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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Beit Din’

Masorti Rabbis Perform First Conversions in Lisbon

Monday, April 29th, 2013

For the first time in the history of the Masorti movement, its rabbis performed conversions to Judaism in Portugal.

The two conversions were performed in the Portuguese capital at a Beit Din rabbinical court of three judges, who recognized Juliana Fernandes da Silva and her life partner Edgard Pimentel as Jews.

Though the Masorti movement — the smallest of the three major streams of Judaism — has performed conversions of several Portuguese Jews, this was the first time that the rabbinical court convened in Portugal, according to Rabbi Chaim Weiner of London, who oversaw the proceedings of the court.

Usually European Masorti converts travel to London, he added, but this time it was decided to hold the court in Lisbon because several rabbis were already in Portugal on a month-long study trip of the country’s Jewish heritage.

Da Silva, a 26-year-old Brazilian mathematician who grew up in a Catholic home, took a ritual dip in the mikveh following the court’s decision.

Immersion in the mikveh is required as part of the conversion process, and not afterwards, according to Jewish law.

Da Silva and Pimentel, a Brazilian born to an atheist father and a Catholic, non-observant mother, were welcomed at a reception the following day into Lisbon’s small Masorti community of a few dozen people.

Q & A: Bal Tash’chit During The Nine Days (Conclusion)

Wednesday, August 18th, 2004
QUESTION: May leftover meat from the Sabbath during the Nine Days be used during the week so as not to violate “bal tash’chit” – the prohibition against wastefulness?
Rabbi Yaakov Spivak, Rosh Kollel
Kollel Ayshel Avraham
Monsey, NY
ANSWER: The Rabbinical prohibition of eating meat during the Nine Days (from Rosh Chodesh Av until Tisha B’Av) as part of a general aveilut custom, the mourning for the loss of the Holy Temple, was discussed (Rambam, Hilchot Ta’aniyot 5:1). The goal is to inspire repentance.The Biblical prohibition of bal tash’chit is based on Deuteronomy 20:19, which specifically mentions fruit trees. Our Rabbis explain that this concept extends to any deliberate, unnecessary loss (Bava Kamma 91b).

This week we discuss the avoidance of bal tash’chit regarding meat during the Nine Days.

* * *

The Gaon R. Shimon Greenfeld, zt”l, was asked this very question (Responsa Maharshag Vol. 4, Orach Chayyim, Responsum 20).

His questioner, a noted scholar, cited the Bnei Yissaskhar (by the Admor R. Zvi Elimelech Shapira, the Dinover Rebbe, zt”l) who quoted the sefer Ikrei Dinim in the name of Kol Eliyahu, where we find a view that if meat is left over from the Sabbath meal during the Nine Days, it would be proper to eat it even during these days. He cites as proof the Talmud (Chullin 17a), where the Gemara discusses “evarei besar nechira – limbs of meat from an animal killed by stabbing,” i.e., not ritually slaughtered. Such meat was permitted to the Children of Israel prior to their entry to Eretz Yisrael, as the verse states (Deuteronomy 12:21), “Ki yirchak mimcha hamakom asher yivchar Hashem Elokecha lasum shemo sham, ve’zavachta mi’bekarcha u’mitzoncha asher natan Hashem lecha ka’asher tziviticha, ve’achalta bi’she’arecha bechol avat nafshecha – If the place where Hashem, your G-d, chooses to put His name will be far from you, you may slaughter from your cattle and your sheep that Hashem has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat within your cities according to your heart’s desire.”

From this verse we see that after they finally entered the Land of Israel, besar nechira is no longer permitted even if they subsequently travel to other lands outside Israel, and meat may only be consumed after ritual slaughtering.

The Gemara then discusses whether the limbs of animals that were stabbed prior to entry into Israel were permissible. The Gemara concludes “Teiku,” (Tishbi yeva’er kushiyot u’ve’ayot – When the prophet Elijah (who lived in Tishbi, a town in the territory of Naphtali) heralds the arrival of Mashiach, he will personally resolve this particular question).

