To someone aware of Jewish communal goings-on in the 1970s and 80s, the question “Who is a Jew?” raises issues that are more political than theological. The controversy that raged then over the state of Israel’s definition of personal status shook the foundation of the world Jewish community. Must Israel’s immigration clerks and marriage registrars conform to strict halakhic rules or use more liberal definitions of Jewishness? At issue is the fate of children of Jewish fathers or grandfathers and non-Orthodox converts to Judaism. Can they claim Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, register as Jews and marry Jews? The Orthodox lost this fight regarding immigration and registration but retain to this day halakhic control of marriage and cemeteries.

Who Is A Jew?

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I. Who is a Jew?

To someone aware of Jewish communal goings-on in the 1970s and 80s, the question “Who is a Jew?” raises issues that are more political than theological. The controversy that raged then over the state of Israel’s definition of personal status shook the foundation of the world Jewish community. Must Israel’s immigration clerks and marriage registrars conform to strict halakhic rules or use more liberal definitions of Jewishness? At issue is the fate of children of Jewish fathers or grandfathers and non-Orthodox converts to Judaism. Can they claim Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, register as Jews and marry Jews? The Orthodox lost this fight regarding immigration and registration but retain to this day halakhic control of marriage and cemeteries.

Perhaps more significantly, the Orthodox lost the debate in the public arena because they failed to answer certain basic questions. In the modern era, Jewish identity comes in multiple flavors that often omit mitzvah observance. How can a community function when its main cultural form of identification is confounded by religious technicalities advocated by a hostile minority? Can respect for tradition justify the human tragedies of religious separation in marriage and burial? Most importantly, the Orthodox paradigm seemed unprepared to handle the demographic steamroller of Russian aliyah, in which hundreds of thousands of halakhic gentiles immigrated to Israel as Jews. If such self-identified Jew who are halakhically gentile do not genuinely commit to observing the Torah’s commandments, they presumably cannot convert. If so, where do they fit into Israeli culture?

As the debate took shape, the journal Tradition published a number of articles addressing key points from the Orthodox perspective. These were published in a 1990 book, The Conversion Crisis: A Continuing Discussion (R. Emanuel Feldman and Dr. Joel B. Wolowelsky, eds.), which was recently republished with additional material that update the discussion.

II. Conversion and Commandments

R. Aharon Lichtenstein opens the book with an exploration of the theological underpinnings of conversion. Building on the views of his father-in-law, R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik (in Kol Dodi Dofek), R. Lichtenstein sees two aspects to conversion — a rebirth into a new relationship with God and joining the people of Israel through a legal ceremony. Both elements are essential. “One need hardly stress, however, that integration into the nation, be it rooted in the most sublime self-dedication, is insufficient. Gerut means, first and foremost, a religious-spiritual turning” (p. 8) A convet’s acceptance of the Torah’s commandments is so fundamental that he must repeat it twice, before any ritual and immediately prior to the immersion in a mikvah. This “is solely in order to weave the acceptance of the mizvot into the act of tevilah, to supply the tevilah with the specific character of a tevilah of gerut, to integrate the spiritual intent with the formal act.”

R. J. David Bleich, with his characteristic thoroughness, explores the opportunities for accepting converts with questionable sincerity. His conclusion is that the overwhelming consensus of authorities, ranging from R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinski to R. Yitzchak Herzog, insist on sincere acceptance of commandments as a minimal requirement for conversion. Even a mental reservation to a verbal assent will undermine a conversion.

Despite R. Bleich’s encyclopedic breadth, he seems to omit one voice, which leads to an essay in response. R. Marc Angel argues, based on the view of R. Benzion Meir Chai Uziel, that while a conversion lacking acceptance of the commandments is less than ideal, it is not only valid but appropriate in exigent circumstances. “Recognizing the practical realities of our world, it is essential that Halakhic authorities courageously respond to the needs. Ours must not be a haughty and elite attitude towards would-be converts. We have a moral obligation to convert those who seek conversion…” (p. 44). Apparently, R. Angel believes that Rabbis Lichtenstein and Bleich lack his courage, perhaps due to their haughty and elite attitudes.

R. Shlomo Riskin is also evidently haughty and elite, because he directly rebuts R. Angel’s essay. “I must strongly disagree with [R. Uziel’s and R Angel’s] conclusion, and a more intensive study of the sources will demonstrate that acceptance of commandments is a far more integral part of conversion than might appear” (p. 49). “It is self-understood that no Jewish court can guarantee future actions of the convert. Nevertheless it is to be expected that the expressed acceptance of commandments implies the willingness on the part of the convert to live in accordance with the scrupulous observance of these commandments for the rest of his life” (p. 51).

III. Contemporary Debate

Decades later, Profs. Avi Sagi and Zvi Zohar revived this debate in a book in which they claim that a fresh look at the sources yields an ancient talmudic debate whether conversion requires acceptance of commandments. In a thorough and harsh review, R. Michael Broyde and Shmuel Kadosh argue that the authors’ fundamental argument is incorrect because they misread texts and create debate where none exists.

The authors respond that not they but the reviewers misread texts. Due to a lack of imagination, they argue, the reviewers were unable to read the texts fresh without the burden of commentaries. The reviewers respond unapologetically, arguing that the authors fail to answer nearly all the objections raised and the few answers they provide are entirely incorrect. “[T]he success of such original readings truly depends on the ability of the proponents of such novel theories to show that their read is consistent with the binding Talmudic sources. Professors Sagi and Zohar have failed at that task” (p. 109).

IV. What to Do?

If converting unobservant Israelis who are not halakhicaly Jewish is not an option, what practical course remains? R. Moshe Yeres explores leniencies in the laws of burial, explaining that according to many authorities non-halakhic converts also have a place in a Jewish cemetery. Those who reject other religions and affiliate with Judaism may receive burial within a Jewish cemetery, albeit according to some in a separate row.

R. J. Simcha Cohen proposes a somewhat radical solution. While converts must generally accept the commandments, children are unable to do so. Therefore, parents of questionable Jewish status can convert their children who will become Jewish. R. Cohen presented this idea to R. Moshe Feinstein who approved it. R. Broyde and Shmuel Kadosh also adopt this proposal, noting that even the authorities who disagree with it would accept the conversions after the fact.

These solutions do not resolve all the problems and since the latter has not been implemented, it cannot. However, I believe that these proposals answer the wrong question. Israel faces social and political dilemmas because of the large number of non-halakhic Jews in the country. While a wide-scale halakhic change would eliminate the problems, it is certainly a round-about path to travel.

Why should social and political problems be solved with a halakhic answer? The proper resolutions lie in the social and political realm. Israeli society needs to acknowledge the correct identity of gentiles with Jewish ancestry and non-halakhic converts and create a proud role for such people. And the Israeli government must create space for them. Certainly, the rabbinate must shed its entrenched bureaucracy and embrace properly motivated converts but the true solution to this dilemma lies not with Jewish law but with Israeli society and government.

Halakhah is not a weapon to be wielded against every inconvenient problem. Doing so trivializes religion in the eyes of the non-observant and divides the religious community itself. We need to recognize the complex problems of Jewish identity as they are and widen our toolboxes to properly handle them.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

212 comments

  1. The issue here is meta-halachic and turns on how one chooses to read the texts. The pretense of objectivity in this posting belies the fact that the first Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, BenZion Uziel, who was a posek of no small standing, determined “the condition to keep the mitsvot is not a sine qua non for conversion, afilu le-khatehilah”.

    Responsa Mishpetei Uziel, Jerusalem , Mossad HaRav Kook, 5724, no. 20

  2. “Apparently, R. Angel believes that Rabbis Lichtenstein and Bleich lack his courage, perhaps due to their haughty and elite attitudes.”

    This is an unwarranted inference from the words of R’ Angel as quoted. It is as wrong as if I were to infer that the writer is eager to impute the worst to R’ Angel. In any case, isn’t it better for R’ Angel to say what he does believe than for anyone else to infer what he “apparently” believes?

  3. R. Angel wrote his article as a rebuttal to R. Bleich’s. I don’t see any other way to read his words.

  4. IH: Way to pick the one outlier, very very far out of consensus. And surprise! He’s lenient.

  5. One of the vexing issues in interpreting texts, by the way, are the contradictory Talmudic attitudes toward converts. In some cases, it is liberal (e.g. Hillel vs. Shamai). But in other places there are remnants of another more xenophobic tradition, as in:

    אפילו עד עשרה דורות, עד שתהא אימן מישראל in משנה ביכורים; or,
    אמר רב היינו דאמרי אינשי גיורא עד עשרה דרי לא תבזה ארמאי קמיה in מסכת סנהדרין

    One way to test today’s context is to understand what is normative among the Religious Israel population. The Israel Bureau of Statistics published some interesting statistics last year.

    8% of Jewish Israeli adults define themselves as ultra-Orthodox, 12% as religious, 13% as traditional-religious, 25% as traditional but ‘not very religious and 42% as secular. And yet, if we apply the filter of shmirat mitzvoth, the picture gets fuzzier.

    “Among secular and traditional respondents, 52 percent light Shabbat candles at home but only 11 percent refrain from traveling by car on Shabbat. The rate of kashrut observance among the two groups collectively is 48 percent during Passover and 33 percent during the year as a whole.”

    In other words, if the Israeli government applied the test of Shmirat Shabbat to the existing Israeli Jewish population, 89% would fail. In the US, it would be between 90% and 95%.

  6. “Way to pick the one outlier, very very far out of consensus. And surprise! He’s lenient.”

    Gil – so for all your hifalutin talk about the halachic process and the criteria by which one evaluates poskim, when it comes to one of your pet issues, it’s just a count of Rabbis. And you had us believing that was what made Conservative Jewry heretical.

  7. I didn’t understand that last blast of non-sequitors.

  8. You fail to grasp the fact that there is a Life or Death element in this debate that does exist for the comfortable Diaspora,

  9. I certainly hope that is an exaggeration because there is not currently any solution on the table that can be implemented on the necessary scale. Everything being done will just barely make a dent.

  10. Implementing Rav Uziel’s psak would would do more than “barely make a dent”. So, tachlis, what is the downside givem ~90% of existing Israeli (or American) Jews are not shomer mitzvot at the level expected in any case?

  11. The upside is obvious: more Jews in Israel, fighting as Jews for the Jewish State to make sure that all the principled halachists who remain in the Diaspora have a place of refuge, retirement and burial.

    What is the downside, Gil?

