Thursday, February 12, 2009


Can You Win Them All?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Martin commented on “We Don’t Win Them All” : “What you said about the non-orthodox convert sounds spiteful. Some Orthodox establishments make it impossible for people to discover the way of Torah and so if a convert discovers Torah via a non-orthodox route then how can you imply that their faith has no value? Did you even ask if the pair were observant? Would it not have been better to ask a gentle question instead of choosing to disparage their faith? Afterall the man is not married to an idol worshipper!”

Martin and Anonymous suggest that we should just be more loving in these cases; that this is the solution.

There is not a more loving thing to do than to gently point out the facts to someone who is unknowingly making a grave mistake in his life. This allows him the opportunity to reevaluate his deeds, and, if he chooses, to take the appropriate action. It would be a grave sin to seemingly approve of, or minimize, someone’s tremendous error.

What is this error?

All religions in the world except Judaism are based on belief. A person can choose and change his religion at will, anytime he wants. A Buddhist can become a Muslim in just one minute by simply believing what Muslims believe. But Jews are not like this. We are not a religion. We are a people. We are not Jews because of our beliefs or behavior. We are Jews because our mothers are Jewish.

If a non-Jew wishes to become a Jew and they satisfy the requirements of the Reform tradition, only the Reform Jews will consider that person to be a Jew. If the non-Jew converts according to the Conservative movement’s tradition, both the Conservative and Reform Jews will consider that convert to be a Jew. If that non-Jew converts according to the “Orthodox” requirements, all Jews will say that that person is a Jew. This convert will have successfully joined the Jewish People.

When a convert to Islam decides to follow x-ianity and adopts those teachings instead, he or she is no longer a Muslim. He has become a x-ian. Jews are not like this. When an Orthodox convert to Judaism decides to follow a different religion, he will still be a Jewish person. This is so because he joined the Jewish People, not the Jewish religion. He will be a Jew who has decided to follow a different religion.

The guidelines for conversion are not up to each individual to decide for himself, but have been set and recorded in the Bible and in ancient teachings of the sages. When a new group of Jews come along and decide to change those requirements, the traditional Jews will not accept their converts as Jews. Their converts may be very good people. They may be following the practices of the Jewish religion, but they are not Jews. And since we want our children and grandchildren to be Jews, it is imperative that we and our children are very careful to marry only Jews.

To have indicated otherwise to that nice man I spoke to at the Kotel, who is married to and has children with a Reform convert, would have been a horrible sin on my part. To him it would seem that a religious, old man at the Kotel verified that his family is kosher, when almost certainly, it is not. Now, because I pointed this out to him, if it is important to him that his family be Jewish he can take the appropriate action. For me to have done otherwise would have been cruel.


Anonymous said...

You say, "We are not a religion. We are a people. We are not Jews because of our beliefs and behavior. We are Jews because our mothers are Jewish".
That's true to an extent however it is also true that we are a nation of priests and holy people, therefore our beliefs and behavior ARE relevant to our Jewishness.

Anonymous said...

and by beliefs and behavior I do not mean necessarily wearing the required uniform i.e black hat, blue hat,whatever

Anonymous said...

You say:
>If that non-Jew converts according to the “Orthodox” requirements, all Jews will say that that person is a Jew. This convert will have successfully joined the Jewish People.

I wish this were true. Article from The Jewish Week, 5/7/2008


Jerusalem — In an unusually bold move, the New York-based Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the leading Orthodox rabbinical group in the U.S., blasted the High Rabbinical Court of Israel on Tuesday for threatening to invalidate all conversions performed by the country’s Conversion Authority, which is under the leadership of Rabbi Haim Druckman.

I think the issue has been resolved, for the moment. It's bound to come up again in future..

Gavriel said...

"If that non-Jew converts according to the “Orthodox” requirements, all Jews will say that that person is a Jew."

Unless they converted with Rabbi Haim Druckman.

Would it ever be possible for a Conservative Rabbi to perform a halachic conversion in your eyes?

Or by definition just because the Rabbi is in the Conservative movement, no matter what is taught and what steps are taken in the conversion process the conversion is invalid?


DanielS82 said...

While it is tough to sometimes tell a person what they would rather not here, I applaud you in the fact that you where willing to say what you felt needed to be said, that is a very rare thing in society today where anything seems to go and how dare you condemn something. Best that here hears it now, then when his kids want to go under the Chuppah.

Anonymous said...

1. it is important to be clear with people.
2. if a jewish man has married a nonjewish or reform/conserv. convert, then it is very important to speak with him/them with great ahavas yisroel so they will be motivated to have the wife make frum conversion. if you alienate them or make them uncomfortable they will think negatively of you and all religious jews.

it can be a fine line here; however, someone in your position must be very careful.

being clear but also giving them a sense of hope and possibility that the frum conversion can be done.

even the option of modern orthodox liberal conversion.

the main point is to encourage them to get on the path to it, even if slowly. it could be hard for the woman:head covering etc. however, they need to be encouraged.

sadly, they experience too much alienation anyway.

Anonymous said...

also, what may help is an explanation of the soul. as uncomfortable as it may be, the wife must understand that her soul comes from wherever it comes from and now has a great opportunity to go higher, to actually 'return' to har sinai etc. the language used here certainly must be tailored to the individual. but it is a great opportunity to motivate someone.

Anonymous said...

This is a little off-the-wall, but I think it's interesting that we really don't know for sure who's Jewish and who's not. If a person, who is as far as he knows 100% gentile, has a mother's-mother's-mother's-mother's-mother, even going back 500 years or more before you get to the Jew, then under Jewish law all those mothers were Jewish, and so is the unsuspecting gentile. There have got to be some people like this, since in every generation there have been some Jewish conversions (forced or not) to Christianity. Conversely, there are some people who think they're Jews whose mother's mother's mother's mother was a gentile, or someone who converted informally, without a beit din.

I agree with Reb Locks that we have to let people know that only with Orthodox conversion will a woman's kids be truly Jewish.

I just thought I'd point out that we don't know for sure -- some converts could already be Jewish, and some Jews who married gentiles could be gentiles themselves. Of course, the vast majority of Jews shouldn't worry about this latter possibility -- but if they have reason to worry, they can do a gerus l'chumrah, so to speak.

redsneakz said...

But wouldn't it seem to be the case that:
1) The standards of entry have become so high that only a tsaddik can join himself to the people?
2) The our current leadership has gone far beyond the obvious halachic requirements, and in fact is making all potential gerim toe the line on not only halacha, but hashkafa as well?
3) That our current leadership has deemed that ONLY a Yerushalami hashkafa is acceptable?
4) That our current leadership has determined that you can be retroactively denied your conversion if they deem?

Anonymous said...

1st anon here- I have personally seen the emotional torture of someone whose Conservative Conversion wasn't good enough. Not being able to open wine, or having to ask a TRUE JEW TM to start a fire in order to cook, or having people ask you to turn on lights on Shabbat. How easy it is for a TRUE JEW TM to say to someone "your not Jewish". Well it may be true to some extent, and it may be Halachically correct but it can rip someones heart out.It seems to me like we could make some DISTINCTION between an idol worshiper, voodoo priesetess,and a Conservative Jew, IF.WE.WANTED.TO. And instead of saying "your not a Jew" we COULD say, let's make sure you were mikvad properly, and "let's get you up to speed on the Halacha" etc. But we don't.
Anyway,I don't want to only criticize. I also want to say thanks for your efforts and Shabbat Shalom!

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