Rabbi Shlomo Zacharow

About Rabbi Shlomo Zacharow

Rabbi Shlomo Zacharow received his MA and Rabbinic ordination from the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. Shlomo is the mesadder gittin (adjudicator of religious divorce) for the Masorti Movement in Israel and is certified as mashgiah kashrut and shohet l’ofot (ritual slaughterer). In addition, he is on the faculty of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary and mentors Rabbis via Masorti Olami. Previously he served as the Rabbi of Congregation Shevet Achim in Gilo. He teaches Biblical Hebrew, Halakha (Jewish Law) and Pos’kim (The Development of Jewish Law).

Rabbi Shlomo Zacharow

Contemporary Issues In Halakha – Conversion In Jewish Law Sources Part 2

גיור בהלכה

ר’ שלמה זכרוב
Conversion in Jewish Law
Part II

5)  שו”ת דעת כהן (ענייני יורה דעה) סימן קנד

ב”ה, עה”ק ירושלים תובב”א, ט’ ניסן תרפ”ח.

 שלו’ וברכה מקודש לכבוד הרב האי גאון מפואר בתורה ויראת ד’ אוצרו, גודר גדר בכרם ד’, מו”ה שאול סתהון שליט”א, רועה עדת קודש אחינו הספרדים יצ”ו בבוענאס איירס ארגנטינה יצ”ו.

 . . . והרי מפורש אמרו חז”ל בכורות ל’ ע”ב נכרי שבא לקבל דברי תורה חוץ מדבר אחד אין מקבלין אותו, ר”י בר”י אומר אפי’ דקדוק אחד מד”ס, ואיך אפשר לקבל גרים באופן כזה שיודעים ברור שאחר גרותם יעברו על דברי תורה, (אמת הדבר שיש לתמוה על השמטת הפוסקים הלכה זו לגמרי, מ”מ הלא משנה לא זזה ממקומה, ואין חולק ע”ז עכ”פ כד’ ת”ק שחוץ מד”א של תורה אין מקבלין אותן. ( . .

הק’ אברהם יצחק ה”ק.

 נ”ב.

ועל כל הגיוריות שיש בהן כל הפסולין שמנה כת”ר במכתבו, שחלילה להקל בהן, ולהחשיבן לגיוריות שנכנסו בכלל ישראל, פשוט דהיינו להחמיר, ומ”מ לא נדון בהן להקל להוציאן מתחת בעליהן בלא גט וכיו”ב, עד שיבורר ענין כל אחת מהן בפרט.

5) Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook, Da’at Kohen, No. 154

By the help of God, the holy city of Jerusalem, may she be she rebuilt and established speedily in our days, 9 Nisan, 5688 (1928)

Greetings and blessings to the honorable Rabbi, the one who is wise and splendid in Torah and fearful of God, he who puts a fence around God’s orchard, our teacher, Rabbi Shaul Sit-hon, may he live to longevity, the shepherd of the holy community of our Sephardic brothers, may God guard them and redeem them, in Buenos Aries, Argentina.

The sages said explicitly in Bekhorot 30b that a gentile that comes to accept the words of the Torah except for one item, we do not accept him; Rabbi R. Yossi the son of R. Yehudah says: even if the exception be one of the minutiae of the Scribes (i.e. the Sages).  How can we accept converts if we clearly know that after their conversion they will transgress the words of the Torah?  (Truth be told, it is surprising that the poskim [decisors] omitted this halakhah entirely. In any case, “the mishna does not budge” and no-one disagrees with it, at least with the tanna kamma (the first opinion, that of the sages), that if the convert refuses to accept one Torah law, we do not accept him).

The diminutive one, Avraham Isaac HaKohen

P.S.  Regarding the female proselytes that have deficiencies that the honorable one delineated in his letter, God forbid that one should be lenient and treat them as converts who have entered into the Jewish people.  It is clear that we must be stringent.  At any rate, we can’t be completely sure across the board as to permit them to separate from their husbands without a Get (Jewish divorce writ), until we examine each and every case individually.

Background

Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935) was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine, the founder of the Religious Zionist Yeshiva מרכז הרב Merkaz HaRav, Jewish thinker, Halakhist, Kabbalist and a renowned Torah scholar.

In this well know responsum, he supports the decision of a בית דין Bet Din in Argentina to ban all conversions and tell all potential converts that they must travel to Israel in order to be converted.

Questions

What source(s) does Rav Kook rely upon in his responsum?  Is this in harmony with the ruling in the Shulhan Arukh?

6)  שו”ת אגרות משה יורה דעה חלק א סימן קנז
בגר שאין סהדי שלא קבל מצות אף שאמר בפיו שמקבל ז’ דעשי”ת תרפ”ט ליובאן.

מע”כ ידידי הרב הגאון המפורסם מהר”ר שמעון טרעבניק שליט”א הגאב”ד האדיאץ.