  12. The issue is not whether we require kabbolas mitzvos – pace Rabbis Uziel and Angel, there is a virtual consensus that it is required. The real, and messier, issue is the scope of the requirement. Former Shas MK, R. Amsalem, has argued that it may be limited in scope when dealing with zera Yisroel, non-Jews of Jewish descent, on the proviso that converts absolutely reject their former religions. In line with this approach, there are those who argue that we need only inform potential converts of the mitzvos which are likely to resonate with them at the time of conversion, in the hope that they will gradually learn and take on more. I am no posek, but there does seem to be a degree of discretion on the part of a beis din in deciding which kallos and chamuros to teach to the convert. Where do you draw the line? There is the concept of a convert who doesn’t know of ikkar Shabbos. He’s still a convert. You might say that that is not l’khatchila, but perhaps the dire circumstances in Israel are a sha’as had’chak justifying such an approach.

  13. “Israeli society needs to acknowledge the correct identity of gentiles with Jewish ancestry and non-halakhic converts and create a proud role for such people.”

    I don’t think the main problem is one of acknowledging the correct identity of gentiles with Jewish ancestry. As R. Yehuda Gilad (the late R. Amital’s son-in-law) wrote recently, the main problem is that they are assimilating into Israeli society, falling in love with Jewish Israelis and wanting to marry them. No social or political solution is going to address this problem.

  14. “it’s just a count of Rabbis”

    I think that may be a bit strong; what you have here is a Daat Yachid (Rav Uziel) against every other 20th century posek of stature. Now, on occasion, we hold by a Daat Yachid. Many of the poskim who don’t accept Rav Uziel’s opinion on conversion would use any Daat Yachid they could find to solve a mamzer problem. But clearly the overwhelming consensus is not to do that regarding conversion.

  15. IH, I could make the exact same argument you’re making with regard to global warming. “Everyone talks about this ‘scientific process’, about how all that matters is whether your theory is correct as opposed to how popular you are, yet no one takes me seriously when I cite Freeman Dyson in explaining why I think Global Warming is a myth.” In fact, I think “citing Freeman Dyson in explaining why Global Warming is a myth” is exactly what you’re doing here.

  16. Scarcasm about “haughty and elite attitudes” is certainly inappropriate. Conversion issue is complex enough wo column either defending or attacking individual Rabbis.

  17. We know that you believe that Sagi and Zohar misread texts are you prepared to acknowledge that Rabbis Broyde and Kadosh also misread texts? See
    http://www.yctorah.org/content/view/662/10/

  18. Rabbi Angel has been consistent on gerus-it has been approximately 40 years since he had the exchange in Tradition with the father of RHS on Gerus.
    Rabbi Angel like most Israelis and unlike most Americans comes from the Sefardic tradition. He was educated at YU and occasionally has written about how he feels sorry that he accepted unquestioningly as universal Jewish requirements the Lithuanian tradition espoused by RY at YU. He has given an example of how to do kiddush where his Rabbeim told him that something was wrong-goes home tells his father that and after his father is niftar finds out that the Chida writes that Jews from a certain town did that and for them it is acceptable-his father was from that town.

  19. “Zvi on June 17, 2011 at 3:36 am
    We know that you believe that Sagi and Zohar misread texts are you prepared to acknowledge that Rabbis Broyde and Kadosh also misread texts? See
    http://www.yctorah.org/content/view/662/10/

    Is kadosh a Rabbi? I don’t know he was law student at NYU when he wrote the article.
    So American lawyers are automatically more accurate in reading texts than Israeli scholars?
    Both Broyde and Kadosh and Sagi and Zohar should be read. The cite referring to Prof Shapiro is also worth reading.

  20. 8% of Jewish Israeli adults define themselves as ultra-Orthodox, 12% as religious, 13% as traditional-religious, 25% as traditional but ‘not very religious and 42% as secular. And yet, if we apply the filter of shmirat mitzvoth, the picture gets fuzzier.

    Among secular and traditional respondents, 52 percent light Shabbat candles at home but only 11 percent refrain from traveling by car on Shabbat. The rate of kashrut observance among the two groups collectively is 48 percent during Passover and 33 percent during the year as a whole.”

    In other words, if the Israeli government applied the test of Shmirat Shabbat to the existing Israeli Jewish population, 89% would fail. In the US, it would be between 90% and 95%.

    No, 89% of the “secular/traditional” population would fail. Assuming all of the religious/charedi and half the “traditional-religious” keep shabbat, then only 66% of the Jewish population as a whole would fail.

    And of course “not driving on shabbat” is the LEAST observed of the various practices in the list.

  21. “I don’t see any other way to read his words.”

    Then would it not have been better to let his words speak for him?

  22. R’ Gil,
    “I don’t see any other way to read his words.”

    even so, not everything has to be said-and for many it detracts from the presentation.

    KT

  23. To quote a discussion a decade ago on another topic, imho part of the problem is that affected parties (and it’s way past just the “geirim” may feel that the urgency of the issue is underappreciated:

    circa 1999:
    So, the Talmud recognizes the possibility that halacha may absolutely
    preclude someone from having a happy life. That does not mean that we
    shouldn’t do whatever we can to alleviate this (or any) suffering, but it
    does certainly mean that wills (rabbinic or otherwise) do not always result
    in halachic ways.

    xxxxxx
    >>
    I think we all know that there are some cases where there is a way and some
    where there isn’t. I assume that the “protesters” feel that not enough
    rabbinic attention has been focused on this issus to really know that it
    falls into the latter category. I assume they would want an agunah “manhattan
    project”(to borrow an analogy from the Rav(JBSoloveitchik)) in which major
    resources are allocated to a complete focus on a problem of major proportions.

    KT(then and now)

  24. Gil, whether or not your reading of R. Angel’s words is correct, the sarcasm was gratuitously nasty.

    As far as the substance is concerned, it’s hard for me to conceive even conceptually of conversion without acceptance of mitzvos. What exactly is one converting to if not to a life of kabbalas hamitzvos? I think therefore that the problem with relying on the lenient sources is not so much that they are in the minority (I think this can be a part of the problem, but more so in conjunction with a better reason) as that they don’t present a convincing model for how conversion coheres in the absence of kabbalas hamitzvos.

    Some important issues that arise in the course of this question is distinguishing “Who is a Jew?” from “Who was a Jew?” (a la Schiffman’s book). The earliest rabbinic texts we have are from the 3rd century CE, and many of our rabbinic sources on conversion are much later. Jewish society (or whatever we decide to call it) from the Babylonian exile through late antiquity has had to deal with this question in some form or another, and we have plenty of sources (some more ancient than rabbinic sources, and some not) that also address this issue (either directly or indirectly). Analysis of these sources on their own terms is crucial to answering the question of “Who was a Jew?” And it’s quite clear that these sources at least sometimes provide answers to the question of “Who WAS a Jew?” that are different than the rabbinic answers to the question of “Who IS a Jew?”

    Of course, the only sources with any normative relevance for us are the rabbinic sources. But I think that we as a community are certainly mature enough to recognize that the rabbinic understanding (as a finished product) of conversion A) does not necessarily reflect a universal or even majority view (when, indeed, does it become a majority view?) within ancient Judaism, and B) may itself have undergone significant development over the course of the 500+ years over which the rabbinic period took place (even granting R. Broyde’s and R. Kadosh’s position).

    Again, this is interesting NOT as a method of coming up with new halachic perspectives on conversion. The halacha is pretty clearly established at this point – outliers notwithstanding. However, I think the ancient situation is HIGHLY relevant for Gil’s extremely important question: How do we conceptualize social and political roles for people who may self-identify as Jews (and may even be considered by some groups to be fully Jewish) but who are not Jewish from the perspective of OUR group?

    Here, it’s interesting to consider how Jewish society worked in the ancient period. We have Jews who accept patrilineal descent and some who do not. We have Jews who use a solar calendar and Jews who use a lunar calendar. We have Jews who use rabbinic forms of marriage and those who use Greek forms of marriage, and those who use both at different times in their lives. We have Jews who believe that Jesus is the messiah, and we have Jews who believe that Theudas is the messiah, and we have Jews who don’t believe that the messiah has arrived yet. We have the Yerushalmi’s ‘ammei ha’aretz and the Bavil’s ‘ammei ha’aretz. And so on and so forth.

    How did Jewish society function with all of this variety? Did everyone treat everyone else as gentiles? If not then what model(s) did they use?

  25. Why not consider the more than 300,000 Gentiles in Israel with Jewish family connections as a modern version of “ger toshav”.They meet all of the Rambam’s requirements for this status. They are not idol worshippers,they keep the 7 noahide laws, and they fully accept Jewish sovereignty. Making them full gerei tzedek is not a realistic option. Besides the fact that the vast majority are not interested in full conversion, those who are often have ulterior motives if only because they want to be part of the majority. IIRC, for this reason gerim were not accepted during the time of kings David and Solomon. Today these people are like the Erev Rav who joined the Exodus. Perhaps they will have a similar fate and after a few generations will simply assimilate and become part of clall Yisrael.

  26. Underlying much of this debate, but often not made explicit, is the question of what l’chatchilla and b’diavad mean in this context. Do we look at someone coming to convert in the context of the Russian Aliyah as initiating a conversion and require a l’chatchilla approach or do we say that her situation as one of a large group of people who are part of (largely secular) Jewish Israeli culture but halachically not Jewish is an existing situation that we should address with b’diavad standards. Those who argue for greater leniency take the latter view almost uniformly. It seems to me that those who argue for stringency tend to take the former approach and find it easy to do so in part because they are already distance from the secular Jewish Israeli culture.

  27. There is a very obvious, and tenable solution. We should adopt Rav Haim Ozer’s distinction between Kabbalat ha-mitzvot and Shemirat ha-Mitzvot (while rejecting R. Uziel). I am positive that aside from the Haredim, this will be accepted (at least be-di’avad) by everybody else. Obviously, converts will still be instructed and made clear that they are obligated to observe mitzvot. As for the בדיעבד , while this won’t affect the US, here it’s a matter of national survival (literally) and therefore, שעת הדחק כדיעבד דמי. (And if the Haredim don’t like it, in the off chance that the descendants of one of these converts becomes Haredi, they can always convert לחומרא.

  28. IH: Implementing Rav Uziel’s psak would would do more than “barely make a dent”.

    It is not currently a realistic possibility.

    What is the downside, Gil?

    Hundreds of thousands of invalid conversions.

    Jerry: I disagree. I don’t think we, as a community, are capable of distinguishing between ancient view that are irrelevant to practical halakhah. Time and again, commenters here quote from a historical study and state that halakhah is historically inaccurate and must be revamped. In general, I question the relevance of ancient history to this subject. If we are discussing practice, we need to speak in the language of contemporary halakhah and not academic history.

    David Tzohar: Agreed. While there is a question whether we can accept gerei toshav without a beis din of semukhim, some important poskim believe that we can. However, the people under discussion have a closer connection to Judaism than a peaceful Muslim, who is equally a ger toshav.

    Mike S: I disagree. Those who are strict say that *even bedieved* any conversion without full acceptance of the mitzvos is invalid.

  29. “it’s hard for me to conceive even conceptually of conversion without acceptance of mitzvos. What exactly is one converting to if not to a life of kabbalas hamitzvos?”

    Additive to Mike S, we’re talking about people who have accepted some mitzvot (e.g. yishuv ha’aretz); just not the litmus test mitzvot for Orthodoxy.

  30. Dr. Woolf: Do you really see this as a scalable solution?

  31. Can you be more specific, Gil, by what you mean the downside is “Hundreds of thousands of invalid conversions.”

    What does this mean in the context of 21st century Jewish society that is ~10% shomer mitzvot at the standard you require for conversion?

    How will preventing people from converting help in combating assimilation and inter-marriage? Or will it worsen the problem? And who decides the halachic tradeoff?

  32. Jon — I thought that Freeman Dyson article was brilliant and have been sharing it with people since it was published 3 years ago. Of course, he is writing about Global Warming as a brilliant, but non-specialist general scientist who is not as an expert in the field – as opposed to R. Uziel who was an expert posek.

    Further, his conclusions actually bolster my case. He argues that an “ism” has prevented people from taking seriously experts with a da’at yachid – because they are so socialized – and not on the merits of their case.

    “Unfortunately, some members of the environmental movement have also adopted as an article of faith the belief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet. That is one reason why the arguments about global warming have become bitter and passionate. Much of the public has come to believe that anyone who is skeptical about the dangers of global warming is an enemy of the environment. The skeptics now have the difficult task of convincing the public that the opposite is true. Many of the skeptics are passionate environmentalists. They are horrified to see the obsession with global warming distracting public attention from what they see as more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet, including problems of nuclear weaponry, environmental degradation, and social injustice. Whether they turn out to be right or wrong, their arguments on these issues deserve to be heard.”

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/jun/12/the-question-of-global-warming/?pagination=false

    So seems to be the case with R. Uziel and in his footsteps R. Angel and Profs. Sagi & Zohar.

  33. “Additive to Mike S, we’re talking about people who have accepted some mitzvot (e.g. yishuv ha’aretz); just not the litmus test mitzvot for Orthodoxy.”

    You’ve got to be kidding! Did the gentiles who moved to Israel do so as a positive act to settle and live in the Holy Land of Israel (yishuv haaretz), or, in order to escape the Soviet Union and the FSU for a better life in the State of Israel? You give them (as you do in almost every scenario) too much credit.

  34. Dan l’chaf zechut, Rafael. Or is that only applied to people who make themselves appear to be Orthodox?

  35. IH:

    i’m not sure why one has to be dan lechaf zchus for many of the non-jews. forget the children of mixed marriages who might identify as jews and one can be dan lechaf zchus for them. what about the non-jewish spouses of jews? why should they identify as jews or view the zionist enterprise through a jewish lense?

    on the other hand rafael would do well to remember that while these gentile olim did not come with the kavanah to be makayem mitzvas yishuv haaretz, they have thrown in their lot with the jewish people in a way more signifigant that any of us will ever do. the next time one of us goes to daven at the kotel it could very well be that the chayal who stands literally ready to give his life so us frum jews can exercise our jewish right to daven to hashem at the kotel is a goy. i’m not saying this has direct ramifications for converversion, but let’s not be so quik to spit on them as greedy opportunists.

  36. Another recent voice advocating we seriously re-look at Chief Rabbi Uziel’s position is Rabbi Joseph Telushkin in his recent book Hillel. See Gil’s pooh pooh of it in https://www.torahmusings.com/2011/02/conversion-and-hillel/ or a positive one at http://www.jewishideas.org/blog/books-you-may-want-read-reviewed-rabbi-israel-drazin.

  37. one other dynamic just to keep in mind. many of these non-jews marry jewish girls and have jewish kids.

    of course unfortunately the opposite happens with the russians as well. jewish girls marry non-jewish men and have non-jewish kids.

  38. “i’m not sure why one has to be dan lechaf zchus for many of the non-jews.”

    Abba — You answered it yourself. Because, unlike far too many Orthodox Jews, they join Tzahal and fight in the Jewish army for the Jewish state on bahalf of the Jewish people. I thought it was the sanctity of that Jewish state that makes this issue so passionate.

    It is good to remember, as RDH observes, that Ruth first says “עַמֵּךְ עַמִּי” and only then says “וֵאלֹהַיִךְ אֱלֹהָי”.

  39. i’m also not clear why the status of russian converts is that different from the status of ethiopian olim. why has the controversy regarding the latter completely faded away? it’s not like their their jewish status was universally accepted either.

  40. Abba: Christians also serve in the IDF and protect yeshiva students, and deserve as much gratitude as a Jewish soldier.

    Intermarriage is a social issue.

    IH: Moving to Israel may fulfill a mitzvah but it does not constitute acceptance of commandments.

    As R. Lichtenstein makes clear, conversion requires both amekh ami and Elokayich Elokay.

  41. IH:

    there are also arabs in tzahal. doesn’t make them jewish.

  42. Abba — and if they want to convert?

  43. “Intermarriage is a social issue.”

    This post and discussion about conversion is a social issue. Nu?

  44. hmm. comment isn’t posting?

  45. Hirhurim: “Time and again, commenters here quote from a historical study and state that halakhah is historically inaccurate and must be revamped.”

    But that’s not what I’m doing. It is not my purpose to question the accuracy of Chazal’s views “Who is a Jew?” (nor is it clear to me that this would even be correct in any case). My point is that – as you like to point out in other contexts – this is not a new problem. Chazal (at least the Tannaim and perhaps early Amoraim) had to deal with a very similar issue: vast numbers of Jews who would not fit (nor would they even accept) the halachic definition of Jewishness. And yet somehow Chazal, and Jewish society in general, found ways to do this. This should be highly significant.

    And of course I reject your point that Jewish history (even “ancient” Jewish history, as if its antiquity somehow makes it less rather than more important) is irrelevant to understanding and potentially solving the issue at hand. Although I suppose it may be less than helpful in trying to figure out pshat in a Ramban, or something like that.

  46. In any case, Gil’s sidestep ignores the fact that a major-league posek — even if it is a da’at yachid — who was also the first Sephardic (as opposed to Brisker :-)) Chief Rabbi in Israel has a serious reading of the texts that leads to a conclusion Gil doesn’t like.

    Or, Gil, is it Rav Uziel you have in mind when you say “state that halakhah is historically inaccurate and must be revamped”?

  47. In other words, Gil, you’re missing my point. On the one hand, I don’t think the ancient evidence on Jewish self-definition can tell us anything about Chazal’s accuracy. On the other hand, it’s certainly undeniable that there were several other ways of defining Jewishness, aside from the position that eventually develops in Chazal.

    My point is NOT that this can tell us anything about Chazal’s position per se (i.e. whether or not it is correct). But it CAN tell us a bit about the context in which rabbinic views were developing. They didn’t arise in a vacuum of universal acceptance of the rabbinic standard. Ultimately the early chachamim were in a position very nearly like ours.

    The question is, therefore, how did this work? Maybe we can’t find an answer. But maybe we can.

  48. Jerry: Sorry for being unclear. I was responding to your specific statement that “But I think that we as a community are certainly mature enough…” In my experience, we are not.

    But I concede that there *might* be an answer to our dilemma in ancient history. Of course, there might not. Just because something worked then doesn’t meant that it will work now.

    IH: Yes, one posek is lenient while every other posek, including Sephardim, are not. It is irresponsible to be lenient on a communal issue like this based on a solitary opinion.

    And, no, I did not have Rav Uziel in mind when I mentioned commenters on this blog.

  49. Hirhurim: “Sorry for being unclear. I was responding to your specific statement that ‘But I think that we as a community are certainly mature enough…’ In my experience, we are not.”

    Okay, I understand where you’re coming from. Perhaps our community is not mature enough, but parts of it are (or can be). I’m thinking in particular about MO in America and various forms of Dati-Tziyoni in Israel. Maybe we’ve just had different experiences.

    Hirhurim: “But I concede that there *might* be an answer to our dilemma in ancient history. Of course, there might not. Just because something worked then doesn’t meant that it will work now.”

    Agreed. My belief is that it’s worthwhile to look and see.

  50. R. Student: There are dozens of shu”t from centuries before the current controversy distinguishing the extent of kabbalas ol mitzvot required l’chatchila from that which is binding b’diavad. That the standards are different is not (or at least, was not) particularly controversial. If those who want to be strict in the current controversy ignore that entirely, they are letting politics cloud their learning (which is not to say that there are not those on the lenient side who are also letting politics override learning).

  51. Is it irresponsible to be stringent on communal issues based on minority opinions?

  52. Also, I think it’s worth adding that part of the reason why you get amaratzim citing historical literature on conversion and claiming that it proves the inaccuracy of Chazal is because so very few of our leaders ever address (or are even conversant) in the ancient history of this issue. So when amaratzim come across these sources, they have that ‘forbidden-fruit’ appeal, and in some cases become easy to misuse.

    If more of our leaders (of course not all or maybe even most, which isn’t feasible) addressed these sources (which are admittedly permanently outside the halachic tradition as far as psak goes), they could actively frame the issue themselves, which has the double benefit of preempting the amaratzim, and also adding a level of richness and sophistication to the range of solutions available to us.

  53. Halacha is not only an abstract legal system, but a practical one with consequences. When pushed what the downside of being lenient is, you responded “Hundreds of thousands of invalid conversions”.

    You have not yet responded to my question about the consequences of preventing your stated downside rationale for being lenient:

    1. What does this mean in the context of 21st century Jewish society that is ~10% shomer mitzvot at the standard you require for conversion? Cui Bono?

    2. How will preventing people from converting help in combating assimilation and inter-marriage? Marriage in Israel is delegated to the Rabbinate, but Jews can escape this by being married outside of Israel; the status of their children then becomes a further complication. Will the position you advocate worsen other halachic problems? And who decides the halachic tradeoff of the social reality?

  54. Jerry — there are “amaratzim” on both sides of this debate. This is a red herring.

  55. IH: Fine, maybe so. That doesn’t affect my point.

  56. IH wrote:

    “Way to pick the one outlier, very very far out of consensus. And surprise! He’s lenient.”

    Gil – so for all your hifalutin talk about the halachic process and the criteria by which one evaluates poskim, when it comes to one of your pet issues, it’s just a count of Rabbis. And you had us believing that was what made Conservative Jewry heretical”

    WADR, R Gil was merely illusrating why R Uziel ZL’s Psak ran contrary to the overwhelming majority of views in Rishonim and Acharonim.

  57. “Rabbi Uzziel discusses the case of secular Jews who married Gentile women, fathered children by them, and now wish to have their wives accepted for giyyur. Uzziel rules that these women should be accepted even if the court assumes that they will subsequently follow a secular lifestyle. Our of the reasons he gives is concern for what might happen to their joint children:

    Even if we do not care [to ameliorate the condition of the fathers who sinned by marrying Gentile women] and say, ‘let the rope follow the bucket’, we should certainly seek to draw them closer for the sake of the children. This is clear, with regard to children of a Jewish woman [living with a Gentile], for such children are fully Jewish. And it is also the case even with regard to children of a Gentile woman [who married a Jew] – for they are the seed of Israel, and they are as lost sheep. And I fear that if we reject the children completely, by refusing to accept their parents for giyyur, we will be summoned to answer [before God] and it will be said about us: ‘nor have you brought back the strayed, nor have you sought that which was lost’ (Ezek. 34:4).

