically. Thus to the degree that it is an addition it is superfluous (Chullin 58b). Since it is superfluous it is viewed as a deficit for the person who has the growth. In this sense a ger is an addition to the Jewish people who are in essence a single complete entity being the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov and are thus comparable to a single person. Thus when a convert joins he is a superfluous addition because he serves only to destroy the completeness and unity in the same way that the skin afflicition which is a superflous addition ruins the complete of a man. That is why the skin affliction is troublesome to man. Similarly that is why gerim are difficult because they serve as a superfluous addition to the Jewish people. In contrast Ruth and Naama were not mere additions to the Jewish people but their joining was needed to create a new essence which had not existed previously which is not relevant for other converts.

[1] מהר"ל (נצח ישראל - פרק לב): ומזה תבין הטעם שהמלך המשיח יהיה נולד מאומה אחרת, שהרי דוד ממואבית ושלמה מעמונית. שכאשר השם יתברך רוצה להוציא הויה חדשה, אל זה צריך הרכבה מן נטיעה אחרת שאינו מן הראשונה. שאם היה זה הנטיעה הראשונה, אין כאן דבר חדש. ולפיכך כאשר השם יתברך רצה להביא זרע המשיח לעולם, היה צריך לעשות הרכבה ונטיעה חדשה. והיינו דאמרינן בפרק הבא על יבמתו (יבמות סג.) "ונברכו בך כל משפחות האדמה" (בראשית יב:ג), אמר הקב"ה לאברהם, שתי בריכות טובות יש לי להבריך ממך, רות המואביה ונעמה העמונית, עד כאן. וביאור ענין זה כמו שאמרנו למעלה, כי אלו דוקא נקראו 'שתי בריכות טובות', אף על גב דכמה וכמה גרים טובים נתגיירו בישראל, לא חשיב רק אלו 'שתי בריכות טובות'. שאלו ב' בריכות נברכו להוציא פרי חדש בישראל, אשר לא היה קודם. ותבין מאוד איך היו אלו ב' בריכות סבה להוציא פרי חדש, וזה כי לא היה ראוי שיבוא ענין חדש והויה חדשה לעולם כי אם על ידי האומות. וכל אשר יותר רחוק מישראל, ראוי שיהיה ממנו הויה חדשה. ולכך ההויה החדשה באה מן עמון ומואב. שלא תמצא שום אומה יותר רחוקה מישראל מן עמון ומואב, שנצטוו עליהם (ר' דברים כג:ד) "לא יבואו בקהל לעולם", שלא תמצא דבר זה בשום אומה כלל. ומהם ראוי שיהיה נולד המשיח, שהיא הויה חדשה, וכל זה מפני התחדשות הויה החדשה:

ואל יקשה לך, שאם כן בכל גרים יהיה שייך דבר זה, וזה אינו, דאמרינן בפרק החולץ (יבמות מז:) אמר רבי חלבו, קשים גרים לישראל כספחת, שנאמר (ישעיה יד:א) "ונלוה הגר עליהם ונספחו על בית יעקב", עד כאן. וביאור ענין זה, כי הספחת שהוא גדל באדם, הוא הוספה לאדם השלם, וכל יתור כנטול (חולין נח:), והוא חסרון אל מי שיש בו תוספות. וכן הגר הוא תוספות על ישראל, כי ישראל הם בעצמם עם אחד, בני אברהם יצחק ויעקב, כמו אדם אחד. כאשר נתחבר הגר עליהם, הרי יש כאן תוספות. וכל תוספות מבטל השלימות, כמו שמבטל הספחת - שהוא נוסף - שלימות האדם, שמבטל שלימות צורתו, והוא חסרון באדם. ומפני כך הספחת הוא קשה לאדם. וכן הגרים, שאינם רק תוספת בלבד, הם קשים לישראל. אבל אלו שנים אינם תוספות, אבל הם משלימים את ישראל, ואינם נחשבים תוספות, רק הם מתחברים להם, כמו בריכה שאינה תוספות. וכך אלו שנים אינם תוספות, רק לקנות הויה חדשה אשר לא היה מקודם, ודבר זה אינו שייך בגרים אחרים:

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Clearing the air

Are You People For Real? wrote:

Who on earth is for proselytizing? I'm surely not.

Rabbi, you really should put a check on the rabid anti-ger undercurrent flowing through your blog by well-meaning yet idiotic Orthodox Jews who live in a shell.

I have read here that there is no such thing as a sincere convert, that all female converts are a sham and how it shows in their households for generations.

Is this your viewpoint as well?


Aside from making provocative and abusive statements about those who disagree with you - you don't seem to have read the majority of material that I have posted. In addition you have not responded to challenges to your apparently knee jerk responses to the rather complex issue of intermarriage and conversion. I am puzzled that someone as intelligent and concerned as you are [I am not being sarcastic] - can be asking the above question. The point of my posting is to present the dialectics involved. You seem to feel that your understanding is the only one and therefore you have absolutely nothing to learn from those who disagree. You view them simply as "well-meaning yet idiotic Orthodox Jews who live in a shell." You seem to doubt the sincere concern that others have for their fellow Jews as well as fellow man - if they point out problems and failings.

The mere fact that you are still posting indicates to me that either you can not get over your astonishment at the stupidity of others and that you feel it is your obligation to set everyone straight - or that you really are bothered by the problems and you are patiently wading through a lot of junk in the hope of discoverying something of value.

You have to understand that many others who read this blog find your comments as offensive and insensitive as you find theirs. I tolerate a certain amount of abusive lanuagage as long as it seems to help clarify issues. Thus there are comments that are critical of converts - but you find these also in the Talmud and well as the contemporary rabbinical writings. However there are also comments that praise converts.

Regarding your opposition to proselytization you should scroll back to my translation of Rabbi Tropper's interview in Mishpacha magazine - as well as a number of my postings regarding the activities of Eternal Jewish Family.

If you want to elevate the level of discussion on this blog it would be helpful if you first attended to the way you express yourself. You don't have to first call someone stupid or idiotic before raising a question or making a criticism.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Be gentle with Jews who intermarry?

Are You People For Real? wrote:

"Dear Anonymous,

You would make a horrible preacher.

Please try delivering that message to the millions of intermarried Yidden.

One doesn't have to imagine what their response will be to you.

