web analytics
January 27, 2015 / 7 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Conversion To Judaism: The Need For A Uniform Standard


Three weeks ago, Rabbi Marc Angel, the retiring spiritual leader of Manhattan’s Congregation Shearith Israel, argued in these pages (“Conversion to Judaism: A Discussion of Standards,” op-ed, June 22) that: (1) there is a multiplicity of standards for conversion within halacha; and (2) the determination of what standards to apply is best left to the discretion of every individual rabbi.

Both claims are dubious.

The most widely revered contemporary poskim – Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and, yblch”a, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv – have all written explicitly that a full acceptance of the yoke of mitzvot is the fundamental requirement of geirut (conversion). Without the acceptance of mitzvot, the various technical requirements of conversion – milah (circumcision) for men; tevilah (immersion in a mikvah) for men and women in front of a qualified bet din – are meaningless.

A convert need not know every mitzvah, but he or she must accept the entirety of the halachic system as binding upon him or her. As the Gemara in Bechorot (30b) makes clear, the rejection of even one mitzvah at the time of conversion renders the would-be convert unfit.

The view of the poskim cited above is not, as Rabbi Angel suggests, a modern-day haredi invention, but one held by the greatest halachic authorities across the Orthodox spectrum. Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Palestine, and Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, the towering figure of Modern Orthodoxy and longtime head of the American Mizrachi movement, viewed the requirement of kabalat ol mitzvot as axiomatic. (See Rabbi Soloveitchik’s Kol Dodi Dofeik fn. 22.)

Rabbi Soloveitchik was not expressing his own opinion but offering his understanding of the Rambam, who explicitly likens conversion to the process by which the Jewish people accepted the yoke of mitzvot and entered under the wings of the Shechina at Sinai.

Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Halevi Herzog, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, was also of the opinion that acceptance of the yoke of mitzvot is required. When the overwhelming majority of Jews were shomrei mitzvot and Jews were a downtrodden people, it could be safely assumed that anyone who came forward to convert did so with the intention of being shomer mitzvot, he writes. Today, however, when neither of those factors pertains, no such assumption can be made and we must be much stricter about the acceptance of converts.

Rabbi Angel apparently rejects the halachic conclusions of all the great talmidei chachamim mentioned above. While we should do our utmost “to inspire converts to be faithful to the Jewish people, Torah and mitzvot,” he writes, “we do not live in a perfect world, and we often have to deal with real people in less than ideal situations.” Sometimes, that is, we have to accept those who have no intention of becoming shomer Torah u’mitzvot.

But nowhere in halacha will one find any suggestion that conversion standards can be lowered as a cure to prevent either individual tragedies, such as intermarriage, or a national tragedy like the hundreds of thousands of non-Jews living in Israel who have no interest in becoming fully mitzvah-observant.

Rabbi Angel is an ardent proponent of rabbinic autonomy: Let every congregational rav do what is straight in his eyes. But that system has proven a disaster. Nearly twenty years ago, even before Rabbi Angel’s term as president of the Rabbinical Council of America, the RCA undertook to establish a series of regional batei din to deal with conversion – an effort that is only now beginning to be seriously implemented.

Congregational rabbis who perform conversions are vulnerable to unbearable pressure from powerful congregants who want their child’s non-Jewish boyfriend or girlfriend converted, no questions asked. Savvy communal rabbis – Rabbi Emanuel Feldman when he was a rav in Atlanta comes to mind – avoid the problem by announcing a blanket rule against performing conversions.

A second problem is the danger of conversion mills – rabbis whose primary livelihood comes from performing hundreds of conversions a year. Such conversion mills have also been operated by those possessing s’micha from Orthodox institutions. The RCA does not allow its members to offer their private kashrut supervision. There is no reason to follow a different rule with respect to conversion.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Conversion To Judaism: The Need For A Uniform Standard”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
New York City in  the much-ballyhooed 'Snowstorm Juno'.
NYC All Prepped Up But ‘No Snow Go, Mayor DeBlasio’
Latest Indepth Stories
Is "the word is the thing"? Abbas sits behind "Palestine" sign at the United Nations.

Desperate people take what they can, seizing opportunity to advance their main goal; the Arabs don’t

obama-connecticut-school-shooting-275x206

There was a glaring void in the President’s State of the Union speech: Israel.

Baby

Let’s focus not on becoming an ATM for that little bundle of joy, but on what you can save in taxes.

.Voting in the Likud Primaries

Since the passing of the Governance bill legislation on March 11, 2014, new alignments have become to appear in Israeli politics.

Israel has some wild places left; places to reflect and think, to get lost, to try to find ourselves

The British government assured Anglo-Jewry that it is attacking the rising levels of anti-Semitism.

Obama’s Syrian policy failures created the current situation in the Golan Heights.

Our journey begins by attempting to see things differently, only then can we be open to change.

Despite Western ‘Conventional Wisdom&PC,’ the Arab/Israeli conflict was never about the Palestinians

Confrontation & accountability, proven techniques, might also help dealing with religious terrorists

In fact, wherever you see soldiers in Paris today, you pretty much know you’re near Jewish site

Inspired by the Perek Shira pasuk for “small non-kosher animals” we named the bunny “Rebbetzin Tova”

The abuse following publication proved a cautionary tale: no one followed in Peters’s footsteps

Plainly, there is no guiding hand dictating choices across the board.

How many sites that tell you to check your politics at the door have 10,000 likes?

More Articles from Jonathan Rosenblum

Three weeks ago, Rabbi Marc Angel, the retiring spiritual leader of Manhattan’s Congregation Shearith Israel, argued in these pages (“Conversion to Judaism: A Discussion of Standards,” op-ed, June 22) that: (1) there is a multiplicity of standards for conversion within halacha; and (2) the determination of what standards to apply is best left to the discretion of every individual rabbi.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/conversion-to-judaism-the-need-for-a-uniform-standard/2007/07/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: