Who Is A Ger?

 

A Conceptual Understanding of Who is a Ger- Convert: A Matter of Dispute

Guest post by R. Michael J. Broyde

Rabbi Michael J. Broyde is a Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law, was the Founding Rabbi of the Young Israel in Atlanta, and is a Dayan in the Beth Din of America. He gives an Even Haezer shiur four times a week as part of a new dayanut kollel in Atlanta. He thanks the four wonderful and learned kollel members, Rabbi Avi Shlomo, Rabbi Sender Lustig, Rabbi Ira Bedzow and Rabbi Moshe Goldfeder for all they have taught him.

I. Preface

One of the wonderful aspects of American Orthodoxy is the presence of so many righteous converts – more than any other generation in recent memory — we are seeing in the United States. People are joining the Orthodox Jewish community out of love of God, Torah and mitzvot and are professing full and complete fidelity to halacha as part of the process of becoming Jewish. Of course, the thrust of the Torah and halacha is that we ought not make distinctions between converts and born Jews – but yet, there are occasions where Jewish law calls for special care and kindness to gerim and Jewish law restricts a female ger from marrying a preist (kohen).

II. Introduction

This short note discusses a small conceptual detail in this area of Jewish law by asking “who is the ger that Jewish law considers worthy of these special protections and occasional restrictions?” Is it only one who converts, or is it the children of a convert also? This note points out that, in fact, this is a matter in dispute.

In fact, there is a fundamental dispute between rishonim about the status of “second generation” (children of) converts. It also goes to the heart of two different conceptual ways to think about the place of children of converts the in the Jewish community.

Rambam maintains, as is the simple understanding of the Talmudic sources, that a ger is one who actually converted to Judaism, and so the status of a ger is limited to the one who actually converted to Judaism. Everyone one else is an Israelite. If one did not actually convert, one cannot by definition be a convert and thus one cannot be considered a ‘ger’ for matters of halacha if one’s parents both converted before conception.

Tosafot understands the status of a ger in a fundamentally different way. Tosafot understands that converts and their progeny form almost a community of gerim, which can be separate and distinct from the community of Priests, Levites and Israelite and is somewhat like a “tribe,” made up of a Jewish people without native born Jewish ancestors or even without a native Jewish father. (Israelites are Jews of natural Jewish descent.)

As we will see, the clearest place this dispute arises in is very theoretical – may the child of a converted man and a Israelite woman marry a mamzer (as a convert may) or not.

III. Who is a Ger: Only the Convert or his Children, too

Consider the following exchange of ideas between the Tur and the <>Shulchan Aruch in Even Haezer. Shulchan Aruch EH 4:23 and EH 8:3 state:

גר שנשא בת ישראל, או ישראל שנשא גיורת, הולד ישראל לכל דבר ואסור בממזרת.

A convert who marries a [born] Jewess or a [born] Jew who marries a convert, the child is an Israelite for all matters and may not marry a mamzer.

This stands in direct contrast to the formulation found in the Tur EH 8 which states simply:

כהנים לוים וישראלים מותרים זה בזה והולד הולך אחר הזכר בן הכהן כהן בן הלוי לוי בן הישראל ישראל ישראל וחללי גרים וחרורי מותרין זה בזה וגר ומשוחרר שנשא לויה או ישראלית או חללה הולד הולך גם כן אחר הזכר לא שנא גר שנשא ישראלית או ישראל שנשא גיורת.

Priests, Levites and Israelites can marry each other and the child follows the [tribal] identification of the father: the child of a priest is a priest and the child of a Levite, is a Levite and the child of a Israelite is a Israelite. An Israelite, a challal, a convert and a freed slave can marry each other, and a convert or a freed slave who marries a Levite or Israelite woman or a chalalah, then the child follows the status of the man – it makes no difference whether the convert marries the Israelite woman or the Israelite man marries the convert.