Please write more when you come back to reality. "


Since you are so certain you have "the" way to deal with this situation I would like to hear your views about some Jewish leaders of the past who commented on this problem. [translation is Soncino]

Ezra[1](9:1-10): 1. And when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not set themselves apart from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons; so that the holy seed have mixed themselves with the people of those lands; and the hand of the princes and rulers has been foremost in this trespass. 3. And when I heard this matter, I tore my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down appalled. 4. Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those who had been carried to exile, gathered around me, while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5. And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands to the Lord my God, 6. And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to you, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our trespasses have mounted up to the heavens. 7. Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been exceedingly guilty; and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests, have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to plunder, and to utter shame, as it is this day. 8. And now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a secure nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our slavery. 9. For we were slaves; yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his loving kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem. 10. And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments,

Ezra (9: 10-14): 10. And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments,11. Which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, The land which you are entering to take possession of it, is a land unclean because of the uncleanness of the people of the lands, who, with their abominations, have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness.12. And now do not give your daughters to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons, nor seek their peace or their welfare for ever; that you may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever. 13. And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great guilt, seeing that you our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this; 14. Should we again break your commandments, and intermarry with the people of these abominations? Would you not be angry with us till you would consume us, so that there should be no remnant nor any to escape?

Ezra[1](10:1-14) 1. And while Ezra prayed, and confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men and women and children gathered to him out of Israel; for the people wept bitterly. 2. (K) And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said to Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken alien wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this matter. 3. And now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all such women, and those born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the Torah. 4. Arise; for it is your task, and we are with you. Be of good courage and do it! 5. Then Ezra arose, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, swear that they should do according to this word. And they swore. 6. Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he did not eat bread, nor drink water; for he mourned because of the transgression of the exiles. 7. And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the returned exiles, that they should gather themselves together at Jerusalem; 8. And that whoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his goods should be forfeited, and he himself set apart from the congregation of the exiles. 9. Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and because of the heavy rain. 10. And Ezra the priest stood up, and said to them, You have transgressed, and have taken foreign wives, to increase the guilt of Israel. 11. And now make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and do his will; and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the foreign wives. 12. (K) Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As you have said, so must we do. 13. But the people are many, and it is the time of heavy rain, and we are not able to stand outside, nor is this a work for one day or two; for we are many who have transgressed in this matter. 14. Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all those who have taken foreign wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and its judges, until the fierce wrath of our God over this matter is turned away from us. 15. Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah stood out against this; and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supported them. 16. And the returned exiles did so. And Ezra the priest selected certain chiefs of the fathers’ houses, after the house of their fathers, each of them designated by name, and they sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter. 17. And by the first day of the first month, they made an end of the matter of the men who had taken foreign wives.

Nechemiah[1](13:23-27): 23. (K) Also in those days I saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab; 24. And half their children spoke in the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but according to the language of each people. 25. And I quarrelled with them, and cursed them, and struck some of them, and pulled off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons, or for yourselves. 26. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Among the many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless foreign women made even him sin. 27. Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying foreign wives?

Are You People for Real?'s attempt to rationalize proselytizing intermarried couples

Are You People For Real? said:

"Can't you see how our non-frum brethren have been duped? Are you so blind as to blame them instead of the non-frum movements that perpetuated this spiritual crime against our loved ones."

Let me try to summarize your position so that we can at least know that we are in agreement as to what you are saying. Once we stop talking past each other perhaps I can explain the view of "ghetto" Jews and why they reject your approach - even though they understand your position.

You are making a number of assertions

1)Intermarriage is caused by non-Orthodox religious beliefs

2) Intermarried couples are not rebelling against G-d

3) Because they are victims of their religious education and are not rebeling they should be helped by the Orthodox community reaching out to them.

4) The outreach must be done to prevent the loss of so many Jews who are in their predicament through no fault of their own.

In short you seem to be claiming that the rationale of kiruv organization - including EJF - is that intermarriage is a fact that can only be dealt with by attempting to make the Jewish spouse Orthodox and to make the non-Jewish spouse Jewish and frum. That in fact it imperative that the Orthodox community make every effort to make every intermarried couple frum and part of the Orthodox community.

On the other hand the traditional approach to intermarriage has been to banish the intermarried couple. You assert that the kiruv organization have realized the error of this approach while the "ghetto" Jews still "don't get it"
In other words there is no justification for the traditional approach and that the "ghetto" Jews are insanely interfering with the spiritual life saving effort which must be done to save the Jewish people.

Put another way, you are asserting that the intermarried Jews are "tinok sh'nishba (captured innocents) and thus bear no responsibility for their dangerous spiritual condition. We have the obligation to save them - even if it means violating traditional halachic norms and possibly lowering the barriers that keep Orthodox Jews from intermarrying - since the stigma will be removed. Non-Jewish spouses must be converted even if it means encouraging the acceptance of many non-Jewish children into our school systems and communities as well as accepting many non-Jewish spouses who will convert primarily for convenience and not out of conviction?

You want to deal with the alien element in the same way as the Catholic Church did by mass conversions that were so successful - they had to have an Inquisition to determine the "sincerity" of the fifth column which they produced.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Intermarriage results from the couple's ignorance that it is wrong?

We have two contradictory assertions: Which is closer to reality? This is a very important question!

1) Anonymous Are You People For Real? said...

Anonymous 11:39 Writes:

"The Jew who marries outside of his faith has made a deliberate decision to cut HIM/HERSELF off from the Jewish people FOREVER. Such a Jew has very intentionally spit in the face of G-d.

What is the point of chasing after such a person?"

The proof of your ignorance lies in the body of your post.

90% of intermarried Jews do so out of IGNORANCE.
They were raised in assimilated families, in assimilated neighborhoods, with the Reform & Conservative instilling within them that Hashem, Torah & Mitzvot belong to a bygone age when people were backwards and unenlightened.

Unfortunately and extremely sad, you, my friend, are what the non-halachic movements refer to when speaking of the "backwards & unenlightened", as you go through life with blinders on, wishing to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Jews who have married out did not do so with the idea of spitting in the face of Hashem, nor to rebel against their Jewishness.

They were taught in public school that being Jewish is the same as being Irish, French, Romanian or Mexican, and that it's racist to in-marry.

Please wake up before you and those who are as clueless chase even more Yidden in tot the arms of alternative religious movements.

