JBlog Carnival Updates, HH, KCC & JPIX

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The גר, Gair, Convert or Foreigner/Stranger?

This week's Parshat Shavua, Torah Portion of the Week, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16-20) is chock full of G-d given Mitzvot, Commandments.

It's interesting that while many of them concern relations between human beings, the phrase "אֲנִי, יְהוָה," "I am the LORD," repeats very frequently. IMHO, this is to illustrate that we aren't to look for logical, sociological, biological, health or botanical reasons for these Mitzvot. It's forbidden to search for rationales and excuses to ignore them.

In Israel and in the Jewish world, unfortunately, there are periodic reports of Torah, Orthodox converts discovering that other Jews will not recognize or even have "cancelled" their conversions.

Sometimes Jews who converted with totally sincere intentions and under the supervision of fully Torah observant rabbis, relax their observance post-conversion, just like born Jews whose observance fluctuates throughout life. In this week's Parsha, Torah Portion, there's a sentence which could be considered defense the convert:



לג וְכִי-יָגוּר אִתְּךָ גֵּר, בְּאַרְצְכֶם--לֹא תוֹנוּ, אֹתוֹ.
33 And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not do him wrong.

I like to think of it that way, but I'm troubled by the line which follows:


לד כְּאֶזְרָח מִכֶּם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם הַגֵּר הַגָּר אִתְּכֶם, וְאָהַבְתָּ לוֹ כָּמוֹךָ--כִּי-גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם: אֲנִי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם.
34 The stranger that sojourneth with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Ironically, when I mentally planned writing about this, I had no doubt that I would use verse 33 to 100% defend the convert. But the qualification in verse 34 makes me wonder. We, the Jewish People, didn't live in Egypt to become Egyptians, nor did the Egyptians treat us well after the initial enthusiastic welcome.

Maybe we should delve more deeply in this, as in the "contract" between Pharaoh and Joseph, like the "contract" between a convert and the Beit Din, Rabbinic Court which approves/certifies the conversion. The Egyptians broke the contract when they made us slaves.

That aspect makes sense, when you read the next two verses:

לה לֹא-תַעֲשׂוּ עָוֶל, בַּמִּשְׁפָּט, בַּמִּדָּה, בַּמִּשְׁקָל וּבַמְּשׂוּרָה.
35 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.
לו מֹאזְנֵי צֶדֶק אַבְנֵי-צֶדֶק, אֵיפַת צֶדֶק וְהִין צֶדֶק--יִהְיֶה לָכֶם: אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, אֲשֶׁר-הוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
36 Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

Yes, that must be it. The word of the Beit Din, to consider a person Jewish is a contract, and once it's signed, it's forbidden to change the conditions.

24 comments:

rickismom said...

I've noticed that many times when it says "Iam HaShem", it is in relation to situations where the offender might think that he can "get away with it" (ie., situations that are hard to prove wrongdoing, or that are easy to cover up, or where no one might care. So G-d is sayong "I am HaSHem...WATCH OUT BECAUSE I DO YYEESS SEE!"

Keli Ata said...

I agree entirely with Rickismom. It could be Hashem's way of saying, "Because I say so" when people think one commandment or another is unimportant and thus play fast and loose with it.

Eating an apple from a tree G-d says not to eat from? Seems minor, it's just an apple after all. What harm could their be in eating it?

We're to obey because Hashem commands it.

I don't think anyone is 100-percent perfect in their observances whether they were born Jewish or are a Jew by choice. In the case of converts once they convert and get the certificate of ger well...they are the same as anyone born Jewish and just as accountable to Hashem.

Sometimes converts aren't deliberately violating Hashem's commandments; it's out of ignorance or discouragement, not willful disregard.

Tshuva applies to the convert as well. Somehow I think the Beit Dins that have revoked conversions did so for very serious reasons, or at least I hope they did.

I'll click on the link and read it.

Very interesting post and Shavua tov:)

Keli Ata said...

typo--*there not their

muse said...

rm, keli, yes, thanks. rm, so important to remember that G-d does see everything.

In shul when reading along with the "leining," I was also thinking of the "because I say so."

Shy Guy said...

Is there a particular conversion case which brought up this article?

Or is this about last year's retroactive annulment of conversions?

muse said...

Shy, the parsha, of course.

I cheat by reading it translated in English, and I remembered that I wanted to write about that pasook. So I did.

Shy Guy said...

I was just wondering if you were referring to the Fackenheim case or similar.

Shy Guy said...

BTW, not criticizing, but the norm is to trasliterate the Hebrew word for "convert" as "ger". I have never seen use of "gair" before.

muse said...