The Rosh (Chullin ad loc. siman 23) explains the practical difference resulting from this Gemara. When someone vowed to abstain from eating meat during a certain period of time, but some meat was left over from a time prior to his vow, or there was an enactment of the Beit Din to prohibit a certain substance, we would be more lenient in allowing its use since the Gemara remains unresolved (teiku). It would seem that, similarly, meat left over from the Sabbath during the Nine Days would be allowed. Is this so?

The questioner points out - and R. Greenfeld agrees – that the Gemara cannot be taken as proof for our situation: for instance, would we assume that the prohibition of chametz on Pesach means only chametz that is newly acquired on Pesach, and not chametz possessed before Pesach? Of course not! The Sages extend this prohibition even to wheat of Kardunia (Cordyene), which, Rashi (Pesachim 7a) explains, is hard wheat that does not easily become chametz.

We see that regarding a Rabbinical prohibition it does not matter if the prohibited item is possessed before or after the prohibition takes effect.

If so, how can a scholar, as quoted by the Bnei Yissaskhar, wish to make a comparison and permit meat or wine that has been left over from an earlier period of time once the prohibited time, namely, the Nine Days, has arrived?

This view has to be reconciled not only with that of the scholar who wishes to opt for permissibility but also with that of the Rosh as well, who stated the practical difference between a case where one vowed to abstain from eating a certain food [such as meat] or where the Beit Din enacted a decree to prohibit a substance [such as cheese or cooked vegetables], and the case of besar nechira, i.e., meat from a stabbed animal, because his setting the time [or the Beit Din setting the time] when the prohibition is to take effect is not the same as a Torah-set time; we cannot differentiate between that which remains from before and that which he will now aquire ? both should be prohibited to him.

R. Greenfeld now seeks to explain and reconcile these views according to the Gemara in Chullin, for in regard to the vow the Torah did not prohibit that particular substance at that time, but rather the individual accepted upon himself a prohibition as a seyag (lit., a fence around the Torah law) or, similarly, the Beit Din did likewise, and there is now a doubt as to what the intention of the individual who made the vow or the Beit Din’s intention was. Does the prohibition apply only to that which will be acquired at the set time, or also to that which is in one’s possession already?

Since we find regarding besar nechira that the Torah only prohibited such limbs from the time of the Children of Israel’s entry into the land, [perhaps] the Torah had no intention of prohibiting that which they already possessed, but rather only newly acquired meat from a stabbed animal.

Thus, though normally we would say that in the case of any set time at which a matter becomes prohibited, such as chametz before Passover or food on Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, there is no distinction between the newly acquired food or that already in one’s possession, as all are prohibited. However, since there is a doubt in the Gemara regarding meat from a stabbed animal, we should apply the same rule regarding every enactment and individual vow – the intention may not have been to include that which was in one’s possession from before. Since it is a safek, a doubt regarding the enactment or vow (which is of Rabbinic rather than Biblical origin), we would be lenient.

As to the scholar who wished to be lenient, his leniency only referred to eating meat on the Nine Days, which is not specifically prohibited according to the law. Rather, eating meat is only specifically forbidden from erev Tisha B’Av at chatzot (noon), when it is surely forbidden [even if some meat were left over from the Sabbath - there is no doubt about this]. As to the rest of the Nine Days, the Sages only enacted a ‘fence’ in order to ensure our discomfort and to make us mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple. If this is the case, possibly they only made an enactment regarding that which one will acquire or cook, but as to that which is already in our possession or was previously cooked, its consumption would be permitted.

Regarding wine, R. Greenfeld notes that if this prohibition only applies to that which we will acquire during this period, but not to that which one already has, there are many people who have extensive stocks of wine and, as such, we will cause the entire minhag of aveilut during the Nine Days to be cast aside.

We must thus understand that this aveilut is not a din but a minhag that our Sages imposed in earlier times. For this reason they allowed us to eat meat and drink wine at a seudat mitzva such as a brit, a pidyon ha’ben or a siyyum, the completion of a tractate. If this were based on a din, we would not be allowed to consume wine and meat.

