Tuesday, June 21, 2011


He Sat There Crying

true stories from the Western Wall by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (3)     Someone came up to me and told me that the young man who I had just helped to put on tefillin was sitting there crying, and that I should go talk to him. I nodded, okay, not really planning on talking to him, since it is very common for tourists to get emotional when they put on tefillin at the Kotel. I assumed that he was having some kind of spiritual awareness.

    I was wrong. When I took this picture of him, I could tell that they were a different kind of tears.

     I spoke to him, and as usual, I told him that the most important thing for him was to marry a Jewish girl so that he would have Jewish children.

     He said, “There’s one on the way.” He motioned toward the Kotel plaza and said, “She’s standing over there.”

     “Is she Jewish?” I asked.

     He shook his head, “No.” More tears.

    “That’s a real problem,” I said.

     “I know,” he said. “I tried to convert her at home, but they make it too difficult there, so we came here to try.”

     I said, “It’s hard here, too. It’s not an easy thing to become a Jewish person. Look, here’s what you should do. I can see that you are a spiritual person, or this would not even be bothering you. But she can’t convert and keep a kosher house if you are not keeping kosher. It’s impossible. Do this... you have to develop your spiritual life. Start putting on tefillin every day and praying just like you just did while you were sitting here. Makekiddush every Friday night…. Really come to love the Torah’s way of life.

   Either she is going to say, ‘What you are doing now is so wonderful… I want to be a part of it,’ and you will know that she can become a righteous convert. Or, she is going to say, ‘This is weird. You never did anything like this before. Why are you doing this now?’ and you will know that she is not for you.”

     He seemed to understand and finally even smiled a little. He was hurting pretty bad. His life had collapsed in on him. He was just playing around, having fun…. Now, all of a sudden, he is being forced into a lifelong relationship that he really doesn’t want.

     Why am I telling you this story? Is this just lashon harah (evil gossip)? No. It is a sincere warning to all of you parents and close relatives of young Jews. Do not wait until it is too late to teach your Jewish loved ones thereal facts of life. Do not wait until they start dating to explain this most important lesson to them. Jews can have as many non-Jewish dear friends as we want, but when it comes to intimate relationships, listen to what the Torah says, “You shall not intermarry with them…not your sons and not your daughters… or they will turn your child away from Me.”[i]

[i] Deuteronomy 7:3


  1. Yes, you're absolutely right, and all Jews need to hear this message, that their children must be told never to date a single non-Jew. Should they also be told they will be disinherited if they marry a non-Jew? Or that we should sit shiva for them and break off contact? I don't know about that. For my own children, I'm thinking of threatening disinheriting but not complete cut-off of contact.

    Anyway, though, this man is in a hard situation, but I think you gave him good advice, and things could still work OK for this woman. The truth is that conversion standards have gotten a lot more difficult in the last few years, with the Rabbanut only accepting certain North American batei din, often requiring that the Jewish spouse be committed to lifelong 100% observance, requiring a period of separation (maybe that's only for the already "married"), etc. So it's possible the conversion process could be "easier" in Israel while still completely valid halachically.

  2. Your advice is also very practical. To convert, one has to be completely observant, and committed to being so for life. It is unrealistic to be observant if the Jewish spouse-to-be is not also observant. Even the most lenient beit din is going to expect him to be pretty observant. After all, he's going to have to follow taharat mispachah, and other things that aren't exactly easy for someone that doesn't believe in them. If he moves closer to observance and she does so too, and eventually commits to do it forever, even if they split up one day, then she can convert. There might be some rabbis who, as a matter of principle, would never convert a woman who is engaged to a Jewish man, but I don't think such a firm rule is justified. It is a mitzvah to accept sincere converts. I would think that if they say the right things and do the right things, we have to convert them, even if we're not 100% sure that we believe them.

  3. If someone has wonderful nonjewish friends, I would not be so sure as you are, I would beware that they will eventually intermarry. Aren't we supposed to stay away and not to behave in their path?

  4. Good point. In my view, it's one thing to have non-Jewish friends of the same sex, but it's not a good idea for Jews to have close non-Jewish friends of the opposite sex, because people tend to fall in love with friends (or, more commonly in colleges these days, mess around with after drinking, which can lead to relationships).


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