במה שנסתפק כתר”ה אם גר שלא קבל עליו מצות אם נחשב גר, פשוט וברור שאינו גר כלל אף בדיעבד וכן הורה אבא מארי הגאון זצלה”ה הלכה למעשה בסטראבין בעובדא כזו שאינו גר כלל בין לקולא בין לחומרא שקבלת מצות בגר מעכב כדאיתא ביו”ד סי’ רס”ח סעי’ ג’.

ואף אם אמר בפיו שמקבל מצות אם אנן סהדי שאינו מקבל עליו באמת אינו כלום . . . .

ובכלל איני יודע טעם הרבנים הטועים בזה דאף לדידהו עכ”פ איזה תועלת הם מביאין בזה לכלל ישראל שמקבלין גרים כאלו דודאי לא ניחא ליה להקב”ה ולעם ישראל שיתערבו גרים כאלו בישראל.

ולדינא פשוט שאין זה גר כלל.

ידידו, משה פיינשטיין

6)  (Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah, Part I, No. 157)

The 7th of the 10 days of Teshuva (Repentance), 5689 (1929), Luban

The honorable, my friend, the Rabbi the genius and the renown, our teacher and Rabbi Shimon Trebnik, may he live a life of longevity, the Head of the Bet Din of Haditch.

Regarding what his honor had a doubt, if a convert who did not accept the mitzvot is considered a convert, it is simple and clear that he is not a convert at all even after the fact.  Thus instructed my father and teacher the master (may the memory of a righteous one be for the next world), as law in Strabin regarding a similar case.

Even if he said that he accepts the commandments, if we witness that he doesn’t truly accept it, it is nothing.

In general, I don’t know the reason why Rabbis err in this for even according to their understanding, what benefit do they bring to the people of Israel by accepting converts like this since certainly it is not to the liking of God, blessed be He, and to the people of Israel, that these types of converts will mix in Israel.

The judgment rendered is clear that this person is not a convert at all.

His friend, Moshe Feinstein

Background

Moshe Feinstein  משה פיינשטיין (March 3, 1895–March 23, 1986) was a Lithuanian Orthodox rabbi who moved to New York in 1936.  He was a scholar and פוסק posek (an authoritative adjudicator of questions related to Jewish law), who was world-renowned for his expertise in הלכה Halakha and was regarded by many as the de facto supreme rabbinic authority for Orthodox Jewry of North America. In the Orthodox world, it is universal to refer to him simply as רעב משה Reb Moshe.”

Question

Why do you think R’ Feinstein and R’ Kook are so stringent?

6)  שו”ת פסקי עוזיאל בשאלות הזמן סימן סה
גירות לנשי ובני ישראלים שאינם שומרי דת הרוצים לגייר נשותיהם הנוכריות עם בניהם

י”ג ניסן תשי”א לכבוד מעלת ותהלת הרב הגדול מעוז ומגדול כמוהר”ר יהודה ליאון כלפון יצ”ו רב מק”ק טיטוואן.

שלום וברכה בחבה נעימה.

תשובה:

. . . תדע עוד, שהרי בגוי הבא להתגייר מודיעים אותו עיקרי הדת שהוא יחוד ה’ ואיסור ע”ז ומאריכין עמו בדבר זה ואלו בקבלת המצות מודיעין אותו מקצת מצות קלות וחמורות ומודיעין אותו מקצת עונשים של מצות שאומרים לו קודם שבאת למדה זו אכלת חלב אי אתה ענוש כרת ואין מרבין עליו ואין מדקדקין עליו להודיעו כל דקדוקי עונשין וכו’ דשמא כוונתו לשמים (סי’ רס”ח סעיף ב’ וש”ך ס”ק ה’).

מכאן מפורש יוצא שאין דורשין ממנו לקיים המצות ואף לא צריך שבית דין ידעו שיקיים אותן, דאל”כ לא יתקבלו גרים בישראל דמי יערוב שגוי זה יהיה נאמן לכל מצות התורה אלא מה שמודיעין לו מקצת מצות הוא כדי שאם ירצה יפרוש וכדי שלא יוכל לומר אח”כ אילו ידעתי לא הייתי מתגייר וזהו לכתחלה אבל בדיעבד אם לא הודיעוהו אינו מעכב (ש”ך שם סק”ג)

מכל האמור למדנו: שאין תנאי קיום המצות מעכב את הגרות אפילו לכתחלה.

ועוד ראיה מכרעת מפסק מרן ז”ל: וכיון שטבל הרי הוא כישראל שאם חזר לסורו הרי הוא כישראל מומר שאם קדש קדושיו קדושין ואפילו חזר ועבד אלילים הרי הוא כישראל מומר שקדושיו קדושין (שם סעיף ב’ וסעיף י”ב) ובביאור הגר”א כתב: שלכן קיימו שלמה ושמשון את נשותיהם אע”ג שנגלה סופם וסופן הוכיח על תחלתן (שם ס”ק כ”א).