Shy, there have been a number of cases recently. I don't want to get into pro/con arguments about specific ones.

As an EFL English teacher, I've become rather sensitive to the difficulties with the letter "g," hard/soft. Therefore I prefer my spelling, since "e" after "g" generally "softens" it.

Schvach said...

Isn't there a psak halacha that forbids referring to a convert as such? I think that would take care of the matter.

muse said...

schvach, yes, it's based on the pasook/verse I quoted in this post.

Aliza "La Jewminicana" Hausman said...

For some reason, converts are held to a different standard than born Jews, despite the fact that the conversion is supposed to level the playing field. I know that if I break the rules, people will wonder if I'm still Jewish.

muse said...

Aliza, technically, it's wrong. Once you're Jewish, you're Jewish.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that must be it. The word of the Beit Din, to consider a person Jewish is a contract, and once it's signed, it's forbidden to change the conditions.

Gair, Convert or Foreigner/Stranger?')" onclick="return addthis_sendto()" onmouseout=addthis_close() href="http://www.addthis.com/bookmark.php"

My personal note: furthermore, to make the child of a Ger 'convert' after living a Jewish life for 38 years, and then making that same child of the Ger wait for a 'conversion to remove any doubt', or more acurately, ignore that individual, for five years, after having issued the 'decree' of revoking the conversion of the individuals' mother which occured 42 years earlier, before the individuals birth, is tantamount to a grave violation of at least two Torah prohibitions of Acharei Mot-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16-20):
לג וְכִי-יָגוּר אִתְּךָ גֵּ ר, בְּאַרְצְכֶם--לֹא תוֹנוּ, אֹתוֹ. 33 And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not do him wrong.

and


לד כְּאֶזְרָח מִכֶּם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם הַגֵּר הַגָּר אִתְּכֶם, וְאָהַבְתָּ לוֹ כָּמוֹךָ--כִּי-גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם: אֲנִי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם. 34 The stranger that sojourneth with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Furthermore, by G-ds own words, you are not allowed to harass the Ger, which follows you are not allowed to harass the Ger's children, in perpetuity. Furthermore, you are to treat the Ger like the 'homeborne among you'. And special sensitivity is to be afforded the Ger for all time, until the end of time.

And finally, to have the lack of sensitivity, and lack of integrity, to make a single female Jewess undergo such harassment, prevent her from marrying, and putting her off and ignoring her until she is into the end of her childbearing years, can be nothing less then a chillul Hashem, and equal to the the Nazis masterminding the extinction of the Jewish People, either by murdering them, or by creating such havok and psychological damage in the survivors psyche, and the psyche of their children, that the children of the survivors have no offspring, thus ending forevermore the Jewish geneology of that family line.

Reaching out to the child of a Ger to become a Baali Teshuvah is one thing, forcing one to undergo a 'conversion' to remove the 'doubt' is yet another. And ignoring that individual for (5) five years after issuing a 'decree' is without a doubt, a chillul Hashem.

There is nothing in any of this event that illustrates adherence to the Torah admonition to 'Love the Ger' לד כְּאֶזְרָח מִכֶּם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם הַגֵּר הַגָּר אִתְּכֶם, וְאָהַבְתָּ לוֹ כָּמוֹךָ--כִּי-גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם: אֲנִי, יְהוָה א ֱלֹהֵיכֶ the . 34 The stranger that sojourneth with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Nor, to 'Not harass'

Furthermore, especially when in your eyes, it was a "'conversion' to remove doubt" - it should have been done, quickly, discreetly, with love and kindness, with sensitivity to age and marital status, etc etc etc.

I should not have had to beg you to meet with me, to write letters of request, I should not have been left to languish in pain and suffering being ignored for five years, and in fact, it was not until I met D. that you gave me even the time of day. Had I not met D., I am sure you would have continued to ignore me until the end of time. I was never in pursuit of you, nor a 'conversion', etc - it came out of My parents wanting to join the shul, and your judgement against my mother, having done no 'halachic sluething' as Rabbi B. does when faced with these types of issues.

Unlike Rabbi B., who looks for legal halachic 'loopholes' / circumstances and undergos halachic sleuthing to defend the individual and to help the individual move forward in his/her life as quickly as possible, you issued a flippant decree and then never looked back at the ramifications of your lack of 'taking responsibility' for your actions.

There is no excuse for what you did to me. You prevented me from marrying for five years and subsequently, of having children of my own. While I had my 'back up against the wall' of your decree - you failed to 'do the right thing' on my behalf, no matter which way you slice it, you failed to take responsibility, and you effectively, harassed me, my mother, my siblings, etc.