    Transforming Identity (2007) by Profs. Sagi & Zohar, p. 61

    —–

    Halacha is not only an abstract legal system, but a practical one with consequences. When pushed what the downside of being lenient is, you responded “Hundreds of thousands of invalid conversions”.

    You have not yet responded to my question about the consequences of preventing your stated downside rationale for being lenient:

    1. What does this mean in the context of 21st century Jewish society that is ~10% shomer mitzvot at the standard you require for conversion? Cui Bono?

    2. How will preventing people from converting help in combating assimilation and inter-marriage? Marriage in Israel is delegated to the Rabbinate, but Jews can escape this by being married outside of Israel; the status of their children then becomes a further complication. Will the position you advocate worsen other halachic problems? And who decides the halachic tradeoffs within the social reality?

  58. william gewirtz

    First, to better appreciate RCOG ztl’s position, look at the harsh response in the Dvar avraham and look at how it softened the position of rmf ztl. (listen to rabbi rakeffet’s shiurim on RMF and geirut.) RCOG’s reliance on the psak of RSK ztl makes it rather clear what level of kabbalat hamitzvot is required.

    Second, it s critical to distinguish what a BD ought do ab initio versus lemaphreiah.

    Third, Prof. Marc Shapiro has a comprehensive review of the prof. sagi/Zohar vs. R. broyde debate.

  59. URL is http://seforim.traditiononline.org/index.cfm/2008/8/29/Responses-to-Comments-and-Elaborations-of-Previous-Posts-III

    Starts at “6. I have been asked to say something about the current conversion controversy.” about a 3rd of the way in to the post.

  60. IH, after quoting from the Teshuvah of R Uzziel ZL commented:

    “1. What does this mean in the context of 21st century Jewish society that is ~10% shomer mitzvot at the standard you require for conversion? Cui Bono?

    2. How will preventing people from converting help in combating assimilation and inter-marriage? Marriage in Israel is delegated to the Rabbinate, but Jews can escape this by being married outside of Israel; the status of their children then becomes a further complication. Will the position you advocate worsen other halachic problems? And who decides the halachic tradeoffs within the social reality

    I don’t think that the Torah and Halacha have ever expected the context of any Jewish society to dictate how we act. In contrast, the Torah almost defiantly places great importance on the Mitzvah of Teshuvah in many places as a prerequisite for the Geulah. Your question was present at Yetzias Mitzrayim and during the times of Ezra and Nechemiah, as well as during the 19th Century. Yet, the eternal answers of Teshuvah remains present, despite the society that we live in. Your answer suggests that we allow society to dictate a halacic response, as opposed to having Poskim evaluate the society that they live in through the prism of Mesorah and TSBP.

  61. Steve — the only way I can make sense of your response is to take it out of the context of Modern Orthodox thinking and place it into a modern Charedi “daas torah” response. If you meant something else, could you make your point in plain English without the code?

  62. One of the most relevant and enlightening essays I have read on this topic was by R’ Eleizer Berkovitz, originally published in 1974.

    The essay was reprinted in a 2002 collection of essays by David Hzony titled Essential Essays on Judaism.

  63. william gewirtz

    IH, my reference is to a full published article, in meorot i believe.

  64. William — many thanks. I don’t recall reading this one (and now will): http://www.yctorah.org/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_download/gid,1399/

    Gil — I await your response on halachic consequences at your convenience. If you publicly publish the emphatic position you take, then you have a responsibility to work through legitimate followup questions that you seem not to have considered prior to posting. It is one thing to just go quiet when you’re caught out when the issue is inconsequential, like in your Barefoot in Shul post; but, this is a consequential issue with extraordinarily serious ramifications to us all.

    Shabbat Shalom

  65. IH-I don’t speak or write in code. I do not see expressing a belief that the Jewish People can survive such problems and that the vehicle for the same is a Mitzvah called Teshuvah is code.

  66. IH: science:meteorology::Halakha:gerus. If you dispute this, you’re hopeless.

  67. IH: Sorry, it was a busy day at work. You asked in a roundabout way whether being strict will lead to intermarriage. The answer is that 1) there is no option to be lenient because, at least according to the studies in this book, the overwhelming consensus lies in the other direction, and 2) the issue can be resolved socially, as social problems should. Your question assumes that if we don’t allow widescale conversions then we can’t do anything. I deny that assumption. We can embark on a program of education. What are the consequences regarding intermarriage for failing to do that?

  68. Gil — when you have more time, please re-read and respond to IH on June 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm, and minimally to the issue raised by Chief Rabbi Uziel in the responsum excerpt quoted.

  69. “We can embark on a program of education”
    Does that really prevent intermarriage/correllation/causation fallacy may be in play

    “What are the consequences regarding intermarriage for failing to do that?”
    Intermarriage has gone up-even to the extent that it has happened to those who have spent 12 years at an Orthodox Day school.
    Intermarriage only occurs among those who we have lost already-including those pushed out by mechanchim who espouse my way or the highway approach.

  70. IH: 2. How will preventing people from converting help in combating assimilation and inter-marriage?

    What exactly is wrong with intermarriage in Israel? The intermarried couple will be part of a Jewish society and culture, will they not? True, it is a violation of halacha. But so would be accepting people whose conversions are invalid as Jewish. If halacha is a priority for you, you should accept that it works in both directions.

  71. I saw a really good shiur on conversions by R. Cardozo.

    Really has to be watched in its entirety.

  72. Shlomo — The children, as per the tshuva from Rav Uziel.

  73. And interestingly, on the front page of ynet:

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4083716,00.html

    “It is estimated that 1,000 civil marriages involving Israelis take place in Cyprus each year, with many couples coming to the island because they are unable to have a religious ceremony back home. […] Russian-born partners Vladimir Levchin, 30, and Natalie, 34, said they participated because they couldn’t get married in Israel, as they are a mixed-faith couple.”

  74. IH: If you are asking what the downside is of implementing Rav Uziel-style conversions, it is that this will vastly increase the amount of intermarriage according to the vast majority of poskim, who hold tha such conversions are invalid even bedieved. That’s a huge downside.

    Mycroft: We are talking about Israel.

  75. Gil — Still not responsive. My query in IH on June 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm remains.

  76. It answers #2. #1 is not a clear question. Yes, many people are not Torah observant. How is that relevant? A Jew who strays from the Torah does not lose his Jewish status even though he is violating God’s covenant. How can someone become Jewish without accepting God’s covenant?

  77. When I asked you what the downside would be of implanting Rav Uziel’s psak, you said “Hundreds of thousands of invalid conversions”. Okay, so let’s look at this in the larger context.

    Marriage in Israel is delegated to the Rabbinate, but Jews can escape this by being married outside of Israel; the status of their children then becomes a further complication which is the the focus of quoted part of Rav Uziel’s psak:

    Even if we do not care [to ameliorate the condition of the fathers who sinned by marrying Gentile women] and say, ‘let the rope follow the bucket’, we should certainly seek to draw them closer for the sake of the children. This is clear, with regard to children of a Jewish woman [living with a Gentile], for such children are fully Jewish. And it is also the case even with regard to children of a Gentile woman [who married a Jew] – for they are the seed of Israel, and they are as lost sheep. And I fear that if we reject the children completely, by refusing to accept their parents for giyyur, we will be summoned to answer [before God] and it will be said about us: ‘nor have you brought back the strayed, nor have you sought that which was lost’ (Ezek. 34:4).

    The stringent position you take on giyyur, worsens the situation Rav Uziel believes is a worse situation. This is amplified by the ynet report:

    It is estimated that 1,000 civil marriages involving Israelis take place in Cyprus each year, with many couples coming to the island because they are unable to have a religious ceremony back home. […] Russian-born partners Vladimir Levchin, 30, and Natalie, 34, said they participated because they couldn’t get married in Israel, as they are a mixed-faith couple.

    In your ideological need to see halacha as a formal, abstract, self-contained system, you completely ignore the consequences and halachic tradeoffs within the social reality. [And is it really in the interest of Zionist American Orthodoxy to be bedfellows with anti-Zionist poskim in Israel who have disproportionate power (for now) in the governing coalition].

    So, what is your view of the halachic process that resolves the reality of a rapidly-increasing population of non-halachic Jews in Israel due, in part, to the Israeli national “Who is a Jew” policy being delegated to the Rabbinate (for now, noting the country is only 10% halachic at the level required of converts) vs. your desire to interpret halacha strictly in regard to conversion?

  78. To be even clearer: given the tradeoff, it it more important to be makpid on shmirat mitzvot by converts; even at the risk losing their children to any Judaism at all?

    Rav Uziel says no — the children are more important. You — and your ideaological cohorts — appear to just ignore the issue.

  79. I dispute his contention that we need to bring closer the gentile children of a Jewish man. And the Jewish children of a gentile man should be accepted into Jewish schools. We can also create outreach programs. Conversion is not the only answer.

    Performing invalid conversions will only make then problem worse, leading to even more intermarriages than otherwise.

    No one I know, not even Briskers, ignores the practical realities and implications of halakhic questions. They just don’t think it trumps all other concerns.

  80. Gil — “We are talking about Israel.”

  81. Gil — who’s talking about trumping other concerns? Or going against halacha or against the halachic process?

    Rav Uziel was a renowned posek working within the system. And people like Rabbi M. Angel who support that approach are mainstream Modern Orthodox.

  82. I understand that but the vast majority of poskim think he is mistaken and his approach is untenable, even Modern Orthodox rabbis like R. Shlomo Riskin.

  83. A lot of people have expressed opinions, at different points, often as a reaction to some political act or scholarly article (e.g. Profs Sagi & Zohar). But the system works via (usually written) tshuvot that work through the texts.

    Please point us to a (halachic process) tshuva that specifically responds to Rav Uziel’s tshuva quoted above.

    [And if you’re going to summarize the issue again, give Rav Uziel the kavod he deserves with a proper summary and mareh mekomot].

  84. “Hirhurim on June 18, 2011 at 11:30 pm
    I understand that but the vast majority of poskim think he is mistaken and his approach is untenable, even Modern Orthodox rabbis like R. Shlomo Riskin”
    R Riskin’s approach is simple make every Rav Hair able to convert people. As Rav Hair of Efrat-he will be able to set up his conversion institute and convert those who use it-especially Russians who we owe a lot to-. Problem solved.

  85. “Mycroft: We are talking about Israel.”

    if so I don’t understand the following

    ““We can embark on a program of education””

    What does education in Israel have to do with preventing intermarriage in Israel-I don’t disagree I don’t understand.