מכל האמור ומדובר תורה יוצאה שמותר ומצוה לקבל גרים וגיורות אעפ”י שידוע לנו שלא יקיימו כל המצות משום שסופם יבואו לידי קיומם ומצווים אנו לפתוח להם פתח כזה ואם לא יקיימו את המצות הם ישאו את עונם ואנו נקיים.  .  .

6)  Responsa Piskey Uziel, No. 65)

Regarding the matter of Jews who are not Torah observers who wish to convert their gentile wives and children.

The 13th of Nissan, 5711 (1951) to the honorable and distinguished, our Rabbi and teacher Yehuda Leon Kalfon, may God keep him, the Rabbi of the holy community of Titwan.

Warm greetings and blessings.

Reply:

Furthermore, a gentile who comes to convert, he is given instruction regarding the main principals of the religion such as the unity of God and the forbidden nature of idol worship, and one speaks with him at length about these matters, and one informs him of some of the minor and some of the major commandments.   He is also told of the punishment for the transgression of the commandments: “Be it known to you that before you came to this condition, if you have eaten suet you would not have been punishable with karet [divine punishment through premature death], but now were you to eat suet you would be punished with karet”.  One doesn’t overburden him nor is overly detailed by outlining the minutia of the punishments, etc. for his intent may very well be pure (Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 268:2 and the Sh”kh subparagraph 5)

It is clear from here 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 can not 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 (Sh”kh to Yoreh Deah, subparagraph 3).

From everything stated we have learned that the condition of fulfilling the commandments does not negate a conversion, even if it is a priori.

Another conclusive proof is from our teacher (Yosfe Kairo, the author of the Shulhan Arukh), may his memory be for a blessing:  Since he immersed, he is now Jewish, and if he returns to his former ways he is like a Jewish person who has gone astray, if he betroths a woman she is betrothed.  Even if he returned to idol worship he is still considered a Jew who has gone astray and if he betroths a woman she is betrothed (paragraph 2 and paragraph 12).

From all this the Torah emerges that 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. And we are commanded to give them an opening like this, and if they don’t observe the mitzvot, we are absolved [of any guilt] . . .

Background

Ben-Zion Meir Hai Ouziel (1880-1953) בן ציון מאיר חי עוזיאל) was the Sephardi chief rabbi of the British Mandate of Palestine from 1939 to 1948, and of Israel from 1948 to 1954.

Question

What source(s) does R’ Ouziel rely upon in his responsum?

7)  והשיב משה, יורה דעה, נ’

קבלת המצוות אין הכוונה שהוא מוכרח לקבל עליו את כל המצוות לקיימם, אלא לקבל עליו כל מצות תורה, ושאם יעבור, הוא מקבל על עצמו ליענש העונש שמגיע לו.  וכמו שאומרים לו:  “עד שלא באת למדה זו, אכלת חלב אי אתה ענוש כרת, חללת שבת אי אתה ענוש סקילה, ומשבאת למדה זו, אכלת חלב אתה ענוש כרת, חיללת שבת, אתה ענוש סקילה.”  והוא מקבל עליו כל זה, המצוות וענשיהן.  ואם כן, לא אכפת לנו אם בשעה שמקבל המצוות הוא חושב וגומר בדעתו לעבור על מצוה פלונית ולקבל העונש.  ולא חשיב זה חסרון בקבלת המצוות.

 

Kabbalat Hamitzvot does not mean that he is required to accept all the mitzvot to observe them, but to accept all the mitzvot of the Torah and, if he transgresses, he accepts upon himself to be punished by the punishments he deserves. [He then quotes the baraita in Yevamot.] Therefore, we do not care if at the hour that he accepts the mitzvot he has decided to transgress a specific mitzvah and to receive the punishment. This is not considered a deficiency in kabbalat mitzvot.

Background

Rabbi Moshe Hacohen משה הכהן of Djerba, Tunisia, made aliyah and served as a dayyan in Tiberias (1900-1966). He was asked here if his Bet Din could convert a professional football (soccer) player who would continue to drive on Shabbat to get to the matches.

Questions

Do you agree with R’ Hacohen’s ruling?

Why do you think that he and R’ Ouziel are relatively lenient?

What should be our approach today?

Should our standards for converts be consistent throughout history or is it reasonable that at times the determination of what comprises “accepting the yoke of the commandments” might vary?

Regarding the present “crisis” in Israel, which approach is most appropriate?

Go to Next Class – Kohen and Giyyoret

Kohen And Giyyoret – Contemporary Issues In Halakha

כהן Kohen and גיורת Giyyoret (convert)

Introduction

Due to the Kohen’s special status, it has traditionally been forbidden for him to marry certain fellow Jews, including females who have converted to Judaism.  The questions today are if we must still maintain this standard and is this a “standard” in which we still believe?  If not, can the law be modified and how so?