Therefore, if one prepared food for the Sabbath, and due to means beyond his control some of the food was left over for weekday consumption, i.e., due to his being incarcerated on the Sabbath for a minor offense (something that often happened in Europe in R. Greenfeld’s time), since the food was prepared for the Sabbath it is considered food left over from a seudat mitzva, and leftovers from a seudat mitzva should be permitted for consumption during the Nine Days.

R. Greenfeld adds: “We must also state that to waste food is a prohibition of bal tash’chit, and if he prepared food for the Sabbath and, due to some unexpected reason beyond his control, he was unable to eat it and he were to discard this valuable meat, this would be a violation of bal tash’chit. Our Sages never intended the custom of aveilut to override a clear prohibition.

This rule, however, applies only to meat or a cooked dish that will spoil. Wine, which keeps for many days (and may improve with time), does not warrant leniency. Fear of bal tash’chit does not allow consumption of wine during the Nine Days.

One who would rely on this scholar should only do so where there will be a loss due to food spoilage, namely, food prepared for the Sabbath or another seudat mitzva (meals eaten at a celebration of mitzvot such as a brit milah, pidyon ha’ben of a firstborn son or a siyyum of a significant portion of Torah study).

The fact that the threat of spoilage of food causes leniency during the Nine Days is a demonstration of how meticulous our Torah is regarding the money of a Jew, “Chassa haTorah al mamon Yisrael” (Chullin 49b).

However, we caution that in today’s times of ample refrigeration, freezers and food storage options including sealing products to preserve food quality, storable food should be treated as wine. Leniency would not be warranted during the Nine Days, as bal tash’chit is not a viable threat. Rather, to ensure the freshness of the food to be stored, be sure to wrap it well and freeze it as soon as possible for later use.

Q & A: A Mohel’s Dilemma

Friday, June 22nd, 2001

QUESTION: May a mohel perform a bris for a non-Orthodox couple who adopt a Gentile infant whom they wish to raise as Jewish?
No name please
Los Angeles, CA
 
ANSWER: We discussed a similar question some time ago, but your question is well worth a review, especially in light of the coming holiday of Shavuot and the psak of Hagaon Harav J.B. Soloveichik that I recently heard.

The Talmud (Yebamot 47a) discusses the halachic approach to conversion. We have to ask the prospective Ger (proselyte): ‘What have you seen that you want to become converted [to Judaism]? Are you not aware that Jews at the present time are persecuted and oppressed, despised, harassed and overcome by afflictions?’ If he replies, ‘I know and I am truly unworthy’ (to join in their trouble – Rashi ad loc.), we readily accept him and he is given instruction in some of the minor and some of the major commandments … and some of the punishments. Furthermore, he is addressed thus: Until now (as a ben Noach), if you ate cheilev (forbidden fat) you would not have been punishable with karet (death by Heavenly decree), but now that you are converting to Judaism, you will be liable to the punishment of karet for that sin … He is also told of the difference between a Jew and a Gentile in reference to the punishment for non-fulfillment of the Noachide Laws.

Thus we see that there is an effort made to dissuade the prospective Ger, due to the enormous liabilities that he will now assume.

To the Talmudic passage cited above, which is the main source for rules about conversion to Judaism (geirut), we can juxta-pose another Talmudic passage (Ketubbot 11a) which deals with the case in question, that of a minor child who was converted without his informed [mature] consent: R. Huna said, A minor proselyte (ger katan) is immersed (in the ritual bath for conversion) with the consent of the Beit Din. Rashi (ad loc.) explains that this court consists of ‘the three people who are present at the immersion, as is the rule in all immersions for conversion, and they become his ‘father’.’ The Talmud refers to a case where the child had no father and the mother brought him to be converted. That beit din, in addition to converting him, also assumes the position of the consenting party to this conversion. See also Tosafot Rid ad loc., who discusses the case where there is no mother either, and concludes that conversion can nevertheless take place in such a case too. Note also the opinion of the Gaon R. Chayim Ozer Grodzensky (Achiezer siman 47) who quotes a Mordechai (not found in our Shas) cited by the Darchei Moshe on Yoreh De’ah 268. He would question the validity of such a conversion. However, Rabbenu Nissim does allow such a geirut (i.e., he agrees with R. Huna).

The Talmud asks: What does R. Huna let us know? Is it that the conversion represents an advantage for the proselyte (namely, to be received into the Jewish faith), and (that there is a ruling) that one may act for a person even in his absence – since the minor is, legally speaking, not present – if it is for his benefit? The Talmud answers that we have already learned (Erubin 81b; Yebamot 118b) that we can act in behalf of a person even in his absence if it is to his advantage, a zechut, but we cannot act in his behalf at all if it is not to his advantage (namely, if it causes him any harm). By quoting that rule we assume that a heathen prefers a life without restraint (and therefore conversion would be a disadvantage for the proselyte). Indeed, it has been established for us (Gittin 13a) that a [Canaanite] slave prefers a dissolute life. R. Huna teaches us that this assumption applies only to an adult who has experienced the taste of that which is forbidden, but as regards a minor who has not tasted sin, conversion is considered a benefit for him.

Nevertheless, the Talmud adds in the name of R. Joseph: When the minor proselytes come of age they can protest (and declare that they do not want to remain within the Jewish faith – this applies even if the father was present at the conversion, as in the case when a non-Jew converts along with his minor children). Also, the renunciation is accepted (without penalty from the Beit Din) only if declared within a strictly limited time period as soon as majority is attained. (For further elaboration, see the full text of the passage referred to in Ketubbot 11a, Rambam – Hilchot Melachim 10:3 and the Kesef Mishnes ad loc., as well as the Aruch HaShulchan, Hilchot Gerim.)

These Talmudic references make it clear that conversion, immersion (tevila in a mikveh) and, in the case of a male, milah (circumcision) must be accompanied by an acceptance of mitzvot, namely, the fulfillment of the commandments.

The Gaon Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, Yoreh De’ah chelek I) discusses at length the matter of adopting a non-Jewish child and converting him/her to Judaism. Talking of the adoption of a baby boy he even goes into the details of the circumcision ceremony as described in the Talmud (Shabbos 137b) and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 268). He also mentions the permissibility of formally naming the child as ‘the son of’ the adopting father (see Shemot Rabbah 46:6).

But he also cautions that the child has to be informed before reaching maturity of his/her status of convert so that the conversion may achieve permanence. Rabbi Feinstein assumes that the child has had a [halachic] Jewish upbringing and advises to undertake this step so that the adopted child will not renounce the life he has been living – and his conversion – because he was not aware of his status.

In the case you refer to there is no practice of Torah and mitzvot in the adoptive home, and the only ‘Jewish’ identity this child will have is one that is essentially superficial – even though the conversion of the infant might very possibly have been performed under 100% halachic auspices. However, if all the accompanying requisites, i.e., the practice of mitzvot, have not been met, the end result is that we must question the validity of this geirut.

Rabbi Herschel Schachter, rosh kollel of Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchanan (R.I.E.T.S.-Y.U.) discussed this very situation at the recent convention of the Histadrus Horabonim (R.C.A.). He quoted the late Gaon Harav Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l, who admonished all rabbis and mohalim not to involve themselves in such a bris milah either in the case of a Gentile child being adopted and converted by a non-practicing Jewish couple or a child born of a mixed marriage – with a Gentile mother, as this is surely not a zechut – an advantage – for the child; who will henceforth be liable for all Torah commands even though it is unlikely that he will perform any (and obviously he will be unaware of his possibility of renunciation, albeit in that very limited time frame, when he reaches maturity as well).

Unfortunately, this situation illustrates another one of our contemporary problems, if not a plague, from which we suffer when there are any Jews who lack a full Jewish education and thus remain ignorant of our rich heritage and Torah laws. Surely, if we could transmit, unimpeded, the laws of our Torah and Talmud we would not be faced with such complex problems. Therefore we must, each and every one of us, resolve to strengthen Torah education in every way possible, until we reach the level where ignorance of our eternal heritage is eradicated.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/torah/q-a-a-mohels-dilemma/2001/06/22/

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