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Sunday, June 8, 2008

It's Not Just About Converts

In a few hours we'll be celebrating/observing the Shavuot Holiday. The Story of Ruth, the most important of our many converts, is read on Shavuot. What's the connection?

Most people translate "Shavuot" into "weeks," but it's also the Hebrew for "oaths."

Ruth is most famous for her oath to commit/connect herself to her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi.




Ruth Chapter 1
טז וַתֹּאמֶר רוּת אַל-תִּפְגְּעִי-בִי, לְעָזְבֵךְ לָשׁוּב מֵאַחֲרָיִךְ: כִּי אֶל-אֲשֶׁר תֵּלְכִי אֵלֵךְ, וּבַאֲשֶׁר תָּלִינִי אָלִין--עַמֵּךְ עַמִּי, וֵאלֹהַיִךְ אֱלֹהָי. 16 And Ruth said: 'Entreat me not to leave thee, and to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God;
יז בַּאֲשֶׁר תָּמוּתִי אָמוּת, וְשָׁם אֶקָּבֵר; כֹּה יַעֲשֶׂה יְהוָה לִי, וְכֹה יוֹסִיף--כִּי הַמָּוֶת, יַפְרִיד בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵךְ. 17 where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.'

Even though I was born and raised a Jew, I have always felt connected to that oath and even gave a shiur about it.

Judaism isn't a proselytizing religion. Prospective converts are turned back, like Naomi did to Ruth:




יא וַתֹּאמֶר נָעֳמִי שֹׁבְנָה בְנֹתַי, לָמָּה תֵלַכְנָה עִמִּי: הַעוֹד-לִי בָנִים בְּמֵעַי, וְהָיוּ לָכֶם לַאֲנָשִׁים. 11 And Naomi said: 'Turn back, my daughters; why will ye go with me? have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
יב שֹׁבְנָה בְנֹתַי לֵכְןָ, כִּי זָקַנְתִּי מִהְיוֹת לְאִישׁ: כִּי אָמַרְתִּי, יֶשׁ-לִי תִקְוָה--גַּם הָיִיתִי הַלַּיְלָה לְאִישׁ, וְגַם יָלַדְתִּי בָנִים. 12 Turn back, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say: I have hope, should I even have an husband to-night, and also bear sons;
יג הֲלָהֵן תְּשַׂבֵּרְנָה, עַד אֲשֶׁר יִגְדָּלוּ, הֲלָהֵן תֵּעָגֵנָה, לְבִלְתִּי הֱיוֹת לְאִישׁ; אַל בְּנֹתַי, כִּי-מַר-לִי מְאֹד מִכֶּם--כִּי-יָצְאָה בִי, יַד-יְהוָה. 13 would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye shut yourselves off for them and have no husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes, for the hand of the LORD is gone forth against me.'
יד וַתִּשֶּׂנָה קוֹלָן, וַתִּבְכֶּינָה עוֹד; וַתִּשַּׁק עָרְפָּה לַחֲמוֹתָהּ, וְרוּת דָּבְקָה בָּהּ. 14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth cleaved unto her.
טו וַתֹּאמֶר, הִנֵּה שָׁבָה יְבִמְתֵּךְ, אֶל-עַמָּהּ, וְאֶל-אֱלֹהֶיהָ; שׁוּבִי, אַחֲרֵי יְבִמְתֵּךְ. 15 And she said: 'Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her god; return thou after thy sister-in-law.'


But once someone does convert, his/her background isn't supposed to be mentioned. That's one of the anti-Halachik (Jewish Law) "ironies," or inconsistencies, with the blanket/mass cancelling of conversions by a chareidi court. But that's no surprise to me. I find a lot of inconsistencies with Chareidi Judaism. Now, some of you may really blow up when you read this, but please read through to the end. IMHO, it has copied foreign religions in one of its basic premises, that men should learn Torah full time and not work in a full variety of professions. I also disagree with its refusal to recognize the validity of the State of Israel and the official Rabbinate.

One of the great beauties and uniqueness of Judaism is its integration of the Holy and Profane, Kodesh v'Chol. We don't send our holy people, our learned rabbis to isolated monasteries, nor ban them from the physicality of married life. I have no doubt that the plague that killed 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's students was caused by the idealizing of his marriage, that he lived for years without his wife Rachel.

Our wars, the fighting soldiers are doing great Mitzvot (Holy Commandments) and should be G-d fearing, Torah-knowledgeable people. Therefore the Chareidi custom of shirking this duty/mitzvah is also against the basic tenant of Judaism.

The State of Israel has a Rabbinate which has a department which give Kosher Certification to foods. The Chareidim don't recognize it and they have their own kashrut certification. So, I wasn't surprised that they insulted the Official Rabbinate's certification of converts.

These poor Jews, yes, Jews, have been caught pressed between a rock and a hard place. Rabbi Sherman's "Beit Din," religious court, is trying to score anti-state points by destroying the lives of countless Jews.