February 4, 2008 4:52 PM

2) Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who had the misfortune of being raised Ultra-Reform, I can state with absolute authority that "are you people for real?"'s statement of the ignorance of the Reform is absolutely false.

ALL Jews, including those who affiliate as Reform or Conservative, know that intermarriage is forbidden.

The Reform Rabbi of our community absolutely refused to perform or recognize an intermarriage, and the same went for all of the others in our State at the time (New Jersey mid 1980s).

When my sister decided to marry a gentile, she understood that Judaism forbade it, knew her parents might reject her as well as a lot of her friends, and made the conscious choice that her selfish desires and American constitutional value system was of greater importance to her than the preservation of her Jewish identity.

Part of being raised Reform meant that 7 of my 8 cousins intermarried and so did 1 of my 2 sisters. They all knew exactly what they were doing and understood the choice they were making.

They just don't think it matters in the scheme of things and that if there is a G-d, they will surely be forgiven of their sins.

Your case is that anyone who would intermarry does so out of ignorance and that therefore it is incumbent upon the religious hierarchy to facilitate a virtual "pardon" by enabling the kashering of the intermarriage via conversion.

My case is that if the Jew and gentile who are involved in the intermarriage can be made to understand the gravity of what they have done, that the gentile will divorce the Jew because she loves him and cares more about his immortal soul than being "happy" during these few fleeting years we have in the physical world, or that the Jew will initiate the divorce for the same reason.

A [gentile] friend of mine said it very well: when he heard two Jews talking about accepting an intermarriage because "Bob"s 'happiness' was what was really important, he answered by saying that a shot of Heroin would also make him happy. It doesn't mean it's good for him.

You seem to believe that the Creator of the Universe can be "forced" or duped into accepting a Torah level violation because of some Rabbinic sleight of hand. If that's the case, why stop at intermarriage? We can advance to Idolatry, Incest, and Homosexuality until we finally find an "Orthodox" Rabbi who lets a man marry his own brother with Chuppah and Kiddishin and you'll tell us that the Rabbi is preventing them both from sinning.

February 4, 2008 10:04 PM

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Divide: Jewish missionary activity targeting non-Jews

Are You People For Real? wrote:

Is this blog for real?

You have just given a wonderful present to Chosen People Ministries & Jews for Jesus.

They will gladly go after the mixed married Jews and their spouses.

Do you ghetto Jews ever come out of your shells? Do you have any clue to what is transpiring in the real world?
85% of Jews are assimilated.
60% are intermarried.

Are those so-called frum Jews whom are against reaching out to the intermarried on the payroll of Jews for Jesus, cause they're certainly acting on their behalf?

I can see David Brickner, Moishe Rosen, Mitch Glaser, David Chernoff, Jay Sekulow and their ilk having a field day with this nonsense.

The issue of quality versus quantity has come up before. Perhaps it is time to confront it head on since those who go for quantity seem to have no clue of halacha or the meaning of a community committed to observing halacha. Nor do they seem to have any understanding - or concern - of the social consequences of an open door policy on the Jewish community. Furthermore they assume that the ultimate value is to save or produce as many Jews as possible no matter what the cost. Is there in fact any such imperative?

What are the consequences - both positive and negative - of focusing on maximizing the number of Jews through conversion. Why has it apparently never been done in Jewish history?

Before anyone jumps up and down saying "you ignoramus don't you know anything!" - let me just cite two major academic experts on the matter. It is universally agreed that there is simply no explicit evidence that missionary activity was ever an accepted practice by the Jewish community. All "evidence" for missionary activity is simply conjecture which I don't find very convincing. I will go into detail in the next post. Anyone who has halachic or sociological data relevant to this issue is invited to post it.

Prof. Martin Goodman(Journal of Jewish Studies 40:2 1989 page 181): "In sum, despite the hints outlined above that some rabbis assumed the desirability of a proselytizing mission, such a notion does not appear to have been explicitly formulated in any rabbinic text and did not ever become a general rabbinic doctrine. It remained the common assumption that the normal impulse to conversion would be and should be that of the prospective proselyte. Thus, for example, it is reported at Sifre Deut. 354 that the sight of Israel worshiping at the Temple will eventually lead the nations to wish to convert en masse. It is on the gentiles that the onus rests, for in the last days they risk punishment for failing to become proselytes as they could have done (Lev. R. 2:9); but it is worth noting that in the parallel version at Pes. R. 35.161a, in the name of R. Hanina b. Papa, the reproach to the gentiles is only their failure to forsake idolatry…"

[See also excerpts from his book Mission and Conversion 1995],M1

Prof. Louis Feldman(Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World 1996 - page 293): "However, although there is, in truth, no single item of conclusive evidence [for Jewish missionary activity] as we shall see, the cumulative evidence - both demographic and literary - for such an activity is considerable."

[In my view the many diverse types of evidence which Prof. Feldman cites which when taken one by one is not convincing - when combined together doesn't prove the point either. They are at most suggestive of a hypothesis which still needs more convincing evidence to be accepted as valid.]

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Eternal Jewish Family - controversy on Beliefnet

The awareness of the problems associated with EJF is spreading. There is a currently a discussion of some of these issues on beliefnet. I do not necessarily endorse what they say - but I think it will be of interest to those who read this blog.

This is one of the postings that appeared yesterday in the discussion

removed by request from poster

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Spirituality - innate differences between gerim and born Jews.

Mei Shiloach[1](Chagiga 3a): Rava explained Shir HaShirim (7:2): “How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter!” He said that this is referring to the daughter of Avraham who was the beginning of gerim. The issue is that we find great things concerning a ger which are not inherent in a born Jew. That is because a ger voluntarily converted out of love of G‑d. He came from amongst the nations to find refuge in the shadow of the wings of the Shechina even though his origin has no holiness. That is because holiness is something which is ingrained in a person from his youth by his father and mother and this produces great things which are not inherent in a ger. However when a born Jew strives to learn to act out of love and to add to his understanding and desire to serve G‑d it gives him both accomplishments. In other words he has the ingrained holiness from his parents and also he has the acquired voluntary initiative of heart [that is found in gerim]. Towards obtaining the second accomplishment there is the mitzva of pilgrimage to Yerushalayim three times a year which serves to work against the mechanical observance of mitzvos. When a born Jew has acquired this voluntary initiative he is also described as the “daughter of the prince” i.e., the daughter of Avraham who was the beginning of gerim. In other words the ger is characterized by his initiative of breaking out of habitual conduct and this voluntary activity was epitomized by Avraham. However today all gerim [ both converts and those Jews who break out of a habituated lifestyle] are aware of the idea of what to strive for because they see the example of holy Jews. In contrast Avraham who was the beginning of gerim lived when the entire world were idolators. Nevertheless he broke out of this existence even though he didn’t know where the rejection of idolatry would take him. He called out “Who created the world?” until G‑d revealed Himself to him. This is also the issue here concerning the verse “Beautiful are your feet in sandals…” In other words when Jews make the pilgrimage to Yerushalayim they also are breaking their patterns of life and display renewed vigor in their spiritual strivings. This mitzva of pilgrimage is not an isolated commandment but demonstrates the principle of the renewal of spirituality by changing the patterns of life and attaining a new perspective on doing all mitzvos according to G‑d’s will. This idea was also manifest at Mt. Sinai when the Jews said “na’aseh v’nishma” (we will do and then understand). In other words first they will act and accept the obligation to do the mitzvos in simple compliance. However they did not intend to remain on the level of mechanical action and that is why they said “nishma” (we will understanding). That meant they intended to come to understand the essence and meaning of the mitzvos and the significance that G‑d saw in commanding each mitzva…

[1] מי השילוח (חגיגה ג. פרק ראשון): דרש רבא מאי דכתיב [שיר השירים ז:ב] מה יפו פעמיך בנעלים בת נדיב. בתו של אברהם אבינו שהי' תחילה לגרים, הענין בזה כי בגר נמצא יקרות גדול מאי שאין בישראל, כי הגר עושה בנדיבות ובאהבת לבו לפי שבא מבין האומות להתחסה בצל כנפי השכינה אך בשורש אין בו קדושה כי הקדושה המורגלת באדם מנעוריו ומשורשת בו מאביו ואמו בזה נמצא ג"כ יקרית גדול וזה לא נמצא בגר, אך כאשר נפש מישראל ישתדל ללמוד לעשות באהבה ולהוסיף הבנה וחשק לעבודת הש"י לזה יש השני מעלות ביחד שהוא מורגל ומקודש בקדושת האבות וגם מוסיף נדיבות לבו, ולזה היא מצות עליות רגלים שלא ישתקעו בהרגל מצות אנשים מלומדה ואז יקראו ישראל בת נדיב בתו של אברהם אבינו שהי' תחילה לגרים היינו שהגר הוא מבורר בזה שמנדברת לבו יוצא מההרגל וליותר הי' הדבר הזה מבורר אצל א"א ע"ה כי עתה לכל הגרים אף שיוצאים מהרגלם מ"מ יש להם תפיסה למה הם נכנסין לפי שרואים את ישראל מקודשין, אבל א"א ע"ה שהי' תחלה לגרים שהיו כל העולם עובדי ע"ז והוא יצא מן הכלל אף שלא ידע עוד במה שהוא בוחר וחושק, והי' צועק מי ברא אלה עד שנגלה אליו הש"י, וכן הענין כאן מה יפו פעמיך בנעלים כו' היינו בשעה שעולים לרגל ג"כ יוצאים מהרגלם ובתשוקה חדשה ילכו וכל דבר שיצא מן הכלל ללמד לא ללמד על עצמו יצא אלא כו' היינו שלאו דוקא רק במצוה הזו הולכים לעשות בחשק חדש ולא מההרגל רק בכל המצו' רוצים בהתבוננות חדשות כפי רצון ה' בכל עת ואינם עושים בהרגל, וזהו שאמרו במעמד הר סיני נעשה ונשמע היינו בתחחלה נעשה היינו שאנו מקבלים עלינו לעשות ולקיים מצותיך בתמימות אבל לא לעמוד רק בהמעשה היינו אח"כ נשמע היינו נרצה להבין השורש וכמה רצון יגיע להש"י בכל מעשינו...

Friday, January 25, 2008

We are in exile to gather the sparks of holiness from the nations

Pesachim[1](87b): R’ Eleazar said that G‑d only exiled Israel amongst the nations so that converts would join the Jewish people. This is alluded to in Hoshea (2:25): “And I will sow her unto Me in the land.” Obviously no one sows unless he expects to harvest much more than he sowed. R’ Yochanon deduced it from [the second part of] Hoshea (2:25): “And I will have mercy upon her who had not obtained mercy [and I will say to them who were not My people, you are My people – Rashi].

[1] פסחים (פז:): ואמר רבי אלעזר: לא הגלה הקדוש ברוך הוא את ישראל לבין האומות אלא כדי שיתוספו עליהם גרים, שנאמר (הושע ב:כה) וזרעתיה לי בארץ. כלום אדם זורע סאה - אלא להכניס כמה כורין. ורבי יוחנן אמר מהכא: (הושע ב:כה) ורחמתי את לא רחמה.

Maharsha[1](Pesachim 87b): Jews were not sent into exile except so converts could join the Jewish people - Because if it were merely a punishment then it would be possible to punish them in another way. Therefore it must be in order that converts could join. In other words exile serves to publicize the Jewish faith amongst the nations.

[1] מהרש"א (פסחים פז:): לא הגלה כו'. דאי משום עונש חטאם אפשר היה לו לעונשם בדברים אחרים אלא כדי שיתוספו עליהם גרים דהיינו לפרסם האמונה גם בשאר עובדי כוכבים...