The clear implication of the Tur is that the child of a converted man and an Israelite woman is a ger and not an Israelite, whereas the Shulchan Aruch codifies the exact opposite rule. Chelkat Mechokek (4:23), Bet Shmuel (4:37 and 8:2), Avnei Miluim (4:15) and Aruch Hashulchan (8:2) all note this dispute and are somewhat uncertain how exactly to resolve it (although it is almost never relevant, as we have almost no identified mamzerim who are looking to marry converts). This Tur is consistent with the rule that whenever a valid marriage takes place, and no sin occurs, the child follows the status of the father – if being a ger is a status, rather than a “fact” of being a convert, whereas Shulchan Aruch is really quoting almost verbatim from the Rambam. (See Atzei Arazim a quoted in Otzar Haposkim 8:3.)

Ran in his commentary on Kidushin (30b Rif pages) states this point directly:

וכתב הרמב”ם ז”ל בפרק ט”ו מהלכות אסורי ביאה… אבל גר שנשא בת ישראל הולד ישראל גמור ואסור בממזרת ולא ידעתי מנין לו דאע”ג דעובד כוכבים הבא על בת ישראל הולד ישראל גמור ואסור בממזרת התם היינו טעמא משום לפי שאי אפשר לו להתייחס אחר אביו דלמשפחותם לבית אבותם בישראל הוא דכתיב אבל זה שאביו ישראל גמור למה לא יתיחס אחר אביו ויהא נדון כגר דמותר בממזרת והרי כאן יש [דף סו ב] קידושין ואין עבירה והולד הולך אחר הזכר וצ”ע

Rambam states [Issurai Biah 15] that… “but a convert who marries a Jewess, the child is a Jew and prohibited to a mamzer”. I do not know where he derived this, since a Gentile who fathers a child with a Jewess the child is Jewish and prohibited to a mamzer, their the reason is that the child cannot follow his father’s status since the verse “by their families, the house of their fathers” is limited to a Jewish man, but in the case of a male convert, the man is certainly Jewish, why shouldn’t the child follow the status of his father and be considered a ger and permitted to a female mamzer, since there is a valid marriage and no sin, the child ought to follow the father’s status. The question on the Rambam remains.

IV. Some Thoughts

What I have not noticed is a clear conceptual explanation of what this dispute is really about and how it relates to the other important dispute in this area of halacha – whether the child of two converts may marry a kohein. In this case, the Shulchan Aruch is uncertain. Shulchan Aruch 7:21 states:

גר שנשא גיורת, וילדה בת, לא תנשא לכתחלה לכהן אפי’ בת בתה עד כמה דורות, אף על פי שהורתה ולידתה בקדושה. ואם נשאת לכהן, לא תצא.

A convert who marries a convert, and give birth to a daughter, she should not ab initio marry a kohen, even after the passage of many generations [in which all the parents where decedents of only converts] even though her conception and birth where to Jews. But, if she marries a kohen, she should not get divorce.

Again, all the commentaries note that there is a fundamental dispute here, maybe even grounded directly in a Talmudic dispute. As the Rosh (Kiddushin 4:15) notes:

אמר רב המנונא משמיה דעולא הלכה כר’ יוסי וכן אמר רבה בר בר חנה הלכה כר’ יוסי ומיום שחרב בית המקדש נהגו כהנים סלסול בעצמן כראב”י נשא אין מוציאין אותה ממנו כר’ יוסי אמר רב נחמן אמר לי הונא בא להמלך מורים לו כר’ אליעזר בן יעקב נשא אין מוציאין ממנו כר’ יוסי:

Rabbi Hamnunah notes in the name of Ulah that the halacha follows Rav Yosi [that the daughter of two converts may marry a kohen] and such is also recited by Rava bar bar Channah that the halacha follows Rav Yosi, but from the time of the destruction of the Temple, the priests customized themselves to follow the view of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov [who prohibits these relationships]. If they marry, no divorce is needed, in accordance with Rav Yosi’s rule. Rav Nachman states that Huna rules that when one comes to rule, one follows the rule of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov and prohibits this relationship, but one does not compel divorce, like Rav Yosi.

The Rosh quotes two different versions of the rule in these two sentences. One seems to adopt that view that really the child of two converts is not ger and the second is that really such a child is a ger, but we cannot compel divorce out of difference to R. Yosi’s view. These two views both agree that a kohein should not marry the child of two converts as an ideal – but one view maintains that the halacha permits this marriage and custom does not, and the second view is that halacha prohibits this view, but since R. Yosi permits such, we do not actually compel a divorce when this rule is violated out of deference to the view of R. Yosi. But we would recommend such a divorce. In this view, lo tatzay means only that a Jewish law court cannot force a divorce, whereas in the first view it means “divorce is not recommended.” For more on this, see Pitchei Teshuva 4:3.

What is unclear is what is the normative halacha – Rambam seems to rule that the daughter of two converts really is not a ger, which stands in direct contrast to the observation of many, including, for example, the simple statement of the Pri Megadim (OC Eshel Avraham 156:2) who notes directly:

ומסתברא דגר מקרי אף הורתו ולידתו בקדושה, שנתגיירו אביו ואמו, הואיל ואין לו קרובים בישראל.

It is logical that a person is considered a ger even if she was both conceived and born after her parents converted to Judaism, since the child has no Jewish relatives.

This is in fact the view of many Jewish law authorities other than Rambam, such as the Ran and Tosafot who assign the status of a ger to anyone who does not have Jewish born parents, or maybe even a Jewish born father.

Logically we can explain Rambam’s side of this in terms of a ger being a special type of personal status that is not inherited: it is a personal status, but it derives only from from the circumstances of one’s own life (horaso v’leidaso shelo bikedusha) and canot be passed on to the next generation, since that fact is not true for the next generation. Maybe a good analogy for Rambam is to a petzua daka, who also can marry a mamzer. His status derives only from his circumstances and is not inherited or passed on by inheritance.

Tosafot, on the other hand, understand one’s status as ager to be exactly like one’s status as a Levite or Israelite – it is passed on through the father and is not grounded in an experiational data, but in a Jewish law status determination of where one comes from. A ger is a Jew whose ancestors did not stand at Mt. Sinai with Moses. That can only be based on.

[This same dispute is, I think, what lies behind both sides of a complex teshuva of the Noda Beyehuda as to whether a child of a woman who converts while pregnant (with the child in utero) is considered a born Jew or a convert; see Dagul ReRevava 268 and Pitchei Teshuva 268:6. One view says that this child cannot be a convert, since she was born to a Jewish mother – and others do not see that as an obstacle to being considered a ger.]

V. Conclusion

How is a ger defined? Rambam and Shulchan Aruch are of the view that the status of a ger is as a fact and only one who actually converted is to considered a ger. Others are of the view that a ger is a status like a Kohein, Levi or Israelite – one is a ger if one’s parents are gerim, and maybe even if just one’s father is a ger. Obviously, many details of Jewish law hinge on this dispute and our practice remains somewhat unclear, although lechatchela we seem to be strict for both views, at least for male converts. It is worth noting that this resolution directs not only the resolution of certain family law matters, but it has vast implications for the applications of Jewish laws specific mandates to especially be kind to and nice with a ger – commandments that resonate more broadly throughout the daily life of a Jew.

 

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48 Responses

  1. IH says:

    Another indication there was a time when converts were treated as a caste who were considered not fully Jews for multiple generations can be found on Sanhedrin 94a: אמר רב היינו דאמרי אינשי גיורא עד עשרה דרי לא תבזה ארמאי קמיה

  2. Following on from what IH wrote, Shaye Cohen (The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties) suggests that this may also be the easiest way to understand a confusing mishna in Bikkurim 1:4. There, the mishna appears to speak of a convert whose mother was a Jew:

    אלו מביאין ולא קורין: הגר מביא ואינו קורא, שאינו יכול לומר “אשר נשבע יי לאבותינו לתת לנו”. ואם אמו מישראל מביא וקורא.