  86. IH: Really, all poskim agree until they specifically write teshuvos against each other? That’s a rule with which I’m not familiar.

    Mycroft: All I know is that R. Riskin has written against R. Uziel’s position.

    Re education, I don’t mean in day schools. I meant informal education.

  87. Gil — your responses demonstrate the same flaws that doomed the Va’ad Halacha BSD debacle. The only one you are fooling is yourself.

  88. “And people like Rabbi M. Angel who support that approach are mainstream Modern Orthodox.”

    I don’t know what mainstream MO is-I really don’t know what MO is-not that Rabbi M. Angel needs my haskama-but I would certainly trust him and his integrity. I believe that he accepts the halachik system-just remember he is not Ashkenazic which most Americans are.

  89. IH: Whatever. Not worth the aggravation.

  90. “It answers #2. #1 is not a clear question. Yes, many people are not Torah observant. How is that relevant? A Jew who strays from the Torah does not lose his Jewish status even though he is violating God’s covenant. How can someone become Jewish without accepting God’s covenant?”

    If you watched the video I linked, you would have an answer.

    Basically, you can accept a covenant, without knowing the details of the covenenant. I believe this is what Am Yisorel did when we said “Naaseh V’Nishmah”. The convert says “I wish to be part of the Jewish people, I believe the G-d wants more Jews, and I believe that Jews have a special covenant with G-d that requires certain things from me.” What those details are, is not really that important. That will come over time, with education.

  91. Shlomo — The children, as per the tshuva from Rav Uziel.

    That’s also just a halachic technicality.

  92. From Marc Shapiro’s piece on this at the Seforim Blog:

    “I could cite a number of other sources, but it should be obvious by now that the lenient approach is hardly a daat yahid, identified only with R. Uziel. I believe that an examination of the responsa literature reveals that until recently this was a mainstream approach among both rabbis doing conversions and poskim who dealt with this issue. I am not saying that it was the dominant approach, only that it was widespread.”

    I thought the sources from the Tashbetz and Meiri that he cited were both intriguing.

  93. Layman: Absolutely agreed. But a convert has to have a real intent to fulfill his part of the covenant. We aren’t discussing such situations.

    Jerry: In the past, when I’ve looked into Prof. Shapiro’s sources, I’ve found them often to say something entirely different. I’d verify everything from him, looking into the complete context, before accepting it as fact.

  94. “I’d verify everything from him, looking into the complete context, before accepting it as fact.”

    Just as with your posts, Gil. If you’re going to play that card, then it must be said I’m afraid.

  95. Absolutely, although this post is a book review so it is pretty easy to verify my claims — read this one, readily available book.

  96. Shachar Ha'amim

    This entire discussion ignores the fact that the overwhelming majority of cases involving immigrants to Israel pursuant to the Law of Return involve gentiles who are “mizera yisrael” – i.e. have Jewish ancestry, and how these perhaps can, or should, be treated differently when analyzing conversion possibilities. Rav Amsalem made a huge deal of this point in his recent sefer which got him thrown out of Shas (so much for Rav Uziel – but then again Rav Ovadia Yosef is not afraid to “take on” Rav Uziel…)

  97. “Israel pursuant to the Law of Return involve gentiles who are “mizera yisrael” – i.e. have Jewish ancestry, and how these perhaps can, or should, be treated differently when analyzing conversion possibilities.”
    I know R Riskin advocates that position for Russians-but I really don’t understand the concept-either one is born Jewish or one is not. Since Judaism follows the mother what difference does the father make-except the father was one who if Jewish committed a sin. The position smells non halachik.
    If one is not born Jewish one must convert to be considered Jewish.

  98. Agreed. And the stringent reading of halacha is not sustainable in defining Who is a Jew in the Jewish State.

  99. According to this book, this is not a stringent reading of Halacha. It is the only tenable reading.

  100. “According to this book, this is not a stringent reading of Halacha. It is the only tenable reading.”

    So you have repeatedly said. And I again observe the similarity with the Va’ad Halacha BSD Transplant paper.

    But, perhaps we can move forward when you summarize or quote the book’s response to:

    “Rabbi Uzziel discusses the case of secular Jews who married Gentile women, fathered children by them, and now wish to have their wives accepted for giyyur. Uzziel rules that these women should be accepted even if the court assumes that they will subsequently follow a secular lifestyle. Our of the reasons he gives is concern for what might happen to their joint children:

    Even if we do not care [to ameliorate the condition of the fathers who sinned by marrying Gentile women] and say, ‘let the rope follow the bucket’, we should certainly seek to draw them closer for the sake of the children. This is clear, with regard to children of a Jewish woman [living with a Gentile], for such children are fully Jewish. And it is also the case even with regard to children of a Gentile woman [who married a Jew] – for they are the seed of Israel, and they are as lost sheep. And I fear that if we reject the children completely, by refusing to accept their parents for giyyur, we will be summoned to answer [before God] and it will be said about us: ‘nor have you brought back the strayed, nor have you sought that which was lost’ (Ezek. 34:4).

    Transforming Identity (2007) by Profs. Sagi & Zohar, p. 61.

  101. i.e. the books response, not your own opinion. Or perhap the book neglects to address this?

  102. i have not read all the comments – so i do not know if this was covered: from the post it seems that t’ uziel was a sole dissenting opinion – but it was l’chatchila not bedieved that was his chidush – you only have to inform him of the mitzvot and not that he accepts to observe them:

    From here it explicitly follows that we do not require of him to observe the mitzvot, and the court need not even know that he will observe them. For were this not true, converts would never be accepted, for who can guarantee that this non-Jew will be faithful to all the mitzvot of the Torah. We inform him about some of the mitzvot so that he may abandon [the conversion], if he so desires, and so that he not be able to say later that had he known, he would never have converted. This is lekhatchila, but bedi’eved, the failure to inform him does not invalidate [the conversion]. We learn from all that has been stated that accepting the observance of the mitzvot is not an indispensable requirement for conversion, even lekhatchila. (Piskei Uzi’el, no. 65)

  103. Conversion would not have helped this couple: “That’s what compelled Russian-born Jew Vladimir Levchin and his 34-year-old bride Natalie — a nurse and a Christian who was also born in Russia — to travel to Cyprus for the ceremony.”

  104. on bedieved cases one can look at Responsa Achi’ezer, III, no. 26 (accept the mitzvot but intends to violate some), or Iggerot Moshe, Yore De’a, I, no. 160 (the essence of accepting the yoke of the mitzvot is the desire “to be like all the Jews” – that is, “to be a good Jew.”- seems to be room here to be a good secular jew) or Responsa Seridei Esh, II, no. 75.

    what nobody has mentioned beside conversion al pe halacha with habalat mitzvot is halachot pertaining to ahavat yisroel, kenesset yisroel, and unity of the jewish people in factors of et lasot/shaat dechak to rule leniently with a minority opinion.

  105. To me as an outsider,of the Rabbinical Hierarchy,I feel for these fine people,who have the desire to be part of Jewish people,and unfortunately,in the cultured environment of our times,can not honestly take upon themselves the full yoke of Mitzvahs.
    There is a solution,that is fully compatible.with the Halakah-altough it is not PC-that is to prepare Documents, that the prospective person,who wants to become Jewish,but is not ready to the acceptance of Mitzvahs,should accept upon himself to become EVED or SHIFCHA to a Jewish entity,and goes through Tevilah.and right after that he gets Shtar Shichrur.
    There is aproblem ,with Shichrur,but can be overcome,by MitzvahRabba doctrine.
    Does someone here know if this approach was ever researched?

  106. Ruvie: None of those sources support conversion without intent to accept the commandments.

    Of course there is room to follow a minority opinion in a time of great need. But not all minority opinions are equal and not all times of need are equal. This is the kind of evaluation left for great poskim. To my knowledge, there are different opinions on how to handle today’s situation but none go as far as Rav Uziel.

    My opinion is that we can never send the message that being Jewish requires observance of the Torah. Converting people whom we have no reasonable expectation will observe the commandments undermines the essence of being Jewish. There is no extenuating circumstance that can allow that. If we don’t take our religion seriously, we can’t expect non-religious Jews to either. But that’s just my opinion.

    As has been pointed out by various commenters, there is room in between Rav Uziel’s extreme leniency and the “no way” position.

  107. “Of course there is room to follow a minority opinion in a time of great need.”

    I’d say the rapid vanishing of the diaspora and the danger of mass intermarriage in Israel constitutes a “great need”. One doesn’t need to be a “great posek” to see this. Speaking of which…

    “This is the kind of evaluation left for great poskim.”

    I say this with a heavy heart, but I do not believe there is anyone alive today who is worthy of that honorarium. Those who might be are all scared of second and third rate kon’oim and askanim. We are indeed a dor yatom.

  108. Why take a risk? The non-Orthodox majority will eventually give up, make their own decision and then the Orthodox can indignantly huff about the shmad. We’ve watched this movie before…

  109. IH,

    You grossly overestimate Orthodoxy’s ability to have an effect on this whole phenomenon. This from one who constantly reminds us of how only 10% of Jews are Orthodox…

  110. Huh? Who else in Israel is blocking conversions on the basis of a halachic requirement for shmirat mitzvot (the premise of this post)?

  111. I meant in the diaspora.

  112. As for here, once ROY is gone (yibadel lechayim arukim), all will follow the dictates of Rav Elyashiv, whose community isn’t affected by the whole thing anyway.

  113. Aiwac: People have been saying that we don’t have “real” poskim forever. R. Alan Yuter wrote an article in the early 70s arguing that R. Mose Feinstein and Rav Soloveitchik were just polemicists and not real halakhists. I’m sure S could give us chapter and verse for similar complaints against the Noda BiYehudah and Chasam Sofer.

  114. Anyone wish to comment on R Wein sees as a historic parallel re a polotically motivated mass gerus of dubious sincerity? http://www.rabbiwein.com/Jerusalem-Post/2011/06/610.html

  115. R. Gil,

    Name one, just ONE, major posek aside from ROY who isn’t a garden variety Charedi konoi.

  116. …or a major posek who isn’t afraid of said kono’im.

  117. Joshua Josephs

    It seems to me that in the modern era solving this problem with computers and the government should not be difficult. Let each of the movements in Judaism set up conversion boards. A potential convert then chooses which beis din he/she goes to. Once the conversion is complete that person is given a certificate with a registry number on it that is connected to a computer database that identifies which beis din did the conversion and what movement they are affiliated with. Then just like with Dor Yesharim a potential couple can trade numbers and check the database.
    This does not perfectly solve the problem over several generations where someone might assume they are Jewish and become observant when in fact they are not. However I would ask what is the halacha on how much proof must someone bring at a wedding that they are in fact Jewish.