While the Temple was standing, the Kohen functioned in the priestly role.  Since the destruction of the second בית המקדש Bet HaMikdash, the kohen has lost many of his functions.  Nonetheless, in traditional circles he is still honored and confined in several ways and retains certain responsibilities.  He has the prerogative to be called first to the reading of the Torah and to lead ברכת המזון, the Grace after Meals.  God blesses the people through the Kohanim who approach the בימה  bimah in synagogue and extend their hands upwards to offer the “Priestly Blessing.”  The Kohan is the one who officiates over the ceremony of פדיון הבן, the “Redemption of the First Born.”  The kohan is also restricted from coming into contact with the dead.

In the framework of this course, we don’t have the ability to examine all of the marriage restrictions upon a Kohen (the other major one being the גרושה divorcee), as there are different nuances in each category.  We will concentrate on the restriction to marry a female convert and this will also focus our attention slightly to the perception of converts and if that has changed over time.

In our sources for the first week, we will examine the sources for the traditional restriction.

Source Sheets

Source Sheet Part 1

Source Sheet Summary Part 1 and Introduction Part 2

Source Sheet Part 2

Source Sheet Summary Part 2

Go to Next Class – Musical Instruments

Contemporary Issues In Halakha – Conversion In Jewish Law Sources Part 1

גיור בהלכה

ר’ שלמה זכרוב
Conversion in Jewish Law
Part I

1)  תלמוד בבלי מסכת יבמות דף מז עמוד א-ב

תנו רבנן:  גר שבא להתגייר בזמן הזה, אומרים לו: מה ראית שבאת להתגייר? אי אתה יודע שישראל בזמן הזה דוויים,  דחופים, סחופים ומטורפין, ויסורין באין עליהם? אם אומר: יודע אני ואיני כדאי, מקבלין אותו מיד. ומודיעין אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות, ומודיעין אותו עון לקט שכחה ופאה ומעשר עני. ומודיעין אותו ענשן של  מצות, אומרים לו: הוי יודע, שעד שלא באת למדה זו, אכלת חלב אי אתה ענוש כרת, חללת שבת אי אתה ענוש סקילה, ועכשיו, אכלת חלב ענוש כרת, חללת שבת ענוש סקילה. וכשם שמודיעין אותו ענשן של מצות, כך מודיעין אותו מתן שכרן, אומרים לו: הוי יודע, שהעולם הבא אינו עשוי אלא לצדיקים . . .   ואין  מרבין עליו, ואין מדקדקין עליו.

קיבל, מלין אותו מיד . . . נתרפא, מטבילין אותו מיד;ושני ת”ח עומדים על גביו, ומודיעין אותו  מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות; טבל ועלה – הרי הוא כישראל לכל דבריו. אשה, נשים מושיבות אותה במים עד צוארה, ושני ת”ח עומדים לה מבחוץ, ומודיעין אותה מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות

1)  The Tractate of Yevamot 47a-b

Our Rabbis taught: If at the present time a man desires to become a proselyte, he is to be addressed as follows: “What reason do you have for desiring to become a proselyte? Do you not know that Israel at the present time is persecuted and oppressed, despised, harassed and overcome by afflictions”?   If he replies “I know and yet am unworthy” he is accepted forthwith, and is given instruction in some of the minor and some of the major commandments. He is informed of the sin [of the neglect of the commandments of] Gleanings, the Forgotten Sheaf, the Corner and the Poor Man’s Tithe.

He is also told of the punishment for the transgression of the commandments. Further, he is addressed thus: “Be it known to you that before you came to this condition, if you have eaten suet you would not have been punishable with karet [divine punishment through premature death], if you had profaned the Sabbath you would not have been punishable with stoning; but now were you to eat suet you would be punished with karet; were you to profane the Sabbath you would be punished with stoning”. And as he is informed of the punishment for the transgression of the commandments, so he is informed of the reward granted for their fulfillment. He is told, “Be it known to you that the World to Come was made only for the righteous . . . ”  He is not, however, to be persuaded or dissuaded too much.

If he consented, he is circumcised forthwith… As soon as he is healed, arrangements are made for his immediate immersion [in a mikveh], when two learned men must stand by his side and instruct him in some of the minor commandments and in some of the major ones. When he comes up after his immersion, he is deemed to be an Israelite in all respects.

In a case of a woman proselyte, women make her sit in the water up to her neck, while two learned men stand outside and instruct her in some of the minor commandments and some of the major ones.

•Questions:

What seem to be the requirements for conversion?

2)  שולחן ערוך יורה דעה סימן רסח סעיף ב

כשבא להתגייר אומרים לו: מה ראית שבאת להתגייר, או אתה יודע שישראל בזמן הזה דחופים סחופים (פי’ אבודים וסחופים מן מדוע נסחף אביריך (ירמיה מו, טו))  ומטורפים, ויסורים באים עליהם.

אם אמר: יודע אני ואיני כדאי להתחבר עמהם, מקבלין אותו מיד ומודיעים אותו עיקרי הדת שהוא יחוד ה’ ואיסור עבודת כוכבים, ומאריכין עמו בדבר זה,  ומודיעים אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות, ומודיעים אותו מקצת עונשין של מצות, שאומרים לו: קודם שבאת למדה זו אכלת חלב אי אתה ענוש כרת, חללת שבת אי אתה חייב סקילה, ועכשיו אכלת חלב אתה ענוש כרת,  חללת שבת אתה חייב סקילה.  ואין מרבין עליו ואין מדקדקין עליו. וכשם שמודיעים אותו ענשן של מצות כך מודיעים אותו שכרן של מצות, ומודיעים אותו שבעשיית מצות אלו יזכה לחיי העוה”ב . . .

אם קבל, מלין אותו מיד וממתינים לו עד  שיתרפא רפואה שלימה ואח
“כ     מטבילין אותו טבילה הוגנת בלא חציצה.  (וי”א שיגלח שערותיו ויטול צפרני ידיו ורגליו  קודם טבילה) (טור ורי”ף ורא”ש) ושלשה (תלמידי חכמים) (ג”ז טור)  עומדים על גביו ומודיעים אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות פעם שנייה, והוא עומד במים. ואם היתה אשה, נשים מושיבות אותה במים עד צוארה, והדיינים מבחוץ,  ומודיעין אותה מקצת מצות קלות וחמורות, והיא יושבת במים, ואח”כ טובלת בפניהם והם מחזירים פניהם ויוצאין, כדי שלא יראו אותה כשתעלה מהמים, ויברך על הטבילה אחר שיעלה מן המים, וכיון שטבל הרי הוא כישראל, שאם חזר לסורו הרי הוא כישראל מומר שאם קדש קדושיו קדושין.

Shulhan Arukh, Yo-re De-ah 268:2

When (a potential convert) comes to convert, he is to be addressed as follows: “What reason have you for desiring to become a proselyte? Do you not know that Israel at the present time is persecuted and oppressed, despised, harassed and overcome by afflictions”?

If he replies “I know and yet am unworthy” he is accepted immediately, and is given instruction regarding the main principles of the religion such as the unity of God and the forbidden nature of idol worship, and one speaks with him at length about these matters, and one informs him of some of the minor and some of the major commandments.   He is also told of the punishment for the transgression of the commandments: “Be it known to you that before you came to this condition, if you have eaten suet you would not have been punishable with karet [divine punishment through premature death], if you had profaned the Sabbath you would not have been punishable with stoning; but now were you to eat suet you would be punished with karet; were you to profane the Sabbath you would be punished with stoning”.  One doesn’t overburden him nor is one punctilious of every detail.  As one announces to him the punishment for violating commandments one also announces the reward for commandments. In addition, one announces to him that by doing these commandments he will merit the world to come . . .

If he consented, he is circumcised forthwith and one waits for him until he makes a complete recovery and afterwards one makes sure that he immerses properly [in a mikveh] without any barrier.  Three men stand by him and instruct him in some of the minor commandments and in some of the major ones a second time, while he is in the water.  In a case of a woman proselyte, women make her sit in the water up to her neck; afterwards she immerses and they [the three men] look away and leave in order not to see her when she emerges from the water.  The convert should bless on the immersion after he emerges from the water.  Since he immersed, he is now Jewish, and if he returns to his former ways he is like a Jewish person who has gone astray, if he betroths a woman she is betrothed.

Questions:

Some 1500 years passed in time between source #1 and source #2.  In other words, the ברייתא baraita (tannaitic statement in the גמרא gemarra) in source #1 survived almost intact and became הלכה halakha.  Nonetheless, are there significant differences between the two sources?  According to the Shulhan Arukh what are the requirements for conversion?  Are these any different than what was stated in the Talmud?

3)  הרב יצחק שמעלקעס, שו”ת הים יצחק, חלק ב’, סימן ק’

אם מ[ת]גייר רק לפנים, ולבו בל עמו להחזיק במצוות, ואנו יודעין כוונתו שגם אח”כ יהיה בועל נדה ומחלל שבת ואוכל טריפות – לא הוי גר כלל . . . רחמנא לבא בעי, ולא נעשה גר.  ולפי זה, גרי דידן אשר בעוונותינו הרבים מגיירים במדינת אשכנז, ויודעים שגם אח”כ לא יתנהגו כמנהג ישראל הכשרים, אך יהיו בועלי נדה ואוכלי טריפות – כמו בשאלה דידן – לפי מה שכתבתי לא הוי גר, אף שאומרת בפיה (אם ילמדו אותה לשקר) שתקבל הכל עליה, אבל בלבה שלא לקיים.

3)  Rabbi Yitzhak Schmelkes, Lvov, 1876, (Responsa Bet Yitzhak, Part 2, No. 100, parag. 9).

If a person converts outwardly (only for show) while he has no intent to fulfill the commandments, and we know that his intent is also afterwards to have intercourse with a woman who does not go to mikveh, to violate Shabbat and eat animals which are not kosher; this person is not a convert at all . . . The merciful one desires the heart, and the person is not a convert.  According to this, our converts that we, in our multitudinous sins, convert in Ashkenazic countries, and we know that afterwards they will not behave as is the custom of upright Jews, but instead will have intercourse with women who have not gone to mikveh and they will eat unkosher animals – such as in our question at hand – according to what I wrote she is not a convert, even though she says (if they taught her to lie) that she will accept everything upon herself, but in her heart she is resolved not to do them.

