Beit Midrash

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Conversion and the Giving of the Torah


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Iyar 20 5783
The surprising close connection between the holiday of the giving of the Torah and Megillat Rut, named for the ultimate convert, helps us arrive at the following important conclusions:

A. Conversion is very positive, allowing every person to choose to join those who stood at Sinai. B. All of Israel converted at Sinai, so that we are descendants of converts (Kritut 9a). C. Acceptance of mitzvot is an essential part of conversion (Yevamot 47).

The situation in contemporary Israel is different from that in the Diaspora now and in the past. Israel has hundreds of thousands of those who are not registered as Jews who are culturally Jewish citizens, including many with (some) Jewish blood/genes. According to the opinion the Rama cites (Darchei Moshe, Even Haezer 156:1, and to Shulchan Aruch 15:10), a Jewish father is Rabbinically connected to his non-Jewish children. It also includes those who are not able to prove their Jewish status due to the Holocaust or decades behind the Iron Curtain. They are not able to marry in Israel, both based on Halacha and on law. This also creates concern for unintentional intermarriage. Therefore, everyone should be troubled how to best solve these problems. (We proposed a partial solution for some of these people in Bemareh Habazak IX:30).

The greatest obstacle to conversion for most of the people is the need for sincere acceptance of mitzvot. Some leading talmidei chachamim suggested that the best solution is to convert members of these families when they are minors, at which time no one is capable of accepting mitzvot.

The source that it is possible to convert minors is Ketubot 11a, which bases the institution on the presumption that it is a z’chut (worthwhile) for a person to become Jewish. The question that poskim dealt with is whether it is a z’chut if the child will be in a family that is not educating him to keep mitzvot. (Those who want sources on the topic, can contact us at [email protected].) We will now bring a unique case, in which we were involved, in which we recommended conversion in the following complex case.

A Jewish woman (from an Orthodox upbringing) unfortunately shared her life with a non-Jewish man. They tried to have children, but the woman had repeated miscarriages, so they used a surrogate mother who is not Jewish. There is an unresolved machloket on whether a baby’s mother is the giver of the egg or whether the surrogate is the halachic mother, and in this case this determines whether the child will be born Jewish or not. Because of doubt, this girl would not be permitted to marry a Jewish man (because maybe she is not Jewish) or a non-Jewish man (because maybe she is Jewish). In such a case, it is definitely a z’chut for her to convert, even if she will not have a religious education.

Hopefully, converting the child will be a first step toward a return to a religious lifestyle, and she will follow in the footsteps of Rut the Moavite, the mother of the Davidic Dynasty. This would join her with the special legacy that began at Sinai.

May we open our hearts and homes to new immigrants to the State of Israel, who want a connection with the nation, and bring them close to Hashem with love.
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