  118. In Israel or the US? Either way, I know where that path takes us and it isn’t pretty, so I will not start naming names. I don’t know you well enough but my impression from Prof. Sperber’s article about the frozen nature of halakhah is that he just isn’t getting the innovative pesakim that he wants. But there is plenty of innovative halakhah happening, just not in the headlines.

  119. R Gil wrote in part:

    “People have been saying that we don’t have “real” poskim forever. R. Alan Yuter wrote an article in the early 70s arguing that R. Mose Feinstein and Rav Soloveitchik were just polemicists and not real halakhists”

    For anyone who wants to see a source-see Rosh HaShanah 25b-the entir discussion immediately preceding the beginning of the third Perek of RH.

  120. “But there is plenty of innovative halakhah happening, just not in the headlines.”

    “Innovative” psak in private is always open to potential reversion because of public condemnation of kono’im. So it’s less valuable than you think, in my opinion.

    But you know what? Afraid to name names? Name some innovative psak that was done not in absolute secrecy, please.

  121. In other words, on hot-button issues they are (generally) intentionally following a party line because of the zeitgeist. But on other issues there is variety and innovation.

  122. “In other words, on hot-button issues they are (generally) intentionally following a party line because of the zeitgeist.”

    So my point still stands.

  123. Gil!
    Should we stop doing kiruv in order to prevent those non halachic converts migrating to the orthodox camp ?

  124. Aiwac: Well, yes, but not mi-ta’ameikh. It is a principled stand.

  125. Realist: No because people who are mekurav are willing to convert and accept Torah and mitzvos.

  126. IH wrote:

    “who’s talking about trumping other concerns? Or going against halacha or against the halachic process”

    Who has been pushing for and supporting the decidedly Daas Yachid of R Uziel ZL, against the consensus of Rov Rishonim, Acharonim, Poskim, and esteemed MO rabbanim?

  127. Realist wrote:

    “Should we stop doing kiruv in order to prevent those non halachic converts migrating to the orthodox camp?”

    In many, if not all instances, such persons who have had a non-halachic conversion, are willing to undergo a real Gerus as part of their Kabalas Ol Mitzvos. In fact, we were recently at a shivah visit, and heard of such an instance-the Gerim in question have raised a family of Bnei and Bnos Torah.

  128. Aiwac wrote:

    “Name one, just ONE, major posek aside from ROY who isn’t a garden variety Charedi konoi”

    I would never clasify RHS or R M Willig with that label.

  129. “aiwac on June 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm
    IH,

    You grossly overestimate Orthodoxy’s ability to have an effect on this whole phenomenon. This from one who constantly reminds us of how only 10% of Jews are Orthodox…”

    10% is reasonable figure for US-but it is much more in Israel. Israel due to single issue politics until now Orthodox have been able to control conversions-if it becomes a major secular issue and mass trips needed to marry in Cyprus the whole thing becomes a joke.

  130. Aiwac — crossed signals then, I was following Hirhurim on June 18, 2011 at 10:24 pm “We are talking about Israel”.

    Mycroft: not to diminish your point, but see Israel Bureau of Statistics summary in IH on June 16, 2011 at 11:19 pm

  131. RHS is a Charedi “fellow traveler” which is the same thing. What has R Mordechai Willig said on conversion.

  132. “10% is reasonable figure for US-but it is much more in Israel.”

    It’s about 20% all told, maybe 23-5% if we include the various datlashim.

    “if it becomes a major secular issue and mass trips needed to marry in Cyprus the whole thing becomes a joke”

    To play devil’s advocate, what’s stopping that? Anyone who wants to go to Cyprus/get a non-Orthodox conversion does so. I don’t recall there being a great desire among non-halachically Jewish FSU Israelis to convert even before the R. Drukman crisis.

  133. Aiwac: There are Religious Zionist poskim but, at least where I am, I don’t hear much about them. It was very hard for me to obtain the teshuvos of R. Shlomo Aviner and R. Nachum Rabinovich. The former is not particularly innovative or in-depth. The latter is, although his style is very unusual. R. Yehudah Henkin is also very innovative. I’m not sure whether they are considered top tier but, then again, I suspect that anyone Religious Zionist cannot be top tier because the Charedi population will ignore him.

    Come to think of it, if you want to see a good example of innovative Halakhah, look at R. Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg’s teshuvah on copyright. It reached far enough that R. Mayer Twersky, who doesn’t normally read halakhic journals, recommended it to me.

  134. Aiwac: I doubt you will find talmidim of Rav Soloveitchik allowing a conversion without acceptance of mitzvos.

  135. “Aiwac: Well, yes, but not mi-ta’ameikh. It is a principled stand.”

    Really? You sure it’s all about principle?

    All the stories I keep hearing of poskim and Rabbis being bullied on all kinds of issues (the Slifkin affair) are all just out of principled disagreement? Surely you don’t seriously believe kono’i pressure had nothing to do with it.

  136. On this issue, I haven’t heard a peep about kana’im.

  137. “[Rav Rabinovich] is, although his style is very unusual.”

    How so?

    “I’m not sure whether they are considered top tier but, then again, I suspect that anyone Religious Zionist cannot be top tier because the Charedi population will ignore him.”

    Therein lies the problem, which is why I reassert my position that there are no great poskim – just Charedi “yes-men” and talmidei chachamim who are ignored.

    “I doubt you will find talmidim of Rav Soloveitchik allowing a conversion without acceptance of mitzvos.”

    Aye, therein lies the rub. What is acceptance of mitzvot? Is it just acceptance in principle (which practically everyone agrees on) or only being frum in practice 24/7/365/120? Where is the line drawn?

  138. “On this issue, I haven’t heard a peep about kana’im.”

    You don’t live in Israel.

  139. “On this issue, I haven’t heard a peep about kana’im.”

    Also, ergo on other issues there is pressure? Which is it, sir?

  140. Rav Rabinovich writes like a rishon, without engaging even the basic commentaries on Shulchan Aruch. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just unusual.

    Charedi poskim don’t all agree with each other and often say very interesting things.

    You are right that I don’t live in Israel. My impression is that the current debate is over Rav Druckman’s position, not, Rav Uziel’s which even Rav Druckman rejects. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  141. I sense there are mekruvim who hide their non Jewish past

  142. “Charedi poskim don’t all agree with each other and often say very interesting things.”

    On the key issues, they do. As far as I’m concerned they’re one homogenous block.

    If they have interesting things to say on key issues (modernity, conversion, secular studies, tzni’ut), I’ve yet to hear about them. If you have examples, please share.

    “You are right that I don’t live in Israel. My impression is that the current debate is over Rav Druckman’s position, not, Rav Uziel’s which even Rav Druckman rejects. Correct me if I’m wrong.”

    I wasn’t advocating Rav Uziel’s position. However, my impression, correct me if I’m wrong, is that Charedi poskim will not accept anything within the universe of Rav Drukman under any circumstances.

  143. I’d like to come back more directly to the issue of conversion in Israel. While in his original post, Gil admits that “In the modern era, Jewish identity comes in multiple flavors that often omit mitzvah observance.”

    In the course of discussion, Gil has stated about the overwhelming majority of born Jews in Israel who do not practice Judaism at the level this book advocates (he tells us) is required of converts, that “Yes, many people are not Torah observant. How is that relevant? A Jew who strays from the Torah does not lose his Jewish status even though he is violating God’s covenant. How can someone become Jewish without accepting God’s covenant?”

    And in a different comment: “But a convert has to have a real intent to fulfill his part of the covenant.”

    And most explicitly “Converting people whom we have no reasonable expectation will observe the commandments undermines the essence of being Jewish. There is no extenuating circumstance that can allow that.”

    —–

    Without relying on self-definition, can you explain why the child of a devout Chilonim who is brought up to believe that halacha are ancient folkways rather than what we do today does not “undermine the essence of being Jewish” but a convert who wishes to be unobservantly Jewish in the same manner as the Chiloni, is accepted as a Jewish citizen of Israel (under the immigration & registration rules) needs to be shomer mitzvot (or be encouraged to lie that he/she is) in order not to “undermine the essence of being Jewish”?

    It seems to me this is key to resolving the issue you raise in the second paragraph of your post “the Orthodox lost the debate in the public arena because they failed to answer certain basic questions”. Without being able explain this rationally to people who do not accept the strictures of halacha as defined by the Orthodox, this whole discussion is just negotiation with one’s self.

  144. IH: A Chiloni does not forfeit his Jewishness by abrogating his covenant with God. Once a Jew, always a Jew. But that doesn’t mean he is fulfilling his obligations. He may be a tinok she-nishbah and therefore exempt from punishment, but he is neglecting a basic aspect of his Jewishness.

    A convert does not have that initial Jewishness to neglect. If he wishes to gain Jewishness, he has to do it the way the Chiloni’s ancestors did, by accepting the Torah.

  145. IH,

    According to your logic, what’s the point of conversion in the first place?! All bending over backwards will accomplish nothing anyway?

  146. Aiwac: I haven’t seen Rav Druckman’s position in writing so I am not entirely sure what it is. I thought it was that devarim she-ba-lev einam devarim but Dr. Woolf says it isn’t.

  147. Gil — so your answer to this basic question is that in regard to someone considered Jewish by birth, there is a presumption that somewhere along the line a commitment was made to be shomer mitzvot?

    aiwac — I don’t understand and certainly not for people who are Jewish enough for the Law of Return, but not for marriage due to different standards being applied.

  148. IH,

    The Law of Return is a civil law. The marriage issue is based on halacha, at least presently. These are two entirely different systems.

    Also, what of descendants of Jews who don’t consider themselves Jewish, but rather only Israeli (to say nothing of the Pravoslavs)?

  149. IH: Yes, by an ancestor either at Har Sinai or through conversion.

  150. “It reached far enough that R. Mayer Twersky, who doesn’t normally read halakhic journals, ”

    Why?

  151. Gil — but, only a matrilineal line, either at Har Sinai or through conversion.

    Now, given “the Orthodox lost the debate in the public arena because they failed to answer certain basic questions” do you really think that provides a workable answer for the next round? It’s rhetorical, I won’t debate this issue further.

  152. “The Law of Return is a civil law. The marriage issue is based on halacha, at least presently. These are two entirely different systems.”

    aiwac — well, no. It is millet law, which for Judaism is delegated to the increasingly non-Zionist Rabbinate. Without a sustainable halachic solution, the State’s citizens will demand a re-delegation to a more pluralistic system such as in force for the Christians.

  153. “aiwac — well, no. It is millet law, which for Judaism is delegated to the increasingly non-Zionist Rabbinate.”

    Same essence, different label.

    “Without a sustainable halachic solution”

    That’s just it. I don’t see a “sustainable halachic solution” that would not either render halacha a meaningless rubber-stamp or would satisfy the pluralists.

    Perhaps something along the lines of civil marriage, but halachic divorce might work, but that requires major changes in the way divorce is handled. It also still does not solve the conversion issue.