Orchos Tzadikim[1](Shaar 23 – Truth): Our exile has been excessively prolonged due to our many sins. Therefore Jews should detach themselves from the nonsense of the world and to hold on to the signature of G‑d which is truth. In addition they should sanctify themselves even concerning that which is permitted to them (Yevamos 20a). They should not lie either to another Jew or to a non‑Jew nor should they deceive them in any manner. Tzefaniah (3:13) states, “The remnant of Israel should not do wrong and not speak falsely nor should any deception come from their mouths.” Pesachim (87b) cites Hoshea (2:25) that the Jews will be sown throughout the world. The gemora notes that one does not sow seeds unless there is expectation to harvest much more than was sown. It concludes that G‑d sent the Jews into exile only in order to have converts attached to them. However only as long as the Jews deal honestly with the non‑Jews will the non‑Jews be attracted to them

[1] ארחות צדיקים (השער כ"ג - שער האמת): עתה שהאריכה הגלות בעוונותינו הרבים יותר מדאי יש לישראל להיבדל מהבלי העולם ולאחוז בחותמו של הקדוש ברוך הוא שהוא אמת, ולקדש עצמם אף במותר להם (יבמות כ א), ולא לשקר לא לישראל ולא לגוי, ולא להטעותם בשום ענין, שנאמר (צפניה ג:יג): "שארית ישראל לא יעשו עולה ולא ידברו כזב ולא ימצא בפיהם לשון תרמית". ועוד כתיב (הושע ב:כה): "וזרעתיה לי בארץ", (פסחים פז:): כלום אדם זורע סאה אלא להכניס כמה כורים - כך לא הגלה הקדוש ברוך הוא את ישראל לבין האומות אלא כדי שיתווספו עליהם גרים. וכל זמן שהם מתנהגים עמהם בלא מרמה, ידבקו בהם:

Rav Tzadok[1](Pri Tzadik – Parshas Parah #3): … This that it says in Pesachim (87b) that G‑d exiled Israel only in order to have converts join them.. This is explained [Arizal] that it doesn’t mean actual converts but rather the gathering of sparks of kedusha and vitality which are found amongst the nations. These sparks are extracted from the nations by means of Jewish exile….

[1] רב צדוק (פרי צדיק פרשת פרה - אות ג): ...מה שאמרו (פסחים פז:) לא הגלה הקב"ה את ישראל כו', אלא כדי שיתוספו עליהם גרים ופירשו ז"ל שאין המכוון על גרים ממש רק על ניצוצין קדישין וחיות שיש באומות בסוד ואתה מחיה את כולם וזה מוציאים על ידי הגליות...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

R' Tropper - proselytizing non-Jewish spouse is necessary for Jewish spouse to be observant

Rabbi Leib Tropper gave an interview recently which is published in the current edition #838 of Mishpacha (Hebrew) – January 17, 2008 pages (62-63). The following is my translation of part of the article.

“In working with kiruv organizations I discovered the shocking reality. Those who were trying to become more observant and wanted with all their heart and power to become fully observant - unexpectedly revealed to us the frighting truth – that they were married to a non-Jewish woman. Consequently if they wanted to live according to the halacha they would obviously be required to leave their non‑Jewish wife and to break up the family. Many were not able to take such a drastic step and continued living their lives as before. In other words they continued living as an intermarried couple and obviously their children were not Jewish. The gedolei hador paskened for us to proselytize and convert the non-Jewish spouse in order to facilitate the Jewish spouse to live as a fully observant Jew. In other words if those who were intermarried knew that they would have a problem [with being married to a non-Jew] after becoming observant they would not be interested in becoming observant. At Eternal Jewish Family we prepare these non-Jewish spouses for conversion. We monitor their progress in understanding the process of observing Torah and mitzvos. We teach them the path of Judaism. As a result of conducting these conversion courses we discovered an astonishing thing. During their studies these non-Jewish spouses become so involved with the course until they truly accepted upon themselves the yoke of Torah and mitzvos - out of their genuine knowledge of Judaism. Consequently it is only when we see that they are ready that we send them to be tested by a beis din for conversion. It is important to note that we do not decide if they are to be converted or not. Following the guidance of gedolim, we have not set up new courts of our own. We simply send those who have been prepared for conversion to existing courts and only those courts which have been recognized by the gedolim.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Proselytizing is problematic III - Obligation to convert is on ger - not beis din

Yevamos[1](48b): R’ Chanaiah son of Rabban Gamliel said: Why are converts in the present time oppressed and suffering? It is because they hadn’t fulfilled the Seven Mitzvos of Noach [before conversion - Rashi]. R’ Yose disagreed noting that one who converts is like a new born child [and thus is not punished for his past – Rashi]. So then why are they suffering? It is because they are not as knowledgeable of the details of mitzva observance as are those who are born Jewish. Abba Chanan said in the name of R’ Eleazar that they suffer because they do not do mitzvos out of love but from fear [of divine punishment – Rashi]. Other’s say because they delayed their conversion. R’ Abahu or R’ Chanina said what verse supports this understanding? Ruth (2:12) praised Ruth, “You came [quickly and didn’t delay - Rashi] to take refuge under His wings.”

Maharal[2](Yevamos 48b): Why are converts in the present time oppressed and suffering?… Because they delay their conversion. It seems that the proof is the verse [Ruth 2:12] saying that she came under His wings and that there is reward for this. If so it is logical that there is also punishment for not coming. If conversion was only joining the Jewish people then there would not be punishment in not joining as soon as possible. Why should he have to join because merely joining the Jewish people is not required to be done or punishable if not done. However since conversion is receiving refuge under the wings of the Shechina since he is coming now - he should have come before - because up until now he was far from G‑d. Therefore there is punishment for his delay and there is no need of proof except that for the fact that there is reward for his coming under the wings of the Shechina. From this you can deduce that there is a sin when he doesn’t come as soon as possible since he is now converting...

