Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Conversion Confusion

In yet another move that could be meant to provoke the non-Chareidi Torah observant community, Rav Avraham Sherman has annuled another Rabbinate-controlled conversion as well as announced that any non-Chareidi conversions he doesn't like aren't sincere and hence, aren't valid.
Naturally the noises of outrage from the non-Chareidim are loud and boisterous. Once again a leading Chareidi rav has stuck a finger in the collective eye of all those Torah observant Jews who disagree with him and once again, those Jews are responding completely illogically.
Note the pattern that has been used. Rav Sherman states that he has invalidated these conversions and made his sweeping generalizations based on halachic grounds. Ask him and he'll quote you his sources. To back him up, the usual Agudah bagmen like Rav Avi Shafran and Rav Yonasan Rosenblum write quite effectively about the benefit of universal standards to ensure conversions are all done al pi halacha. That universal standard? Rav Sherman's of course, and no one else's.
But as Rav Shlomo Riskin's famous column reminds us, the response from the Modern Orthodox community has been completely non-productive. They scream about unfairness and cruelty to converts. The Chareidi response is to repeatedly point out that since the folks affected were never really Jewish, the law against being cruel to converts doesn't apply.
Listen, life isn't fair. There are many times that religion tells us "no" in answer to heartfelt requests we think we're entitled to. That's what makes it a religion and not an indulgence. If Rav Sherman is right, then all the caterwauling in the world matters not a bit. These conversions are invalid. Too bad.
But what if he's not? All of these controversial conversions are being presented in an uniform fashion: they're all insincere, just going through the motions and the rabbonim converting them are doing so knowing this. Is this true? I find it hard to believe that a talmid chacham like Rav Chayim Druckman would circumvent halacha like this. If he is converting people, he must hold that they have completed the necessary requirements. If that's the case, then he would have a reply to all of Rav Sherman's objections, with the exception of the "I'm Chareidi and you're not so I'm right and you're not" one. Yet I don't recall reading about these objections anywhere.
Even Rav Marc Angel's essay on the subject was incredibly incomplete. Although he was quick to dismiss the current strictness as the result of one Chareidi opinion that has come to dominate all others, he failed to mention any competing opinions except one and the example he did give, that of Rav Benzion Uzziel, is not relevant to the current issue: wholesale conversion of non-Jewish immigrants to Israel who may or may not be sincere in their desire to accept kabbalas ol shamayim which, according to everyone, is the minimum requirement for geirus.
Judaism is not a feel-good exercise. The halachic process is not meant to always give you just the answer you want without inconveniencing you through the creative act of heter-picking. Until someone can show why Rav Sherman's approach is wrong on halachic grounds, he is right.
As a post-script, even if a Modern Orthodox or Dati Leumi posek stood up and showed, point by point, why Rav Sherman is wrong, I doubt the Chareidi community would listen. The principle of "I'm Chareidi and you're not so I'm right and you're not" overrides the most definitive proofs from anywhere. But that's not the point. If Modern Orthodoxy wants to take itself seriously as a movement it needs to do this for itself, to show its members that just like the Chareidim it is a philosophy based in Torah and halacha.

13 comments:

LB said...

The way I understand it is that a convert is Jewish for life if the conversion is done in good faith. If the convert underwent the process intending to be Jewish, observant, with all that entails - his conversion cannot be annulled.

The way I understand it, that is the basis for what is happening - conversions are being annulled for one of two reasons - 1. The convert is no longer observant, regardless of intent at time of conversion. 2. Simply because a certain Rabbi supervised the conversion.

Mass annulments are irresponsible - did they look into every one of Rav Drukman's conversions?

Garnel Ironheart said...

The assumption from the Chareidi side is that the conversions were never done in good faith in the first place, that is that the candidates went through the process to get their Jewish status but without intention to accept ol malchus shamayim, in other words to return to a non-religious lifestyle the minute they get their certificate.

From that perspective, the concerns regarding validity are certainly warranted but that would require a thorough investigation into each and every convert's situation.

Manya Shochet said...

NOT ONE of the Rav Druckman's conversions was EVER done in good faith, huh? Impressive judgemental ability there. And I had been under the missapprehension that only Hashem knows our innermost thoughts. Evidently DaasToyreh(TM)goes beyond the mind of G-d.

Besides, nobody important is looking when we treat sincere converts like dirt, and we can always claim that they were never really Jewish in the first place.

