Sunday, June 05, 2011


The Responsibility


by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

     Last week I put tefillin on a Jew from Holland. He was probably in his mid to late fifties, married with grown children, a successful business man. He was in Israel on a business trip. It was the first time in many, many years since he had put on tefillin.

     I was surprised that he came over so easily. Actually, when I first asked, his Israeli, yarmulke wearing host suggested that he do it, so he agreed.

     I asked him if his mother was Jewish. He said that he was a Kohen (from the Jewish priestly tribe). I said, “But is your mother Jewish.” He assured me that she was, and he again pointed out that not only was his mother Jewish, but his father was a Kohen. He seemed quite proud that he was a Kohen.

     He began reading the prayers in English, but then we found a copy of the Shema in Dutch.  After he read the prayers, I asked him if he was married. He smiled, and said that he was. Then I asked the big question, “Is your wife Jewish?”

     He made a small apologetic smile, and shook his head, “No.”

     “That’s a problem.” I said.

     He had heard this before.

     Okay, I had his attention. What was I to do? I could have scolded him harshly, and told him what a horrible thing he had done by marrying a non-Jewish woman, and bringing non-Jewish children into the world. This is a major sin for a Jew. And surely for a Kohen, it is even worse!

    But what good would it do to push him even further down? How would this help him? He was not about to divorce his wife of so many years and discard his non-Jewish children.

     I spoke softly, “To be a Kohen is a great honor.”

     “I know” he said.

      “But you have discarded this honor. You have not fulfilled your inheritance. A kohen is given the privilege to bring blessings into the world. You have to do something about this.” I could see that he was listening sincerely.

    “Do this,” I said, “Put a charity box in your house, and every day put some money in it. Then, when it’s full, give the money to some poor Jewish person, or to a Jewish charity. It must be for Jews because you neglected to help the Jews you were created to help. This is important for you. Use the time that you have left to try to correct your having ignored the great blessing that you were given.”

     He seemed to have understood. He said that he would do what I told him.

    What’s the point? It would have been so easy to push him even further down, but what good would that have been? Instead, I tried in some small way to help him to pick himself up… at least this much.

     When he goes into the next world and is asked, “Why didn’t you fulfill your role, and be a blessing to the Jewish people?” He will be able to point to his Jewish charity and say, “Well… at least I did do this much.”


  1. Okay, but what about mentioning to him that maybe his wife could convert? It's isn't missionizing. If he mentions the idea to his wife, maybe supplies her with some Jewish literature (maybe your books!), there is a definite chance that she will think about it and come to her own decision to convert. If they live in a town with an Orthodox Jew they wouldn't even have to move. It happens all the time that Jews get married to non-Jews and then later the non-Jews converts Orthodox. There is even an organization in America, supported by R' Dovid Feinstein, the son of R' Moshe, whose main purpose is to reach out to these families.

    If she (and the children) convert then the sin is completely rectified! A perfect tikkun! So why not at least mention the possibility to people in such situations? We aren't supposed to missionize, but there's no law against mentioning the possibility of conversion, and a valid Orthodox conversion is a great and holy thing! After all, according to the Gemara, the whole purpose of the exile was to gain converts (Pesachim 87b).

  2. It follows that if the whole purpose of the exile is to gain converts, then facilitating the conversion of people in exile, as in this case, would be partial fulfillment of the whole purpose of the exile. And if the purpose of the exile has been fulfilled, why does there need to be an exile? Perhaps facilitating (not pressuring!) the conversion of intermarried spouses would merit the end of the exile!

  3. Okay, so Kohanim can't marry converts (though some Orthodox rabbis have come up with hetterim). But if his children converted, this would return them to the Jewish people, and be a near-complete rectification for his intermarriage. Now who knows if they have Jewish neshamas or not -- and thus are meant to convert -- but maybe they are meant to, but won't consider it until someone mentions to them the possibility. Until they know something about true Judaism, they won't know whether they have a Jewish neshamah.

    The 10 tribes are destined to re-join the Jewish people. How is this going to happen? Well there are going to have to be conversions, because the tribes will inevitably have intermarried to the degree that you can't guarantee the individual members are still halachically Jewish. There is essentially the same situation with the non-Jewish descendants of Jews. This is why the organization Shavei Israel deals not only with lost tribes, but with the descendents of marranos, secret Jews.


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