Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
The laws regarding converts to Judaism are among the most astounding in the Torah. They teach us that any non-Jew who truly and earnestly seeks to join the Jewish people may do so.
Therefore, if a German or an Arab should seek to join the Jewish people, even if he is the son of a fierce anti-Semite, we shall accept him and love him like any other Jew. Moreover, we shall love him even more than other Jews, in keeping with the commandment to “love the convert, for you too were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19).
After a person converts to Judaism he is like any other Jew. In fact, one must be more sensitive to his feelings than to those of other Jews. This is because of the extreme difficulties a convert faces. After all, it is not easy to leave one’s people and one’s home in order to join a nation with an ancient culture and a rich tradition that is not so easily absorbed even after many years of study. This extreme transition calls for great inner strength, and even the slightest insult can undermine a convert’s confidence and cause him great despair.
The attitude of Jewish law to conversion appears, at first glance, to be one of double standards. On the one hand, there is enormous respect and love for the convert who has left his people to join us; on the other hand, there is an attempt to dissuade him from converting.
But the truth of the matter is that Judaism’s view of the convert is completely positive. The only reason we seek to dissuade the convert is to see if he sincerely wishes to join the Jewish people, or if this is just a passing desire that will disappear in a few years.
The Shulchan Aruch therefore rules (Yoreh Deah 268:2) that when a non-Jew comes before a rabbi and requests to convert, the rabbi must say to him: “Why do you want to convert? Don’t you realize how much the Jewish people suffers in this world? Are you not aware that anti-Semites persecute us and try to destroy us?”
In our day one can add: “Why, it was only a few decades ago that the terrible Holocaust took place, and before that there were countless pogroms. Even today there is much anti-Semitism in the world, and many Muslims wish to do away with us. And all of this is because we are Jewish. So why do you want to join our suffering nation? If you desire to attain a higher level of righteousness and morality, you should be aware that a non-Jew too can be righteous and can even reach a level of divine inspiration.”
If at this point the non-Jew changes his mind about converting there is no need to continue with the conversion process.
If, however, he says, “Despite this I desire to join you; my only concern is that I may not be worthy,” he is immediately accepted, and the second stage of the conversion process begins. He is taught the fundamentals of Jewish faith, the prohibition against idolatry, and a number of other laws. Then he is told, “You should know that so long as you are not Jewish it is permissible for you to labor on the Sabbath and to eat pork or other non-kosher animals. When you convert, however, all of these things become forbidden, and if you violate the Torah you will be punished.”
If he agrees and accepts this upon himself, he is converted.
One important question to be asked is just how many laws the convert must be taught before he is asked if he is ready to accept upon himself the commandments of the Torah. Another question is whether he should be told in detail the Torah punishments applying to one who violates the commandments.
It is clear to all that there is no need to teach him the entire Torah. It is sufficient to teach him some of its foundations, and if he accepts them it is already possible to convert him. This is what is written in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 268:2): “He is taught some of the minor commandments and some of the major commandments, and he is taught some of the punishments for violating the commandments” but “we do not overburden him and we are not overly strict with him.”
About the Author: Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, a leader of Israel’s religious-Zionist community, is dean of Yeshiva Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law. His books “The Laws of Prayer,” “The Laws of Passover” and “Nation, Land, Army” are being translated into English. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Welcome the book of Leviticus!
If the nationalist Knesset members don’t provide the answer, the Arab MKs will do so in their place.
International Agunah Day falls annually on Ta’anis Esther, this year on March 13.
Even a foxhole Yid has to admit that antisemitism is on the upswing.
As shocking and insulting and horrifying as it is, Nazi war criminals are still living freely among us.
One can almost imagine a shocked Mr. Kerry thinking to himself, “How could he?” Yet not only did Mr. Putin do what he did, China, one of the three major international players along with the U.S. and Russia, agreed with him, not with Mr. Kerry.
Ramaz is a venerable Modern Orthodox educational institution whose mission statement contains the explicit commitment to “Ahavat Yisrael, and love and support for the State of Israel.”
In the course of the ages there wasn’t a Jewish community more convinced of its capacity for survival than the Jewish community of Hungary in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Liberals got an Affirmative Action president who doesn’t have the wisdom or the authority to change the battle plan.
The world excuses Islamic murder, but focuses on flaws, often imaginary, on the part of Israel.
Abbas also sent wreath to honor suicide bomber who killed 8.
It has been a very challenging year that has taken a toll on the Cohen family.
Islam’s approach to God extends to all interpersonal relationships, which are based on honor.
In recent times we have witnessed increasing support for Israel on the part of evangelical Christians. They view the establishment of the State of Israel as the miraculous fulfillment of the vision of the biblical prophets.
The recent appalling murders in Itamar shocked everyone – not just settlers but every Jew without exception, because it wasn’t the Fogel family alone whom the enemy wished to murder, but rather each and every one of us.
We are told that “a soldier must have a commander, and it isn’t a rabbi.” The defense minister of Israel accuses us – this writer and other Hesder rabbis – of “destabilizing the foundations of Israeli democracy, inciting toward insubordination, damaging the spirit of the Israel Defense Forces,” adding, “there is no room for such things in a civilized state.”
Once again, Israeli leftists, with assistance from the media, are composing songs, lighting candles and organizing dances around a new golden calf. This time it is the demand to do “everything possible” to bring home the captured soldier Gilad Shalit.
In reading Parshat Zachor (Deut. 25:17-19) we fulfill the commandment to remember what the nation of Amalek did to us. The sages instituted its reading just before Purim in order to link this mitzvah to the feast day on which we celebrate the blotting out of Haman, who was of Amalekite genealogy.
Rabbi Avraham Isaac HaCohen Kook (1865-1935) was an extraordinary Torah giant. His genius was astounding – there was no field of Torah study he had not mastered. His recall was astonishing – great scholars related that no matter what Torah subject they discussed with him it would appear as if he had just recently learned the issue in depth.
With the arrival of the new year, we must stop to reflect upon our deeds in order to pave the way for self-improvement. The current crisis here in Israel indicates that there is a serious problem. By drawing the necessary conclusions now, we can emerge from these difficulties into the light of solace and salvation.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/love-the-convert/2008/05/28/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online:
No related posts.