Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Contemporary Geirus

In Israel and all over the world there are a lot of bogus conversions. People undergo the conversion process of having a Bris and going to mikva with no intention of ever keeping mitzvos. This is a well known problem. The consensus of the poskim is that without accepting upon oneself a life of Torah and mitzvos the conversion isn't valid or at the very most - highly not recommended.

HOWEVER - there is a conundrum here....

The Rambam writes [Issurei Biah 14/1-2]: 


כיצד מקבלין גירי הצדק כשיבוא אחד להתגייר מן העכו"ם ויבדקו אחריו ולא ימצאו עילה אומרים לו מה ראית שבאת להתגייר אי אתה יודע שישראל בזמן הזה דוויים ודחופים ומסוחפין ומטורפין ויסורין באין עליהן אם אמר אני יודע ואיני כדאי מקבלין אותו מיד:


ומודיעין אותו עיקרי הדת שהוא ייחוד השם ואיסור עכו"ם ומאריכין בדבר הזה ומודיעין אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות ואין מאריכין בדבר זה ומודיעין אותו עון לקט שכחה ופיאה ומעשר שני ומודיעין אותו עונשן של מצות כיצד אומרים לו הוי יודע שעד שלא באת לדת זו אם אכלת חלב אי אתה ענוש כרת אם חללת שבת אי אתה ענוש סקילה ועכשיו אחר שתתגייר אם אכלת חלב אתה ענוש כרת אם חללת שבת אתה ענוש סקילה ואין מרבין עליו ואין מדקדקין עליו שמא יגרום לטרדו ולהטותו מדרך טובה לדרך רעה שבתחלה אין מושכין את האדם אלא בדברי רצון ורכים וכן הוא אומר בחבלי אדם אמשכם ואחר כך בעבותות אהבה:

What is the procedure when accepting a righteous convert? When one of the gentiles comes to convert, we inspect his background. If an ulterior motive for conversion is not found, we ask him: "Why did you choose to convert? Don't you know that in the present era, the Jews are afflicted, crushed, subjugated, strained, and suffering comes upon them?" If he answers: "I know. Would it be that I be able to be part of them,"we accept him immediately.
We inform him of the fundamentals of the faith, i.e., the unity of God and the prohibition against the worship of false deities. We elaborate on this matter. We inform him about some of the easy mitzvot and some of the more severe ones. We do not elaborate on this matter. We inform him of the transgression of [not leaving] leket, shichachah, pe'ah, and the second tithe. And we inform him of the punishment given for [violating] the mitzvot.

What is implied? We tell him: "Before you came to our faith, if you partook of fat, you were not liable for your soul to be cut off. If you desecrated the Sabbath, you were not liable to be stoned to death. Now, after you convert, if you partake of fat, you are liable for your soul to be cut off. If you desecrate the Sabbath, you are liable to be stoned to death."

We do not teach him all the particulars lest this cause him concern and turn him away from a good path to a bad path. For at the outset, we draw a person forth with soft and appealing words, as [Hoshea 11:4] states: "With cords of man, I drew them forth," and then continues: "with bonds of love."

There is much to discuss. We will not cover the entire topic.

One issue: How can we convert someone who just knows a few basics of Judaism? What about the 13 principals of  faith?? How can we convert someone who doesn't know - for example - that we believe in hashgacha pratis or that G-d has no body or physical form?? And how can we convert them without them knowing many of the details of hilchos Shabbos and Kashrus etc. So a person converts, comes Shabbos and he never heard that one may not turn on a light or drive a car? He never heard of brachos! The Rambam says that we just share with him a few basic laws and that's it?! Why don't we require more?? 

[It is also interesting to note, as pointed out by the sefer משנת יעקב at the beginning of Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah, that the Rambam doesn't pasken in the Yad Hachazakah that one needs to believe in the י"ג עיקרים and only writes it in his Peirush Hamishnayos. הלא דבר הוא!]

Second issue: The real Batei Dinim in our times require much much more. I heard a Dayan say that in his Beis Din [in the US] it is a two year process to be a ger. Sometimes - if they need to accelerate the process, a year and a half. 

The Rambam is NOT describing a two year process. On the contrary - he says not to go into the details! In one Beis Din they give the geirim a 400-600 question test on Torah that many Yeshiva Bachurim wouldn't pass.

So what changed?

On one hand some conversions are bogus but on the other it seems that we make it too difficult for many. Who is actually following the Rambam??

See the Likkutei Sichos 35 - first sicha on Parshas Vayeira.