Question

How does Rabbi Schmelkes’ approach differ from the previous sources?

4)  תלמוד בבלי מסכת בכורות דף ל עמוד ב

ת”ר: הבא לקבל דברי חבירות  חוץ מדבר אחד – אין מקבלין אותו, עובד כוכבים שבא לקבל דברי תורה חוץ מדבר אחד – אין מקבלין אותו, ר’ יוסי בר’  יהודה אומר: אפי’ דקדוק אחד מדברי סופרים.

4)  The Tractate of Bekhorot 30b

Our Sages taught: …if an idol worshipper came to accept (le-kabel) the Torah except for one thing, we do not accept him. R. Yossi the son of R. Yehudah says: even if the exception be one of the minutiae of the Scribes (i.e. the Rabbis).

• Question

How do you understand the expression “accept the Torah except for one thing”?

Go to Conversion Part 2

Conversion In Jewish Law – Contemporary Issues In Halakha

Conversion in Jewish Law

Introduction 

One issue which has really riveted Israeli society for some time but especially over the past few months has been the conversion process.  I will first explain the specific incident which ignited this crisis and then expand upon its broader implications.  To provide the factual background I will quote extensively from “A Responsum Regarding the Annulment of Conversions” that was written by Rabbi David Golinkin in June, 2008.

Question: At the beginning of May 2008, a panel of three dayyanim (judges) of the High Rabbinical Court of the Chief Rabbinate presided over by Rabbi Avraham Sherman published a ruling that all of the conversions performed by Rabbi Hayyim Druckman and Israel’s National Conversion Court since 1999 are retroactively annulled and that Rabbi Druckman and his fellow judges are דיינים פסולים dayyanim pesulim, disqualified judges. What were the halakhic grounds for this decision? Why would a rabbinic court in Israel which belongs to the Chief Rabbinate retroactively annul thousands of conversions performed by another rabbinic court which also belongs to the Chief Rabbinate?

Responsum:

The Case

This is the latest round in the “Who is a Jew?” controversy. In the past, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel maintained that Conservative and Reform converts are not Jewish. Now, חרדי Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbis within the Chief Rabbinate are claiming that converts converted by their Religious Zionist colleagues in the Chief Rabbinate’s own conversion courts are not Jewish.

In February 2007, “Sarah”, a Danish-born convert who converted in 1992, and her husband came to Rabbi Avraham Attia in Ashdod for an uncontested divorce. He was merely supposed to perform the divorce ceremony. Instead, he asked her a question or two about her level of observance. He then wrote a ruling which they only received in March 2007. Eight of the nine pages dealt with her conversion and called Rabbi Hayyim Druckman and his fellow dayyanim who had converted her אפיקורסים ופושעים apikorsim u’poshim (heretics and sinners). He ruled that since she is not fully observant, she is not Jewish; her conversion is retroactively annulled and she therefore does not need a גט get.

Sarah and her lawyers appealed this to the High Rabbinical Court. Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi and President of the High Rabbinical Court asked Rabbi Avraham Sherman, the אב בית דין Av Bet Din, and his two fellow judges not to rule on this issue. Nonetheless they did. They not only sided with Rabbi Attia in Ashdod, they went much further. They ruled that:

1.    A convert who does not accept all the מצוות mitzvot (commandments) is not Jewish.

2.    Rabbi Hayyim Druckman and Rabbi Yosef Avior, heads of the National Conversion Authority set up in 1995 are dayyanim pesulim, are disqualified from acting as judges.

3.    They have also engaged in all sorts of fraudulent actions such as signing conversion certificates when they were not present at the conversion.

4.    Therefore, all of the conversions performed by Rabbi Hayyim Druckman and his Bet Din since 1999 are retroactively annulled.

5.    Henceforth, all marriage registrars in the State of Israel should not register any convert who does not look observant.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, who serves as a dayyan in one of the special conversion courts, prepared a list of 167 converts who, in his opinion, are not fully observant and are therefore פסולי חיתון p’suley hittun – they cannot marry in the rabbinic court system.

In mid-May, the Prime Minister’s office fired Rabbi Druckman as head of the National Conversion Authority and he has not yet been replaced.

National Implications

Approximately 300,000 out of 1,200,000 Russian immigrants who have made עליה aliyah under the Law of Return since 1990 are not halakhically Jewish. Through great effort, the Joint Institute of Jewish Studies set up after the Ne’eman Commission in 1998 and the National Conversion Authority have converted many thousands of Russian immigrants who studied for one to three years in very serious courses. Rabbi Sherman’s ruling retroactively annuls all these conversions.