LB said...

On what basis was that assumption made? Like I said - did they look into the conversion? No. In that case, they are lying - and are continuing to lie without doing teshuva, in which case - they are not religious themselves...

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

I think there are certain assumptions:

1) Considering that over the past several centuries the number of converts has generally been quite small, the sudden flood of people with an "interest" in converting is somewhat unusual.

2) There has not been a corresponding spike in tefillin and sheitl sales which should have accompanied the sudden increase in Jews.

David said...

Yeah, sounds like R' Sherman has the same contempt for the Dati Leumi and Modern Orthodox which the Dati Leumi and Modern Orthodox have for the Conservatives and Reform.

E-Man said...

David that statement is really ignorant. The DAti Leumi and Modern orthodox that actually follow shulchan orech, in essence, are no different than the chareidi except for in how they dress. However, conservative and reform don't follow the same guidelines as any branch of orthodoxy. Conservative and reform don't actually keep kosher in the same sense that any branch of orthodoxy does. In fact, most of them do not keep any type of kosher, nor do they keep shabbos.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Actually E-man, I think David's onto something.
Look, when Orthodox authorities dismiss non-Orthodox ones, what is the response? It's never to show why the Orthodox have made a halachic mistake but rather an appeal to things like fairness, equity, personal happiness, etc.

In this case, the Modern Orthodox response to the Chareidi provocation has been exactly that. They have not responded in a halachic manner by disproving Rav Sherman's position but rather with an emphatic "but... but.. you can't do that!" So it's no wonder Rav Sherman reacts the same way.

David said...

E-man,
I've endured quite a bit in my time, but having you, of all people, call me ignorant must be some kind of milestone.

Sorry, but my point stands. Go wave your Shulchan Aruch at Sherman-- he'll dismiss you right along with the Conservatives and Reforms towards whom you are so condescending.

Garnel Ironheart said...

But David, there's a huge difference there.

If I research the subject and can find a bona fide halachic argument that proves that Rav Sherman is wrong, and then when I present it to him he dismisses me with a wave of the hand because I don't wear a black hat, then he's the one who's ignoring the halachic process by ignoring a legal argument to a legal matter..

If I simply walk up to him and say "that's just no cricket what you did!" then the wave of the hand would be justified because he's ignoring an emotional argument to a legal matter.

E-Man said...

I am sorry if I offended you David. However, to say the difference between the charaidi and the modern orthodox hashkafa like YU VS Lakewood is the same thing as YU VS conservative and reform is strange.

I am not condescending of the conservative and reform in any way. However, they have to admit that their version of Judaism is radically different than mine. They feel no need to keep mitzvos. There is no such thing as keeping the mitzvos in reform and conservative Judaism nowadays. They don't keep kosher, shabbos or taharas hamishpacha. However, the modern and charaidi both believe in mitzvos. They both keep kosher, shabbos and taharas hamishpacha. How can you compare these two things???

Reform and Conservative Jews both disregard things stated explicitly in the Torah. For example, Kashrus is explicitly stated in the Torah. However, reform and most conservative Jews ignore Kashrus.

E-Man said...

Also david I didn't call you ignorant, I called your statement ignorant. To make a complete comparison between these two things is to ignore the enormous difference that actually exists. If you were saying what Garnel said, that the responses are similar, that is one thing. To say the difference between the charaidi and modern is the same as the modern and conservative is peculiar in my eyes. I can't see how they are comparable.

David said...

Dudes, you're both missing the point. You've argued that Reform and Conservative are essentially non-halakhic and without serious validity. Fine. All I'm saying is that your views are dismissed in the same summary fashion by Sherm and his crowd. Your response to this is to defend the validity of your views, but (at least this once) I'm not attacking your views, nor am I defending Sherman (whom I consider a cretin and a bigot).
You claim that you can provide a halakhic defense of your views? 'shkoyach! I'm sure you could convince me that your view of the Torah is just as valid as Sherm's. The problem is that you will never convince Sherm and his followers, and this is not a subject which lends itself to mathematical proofs. You would allow a woman to sit on the same part of the bus as a man, and since that's against the rulings of the people that Sherm considers to be gedolim (e.g., Sherm), you might as well be sucking down shrimp toast on Yom Kippur.
So, when you're dumping on those who find themselves to the left of you on the Jew-Meter, just remember-- everybody's somebody's goy.