I have all of the paper trail of letters, emails, etc, between myself, B., and letters and emails to you, over a five year period. It is indefensible.
Furthermore, I will sit shivah one day, G-d willing at 120, in the full sense of the definition, for my mother, may she live and be well until 120!


Yes, according to G-d and the Torah, once converted, one is a full Jew and special sensitivity is to be used when relating to that Jew. However, rabbis who perform conversions and those who have the chutzpah to scrutinize another rabbis previous conversion being mere mortals and men, and certainly not tzdakkim, act with sheer chutzpah, arrogance, and audacity when doing so. Futhermore, the above story is true, I am the childless victim of such a rabbi, being too scared and naive to defend and protect myself, and not wanting to hurt my elderly parents, who have been nothing less then open about my mother's conversion, and we have always felt especially proud of my mother for doing so atthe tender age of 19 now over 50 years ago. Everything was done in secrecy from them so as not to hurt my Mother or Father in any way. I was a prisoner of the rabbi and the respect and reverence and kibud av v'eim I have for my parents. This midot tovot was taken advantage of by the rabbi in question. If any reader would like to daven on my behalf for me to have children, especially on Lag b'Omer, when there is a special schuss for mercy, my Hebrew name is:

Leah Chanah bat Rus

kol tuv and may only brochas abound for all of the barren and righteous women of Israel. May Hashem bless us all with children who are 100% healthy of mind, body and spirit, and may we all merit to raise our children to chupah, Torah, and midos tovos!

Amen and Amen!

muse said...

Amen
Thanks for writing. Good luck and many blessings.

Shiloh said...

In a city of which I used to live, there was a person who for about 7 years attempted to convert. The rabbi's of 3 Orthodox synagogues refused to do so. It appeared that the person did not have a Jewish soul. Frankly, dipping in a pool does not change that. They finally told her, let the Mashiakh decide if she is Jewish. It's a touchy subject to say the least. I agree with the rabbi's in this case. Also, after the Mashiakh, all the Jewish souls are present. Logically, since we are about to see GogUMagog, the Mashiakh physicaly would be here. Just not revealed as of yet. Unless he will drop out of the sky like a Monty Python movie.

muse said...

I think the Moshiach has been around a lot more than you'd think. It's just that we don't recognize him and do things to make him hide. Like the 6 Days War.

Shy Guy said...

"Yes, that must be it. The word of the Beit Din, to consider a person Jewish is a contract, and once it's signed, it's forbidden to change the conditions."==================================

The contract is binding on both sides. If the Ger misled the Bet Din in his/her true intentions and motivations, the contract can easily be null and void. This is true for many contracts when the "good faith" clause is not upheld by one of the parties.

A contract can also be non-binding when it violates the laws of the jurisdiction it is under.

I'm not here to take sides in this or that case. I am, however, pointing out that such contracts are two-way streets.

muse said...

If at the time of the conversion the gair was totally sincere to being a Torah Jew, that's it. Whatever later things happened don't negate the moment of commitment.

Shy Guy said...

Muse, yes.

The logic being that once you're a Jew, any Aveirah (sin/transgression) committed thereafter is a transgression committed by a Jewish soul, with all consequences in this world and the world to come.

Uri DeYoung said...

Shalom!
Leah Chanah, I agree with you that the rabbi's treatment - mainly lack thereof - of you was inexcusable. I think that we have to make a distinction between scrutinizing conversions and the unnecessarily long, drawn-out, undignified process you experienced. Today it's very common for born-Jews also to have their lineage scrutinized before marriage. Quite often Jews from non-religious families from non-religious communities find themselves in similar positions to those of converts, including being humiliated - which is, of course, not the way of the Torah. Scrutinizing in and of itself is not chutzpah. It is necessary in order to prove the status of the individual. The solution isn't not to scrutinize. The solution is to investigate promptly and discretely.
I know what you're experiencing now. I suffered both primary and secondary infertility. Prayers do help.
Shy Guy and Batya, revoking conversions is in the news again. A friend whose husband converted (years before they married) informed me that if Sheetrit has his way her daughter won't be able to marry a Cohen. She hasn't sent me the link to the article yet. It involves a condition that the convert must have lived for nine months after conversion in the community in which he/she converted, even if this condition wasn't stipulated at the time of conversion. Any basis in halacha for that?
Hadassa

muse said...

Hadassa, these things are m'dorayTa assur, forbidden. Bein adam v'chavero is most serious.

OK translation, Torah transgression sinning against a person.

Shy Guy said...

Like I said, I'm not getting into specific cases. The specifics being brought down here are based on the assessment of people who have taken sides in such cases. I can't possibly comment on that.

muse said...

shy, I tried to stay away from specifics and only discuss the general meaning.