————————————————–

In our two sessions, we can not examine all of the aspects of this ongoing dispute.  What I would like to focus on is the question of the requirements for a convert.  Everyone agrees that according to Jewish law the convert must immerse in a מקווה mikveh and I male must undergo circumcision.  If he has already been circumcised, there must be הטפת דם ברית hatafat dam brit, taking of blood by prickling the tip of the penis.  The dispute among the Rabbis has to do with the extent to which the potential convert must be observant of the mitzvot (commandments).  Must the convert be fully observant at the time of conversion or must he have the intent or hope of becoming fully observant or is even that not required?

We will examine sources from the Talmud up until the present day.

Source Sheets

Source Sheet Part 1

Source Sheet Part 2

Go to Next Class – Kohen and Giyyoret

Contemporary Issues In Halakha – Redemption Of Captives Sources Part 1

פדיון שבויים

The Redemption of Captives
ר’ שלמה זכרוב
Part I

1)  תלמוד בבלי מסכת גיטין דף מה עמוד א

 מתני’.  אין  פודין את השבויין יתר על כדי דמיהן, מפני תיקון העולם . . .

גמ’. איבעיא להו: האי מפני תיקון העולם – משום דוחקא דצבורא הוא, או דילמא משום  דלא לגרבו ולייתו טפי? ת”ש:  דלוי בר דרגא פרקא לברתיה בתליסר אלפי דינרי זהב. אמר אביי: ומאן לימא לן דברצון חכמים עבד? דילמא שלא  ברצון חכמים עבד.

Babylonian Talmud Gittin 45a

Mishna: Captives should not be redeemed for more than their value because of tikkun olam.

Gemara:  The question was raised: Does this tikkun olam relate to the burden which may be imposed on the community or to the possibility that the activities [of the captors] may be stimulated? — Come and hear: Levi the son of Darga ransomed his daughter for thirteen thousand dinars of gold.  Said Abaye: But are you sure that he acted with the consent of the Sages? Perhaps he acted against the will of the Sages.

•Background:  Tikkun olam  (עולם‎ (תיקון is a Hebrew phrase that means “repairing the world”.  In Judaism, the concept of tikkun olam originated in the early rabbinic period. The concept was given new meanings in the קבלה kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) of the medieval period and further connotations in modern Judaism.  The expression tikkun olam is used in the  משנהMishnah in the phrase מפני תיקון עולם mip’nei tikkun ha-olam (“for the sake of tikkun of the world”) to indicate that a practice should be followed not because it is required by Biblical law, but because it helps avoid social chaos. One does not ransom captives for more than their value because of Tikkun Olam, literally: “fixing the world”; for the good order of the world; as a precaution for the general good.

•Questions

How do we determine the value of a person?  Age?  Ability?  Potential? Or should all humans have the same value?

2)  רש”י מסכת גיטין דף מה עמוד א

גמ’ . מפני דוחקא דציבורא הוא –  אין לנו לדחוק הצבור ולהביאו לידי עניות בשביל אלו.

או דילמא –  דלא ימסרו עובדי כוכבים נפשייהו וליגרבו ולייתו טפי מפני שמוכרין אותן ביוקר ונפקא מינה אם יש לו אב עשיר או קרוב שרוצה לפדותו בדמים הרבה ולא יפילהו על הצבור.

Rashi to Babylonian Talmud Gittin 45a:

“Because of the burden imposed on the community” – We should not burden the community by impoverishing it for this.

“Or to the possibility” – that the idolaters will be willing to sacrifice their lives in order to capture more people and bring them to ransom because they can sell them for a great gain.  The practical difference is regarding a situation where the captive has a rich father or relative who wants to redeem him for much money and not hold the community responsible.

•Questions:

In our case of a state (Israel) redeeming captives, which reasoning seems more relevant?

3)  תוספות מסכת גיטין דף מה עמוד א

דלא ליגרבו ולייתו  – והא דתניא בפ’ נערה  (כתובות נב.) נשבית והיו מבקשין ממנה עד עשרה בדמיה פעם ראשון פודה שאני אשתו דהויא כגופו יותר מבתו דהכא ועל
עצמו לא תיקנו שלא יתן כל אשר לו בעד נפשו

ור’ יהושע בן חנניא דפרקיה לההוא תינוק  בממון הרבה בהניזקין  (לקמן דף נח.)   לפי שהיה מופלג בחכמה

אי נמי בשעת חורבן הבית לא שייך דלא ליגרבו.

Tosafot:

“So they shouldn’t grab (captives) and bring (them to ransom)” –

However, there is a baraita in the chapter Na’arah (Ketubot 52a); she was captured and they asked for her up to ten times her worth.  The first time he (the husband) must redeem.  A wife is different because she is like part of his own body more than his daughter; for her (his daughter) and for himself the (rabbis) did not fix that he should give more than he is worth.

R’ Yehoshua ben Hananya redeemed the child for much more money than his worth (Gittin 58a) since he was exceptionally wise.

Also, after the destruction of the temple, the concept “so that they should not seize (captives)” is not applicable.

