Monday, August 3, 2009

Interesting Bit About Conversion

Rabbi Marc Angel is a rabbi whose beliefs on conversion have no doubt been comforting in this time when many are increasingly confused and afraid after the continuing increase in strictness in the Orthodox world. A reply to an article of his on the subject is now in the current issue of Hakirah as is his reply to that.

I recommend them highly.

This quote in Rabbi Angel's reply is something that stuck out for me.

Rambam states (Issurei Biah 13:17): “A proselyte who was not examined [as to his motives] or who was not informed of the mitzvoth and their punishments, and he was circumcised and immersed in the presence of three laymen—is a proselyte. Even if it is known that he converted for some ulterior motive, once he has been circumcised and immersed he has left the status of being a non-Jew and we suspect him until his righteousness is clarified. Even if he recanted and worshipped idols, he is [considered] a Jewish apostate; if he betroths a Jewish woman according to halakha, they are betrothed; and an article he lost must be returned to him as to any other Jew. Having immersed, he is a Jew.” Rambam is quite clear that a conversion is valid even under very imperfect conditions: the convert wasn’t informed of the mitzvoth; had an ulterior motive; later recanted and worshipped idols. Even in such circumstances, the convert is deemed to be a Jew, as long as he was circumcised and immersed in the mikvah.

Yes, Rambam.

However, the important point that is danced around is this: it is a chilul HaShem to turn Judaism into a lottery win of birth ethnicity instead of faith in G-d by being blatantly openly hypocritical in turning a blind eye to the widespread purposeful defiance of mitzvot, the near deification by cult of personality of many rabbis over the centuries which tresspasses on idolatry, and the selective lowering of various halachot nearly to the status of minhagim and the converse, the raising of various minhagim to the level of halacha.

This is the 800 pound gorilla in the room that we are all pretending doesn't exist.

It's the thing that makes charedism seem clownish more than anything else.

It's the nagging stabbing pain in Modern Orthodoxy's back.

It's the silently ignored stain on the carpet in Conservative Judaism.

This "you're a Jew no matter how you act just because your mother was" attitude has allowed people who are less Jewish than a Catholic and believe in G-d less than an atheist be taken in the vast group photo of Judaism and thence to be taken as at least in part equally representative of it. That same attitude would deny gerim who love G-d, worry about His world, and seek to do right by Him a place in that photo.

G-d may forgive that, but collectively, deep down, man won't because man can't. If man is honest then man must acknowledge that discrepancy, that hypocrisy, and then to apologize and then to repair it or if the man is dishonest, only such dishonesty as the hypocrisy does not exist in his world, is so alien to it as for him to be an alien to the world, only that may allow otherwise.

A man who is so alien can be no Jew or anything else of value to the veneration of G-d's legacy for such a man cannot fathom G-d.

Yet just such men are held to more a Jew than people who've come on their knees begging to serve G-d, and turned away for not being able to promise one hundred percent observance of mitzvot.

They were in their admission more honest than the men who turned them away, were they not?

I'm sure Rambam would agree.