Mishneh Halachos[3](16:92): Is it a mitzva to accept converts?… In the sefer Knesses Yechezkeil (#59) the question is raised whether beis din has a mitzva to accept converts? A certain talmid chachom is quoted as citing Yevamos (47b): “If the non-Jew accepts all the obligations he is immediately circumcised because mitzvos are not to be delayed.” He asks what is this mitzva? Where are we commanded to accept converts? The author of Knesses Yechezkeil brings a dispute amongst poskim was to whether beis din has a mitzva to convert gerim. He notes that the Raavad(Baalei HaNefesh Shaar Hatevila) states that beis din is commanded to convert gerim and that this mitzva is based on the fact that Avraham made converts. Bereishis (12:5): The soul that they made in Charan” is understood by our Sages as saying that Avraham converted the men and Sarah converted the women. That is why the beracha is “and commanded us.” This is also the view of the Rashbatz in Zohar HaRakiya (#28) who learns the mitzva from the gemora in Yevamos (47b) which was previously cited. The author of Knesses Yechezkeil notes that there in no basis for in the Raavad that there is a mitzva to accept converts but cites the Sifre concerning the mitzva of loving G‑d which seem to be similar to the Raavad… I have additional questions. 1) If in fact this mitzva is learned from the mitzva of loving G‑d it shold be included in that mitzva which is one of the constant mitzvos. See Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvos #3) where he in fact cites the Sifre that it means to be like Avraham who brought people to recognize G‑d… However the Rambam does not in fact state that love of G‑d means to convert non‑Jews to Judaism. 2) We don’t learn the obligation of any mitzvos from what happened prior to the Giving of the Torah as is explicity stated in the Rambam (Commentary to Mishna Chullin 7:6) and other places. Even the mitzva of mila or gid hanasha that we observe is not because Avraham or Yaakov and his sons were commanded to keep them but only because the mitzvos received from Moshe. That is the only reason why we say a beracha “Who has sanctified us with His mitzvos and commanded us concerning the mitzvos.” There is no mention anywhere of the name Avraham. This is also true for the mitzva of mila. However there is in fact an additional beracha of “brining him into the covenant of Avraham” but this is for the covevenant not for the mitzva of mila. The bris and the mila are two separate things… Also concerning the view of the Zohar HaRakia (#28) that Yevamos (47b) indicates that accepting converts is a mitzva for the beis din because it says “one should not delay the mitzva.” In my humble opinion I would offer an alternative understanding. The mitzva referred to in the gemora is not the mitzva for beis din to convert the ger but rather there is a mitzva for the ger to be converted and he shouldn’t delay the conversion. In such a case we have a mitzva not to delay him and thereby causing a delay in his mitzva of conversion. Granted that this is not a mitzva obliging us to convert him but we can say that since he is not able to convert himself it is necessary to assist him in his conversion. Since it requires a court of 3 judges and he wants to convert and not delay the conversion we are commanded to assist him so that he doesn’t delay his mitzva – however this is not a commandment on the beis din itself. There is proof for this is from Yevamos (48b which asks why are converts today suffer. The view of others is because they delayed coming under the wings of the Shechina. Ruth (2:12) is cited that G-d gave full reward since Ruth came as soon as possible to convert… Thus we see that a convert who converted as soon as possible is praiseworthy. This would also explain why beis din should not delay the conversion. However it doesn’t show that the beis din is comanded to convert.

[1] יבמות (מח:): תניא, רבי חנניא בנו של רבן גמליאל אומר: מפני מה גרים בזמן הזה מעונין, ויסורין באין עליהן? מפני שלא קיימו שבע מצות בני נח; רבי יוסי אומר: גר שנתגייר כקטן שנולד דמי, אלא מפני מה מעונין? לפי שאין בקיאין בדקדוקי מצות כישראל; אבא חנן אומר משום ר' אלעזר: לפי שאין עושין מאהבה אלא מיראה; אחרים אומרים: מפני ששהו עצמם להכנס תחת כנפי השכינה. אמר ר' אבהו, ואיתימא ר' חנינא: מאי קראה? (רות ב:יב) ישלם ה' פעלך ותהי משכורתך שלמה מעם ה' אלהי ישראל אשר באת לחסות תחת כנפיו.

[2] מהר"ל (חידושי אגדות - יבמות מח:): תניא ר' חנניה בנו של ר"ג אומר מפני מה גרים בזמן הזה מעונים וכו': ששהו עצמם מלבא תחת כנפי שכינה וכו'. נראה לומר דהכי מייתי ראייה, מדכתב אשר באת לחסות תחת כנפיו ועל זה הוא השכר, וא"כ ממילא יש עונש שלא בא עד הנה. שאם לא היה עניין הגר רק שמתחבר לישראל, אין בזה עונש מה שלא בא כבר, כי למה היה [לו] לבא כי אף עתה אין כאן חיוב ואין כאן עונש, אבל כיון שהגר הוא בא לחסות תחת כנפי שכינה, ולפי מה שבא עתה א"כ היה לו לבא כבר והיה עד עתה רחוק מן הש"י, ולפיכך יש עונש, ואין צריך להביא ראייה רק שיש שכר על שהוא בא לחסות תחת כנפי השכינה ומזה אתה שומע שיש כאן חטא אשר לא בא כבר כיון שעתה בא להתגייר…

[3] משנה הלכות (טז:צב): אי יש מצוה לקבל גרים -אחדשכת"ר בידידות נאמנה וכו'. בספרו כנסת יחזקאל נפל גורלי בהא שמעתתא (בסי' נ"ט) אם יש מצוה על ב"ד ישראל לקבל גרים, והביא שם קושית ת"ח א' הא דאמרינן בגמ' (יבמות מז:) קיבל מלין אותו מיד משום דשהויי מצוה לא משהינן, ותמה איזה מצוה יש בכך והיכן צונו לקבל גרים, ומעכ"ג שליט"א הביא מחלוקת הפוסקים אי איכא מצוה על הב"ד לגייר גרים, דעת רבינו הגדול הראב"ד בספר בעלי הנפש סוף שער הטבילה דב"ד נצטוו לגייר את הגרים והוא מצוה וסמכה אהא דאברהם אבינו ואת הנפש אשר עשו בחרן [בראשית יב:ה], אברהם גייר אנשים ושרה מגיירת נשים, ולכן מברכין וצונו, וכן דעת הרשב"ץ בזוהר הרקיע על המצות אות כ"ח ויליף לה מהא דשהויי מצוה לא משהינן, ומע"כ בחכמתו הקשה להראב"ד דאין שם רמז שיש מצוה לקבל גרים, וציין לספרי ואתחנן על הפסוק ואהבת את ה' אלקיך אהבהו על כל הבריות ואמרו שם כלשון הראב"ד ז"ל. ויפה העיר מאד.

אלא מלבד מה שהקשה מעכ"ת הוספתי להקשות חדא דא"כ הו"ל לחשבו במצות אהבת ה' שהוא מן המצות התמידיות, ועיין רמב"ם בספר המצוות מצוה ג' הוא שצונו באהבתו, והביא לשון ספרי ואהבת וגו' אהבהו על הבריות כאברהם אביך שנאמר [בראשית יב:ה] ואת הנפש אשר עשו בחרן וכו', אבל לא זכר כלל שזה ענין גם לגייר עכו"ם, והשנית שהרי כל המצוות כולן שאנו מקיימין אין למדין מקודם מ"ת כמ"ש הרמב"ם (פיה"מ חולין ז:ו) ועוד, ואפילו מצות מילה או גיד הנשה שאנו מקיימין אינו בשביל שנצטווה בזה א"א או יעקב אבינו ובניו אחריו אלא מפי קבלת משה רבינו, ולכן אנו מברכין אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על מצות ולא נזכר בשום מקום שם אברהם, וגם בברכת מילה לא מברכין רק על במצותיו וכו' אלא שתקנו עוד ברכה להכניסו וזה בבריתו של אברהם אבינו ולא במילתו והם שני דברים והארכתי בזה במקום אחר...