•Background

The תוספות Tosafot are mediæval commentaries on the Talmud. They take the form of critical and explanatory glosses, printed, in almost all Talmud editions, on the outer margin and opposite Rashi‘s notes.

Up to and including רש”י Rashi, the Talmudic commentators occupied themselves only with the plain meaning פשט “peshaṭ” of the text; but after the beginning of the twelfth century the spirit of criticism took possession of the teachers of the Talmud. Thus some of Rashi’s continuators, as his sons-in-law and his grandson רשב”ם  Samuel ben Meïr (RaSHBaM), while they wrote commentaries on the Talmud after the manner of Rashi’s, wrote also glosses on it in a style peculiar to themselves. The chief characteristic of the Tosafot is that they evidence no recognition of any authority, so that, in spite of the great respect in which Rashi was held by the Tosafists, the latter freely corrected him. Besides, the Tosafot do not constitute a continuous commentary, but deal only with the difficult passages of the Talmudic text.

The chief home of tosafot literature was incontestably France, for it began with Rashi’s pupils, and was continued mainly by the heads of the French schools. It is true that, practically, tosafot began to be written in Germany at the same time as in France, but the French tosafists always predominated numerically.

Questions:

In order to fully understand Tosafot, it is worthwhile to first study sources #4 & #5.  Tosafot provide three exceptions to what is stated in the Talmud.  What are they?  How do you understand each one?  Do you agree with Tosafot?

4)  תלמוד בבלי מסכת כתובות דף נב עמוד א-ב

 תנו רבנן:  נשבית, והיו מבקשין ממנו עד עשרה בדמיה – פעם  ראשונה פודה, מכאן ואילך, רצה – פודה, רצה – אינו פודה; רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר:  אין   פודין את השבויין יותר על כדי דמיהם, מפני תקון העולם.

4)  Ketubot 52a-b

Our Rabbis taught: [If a woman] was taken captive and a demand was made upon her husband for as much as ten times her value, he must ransom her the first time. Subsequently, however, he ransoms her only if he desired to do so but need not ransom her if he does not wish to do so. R. Shimon b. Gamaliel ruled:  Captives must not be ransomed for more than their value, because of “tikkun olam.”

5)  תלמוד בבלי מסכת גיטין דף נח עמוד א

 ת”ר: מעשה ברבי יהושע בן  חנניה שהלך לכרך גדול שברומי, אמרו לו: תינוק אחד יש בבית האסורים, יפה עינים וטוב רואי וקווצותיו סדורות לו תלתלים.  הלך ועמד על פתח בית האסורים, אמר: (ישעיהו מב:כד) “מי נתן למשיסה יעקב וישראל לבוזזים?” ענה אותו תינוק ואמר: “הלא ה’ זו  חטאנו לו ולא אבו בדרכיו הלוך ולא שמעו בתורתו”(ישעיהו מב:כד). אמר: מובטחני בו שמורה הוראה בישראל, העבודה! שאיני זז מכאן עד שאפדנו  בכל ממון שפוסקין עליו. אמרו: לא זז משם עד שפדאו בממון הרבה, ולא היו ימים מועטין עד שהורה הוראה בישראל. ומנו? רבי ישמעאל בן אלישע.

5)  Babylonian Talmud Gitttin 58a:

Our Rabbis have taught: R. Joshua ben (the son of) Hananiah went to the great city of Rome, and he was told there that there was in the prison a child with beautiful eyes and face and curly locks.  He went and stood at the doorway of the prison and said, “Who gave Jacob for a spoil and Israel to the robb
ers?”(Isaiah 42:24).  The child answered, “Is it not the Lord, He against whom we have sinned and in whose ways they would not walk, neither were they obedient unto his law” (Isaiah 42:24).  He said: I feel sure that this one will be a teacher in Israel. I swear that I will not budge from here before I ransom him, whatever price may be demanded. It is reported that he did not leave the spot before he had ransomed him at a high figure, nor did many days pass before he became a teacher in Israel. Who was he? — He was R. Ishmael b. Elisha.

•Question:

How did R. Joshua ben Hananiah realize that the child was precocious?

6)  תוספות מסכת גיטין דף נח עמוד א

כל ממון שפוסקין עליו – כי איכא סכנת נפשות פודין שבויין יותר על כדי דמיהן כדאמרינן בפרק השולח (לעיל דף מד.)   גבי מוכר עצמו ואת בניו לעובדי כוכבים כ”ש הכא דאיכא קטלא אי נמי משום דמופלג בחכמה היה.

6)  Tosafot, Gittin 58a

“Whatever price may be demanded” – When there is a danger to human life, the captives are ransomed for more than their worth as we say in chapter ha-sholei-ah, (above page 44a).  If we say that this is the case when someone sold himself and his children to idol worshippers and they are about to be killed, even more so it should be the case when dealing with someone who is exceptional in his wisdom.

•Question:

What additional exception does Tosafot provide to the general rule that “we don’t redeem captives for more than their worth”?

Go to Next Class – Captives Part 2

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