  3. Shimon S says:

    There are many places in the Gemara showing that there were people called “Gerim” (because of their patrilineal descend) but who had the statues of native Israelites (because of their matrilineal descend).

    See Kiddushin 76b and the story of Rav Ada bar Ahavah’s innkeeper for an explicit proof.

    On the other hand, the definition of an Israelite qualifying as a judge at the Chalitza ceremony might suggest an alternative or parallel definition.

  4. Shlomo says:

    The main kashya in this article is: how can the child of a convert be considered a convert for the purpose of marriage a mamzer, but considered not a convert for the purpose of marrying a kohen?

    I do not think that is necessarily a kashya, since the two laws come from completely different sources. The mamzer prohibition is based on “kahal”, and it is easy to argue that this person is of a non-Israelite “kahal”. The kohen prohibition comes from אשה זונה וחללה לא יקחו which is fundamentally a prohibition of behavior not status. We have presumptions about the behavior of Jews and non-Jews, which means that converts cannot marry kohanim due to their presumed behavior before conversion. But no such presumption would apply to the child of a convert, and they would be justified in marrying a kohen, regardless of their family status.

  5. Nachum says:

    Just to stress, the question of whether a kohen can marry a daughter of a non-Jewish man and a Jewish woman remains until this day. I think the Sredei Aish allows it, but only b’dieved (i.e., they don’t have to divorce once done). Of course, there are many cases today of kohanim married to actual giyorot who aren’t forced to divorce, except they lose their status, remaining in a sort of grey zone. (Their children, as near as I can tell, simply become yisraelim. I wonder how the laws of challal, and their descendants, are applied today.)

    It might be the case that the question of whether geirim form their own group, and all the laws discussed here that stem from that, results from the situation in Bayit Rishon (and before), where a ger *was* distinct in that he had no land. This is said to be the root of the story of the Mekallel; it’s also possibly the root of the commandment to treat the ger well, as they were disadvantaged. Subsequent statements of Chazal and those who followed may reflect this reality. Perhaps they’ve lapsed because they simply don’t reflect our reality.

    Also note that the Torah’s use of the word may be ambiguous, often referring to what we’d call a ger toshav.

  6. Chanokh says:

    I’m suprised SA HM 7, 1 didn’t come up: here you clearly see that even the SA can speak about a ger “whose father >or mother< is an israel".

  7. Y says:

    Let’s take a Jewish woman whose mother was born Jewish, and her father is a ger. Can she marry a kohen?

  8. Sammy says:

    Nachum the Ramban and the nosei keilim (and perhaps the Mechaber according to the Chelkas Mechokek in Siman 7) permit it bedieved. Could you be more precise as to what the Seridei Eish’s chidush is?

  9. Nachum says:

    I don’t know if it’s a chiddush. He’s answering a shaylah.

  10. Mr. Cohen says:

    Reform and Conservative converts are NOT Jewish because their Rabbis: accept heretical beliefs and publicly desecrate Shabbat (Rambam, Hilchot Shabbat, chapter 30, paragraph 15) and DO NOT follow correct conversion procedures.

    About converting to marry a Jew:

    Tanna DeBei Eliyahu Raba, Chapter 29:
    A person who converts to marry a Jew is comparable to a mule (chamore).

    Minor Tractates of Talmud, Tractate Gerim,
    Chapter 1, Law 7:

    Anyone who converts for the sake of [marrying] a Jewish woman,
    or fear, or love [of money] is NOT a convert…
    Anyone who is NOT converted from purely religious motives is NOT a convert.

    Rambam, Hilchot Issurei Biah, chapter 14, paragraph 13:
    Whoever converts because of worldly nonsense
    [for example, to marry a RICH JEW] is NOT a righteous convert.

    Yalkut Shimoni, Shemot, chapter 12, Remez 213:
    When a man converts because he wants to marry a Jewish woman,
    G_d says to him:
    You converted because of a nebelah [non-kosher carcass].