According to Jewish Law, we're not supposed to eat insects, but when checking food, we're not supposed to use anything stronger than our simple, everyday if you need them reading glasses. If you use a high-powered microscope, nothing will be clean enough to eat, and you'll starve or die of malnutrition.

Let us all have a Chag Sameach, a Joyful Holiday.

19 comments:

MAOZ said...

Re guys studying Torah full-time -- don't they notice how much of that Torah they're studying instructs us about how to live in the gashmiut world? Shmitta, Yovel -- who do they think are the farmers who have to let the Land rest? Isn't Yahadut basically about how to raise up gashmiut matters so as to connect them to ruchaniut? Rather than severing the ruchaniut from the gashmiut.

Another great post, Batya.

yitz said...

I don't understand how all this Chareidi-bashing is going to bring us any closer to the Geula. On Shavuos, our Sages point out that we stood at Mount Sinai, K'ish Echad, B'Lev Echad - like one Person, with one Heart.
I don't believe that this conversion controversy is within our purview to argue, as very few, if any, bloggers are learned enough to fully understand the issues here.
My very superficial understanding of what is happening has not convinced me that these conversions were really valid in the first place. And when you compare what happened to Ima Shel Malchut, the ancestres of King David -- the sincerity of her conversion, and compare that to what's going on today -- I don't think that Rabbi Druckman and the Chief Rabbinate come out looking too good. BUT as I mentioned, I am not passing judgement on an issue that I am hardly qualified to judge.

Batya said...

Maoz, thanks

yitz, it's not chareidi bashing
It's more standing tall and proud, trying to get malchut on track. Why do we always have to grin and bear it, "other cheek" isn't Jewish. Nobody directly involved asked this Rabbbi Sherman. Religious Zionists, as a life-style, Rabbi Drukman for example, is closer to King David than Rabbi Sherman and his followers.

Leora said...

If you use a high-powered microscope, nothing will be clean enough to eat, and you'll starve or die of malnutrition.
You tell 'em, Batya. I'm tired of hearing about broccoli being treif. Why do children need to get sick (if you don't eat your veggies, that's usually what happens) because adults are bug-bonkers?

arken42 said...

We have always had full time learners in Klal Yisrael. From the tribes of Yissachar and Levi to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and Rabbi Akiva, to the present. While I may not choose to learn in kollel full time for myself, I respect and admire the dedication of my fellow Jews and I praise their model of life as one of the 70 faces of Torah Judaism.

Keep in mind, there are full-time learners who are pro-state too. They grow up learning in yeshiva, stop for a few years to serve in the army, and then go right back to learning.

Denigrating our fellow Jews only detracts from your argument in favor of Rabbi Druckman.

Batya said...

leora, thanks. There's a m'darayTa that one isn't to add to the Torah. But that's another post...

arken, full-time learners have always been rare and only for the elite. Other Jews were expected to work. It was never a "universal ideal." And Chareidi philosophy is much more than the learning. The Torah Jews who have supported a Jewish state have been attacked/opposed by the Chariedim from day one. This "cancelation of giur" is just another battle in the war.
And when attacked, we have to defend ourselves.

Uri DeYoung said...

Batya, Leora and everyone else, Shalom! I worked for more than two years in the kashrut department of Alei Katif so please take what I write seriously. The bugs found in broccoli are big enough to be seen with the naked eye. The problem with broccoli and cauliflower is that the bugs get stuck inside the flowering parts of them. During particularly infested seasons it is impossible to grow them bug-free and it is virtually impossible to remove all of the bugs so the rabbis say that it is better not to eat them even after thorough checking. During such a season, if you must eat broccoli, eat only the stalks after thorough cleaning and checking. There are other iron-rich vegetables that do not pose as great a kashrut problem.
I can't post on the INN blog so I'd like someone to answer Louise from Newton. She should know that a convert who transgresses after converting is just as much a Jew as any other Jew, which is why a beit din has a great deal of responsibility in deciding who is a sincere convert. However, in the case recently publicized it seems that the convert never had any intent of keeping some of the most basic commandments. It is for this lack of intent, not observance, that her conversion is not considered valid. Why this one case should invalidate all others is unclear to me. Yitz, I agree with you, many people who do not have basic knowledge of the conversion process have made inaccurate comments on the subject and have done much more harm than good.
Hadassa DeYoung, K'far Darom/Elon Moreh

yitz said...

Thank you, Hadassa, and please give my regards to R. Eliezer Barat next time you speak to him!

I recently came across a thoughtful account of the conversion controversy in Ha'aretz of all places, which appears to be neither pro-hareidi nor pro-DL. Among other things, it says:
The current Conversion Administration, which was hastily created by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon with the goal of bypassing ultra-Orthodox bureaucracy, suffered from its inception from internal power struggles, external pressures and efforts to delegitimize its decisions. In retrospect, it was clear also to the sworn supporters of Druckman (who is an educator, but not an authorized dayan - a halakhic conundrum that was resolved only in part with the approval of the chief rabbis and which was never accepted by the ultra-Orthodox establishment), that the idea of an administration that is separate from the rabbinical establishment is totally flawed. Its existence was a permanent subject of dispute, and the idea that conversions would be overturned and that over 1,000 converts would turn into Jews with questionable status constantly hovered above it.
You can read the entire piece here:
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/991055.html

Clearly, the issues are far from simple or cut-and-dry!