  154. aiwac – civil law is one option, but the Millet system works just fine for Christian Israelis who go to their respective denominations. A Protestant does not need to meet Roman Catholic standards; nor a Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox.

    There are Orthodox voices with sustainable halachic answers, but as long as they are deemed beyond the pale on this issue — as per this post and its predecessors — the State will, in time, work around the issue (as it did with Who is a Jew for immigration).

  155. “There are Orthodox voices with sustainable halachic answers”

    Name one, and explain why it is sustainable (and what is “sustainable” anyway) and not a rubber stamp? Also, how would it solve the “I’m an Israeli” or “I’m without a religion” people (who are quite numerous in some areas.

    “the State will, in time, work around the issue (as it did with Who is a Jew for immigration)”

    It already does. Cyprus, Prague &c get quite a bit of business from Israelis.

  156. IH: Yes, I believe that matrilineal descent is sufficiently intuitive to be sustainable in the public arena.

    Mycroft: He’s a believer on sticking to primary texts and certain carefully selected classics.

  157. aiwac — I don’t mean to duck your question, but we would be repeating comments on this thread and on others in respect to your question (many by others).

    The informal statistic that came out of the ynet article is 1,000 civil marriages by Israelis per year in Cyprus.

    In any case, I still think the elephant in the room are the children that were of such concern to Rav Uzziel (ref: IH on June 19, 2011 at 12:10 pm).

  158. I dunno, I think Rav Amsalem’s book (and proposed answer) is better. But that’s just me.

  159. Gil — I think the issue will be of bloodline vs. עמך עמי in respect of allegiance to the Jewish State and its institutions. The view that the child of a non-Jewish mother serves in the army and who is considered Jewish by the state for everything but marriage and burial undermines the essence of being Jewish, while some Charedi who refuses to serve in the army, demands welfare money and davka walks/talks/drives through the sirens of Yom ha’Zikaron and Yom ha’Shoah is inherently Jewish will be hard sell should the issue blow up.

  160. For the benefit of doubt, I am just trying to capture what others moght say should the issue blow up.

  161. Not all Jews serve in the IDF and not all who serve (and die) in the IDF are Jewish.

    For better or worse, the connection between being Jewish and supporting the state of Israel is becoming weaker each day.

  162. “Hirhurim on June 19, 2011 at 7:27 pm
    Not all Jews serve in the IDF and not all who serve (and die) in the IDF are Jewish.

    For better or worse, the connection between being Jewish and supporting the state of Israel is becoming weaker each day”

    For better or worse Israel has copied the US with affirmative action programs for “minority groups”-typical would be application for Bank of Israel which gives preferences to Arabs, Druse, Circassians and those who had at least one parent born in Eithiopia.

  163. “Mycroft: He’s a believer on sticking to primary texts and certain carefully selected classics.”

    Thanks-

  164. ““10% is reasonable figure for US-but it is much more in Israel.”

    It’s about 20% all told, maybe 23-5% if we include the various datlashim”

    Depending on opoerational definition of Orthodox in US and Israel won’t disagree-but really depends what one includes-but accept basic 2,5-1 ratio over US could be as much as 3-1 ratio.

  165. In Israel “only 11 percent refrain from traveling by car on Shabbat”. Meaning that 89% of Jewish Israelis would fail the most basic of Orthodox tests of observance.

  166. IH,

    Where on earth did u get those numbers?!

  167. Israel Bureau of Statistics in 2010 as reported by Ha’aretz
    (IH on June 16, 2011 at 11:19 pm)

  168. I think I’ll check the numbers for myself, than you. This sounds like a spin on a far more innocuous question.

  169. Thanks. Please let us know.

  170. Well, here’s one piece:
    http://www.cbs.gov.il/energy/shnaton/templ_shnaton_e.html?num_tab=st07_04x&CYear=2010

    חרדים 8.0%
    דתיים 9.8%
    מסורתיים 40.2%
    41.7% לא דתיים חילוניים

  171. “Ruvie: None of those sources support conversion without intent to accept the commandments.

    Of course there is room to follow a minority opinion in a time of great need. But not all minority opinions are equal and not all times of need are equal. This is the kind of evaluation left for great poskim. To my knowledge, there are different opinions on how to handle today’s situation but none go as far as Rav Uziel.”

    Gil- from your post its unclear what exactly is r’ uziel’s position. That is why i quoted it to show l’chatchila he held there was no need of kabalat ol mitzvot ( please understand I am not advocating his position just making it clearer than in the post which it was at least to me and maybe to others unclear). The other sources that i quoted showed that bedeieved there is a range of opinions of a deficient kabalat ol mitzvot and it’s effect on the conversion which was not discussed in your post. RMF was most interesting. Of course, conversion with a reservation is invalid because a tanai doesn’t work in conversions but not because the person didn’t have complete intent. For many hold that a conversion is valid even one doesn’t plan to keep all the mitzvot for some reason like taiavon -see responsa achi’ezer or hefsedv merubah- see RMF teshuva I quoted earlier.

  172. IH,

    Your quote is a serious distortion of the facts, even based on the Haaretz article. The number in question (11%) refers to all non-Orthodox Jews (incl. traditional-religious), thus excluding fully 20% of the population. So the true number of Jews in Israel who avoid driving on Shabbat is 20% + 11 % of the remaining 80.

    But that’s not all. A check of the original table will reveal that among the “traditional-religious group” (which is some 18.9 of the sample), almost half would avoid driving on Shabbat. The single-digit rates of not-so-religious and secular is what skews the average downward.

    Don’t swallow what (always biased, no matter what side) newspapers say without checking just because it fits your agenda.

    See here for yourself:

    http://www.cbs.gov.il/publications11/seker_hevrati09/pdf/t15.pdf

    http://www.cbs.gov.il/publications11/seker_hevrati09/pdf/t18.pdf

  173. correction – the hefsed merubah case is Responsa Iggerot Moshe, Yore De’a, III, no. 108.

    the case i quoted earlier of RMF is If the ger believes that even a good Jew is not required to observe all the mitzvot, there is no deficiency in his acceptance of the mitzvot. Clearly, however, this argument cannot stand on its own; it is brought merely as a supporting argument in a bedi’eved situation. see Iggerot Moshe, Yore De’a, I, no. 160e. i found this most interesting.

  174. IH,

    None of these links change the fact that your claim that “89% of Jewish Israelis drive on Shabbat” only works if you exclude 20% of the Jewish Israeli population.

    Side note: I made an error regarding the traditional-religious; I accidentaly quoted the family stats and not the individual stats. The true number of traditional-religious is 13%, almost half of whom will not drive on Shabbat.

  175. Aiwac — I will review the stats and own up to any mistakes that are my own. That said, I put up the direct quotes on Thursday evening and since no one contested them, it was perfectly reasonable to requote them today. In regards to their relevance, the question is what %age of Israeli Jews would pass the halachic bar being set if they were conversion candidates.

    As it happens, your query also opened up some other interesting data on attitudes in regard to the discussion earlier. These can be found in http://www1.cbs.gov.il/reader/newhodaot/hodaa_template.html?hodaa=201119012

    But the standouts are:

    62% מסכימים כי יש לאפשר נישואים אזרחיים בארץ למי שמעוניין בכך. 
    58% מעריכים את היחסים בין דתיים לחילוניים כ”לא טובים”. 
    57% סבורים כי במדינת ישראל צריך להפריד בין דת למדינה. 

  176. Reviewing IH on June 16, 2011 at 11:19 pm, I correctly posted the direct quote, but incorrectly tallied 100% – 11% = 89% rather than (13% + 25% + 42%) – 11% = 69%.

    Therefore, my concluding sentence should have read: In other words, if the Israeli government applied the test of Shmirat Shabbat to the existing Israeli Jewish population, 69% would fail. In the US, it would be between 90% and 95%.

    Thank you, aiwac, for catching my error.

  177. Net net, aiwac, my summary of the socio-political context stands:

    I think the issue will be of bloodline vs. עמך עמי in respect of allegiance to the Jewish State and its institutions. The view that the child of a non-Jewish mother who serves in the army and is considered Jewish by the state for everything but marriage and burial undermines the essence of being Jewish, while some Charedi who refuses to serve in the army, demands welfare money and davka walks/talks/drives through the sirens of Yom ha’Zikaron and Yom ha’Shoah is inherently Jewish will be hard sell should the issue blow up.

    The intransigent road on conversion that Gil supports will end in tears for Israeli Orthodoxy (just as, arguably, it already has for American Orthodoxy).

  178. “Without a sustainable halachic solution, the State’s citizens will demand a re-delegation to a more pluralistic system such as in force for the Christians”

    Forget pluralism-maybe people should remember RALs speech at some Yavneh convention-late 60s- where he referred to misrad hadatot as the then heads circus.

  179. 62% מסכימים כי יש לאפשר נישואים אזרחיים בארץ למי שמעוניין בכך

    57% סבורים כי במדינת ישראל צריך להפריד בין דת למדינה

    Maybe time for disestablishment of religion.

  180. Shachar Ha'amim

    “IH on June 19, 2011 at 8:04 pm
    In Israel “only 11 percent refrain from traveling by car on Shabbat”. Meaning that 89% of Jewish Israelis would fail the most basic of Orthodox tests of observance.”

    100% of American Jews – including the so-called “Orthodox” fail the most basic tests of observance and being part of the covenant of the Jewish people which is the desire and yearning for the return to Zion and the fulfillment of the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz which according to the Sages OBM is equivalent to all other mitzvot combined

  181. IH: Thank you, aiwac, for catching my error.

    I’ll just note that I pointed out the same error earlier in the thread, but somehow, you ignored it and went on to repeat the error 🙂

  182. IH: Thank you, aiwac, for catching my error.

    I’ll just note that I pointed out the same error earlier in the thread, but somehow, you ignored it and went on to repeat the error 🙂

  183. “I think the issue will be of bloodline vs. עמך עמי in respect of allegiance to the Jewish State and its institutions. The view that the child of a non-Jewish mother who serves in the army and is considered Jewish by the state for everything but marriage and burial undermines the essence of being Jewish, while some Charedi who refuses to serve in the army, demands welfare money and davka walks/talks/drives through the sirens of Yom ha’Zikaron and Yom ha’Shoah is inherently Jewish will be hard sell should the issue blow up.”

    This is the problem with Zionism from a Chareidi perspective. Zionism has replaced shmiras hamitzvos with army service as the test of being Jewish.

    Also, I see now why you have an aversion to kiruv. You have no problem with Jews keeping their non-religious status , since they are Jewish if not more Jewish than the Chareidi welfare bums. Shmiras Hamitzvos for you is no longer a definition of being Jewish.

    If this is representative of Zionist thought, I want no part of that. There in lies the Chareidi critique. The State of Israel has lead us down to road to seriously considering replacing Shmiras Hamitzvos and basic beliefs with army service, contribution to the State of Israel, paying taxes (which Chareidim also pay), standing at attention during a one-minute siren,etc. Unbelievable!