    Yoreh Deah, Siman 268, Sif 12:
    Potential converts must be investigated to find if they are converting to marry Jews.

    Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, chapter 145, paragraph 19:
    A Gentile who sins with a Jewess and thewn he converts,
    he may not marry her.

    Syrian Rabbis 1935 Decree:
    Conversions done for marriage are:
    “absolutely invalid and worthless.”

  11. Steve Brizel says:

    In the Chiddushei R CS on the Shas ( “the stencil”), in BB81a, ( pp. 206-210),there is an important discussion as to whether a Ger Tzedek can recite Mikra Bikurim and similarly phrased portions of Birkas HaMazon, based on whether a Ger Tzedek has Bris Avos as well as Yerushas Avos of a sufficient nature to give a Ger Tzedek a claim to a portion of EY. The above should be of no surprise to anyone familiar with a Mishnah in Kelim that posits many levels of Kedushas Yisrael, as opposed to what one poster here R”L, called a “caste.”

  12. Steve Brizel says:

    IH-can you identify any Rishon, Acharon or Posek who follows the view of the Talmud in Sanhedrin94a as a normative halachic statement? Take a look at R Bchaye cited by the Gilyon HaShas as to how the passage of ten generations from Cham to Yisro.

  13. IH says:

    Steve — did you read R. Broyde’s post?

  14. mycroft says:

    “In the Chiddushei R CS on the Shas ( “the stencil”), in BB81a, ( pp. 206-210),there is an important discussion as to whether a Ger Tzedek can recite Mikra Bikurim and similarly phrased portions of Birkas HaMazon, based on whether a Ger Tzedek has Bris Avos as well as Yerushas Avos of a sufficient nature to give a Ger Tzedek a claim to a portion of EY”

    Issue is same as Shomeneh Esrei can a ger say alokei avoteinu etc. The Rambam holds contrary to the Bavli like the Yerusahalmi that a ger is koreh bikkurim. He holds of course that a ger says regular shomeneh esrei-my impression is that is normative psak-certainly mitnaggideh psak.

  15. Tal Benschar says:

    The gemara in Sanhedrin 94a has nothing to do with gerim being a separates “caste.” It has to do with not mentioning something that would embarass or shame someone. Ten generations is simply an exxageration which echoes a similar Biblical phrase. All the gemara means is that someone know to be a descendant of converts should not be made to be embarassed or ashamed about it.

  16. Tal Benschar says:

    I second what Shlomo wrote. The halakhos being discussed here — marrying a mamzer, and marrying into the kehunah, are based on separate pesukim and separate halakhic theories. One does not necessarily depend on the other.

    For that matter, there are several interpersonal mitzvos that are specific to gerim — not to oppress them (lo sonu es ha ger), to love them, etc. It would appear that these apply only to actual converts and not to their children.

  17. Nachum says:

    Steve: IH may be incorrect in his cite, but why does it have to be normative to be quoted? He was just trying to show that *some* people felt that way.

  18. IH says:

    Tal — that is one, but not the only explanation of the popular saying quoted. I merely noted it was “an indication there was a time…”.

  19. Tal Benschar says:

    “Tal — that is one, but not the only explanation of the popular saying quoted. I merely noted it was “an indication there was a time…””

    Really, what other “explanation” do you have? The gemara there explicitly links it to the fact that Yisro was upset at the punishments meted out to Egypt.

    Sorry, what you are doing is a real stretch at best. Please cite any authority who interprets the gemara differently.

  20. IH says:

    Tal — you lamdus is standing in the way of your seeing the perfectly obvious. Why would there be a popular saying like that? And why is the Talmud using it as it does?

  21. Tal Benschar says:

    IH: So it seems that other than your own proclivities, you have nothing to back up what you are saying.

    To me it is “obvious” that the phrase “unto ten generations” is an echo of a similar Biblical phrase with respect to mamzerim, Ammonim and Moavim. (Devarim 23:2-3). Which means, basically, forever.