Batya said...

Hadassa, I was referring to all vegetables; even water under a microscope has "creatures."

I appreciate your professional input re: broccoli and cauliflower
I don't like lettuce in the summer and always soaked and checked even the "bug free."

ps I'll post this to the a7 comments

Batya said...

yitz, you must have replied when I was writing.
If the entire situation and legitimacy is so bad, then it should have had been fought much earlier--at the very beginning, before it would wreck such serious havock with so many innocent lives.
There is the halachik legitimacy of "chazaka." These converts have married, had sons who were circumcized by reputable Torah mohellim etc.
It's not just an issue of Rav Drukman, or the converts. This touches so many people.

Uri DeYoung said...

Batya, Shalom! I know what you were saying. That's why I specifically commented on broccoli, and cauliflower a closely related vegetable bug-wise. Sometimes we get so annoyed at ridiculous stringencies that we lose sight of what the law is. That's why adding a mitzva is just as serious as taking one away. They both lead to transgressions, sometimes serious ones.
Yitz, do you reveal your full name on the net or should I just say Yitz? My husband works with Eliezer.
Hadassa

talmid of Rav Kook zt"l said...

This article is a sad example of some one having a good sincere heart but being totally ignorant of the halachic issues involved. You should ask your rabbi to explain to you what the issues are before making public pronouncements.. What you write indicates that you don't have a clue. However if you decide G-d's will solely on what feels good rather than halachic analysis than there is nothing more to talk about. It is important to understand that there are in fact good sincere men on both sides of the issue. The crisis is the result of the two sides having a different hierarchy of values - not that one side is good and the other is bad.

yitz said...

Batya, the section from the Ha'aretz piece I quoted seems to indicate that there WAS opposition from the outset. Perhaps it just came to a head now, because someone was in a position to do something about it. And let's remember that bulldozer Sharon, mastermind of the wonderful "disengagement," was the one who set up this "conversion authority."

As to your claim about "wrecking so many people's lives," here I must quote Jonathan Rosenblum:
Undoubtedly, declaring a conversion invalid after the passage of years, as in the Ashdod case, is always a tragedy. But the blame does not belong to the bearer of the message. Orthodox rabbis have long criticized heterodox rabbis for not informing “converts” that their conversions will not be recognized by a large segment of the Jewish world, and thereby paving the way for future tragedies. And the same can be said of an Orthodox rabbi who follows a single opinion against the overwhelming weight of historical and contemporary halachic decisors.
You can find his whole piece here:
http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2008/06/05/on-halacha-no-compromises/

yitz said...

Hadassa, You can tell him that Yitz, formerly of Chagai's office, sends regards. He should remember that!

Batya said...

yitz, First Arik Sharon did some great things, like being the visionary to establish my neighborhood.

Let's just go over some basic points. There were/are no mass conversions. Each convert was/is judged for conversion separately. Therefore there can't be a mass cancellation of said conversions. That "overkill" cancels the legitimacy of the "psak."

If there were rabbis who considered the government conversion beit din problematic they should have done something big and dramatic hunger strike maybe at the very, very beginning. They didn't.

yitz said...

Batya, We could argue all night, all week, all year, etc. & we won't solve anything! Let me remind you what "talmid of Rav Kook zt"l" said...
This article is a sad example of some one having a good sincere heart but being totally ignorant of the halachic issues involved... The crisis is the result of the two sides having a different hierarchy of values - not that one side is good and the other is bad.

Let me fill you in on what he calls "heirarchy of values"
One Side = the Medina comes first, we need to "adjust" the Halacha to take into account what's best for the State.
The other side = Halacha comes first, we must try to have those in power subjugate themselves, as much as possible, to the Halacha.

I mentioned the Disengagement in connection with Sharon, because you and I both know that when you leave "matters of State" to those who have no faith, which includes adherence to Halacha, even those who build Shiloh will destroy Kfar Darom!

yitz said...

CORRECTION: that should be "built Shiloh" rather than 'build.'

Batya said...

yitz, I'm glad we have this forum to get our views out, but I don't think this argument is doing anyone any good.

G-d willing, some Torah-loyal rabbis will find the right solution for sincere converts.

Uri DeYoung said...

Shalom all! Yitz, you brought up an excellent point. Many people didn't really believe that Sharon would destroy what he had built. So many people said "This will be the first time etc.", when in fact not even Yamit was the first time that Jews expelled Jews from their homes in Israel.
In the end, Sharon just turned the switch on his bulldozer from "build" to "destroy", like he did in Yamit. He didn't believe in what he was doing, but it seemed a better idea than sitting in jail with his son.
Olmert is much more dangerous. He has no sentimental attachment to Yesha.
Hadassa