  184. If this is representative of Zionist thought, I want no part of that. There in lies the Chareidi critique.

    R. Chaim Brisker once said that Zionism is the collective yetzer horah of the Jewish people.

    Many are well aware of the Satmar objection to Zionism based upon the 3 Oaths mentioned at the end of Kesubos. But there is a much more basic objection which many more in the Charedi world hold: that Zionism seeks to redefine the Jewish people from the nation of the Torah to a nation like any other.*

    It is this issue more than any other where the rubber hits the road. Is the Torah central to Jewish identity or not?

    ________________
    *At the peace signing cermony between Israel and Jordan in 1994, then PM Rabin stated that “no longer will the Jewish people be considered hen am levadad yishkon uvagoyim lo yischasav.”

  185. Tal, exactly. Hence, Chareidim are considered less Jewish than a Russian non-Jew serving in the IDF. This thinking is the opposite of what the Torah’s viewpoint is on Jewish nationhood. The Torah defines us, not the other way around.

  186. Rafael and Tal — thanks for illustrating my point about why MO, DL and CharDL should be careful about relying on Charedi poskim on this issue.

    Shlomo — ftr, apologies for not parsing Shlomo on June 17, 2011 at 4:06 am.

  187. MiMedinat HaYam

    ” Christian Israelis who go to their respective denominations. A Protestant does not need to meet Roman Catholic standards; nor a Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox.”

    where do they dgo if only one is greek orthodox, and / or if they never were really the same christian denomination that married them, or secular? do they have to go to cyprus?

    perhaps that should be a counteranswer.

    (historical note — israel violated its own “constitution” religious standards by giving the anglican church a “book” to record its marriages, divorces, births, deaths, etc. even the british couldnt violate that law by giving its own state religion such a “book”.)

    2. tal b — rabin actually said “hen am LO levadad yishkon”, turning the words around.

    and of course, it didnt help.

  188. “The Torah defines us, not the other way around.”

    But we must remember that Brit Sinai didn’t replace Brit Avot-it added to it.

  189. “bums. Shmiras Hamitzvos for you is no longer a definition of being Jewish”

    Not implying anyone is a bum-but how can a bum be considered to be shomer mitzvot.

  190. “R. Chaim Brisker once said that Zionism is the collective yetzer horah of the Jewish people.”

    Glad to see he (and you) are so sure of yourselves. Maybe it’s the collective yetzer *tov* of the Jewish people? Have you ever paused to consider that, or are you just too hate-filled? Did I just blow your mind?

    Oh, and I find it ironic that it’s the Charedim who insist that we all follow the ideals of secular Zionists. I guess following authority is easy when you do it everywhere else.

  191. ““R. Chaim Brisker once said that Zionism is the collective yetzer horah of the Jewish people.””

    R Chaim Brisker and most of the Soloveitchik line were anti-Zionists-Rav Velvel and in genral his progeny were. It is the Rav and Rav Moshe Soloveitchik and his descendants who in general were not anti-zionists.

  192. >It is this issue more than any other where the rubber hits the road. Is the Torah central to Jewish identity or not?

    No, that is very nice if you want to pretend that old style secular zionism is the only kind of zionism. But the old Mizrachi certainly did not believe that.

    The main issue is: can the Torah be relevant for a modern functional state or not. The chareidim’s Torah is very hard to apply to a contemporary state – to them, all these issues are hilcheta deMeshicha. A good example of this is the CI’s advice to a correspondant that it is assur to attend medical school. According to this hashkafic POV, there should be no Jewish doctors – unless they are krum seculars.

    For the chareidim, the demands of a modern state can never cause halacha to adjust. Of course the halacha that they have is a product of 2000 years without a state and under gentile control – and it developed accordingly. But to the religious Zionist mind, the yetzer tov demands that the Torah be made relevant at all times and all places.

    Now, some issues, are very very difficult for halacha to resolve – but that is the effect of the darkness of exile, and not of the essence of the Torah and therefore, it is incumbant on true Torah scholars to adapt halacha and machshava to the modern world.

  193. >“R. Chaim Brisker once said that Zionism is the collective yetzer horah of the Jewish people.”

    And it is also better not to repeat things about Torah sages that make them sound ridiculous.

  194. “it is incumbant on true Torah scholars to adapt halacha and machshava to the modern world.”

    chardal,

    Is that even possible? Most people have given up on that particular project (especially as regards state law) and are de-facto “Leibowitzians”…

  195. >Is that even possible? Most people have given up on that particular project (especially as regards state law) and are de-facto “Leibowitzians”…

    I certainly hope so. If it is not possible, then better a radical theology that comes from lesser scholars than a torah that is married to exile.

  196. “Now, some issues, are very very difficult for halacha to resolve – but that is the effect of the darkness of exile, and not of the essence of the Torah and therefore, it is incumbant on true Torah scholars to adapt halacha and machshava to the modern world.”

    Ah, the old “galus mentality argument.” Was waiting for someone to raise that one to defend the constant twisting of halochoh into a pretzel in the service the State of Israel.

  197. “Ah, the old “galus mentality argument.” Was waiting for someone to raise that one to defend the constant twisting of halochoh into a pretzel in the service the State of Israel.”

    Do you have a rebuttal to that argument or are you just going to kvecth? From where I’m sitting, it still holds.

    As for “twisting halacha into a pretzel”, I wasn’t aware there was ever a perido in which halacha didn’t adapt itself to changing cicumstances, including cases when it “twisted itself into a pretzel” to do so.

    Unless of course you are what R. Eliezer Berkowitz called a “karaite of the written TSBP” who thinks Gedolim’s words are the same thins as TMS…

  198. >Ah, the old “galus mentality argument.” Was waiting for someone to raise that one to defend the constant twisting of halochoh into a pretzel in the service the State of Israel.

    I did no such thing. I am not talking abount mentality but rather whether halacha as it currently stands is capable of being the legal framework under which a modern state can operate. If the answer is no, then you can either argue that halacha is meant to exist only in an exilic paradigm or you can argue that in halacha is the capacity to adapt to the new circumstances. I vote for the latter – especially since it is far more theologicaly cogent.

    If all secular and dati leumi Jews were to leave Israel tommorow in the hands of the chareidim, what would they do?? Who would run the electric grid? The hospitals? The army? How would the financial institutions operate? These and many more questions are ones that most orthodox Jews unfortunatly can not answer – I simply prefer to think that this inability to answer is due to a lacking that exists in the generation rather one that is intrinsic to halacha. If you want to call this a “rejection of galus mentality” then go ahead.

  199. One more time-what about the historical precedent of the forced conversion of the Idumeans, from whom Hurdos Harasha was descended,? Aside from the rebuilding of portions of Bayis Sheni, one would be hard pressed to find one positive accomplishment of Hurdos and his successors. One can argue that the use of R Uzziel ZL’s teshuvah in our generation offers no guarantee that most, some, or a few of the would be “converts” would ever appreciate why or for what purpose they converted or what Kabalas Ol Mitzvos means. let alone the purpose of a Jewish state.

  200. Although not 100% on point the following would indicate a difference of how the Rav was against not allowing non-Orthodox Rabbis the ability to use mikvaot for use in conversions. Certainly a difference that has to be taken into consideration.

    “Until the 1950s, Jews of all denominations were generally allowed to use the same communal mikvaot (ritual baths) for the purposes of converting to Judaism, observing the rules of niddah in regard to laws of marital purity, toiveling dishes, etc. However the Orthodox movement increasingly denied the use of mikvaot to non-Orthodox rabbis for use in conversions…. Rav Soloveitchik counselled Orthodox rabbis against this practice, insisting that non-Orthodox have the option to use mikvaot”

  201. His brother R. Ahron was very much against it.

  202. Shachar Ha'amim

    Steve – I think that one would find in chazal and other Jewish sources a more nuanced approach towards Herod and his reign.

  203. mycroft – Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff discussed the topic of mikva use for non-orthodox conversion in a recorded shiur at Yutorah.org (unfortunately, I don’t have the exact link). Citing various poskim, including RMF, RARR stated that there was a general concensus to allow non-orthodox conversion ceremonies in mikvas that had been built using funds received from the general Jewish community (e.g. Federations). As a result of this dispute, some mikva boards had a policy that no conversions at all should be done in their mikva.

  204. Hmm. I wonder if these principled mikva boards also instituted a policy that no Federation money at all should be accepted?

  205. Shachar Ha’amim wrote:

    “Steve – I think that one would find in chazal and other Jewish sources a more nuanced approach towards Herod and his reign”

    Sources please? See Ramban on Parshas Vayechi re Lo Yasur Shevet MiYehudah re this issue.

  206. “Mycroft: He’s a believer on sticking to primary texts and certain carefully selected classics”

    Does RMT believe that in terms of preparing for shiur as a RY or in terms of psak also?

  207. “Canuck on June 22, 2011 at 11:12 am
    mycroft – Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff discussed the topic of mikva use for non-orthodox conversion in a recorded shiur at Yutorah.org (unfortunately, I don’t have the exact link). Citing various poskim, including RMF, RARR stated that there was a general concensus to allow non-orthodox conversion ceremonies in mikvas that had been built using funds received from the general Jewish community (e.g. Federations). As a result of this dispute, some mikva boards had a policy that no conversions at all should be done in their mikva.”

    more than a different nuance than my point

    “mycroft on June 21, 2011 at 10:53 pm
    Although not 100% on point the following would indicate a difference of how the Rav was against not allowing non-Orthodox Rabbis the ability to use mikvaot for use in conversions. Certainly a difference that has to be taken into consideration.

    “Until the 1950s, Jews of all denominations were generally allowed to use the same communal mikvaot (ritual baths) for the purposes of converting to Judaism, observing the rules of niddah in regard to laws of marital purity, toiveling dishes, etc. However the Orthodox movement increasingly denied the use of mikvaot to non-Orthodox rabbis for use in conversions…. Rav Soloveitchik counselled Orthodox rabbis against this practice, insisting that non-Orthodox have the option to use mikvaot””

    Obviously there are mikvaot that permit conversions. The Rav is clearly different-it is not expressed as a legal “secular ‘ answer such as if a town has an easement in a schul parking lot-they can prevent the schul from blocking access on Shabbos-an entirley different set of circumstances than my quote.

  208. MiMedinat HaYam

    one out of ny community i know of (officially; dont know of in practice) does not allow its mikva to be used for any conversions (not that ppl are running to be converted there, but who knows?) but some of us know that a major city one hour away that presumably does make conversions (but must have some similar pblm with allowing use of their several local mikvaot) uses this mikva, at $200 a pop. so its not just local federations; its a somewhat lucrative income.

  209. Who Is A Jew?

    This web site offers Torah quotes related to that question:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DerechEmet/

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