גם מ"ש בזהר הרקיע סקכ"ח דמגמ' יבמות הנ"ל ילפינן מצות קבלת גרים לב"ד משום דאשהויי מצוה לא משהינן ומשמע דמצוה היא, ולפענ"ד לולי דמסתפינא יש לומר דהאי מצוה דלא משהינן הוא המצוה על הגר שרוצה להתגייר ואינו רוצה להשהות עצמו מלהתגייר. הנה בכה"ג מצוה עלינו שלא להשהותו ולעשותו משהה מצוה שלו, והגם שאין זה מצוה עלינו לגיירו נוכל לומר כיון דלא יכול בעצמו להתגייר צריכין לסייעו בגיורו. דבעי שלשה והוא רוצה להתגייר ולא להשהות אנן נצטוינו לעוזרו שלא ישהה מצותו אבל אין זה ציוו על הב"ד....

ויש להביא ראיה לזה מגמ' [יבמות מח:] שם בסמוך מפני מה גרים בזמן הזה מעונין אחרים אומרים מפני ששהו עצמם להכנס תחת כנפי השכינה אמר ר' אבוהו ואי תימא ר' חנינא מאי קראה, ישלם ה' פעלך ותהי משכורתך שלמה מעם ה' אלקי ישראל אשר באת לחסות וגו', ופרש"י אשר באת, שמיהרת ולא איחרת ע"כ. וא"כ גר הממהר להתגייר הוא משובח, ולכן י"ל דזה הכוונה שהויי מצוה לא משהינן ולכן צריך לגיירו מיד, אבל אין ראי' דהוא מצות הב"ד לגייר.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Spirituality of convert is often greater than a born Jew

Kiddushin[1](70b): Converts are as deleterious to the Jewish people as a scab…

Tosfos[2](Kiddushin 70b): Converts are as deleterious—Rashi explains because they are ignorant of the mitzvos and thus cause misfortune by their lack of observing the Jewish laws and that they set a bad example for other Jews. … Others explain that they are a source of trouble to the Jewish people because G‑d repeated the prohibition of not upsetting converts 24 times and it is impossible not to transgress this serious prohibition. … Another explanation is that converts are in fact more knowledgeable in mitzvos and are more scrupulous in observing them than Jews from birth. This contrast causes G‑d to punish the Jews from birth when they are not properly observant… Another explanation is that they cause problems by being assimilated amongst the Jewish people and the Divine presence only rests on families that have a pedigree…

Rabbeinu Bachye[3](Shemos 24:5): This that our Sages say that “converts are as deleterious to the Jewish people as scabs” is not to be understood as an insult to converts but rather as an insult to Jews from birth. In other words since G‑d knows how much the converts have sacrificed by leaving their families and birthplace in order to cling to Him—it sets makes the Jews from birth look bad when they don’t serve G‑d whole heartedly. This is stated in a medrash …

Tanchuma[4](Lech Lecha #6): Converts are more beloved to G‑d than the Jews who stood at Mt Sinai. The reason is that those who stood at Mt. Sinai would not have accepted the Torah if it hadn’t been for the awesome spectacle of the thunder, lightning, the great wind and the sound of shofars. In contrast, the converts saw none of this and still came to cling to G‑d and accepted the Torah…

Converts are more beloved to Gd because they willing accepted Judaism

Tanchuma[5](Lech Lecha 6): Reish Lakish said that non‑Jews who convert are more beloved to G‑d than those Jews who stood at Mt. Sinai. That is because the Jews would not have accepted the Torah except that they saw the astounding events at Sinai. In contrast these converts who did not see any miracles nevertheless came to be close to G‑d and to accept upon themselves the yoke of the kingdom of heaven – there is nothing more beloved.

[1] קידושין (ע:): אמר רבי חלבו קשים גרים לישראל כספחת שנאמר ונלוה הגר עליהם ונספחו על בית יעקב כתיב הכא ונספחו וכתיב התם לשאת ולספחת

[2] תוספות (קידושין ע:): קשים גרים - פי' בקונטרס לפי שאינם בקיאים במצות ומביאים פורענות ועוד שמלמדים את ישראל ממעשיהם וכו' וי"מ לפי שכל ישראל ערבין זה בזה ולאו מילתא היא דהא לא נתערבו בשביל הגרים כשקבלו התורה כדאמרינן בסוטה (לז:) נמצא לכל אחד מישראל שש מאות אלף וג' אלפים [ותק"ן בריתות] שכולן נתערבו זה בזה אלמא לא נתערבו מן הגרים שהרי הרבה ערב רב עלה אתם ויש מפרשים דקשין גרים לישראל כספחת לפי שהזהיר הקב"ה עליהם בכ"ד מקומות שלא להונות אותם ואי אפשר שלא יצערום ויש מפרשים לפי שע"י הגרים ישראל בגלות כדאמר (פסחים דף פז:) מפני מה ישראל מפוזרים בכל ארצות

[3] רבינו בחיי (שמות כד:ה): ומה שאמרו רז"ל קשים גרים לישראל אין זה נאמר לגנאי הגרים אלא לגנאי ישראל, כלומר כיון שהקב"ה רואה מחשבתם שעזבו משפחתם וארץ מולדתם ובאו להדבק בשכינה הנה הם מחייבין את ישראל כשאין עובדים להקב"ה בלבב שלם:

וכן מצינו במדרש אמר ריש לקיש גדולים גרים בזמן הזה יותר מישראל כשעמדו על הר סיני, שהם ראו את הקולות ואת הלפידים ואת קול השופר והנפלאות הגדולות והנוראות והגרים לא ראו מדבר זה כלום ובאים בצר ובמצוק להסתופף תחת כנפי השכינה:

[4] מדרש תנחומא (לך לך פרק ו): ... א"ל ר"ש בן לקיש חביב הגר לפני הקב"ה מן אותן אוכלוסין שעמדו על הר סיני למה שכל אותן אוכלוסין אלולי שראו הקולות והלפידים וברקים וההרים רועשים וקול שופרות לא קבלו עליהם מלכות שמים וזה לא ראה אחד מכולם ובא ומשלים עצמו להקב"ה וקבל עליו עול מלכות שמים...