    The place in Shas which discusses different “castes” of people is the fourth chapter of Kiddushin. There is not a hint there that “converts were treated as a caste who were considered not fully Jews for multiple generations.” (Although they would be permitted to marry mamzerim if there was no marriage to a born Jew.) Converts were permitted to marry into the Jewish people, and had basically the same legal rights (with a few exceptions, like serarah acc. to some.)

    The gemara you cite, OTOH, is an aggadatah whose point is that one must be careful not to embarrass or shame someone, even if the connection is remote — Yisro being the example.

    Folk sayings are not meant to be taken literally — they are metaphors. The gemara in Sanhedrin quotes a folk saying that “When we were young, we could balance on the end of a sword, but now that we are older, even a 60 acre bed is not enough for us.” I guess that can be taken as proof that Babylonian Jews enjoyed sleeping on swords and made enormous beds. But that is thin proof indeed.

  22. IH says:

    Folk sayings are not meant to be taken literally — they are metaphors.

    I couldn’t agree more.

  23. emma says:

    I think the better point from IH’s gemara is that, even if (as seems likely) “10 generations” is not literal, the gemara sounds like it is refering to the descendents as “gerim,” not just the ancestor.

  24. Tal Benschar says:

    R. Broyde: I may be remembering incorrectly, but I seem to recall that everyone agrees (maybe the gemara says so), that if a ger marries a giyores, the children can themselves marry a mamzer if they wish (although there is also a machlokes whether such a child, if a girl, can marry a Cohen).

    Am I wrong? If so, does this not show that even a child of two gerim has somewhat of a status of a ger?

    (My understanding was that the reason a ger may marry a mamzer is that gerim are not “khal Hashem,” which is what the possuk forbids for a mamzer. That carries over to the child of a ger and a giyores — it is a lack of khal hashem status, not the status of a ger, that is what is determinative.)

  25. Tal Benschar says:

    Emma, in the time of the Talmud, they were very conscious of a person’s lineage. The fact that someone’s anscestry was from converts, as opposed to born Jews, was on their minds. I believe the gemara says that when they deposed Rabban Gamliel, they did not appoint R. Akiva, because he was a descendant of gerim, and therefore lacked zechus Avos. (So they appointed R. Elazar b. Azaryah instead). Similarly, R. Meir is mentioned as descendant of gerim, as are Shemaya and Avtalyon, who headed the Sanhedrin in the Second Temple period, before Hillel.

    That does not mean that such people were viewed as only partial Jews or a separate caste. The rabbis I mentioned were considered the giants of their days.

    The point of the gemara in Sanhedrin is not to embarass such people by denigrating non-Jews.

    It reminds me of a speech I once heard R. Schachter gave, in which he sharply criticized a certain rabbi, whose views on certain topics were highly problematic. When he realized the rabbi’s children were in the audience, he toned it down so as not to make them feel bad.

  26. IH says:

    Tal — The gemara is ambivalent about gerim. Elements of that ambivalence remain to this day. R. Broyde’s post explores an halachic avenue of this; and the huge debate about conversion in Israel is another expression of this ambivalence.

  27. ruvie says:

    Tal – ” I believe the gemara says that when they deposed Rabban Gamliel, they did not appoint R. Akiva, because he was a descendant of gerim, and therefore lacked zechus Avos.”

    actually its a yerushami – yBer 4:1,7d..different version than in bavli – bBer 27b.
    rabbi akiva laments in the yerushalmi about r’ eleazar being appointed…
    ‘it is not that he is more learned in torah than i, but he is more the descendant of great men tan i….he was 10th generation from ezra.” there is no mention of being a son of a ger. but your point of lineage being important is a very important point of the bavli in general.

    the status or ranking of a ger in that society can be seen in a mishnah in horayot:
    כוהן קודם ללוי, לוי לישראל, ישראל לממזר, וממזר לנתין, ונתין לגר, וגר לעבד משוחרר. אימתיי, בזמן שכולן שווין; אבל אם היה ממזר תלמיד חכמים, וכוהן גדול עם הארץ–ממזר תלמיד חכמים קודם לכוהן גדול עם הארץ

    the ger is not ranked too high on the totem pole.

  28. emma says:

    “Emma, in the time of the Talmud, they were very conscious of a person’s lineage. The fact that someone’s anscestry [sic] was from converts, as opposed to born Jews, was on their minds. . . . That does not mean that such people were viewed as only partial Jews or a separate caste.”

    My point was limited to whether the descendant of converts is galled “ger.” I think the gemara from sanhedrin can be read, and perhaps is most easily read, as suggesting that such a descendant is still a “ger” in some sense, even if born Jewish. (alternatively, “giyora” in the gemara refers to the ancestor, and the object of “kameih” is absent from the sentence. but that seems like the less easy reading.) not nec. a “ger” in a technical sense, which is the point of the article, but some sense.

    i did not sign on to the “caste” language so not sure why you are directing that at me. But the fact that someone can be a talmid chacham does not mean they are not also part of a lineage-based class that, all else being equal, is held in lower esteem. The point w the sages you cite is that all else was not equal… (cf mamzer talmid chacham)

    i’m doing a bit of cheshbon hanefesh as to why your post directed at me is written as if I have no basic knowledge. (identifying shemaya and avtalyon and helpfully pointing out that “The rabbis I mentioned were considered the giants of their day.”)

  29. Tal Benschar says:

    Emma, sorry, I was under the impression you were signing onto IH’s argument. I should have given you more credit than that.

    As for the great rabbis, my point was simply to emphasize that there were descendants of gerim who reached the very top of Torah society. That certainly cuts against any “separate caste” argument.

  30. Tal Benschar says:

    Although the Bavli in Berachos does not directly state that R. Akiva was a descendant of gerim, it does state that they did not wish to appoint him because he lacked “zechus Avos.” What does that mean if not that he was a descendant of gerim? (R. Nissim Gaon quotes a gemara in Sanhedrin which states this explicitly, but our version has Shemaya and Avtalyon.)

  31. IH says:

    FTR, I would happily amend my use of caste to be “tribe” as per R. Broyde’s use in the penultimate paragraph of section II of his post.

  32. Anonymous says:

    What this post surprisingly ignores is the fact that the Rambam says explicitly that only a גר שנשא בת ישראל, או ישראל שנשא גיורת–הוולד ישראלי לכל דבר, ואסור בממזרת
    but in the case of גר שנשא גיורת, the וולד would be allowed to marry a ממזר. It seems that despite the list of thank yous at the beginning this was too hastily considered and written.

  33. Anonymous says:

    רמב”ם איסורי ביאה ט”ו ח’: גיורת שנישאת לגר, והולידו בן–אף על פי שהורתו ולידתו בקדושה, הרי זה מותר בממזרת. וכן בן בן בנו עד שישתקע שם גיותו ממנו, ולא ייוודע שהוא גר; ואחר כך ייאסר בממזרת

  34. Anonymous says:

    מ”מ שם: ברייתא שם (קידושין דף ע”ה) גר עד עשרה דורות מותר בממזרת מכאן ואילך אסור בממזרת ויש אומרים עד שישתקע שם עכו”ם ממנו ופסק רבינו כי”א

  35. Nachum says:

    Does a ger marrying a mamzer “purify” the mamzer’s line?

  36. Chanokh says:

    Nachum: no. The only way for a mamzer to purify his line is to become a eved ivri, to “marry” a shifcha kenaanit and then to emancipate the children.

  37. Ruvie says:

    Tal – “that there were descendants of gerim who reached the very top of Torah society.”

    Actually you prove the opposite. Lineage is shown to be very important and often had a substantial impact on the STATUS among the rabbis themselves. Later rabbinic literature suggests, if anything, that genealogy was an increasingly important factor in determining academic rank and also a prerequisite for positions of leadership – not torah knowledge. It’s a complex issue – and why and what other cultures influence it as well.

  38. Ruvie says:

    Correction: in the prior post should read- not exclusively Torah knowledge.

  39. Steve Brizel says:

    IH-R Broyde’s article was devoid of any reference to Sanhedrin 94a. I agree with Tal that one can find positive and ambivalent, but not hostile views towards converts in the Talmud.

    Nachum-I think that citing views which are not normative just to prove a point borders on the intellectually dishonest, if we are in a discussion in determining what is the norm, as opposed to merely cherry picking the Talmud, Rishonim and Acharonim for POVs that suit our predetermined biases.

  40. Steve Brizel says:

    Ruvie-AFAIK, neither Unkelos, R Akiva nor Resh Lakish had the geneaology that you refer to, and their POVs are on almost every page in Shas.

  41. Steve Brizel says:

    IH-I rject your amendment of the word “caste” by “tribe”. Once again, you show your lack of comfort with the fact that we are a people who are commanded to live a life of Kedusha as defined by 613 Mitzvos. Yes, Yahadus has both particularistic and univeralistic elements, but your posts on this thread exhibit a profound discomfort with the particularism that forms a huge part of our adherence to Mitzvos.

  42. Steve Brizel says:

    IH-R Broyde wrote in part:

    “Tosafot understands that converts and their progeny form almost a community of gerim, which can be separate and distinct from the community of Priests, Levites and Israelite and is somewhat like a “tribe,” made up of a Jewish people without native born Jewish ancestors or even without a native Jewish father. (Israelites are Jews of natural Jewish descent.”

    That usage of the word “tribe” is consistent with references in Chazal and Rishonim to Shevet Kehunah, etc, ( i.e. a distinct subunit of Am Yisrael) which I read, in contrast to your acceptance of tribe in lieu of cast, as being identical to the ten levels of Kedusha identified in the Mishnah in Kelim.

  43. Steve Brizel says:

    Ruuvie-Listen to RYBS’s shiur on Gerus. Being a Ger is a Psul in any office that requires Srarah. OTOH, being a Ger by no way prevents any Ger from becoming a great Talmid Chacham.

  44. Ruvie says:

    Steve b.- please reread my post and the comment of Tal. The status of children of gerim like r’ akiva- assuming that it is historically true- is diminished because of their lineage. Their Torah is of course acceptable but their children for marriage, status, rank and potential authority ( leadership or even rosh yeshivah) is questionable according to rabbinic literature especially the bavli. Your comment at 9:34 is incomprehensible.

  45. IH says:

    Steve — You’re reading me incorrectly; and, I suspect missing the definitions of “caste” and “tribe”.

    tribe/trīb/
    Noun:

    A social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties,…

    caste/kast/
    Noun:

    Each of the hereditary classes of Hindu society, distinguished by relative degrees of ritual purity or pollution and of social status….: “a man of high caste”

    —–

    The distinction is a key part of R. Broyde’s post.

  46. Steve Brizel says:

    Ruvie-I stand by my 9:34 PM post whhich is easily comprehensible to anyone who has ever studied Chumash, Mishnayos and Gemara. Unkelus , R Akiva, as well as R Meir, regardless of how the secular world views their lineage as being “historically true”, are renowned for their contributions to Klal Yisrael because of their Torah knowledge , not because of how anyone perceives their “marriage, status, rank and potential authority.”

  47. Steve Brizel says:

    IH- I understand the dictionary definition of caste and tribe, but I maintain that the same don’t add a lot of insight, if any, to the discussion.

    I realize that R Broyde used “tribe” to make a point about the relationship of Gerim with the overall Jewish community, but I think that you are conflating the same by your usage of “caste”, as well as “tribe”, which I would argue can only be read in how TSBP understands the different levels of Kedusha, as opposed to reading in sociologicaly and anthropologically based definitions of what a tribe and caste.

  48. Steve Brizel says:

    Ruvie-Tal’s comment on on November 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm is exactly my contention as well.

 
 

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