Thursday, June 05, 2008

Shavuot: Festival of Conversion?

Without a doubt, the Festival of Shavuot is intrinsically connected to the conversion process towards Judaism -- through the inclusion of reading the Book of Ruth on Shavuot.

א:טז ותאמר רות אל-תפגעי-בי, לעזבך לשוב מאחריך: כי אל-אשר תלכי אלך, ובאשר תליני אלין--עמך עמי, ואלה-יך אלה-י.

1:16 And Ruth said: 'I implore you not to leave me and to return from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your G-d, my G-d.

With these words, Ruth the Moavite joined the Jewish people.

The reasons for reading from the Book of Ruth during Shavuot are as follows;
1. Part of the book deals with the annual time period קציר השעורים "the harvest of barley", which dovetails nicely with the agricultural aspect of Shavuot.

2. King David, the great-grandson of Ruth was born and died on Shavuot.

3. The most important reason is probably that of conversion and accepting a Jewish lifestyle and responsibilities of the mitzvot. Shavuot's non-agricultural theme celebrates the acceptance of the Torah by the Jewish people, which accentuates the parallel of the Jewish people accepting the Torah, and the process of conversion to Judaism (Ruth accepting the Torah and Judaism.)
One of the crystal clear themes of the book of Ruth, is that of charity and generosity;
Ruth towards her Mother in Law, Naomi
Boaz and the people of Beit Lechem towards the poor.
Boaz to Naomi
Boaz to Ruth
The Book of Ruth not only demonstrates that converts can be accepted into Judaism, but that its a commandment to demonstrate kindness towards converts.
וְכִי-יָגוּר אִתְּךָ גֵּר, בְּאַרְצְכֶם--לֹא תוֹנוּ, אֹתוֹ. כְּאֶזְרָח מִכֶּם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם הַגֵּר הַגָּר אִתְּכֶם, וְאָהַבְתָּ לוֹ כָּמוֹךָ--כִּי-גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם... . (ויקרא י"ט,לג-לד

And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.
The stranger that dwells with you shall be to you as the home-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the L-rd, your G-d.

(Leviticus - Vayikra 19:33)


Yet the Torah explicity states that a Moavite and Amonite may not join the Jewish people.

לֹא-יָבֹא עַמּוֹנִי וּמוֹאָבִי, בִּקְהַל ה' דברים כ"ג, ד

An Amonite and Moavite will not enter the community of G-d. (Devarim, 23, 4)

So how was Ruth's conversion accepted with her Moavite lineage? The Talmud in Yavamot, states:

יבמות עו ע"ב - עמוני ולא עמונית, מואבי ולא מואבית

[Who cannot join the Jewish People?] a male Amonite, [yet] not a female Amonite, a male Moavite, [yet] not a female Maovite. (Talmud Yavamot; 76b)

We learn that a female Moavite, such as Ruth is permissible to convert and join the Jewish people. This is yet another reason to read from the Book of Ruth on Shavuot; it teaches us that the written Torah (the Tanakh) is only complete with the Oral Torah (misha, talmud). (source)

And yet, Israel today is embroiled in controversy over this issue. Following is a letter received by R' Harry Maryles on his blog, "HaEmtza"...
Guest Post

I was forwarded the following letter from a friend. It was written by a righteous convert. It speaks for itself and requires no further commentary from me. It has been edited for brevity and somewhat for style. But I believe it captures the essence of this woman’s message. And though it is still a bit longer than my usual posts it’s message is too important to ignore. - HM

Twenty-one years ago last week I was converted through a halachic Beis Din by 3 Orthodox rabbis. Their credentials and authority to do so would not be questioned. In fact, they are considered to have some of the strictest requirements for conversion.

My desire to be a Jew was preceded and nurtured by years of study. My desire to be a Jew was not based on love for any man or for money, prestige or power. It was – and is – purely out of love for G-d and the truth and wisdom of Torah. Never, ever have I felt that it was hard to be a Jew. Quite the contrary, I cannot fathom how I would live the full, productive enriched life that I lead had I not accepted upon myself to live a life of Torah and mitzvoth which I strive to do every single day.

In the last 21 years, I have been blessed with many and varied good teachers. I have sought them out, begging and bugging them for their time and knowledge to teach me halacha, Tanach, and the many other rich sources of Jewish wisdom. I have invested heavily to do so: A large library consisting of thousands of seforim that are opened and studied; a vast tape and CD library of shiurim by various rabbis and rebbetzins; and several trips to Israel for the sole purpose of immersing myself in learning.

Speaking of children, my 13 year old daughter is and has always been enrolled in Orthodox Jewish schools. So has my 10 year old son who is currently in what would be considered a “Chareidi” track of more intense Torah learning. Both children are good students, B”H. Both children present us with report cards that speak of their middos tovos and strong derech eretz.

During our 15 years of marriage, my husband and I have supported, to the best of our ability, various Torah institutions both in N. America and in Israel, with our time as well as with our money.

In a few weeks, my family and I are moving to the West Bank where we intend to raise our children, enroll them in Chardal-oriented schools, and live out our lives as Torah observant committed Jews.

And now, for absolutely no reason, no crime committed, a group of rabbis who have never met me or my children wish to throw a dark cloud of suspicion and doubt over the legitimacy of our Jewish souls.

Why? How?

The Beis Din who converted me 21 years ago is considered Chareidi. Its Vaad HaKashruth is recognized by all major Kashruth bodies. Its conversions have never been questioned and their converts have married into mainstream Orthodox Jewish society. This Vaad initially appeared on “The List” – the list issued by Israel’s Rabbinate of Who is Recognized to Do Conversions, or some paraphrased equivalent title.

However, for various ugly reasons which have to do with one person’s desire for revenge, the Vaad who converted me 21 years ago was now removed from The List.

A discussion and meeting with Rabbi Shlomo Amar by my rabbi resulted in assurances that “they were looking into it and, in any event, all conversions prior would be retroactively recognized”.

So, according to Rabbi Amar, I’m still a Jew and so are my kids. That is – until the next rabbi comes along and decides something else.

At what point do my children and I no longer have to even think that somebody would unilaterally and arbitrarily remove the cloak of Torah and Jewish identity out of our definition? How many years – 30, 50, 100 – never?

Does this mean that if I ever speak a drop of lashon hara, or some of my hair peeks out from under my tichel, or my elbows become uncovered, or I wear my sandalim without socks, – that I must reckon with someone’s claims that this is sufficient evidence to disclaim my Jewish soul? These are not dramatic questions.

Read the rest of it here...
To top it off, CrossCurrents jumps into the fray, praising the Beit Din that is retroactively revoking all the conversions of R' Chaim Drukman.
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.
Retroactive Revocation of Jewish conversion for hundreds, if not thousands of people is to be looked at with extreme care and caution -- not callous and haste.

The High Court of Conversions would be best to carefully reread the Book of Ruth this year.

Updated Background Information:

Rabbinical Council of America Decries the psak of R' Sherman
Having reviewed the ruling of the Bet Din Elyon in detail, and being fully mindful of the respect due the rulings of duly constituted rabbinical courts in their respective jurisdictions, the RCA finds it necessary to state for the record that in our view the ruling itself, as well as the language and tone thereof, are entirely beyond the pale of acceptable halachic practice, violate numerous Torah laws regarding converts and their families, create a massive desecration of God's name, insult outstanding rabbinic leaders and halachic scholars in Israel, and are a reprehensible cause of widespread conflict and animosity within the Jewish people in Israel and beyond. The RCA is appalled that such a ruling has been issued by that court.

We have been assured by Israel's Chief Rabbi Rav Shlomo Moshe Amar, who is also the President of the Rabbinical Courts System of Israel, that in releasing this ruling the court in question directly countermanded his instructions and policies. He has confirmed that the ruling has no legal standing at this time. We commend Rav Amar for his positive role in this matter since its very inception in the Ashdod regional court.

We add our rabbinic voice to those of others who have called for a thorough review and repudiation of the actions of a select few of the Bet Din Elyon, who in this ruling as in other previous instances, have sought to undermine the Conversion Authority.
Olmert "fires" R' Drukman:
I have to say that I'm stunned (and not much stuns me anymore). PM Olmert's office decided to exploit the absence of Rav Amar to summarily fire Rav Druckman, on the pretense that he was 75 years old. This, to put it mildly, is a very lame excuse. Exceptions to the various age limitations are made all the time. One classic example, the founding conductor of the IDF orchestra was kept on the job for over thirty years after he was supposed to retire. We are a country that specializes in making exceptions.

Without sounding extreme, I can't help but think that Olmert sacrificed Rav Druckman in order to secure the support of Agudat Yisrael and Degel ha-Torah and Shas to support his survival in office. (If Olmert has already given away the Golan in order to avoid problems, what a conversion authority?) His statements against Rav Druckman, and his swipe at the National Religious community that they will soon become Reform, are not only disgusting per se, they are disingenuous. None other than Rav Ovadiah Yosef has ruled, הלכהלמעשה, that if a non-Jew converts and agrees to some sort of traditional lifestyle, the conversion is valid. I have it on the best authority that he has expressed support for Rav Druckman's efforts. So what is this? Political grandstanding on the backs of the converts.
Entire psak translated by The Rebbetzin's Husband.

Oh, this is too good: (From Prof. Ben-Chorin)
One of the main arguments put forward by R. Avraham Sherman against R. Druckman's conversions is that R. Druckman signed on conversions at which he was not present. This was a technical matter since it is not disputed that three dayanim were present at each of those conversions.

As they say: kol haposel bemumo posel. I am holding in my hand a document written by the Commissioner of Complaints against Judges, Tova Strassberg-Cohen, and signed by her on March 31, 2008. The document is a response to a complaint against a panel of dayanim sitting on a case involving a divorce dispute.

The whole panel seems to have been out of control: they heard testimony in the presence of only one side, neglected to keep protocols, and so on. But the main complaints involve the aforementioned R. Sherman (RAS).

First of all, RAS failed to disclose that one of the lawyers appearing before him was at the same time representing his daughter in front of another court. When this was discovered, he was asked by Rav Amar to cease hearing the case. RAS simply ignored Rav Amar's request.

Second, RAS signed the ruling despite not attending a session of the court at which testimony was heard.

You can't make this stuff up.




Posts: JPost, Rally/a7.




Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

18 comments:

shira0607 said...

Perhaps the rabbis who seek to annul conversions should also be reminded of Hillel's response to a convert: Do to your neighbor as yourself(I realize those aren't the exact words). The rest is commentary.

To me, that means a ger, just like a person born Jewish needs to study and learn what needs to be done. And why use the word ger to denote a convert? Wouldn't orphan be more appropriate? After our conversion, we become bat or ben Avraham v'Sarah. We gain new parents and we look to them for guidance from the Torah and our new family.

And for the most part, we joyfully accept the mitzvot. Cleaning for Pesach was a joy this past year after my conversion. As I was cleaning, I reflected on leaving the slavery I had been in previously and the new found joy.

Anonymous said...

Jameel, it's not the "High Court of Conversions." It's the Beit Hadin Harabbani Hagadol disqualifying the Batei Hadin Hameyuchadim Legiyyur, which are about a dozen conversion mostly populated by Zionist rabbanim, and presided over by Rav Drukman in his capacity as Rosh Minhal Hagiyur.

Cosmic X said...

Jameel,

You might want to read what I wrote about the Psak.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

CosmicX and anonymous: I have updated the post with some additional background information, including th press release from the RCA which minced no words in their opinion of the ruling itself, the tone and language. All of which explicitly go against the grain of how to deal with converts.

It was the RCA that stated the net result of the psak was that it: "violate numerous Torah laws regarding converts and their families, create a massive desecration of God's name, insult outstanding rabbinic leaders and halachic scholars in Israel, and are a reprehensible cause of widespread conflict and animosity within the Jewish people in Israel and beyond. The RCA is appalled that such a ruling has been issued by that court."

Rather impressive list -- sort of like "how many melachot can you transgress in one shot on shabbat?"

AMSHINOVER said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AMSHINOVER said...

there is a precedence and it could happen to moshiach himself,
the limud that (you quoted)allowed Rus into our camp can be undone.the torah says moav cant come into our camp the rabunim are me'mie'it the moav womenfolk. if a bais din bigger in number and brain in eretz israel wanted; they could undo the whole limud leaving Dovid out of our camp.
see hegyona halacha vol 1 pg 135

Anonymous said...

Shocking. Simply shocking. I believe there is an online petition doing the rounds, but when so many halachot are being transgressed for political and egotistical reasons, I am not sadly sure that it will be worth the paper it is written on.

Yellow Boy

Amram said...

Jameel, wanted you to know that Jonathan Rosenbloom has been heavily censoring the comments to his blog. Mild, borderline irrelevant stuff gets posted, but stuff that goes just how far he has compromised his journalistic integrity and commitment to the truth never shows up at all.

Unfortunately, I didn't save the text of the comment I tried to post yesterday, otherwise I would post it here at your blog. But I would like at least to most the most important link, probably what scared Rosenblum most of all, namely this:

http://myobiterdicta.blogspot.com/2008/05/kol-ha-posel-or-rabbi-sherman-revelatus.html

And in the same vein, an article I noticed this morning on last nights protest and deals with the real central issue:

http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3552581,00.html

He should be ashamed of himself.

Shabbat Shalom.

muse said...

That's another reason I have my doubts about the validity of "Chareidiism." They transgress the m'd'raiTa mitzvah of working.

YMedad said...

Here's a letter I sent to the JPost, reacting to a Jonathan Rosenbaum article:

Jonathan Rosenbaum asserts that it is "axiomatic that conversion requires a full acceptance of mitzvot". I am sure that that is correct. But is there not a difference between 'accepting' and 'practicing'? Except in an instance of idol worship, where the conversion was undertaken in order that a pagan could subvert Jews, if a Jew, converted or not, does not practice the mitzvot, should his status as a Jew be devolved and vacated? In the past century, many leading Halachic deciders have softened their stance, for example, regarding the participation of Sabbath-breakers in a prayer quorum. Could it be that Rabbi Sherman is leading the Rabbinical world into areas where no good can come about?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

YMedad: Great letter! Did they print it?

Amram: R' Jonathan Rosenbloom did publish my comment on CrossCurrents.

Thanks for the links to MyOrbiterDicta and Ben-Chorin.

Amshi: Baruch Hashem!

YB: It was rather depressing...and getting worse. See the update I put on from Ben-Chorin.

Jack said...

Good to see that with all the real problems in the world we're capable of creating more.

Tor Hershman said...

PEOPLE CHANGED INTO JEWISH FOLK!

Here's the YouTube film for that

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7iQRFP_e90


.

Anonymous said...

http://www.cooljewishtshirts.com

Josh said...

You have hit a bases loaded homerun.

Anonymous said...

it teaches us that the written Torah (the Tanakh) is only complete with the Oral Torah (misha, talmud).

the torah is from god. the "oral torah" is the work of man. the torah is complete as it is and talmud should be taken as commentary. the law was given at sinai, the mishna came later.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous: While the codification of the Oral Torah is a work of man, normative orthodoxy believes that the basis for the Oral Torah was given to Moshe by G-d.

Kamagra said...

I would like to go to this festivals because in this festival there are a lot of mixed cultures and i want to know about different cultures around the world, specially Israel Culture.

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