[5] תנחומא (פרשת לך לך סימן ו) אמר ריש לקיש חביב הוא הגר שנתגייר, מישראל בעמידתן על הר סיני, למה לפי שאילולי שראו קולות וברקים וההרים רועשים וקול שופרות, לא היו מקבלים את התורה, וזה שלא ראה אחד מהם, בא והשלים עצמו להקב"ה, וקיבל עליו מלכות שמים, יש לך חביב מזה.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Proselytizing is problematic II - Yevamos 109b

Yevamos (109b): R’ Yitzchok said what is the meaning of Mishlei (11:15): He that is a surety for a stranger will suffer for it? That means evil upon evil comes to those who accept converts... That those who accept converts bring evil upon themselves is learned from R’ Chelbo who said: Converts are as difficult for Israel as a sore on the skin.

[1] יבמות (קט:): דא"ר יצחק, מאי דכתיב: (משלי יא:טו) רע ירוע כי ערב זר? רעה אחר רעה תבא למקבלי גרים, ... מקבלי גרים - כר' חלבו, דאמר ר' חלבו: קשים גרים לישראל כספחת בעור.

Tosfos[1] (Yevamos 109b): Evil upon evil comes to those who accept converts – The Ri explained that that is only when the non‑Jews are proselytized to convert or they are accepted prematurely before they are ready. However if they themselves strongly want to convert we should accept them. The reason that they should be accepted is that we find that Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov were punished because they didn’t accept Timna when she came to convert and so instead she went and became Esav’s son Eliphaz ’s concubine (pilegesh). Their offspring was Amalek who embittered the life of Israel as we see in Sanhedrin (99b). Yeshoshua also accepted Rachav the Zona. Naomi accepted Ruth the Moabite. We also see in Shabbos (31a) that Hillel converted someone who came to him and said, “convert on the condition that I serve as high priest” and another one who said, “convert me on the condition that you teach me the entire Torah.” Even though these people were obviously not fully committed to convert nevertheless Hillel know that eventually they would be proper converts as indeed happened.

[1] תוספות (יבמות קט:): רעה אחר רעה תבא למקבלי גרים - אמר ר"י דהיינו היכא שמשיאין אותן להתגייר או שמקבלין אותן מיד אבל אם הן מתאמצין להתגייר יש לנו לקבלם שהרי מצינו שנענשו אברהם יצחק ויעקב שלא קבלו לתמנע שבאתה להתגייר והלכה והיתה פלגש לאליפז בן עשו ונפק מינה עמלק דצערינהו לישראל כדאמרינן בהגדת חלק (סנהדרין צט:) וגם יהושע קבל רחב הזונה ונעמה ורות המואביה ובריש פרק במה מדליקין (שבת לא.) שגייר הלל אותו שאמר גיירני על מנת שתשימני כ"ג ואותו דעל מנת שתלמדני כל התורה כולה ואע"פ שלא היו מתאמצין להתגייר יודע היה הלל בהן שסופם להיות גרים גמורים כמו שעשה לבסוף.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Proselytizing is problematic I - Aruch HaShulchan

Aruch HaShulchan[1](Yoreh Deah 268:6): One should not try to actively encourage any non-Jew to convert. In fact we should discourage conversion as we see in Yevamos (47a): When a non-Jew comes to us and requests that he be converted we say to him, “What is the reason that you want to convert? Don’t you know that the Jews in our times are persecuted and oppressed, despised, harassed and overcome by afflictions?” If he is dissuaded by this then we don’t stop him from going away. However if he says, “I know this and nevertheless I am not worthy to join the Jewish people,” he is to be accepted immediately. He is to be instructed in some of the minor and some of the major mitzvos. If he changes his mind and decides not to convert then let him change his mind because converts are as problematic for the Jewish people as a skin disease. If he persists than he is to be taught the sin of neglecting Gleanings, the Forgotten Sheaf, the Corner and the Poor Man's Tithe. (This was done in Israel at the time when these mitzvos were practiced so that he should know about them and not say that the poor people who come to take the grain are thieves. However in modern times these are not relevant. That is why they are not mentioned in the Tur or the Shulchan Aruch.) He is also to be instructed concerning some of the punishments for transgressing mitzvos. He is told, “That before becoming a Jew if you eat forbidden fats you will not be punished by kares. If you profane Shabbos you will not be punished by stoning. However now if you eat forbidden fat you will be punished by kares. If you profane Shabbos you will be stoned.” At this point, however, this should not be done a lot or in great detail. In other words he should not be frightened a lot with the negative consequences of becoming a Jew because that will of necessity cause him not to become Jewish. He is not deliberately frightened away at this point because he has come to seek refuge under the wings of the Shechina.

[1] ערוך השולחן (יורה דעה רסח:ו): אין להסית שום גוי לגייר את עצמו ואדרבא כך אמרו חז"ל ביבמות [מז.] כשבא עכו"ם לנו ומבקש שיגיירוהו אומרים לו מה ראית שבאת להתגייר אי אתה יודע שישראל בזמה"ז דווים סחופים ומטולטלים ויסורים באים עליהם ואם ילך לו ילך לו ואם אומר יודע אני ואיני כדאי להתחבר עמהם מקבלין אותו מיד ומודיעים אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות ואם חוזר בו יחזור בו דקשים גרים לישראל כספחת [שם] ומודיעים אותו עון לקט שכחה ופאה ומעשר עני וזה היה בא"י בעת שנהגו מצות אלו כדי שידע מזה ולא יאמר על העניים הבאים ליטול גזלנים הם ובזמה"ז לא שייך זה ולכן לא הזכירו זה בטור וש"ע ומודיעין אותו מקצת עונשין של מצות שאומרים לו קודם שבאת למדה זו אכלת חלב אי אתה ענוש כרת חללת שבת אי אתה חייב סקילה ועכשיו אם תאכל חלב תחייב כרת אם תחלל שבת תחייב סקילה ואין מרבין עליו ואין מדקדקין עליו כלומר שלא יאיימו עליו הרבה דא"כ יהיה מוכרח לפרוש והרי זה בא לחסות תחת כנפי השכינה: