Friday, June 5, 2009
"If You Observe One Mitzvah More Than I Do You Are a Fanatic, and If You Observe One Mitzvah Less, You Are An Apikores"
Thank you, anonymous Ger, for putting your thoughts on paper for the rest of us to see. I have been following the problem of the Rabbinate getting more and more ridiculous with their ideas of what a Ger should be, and I have been so worried about the effect of the Rabbinate's position on this issue.
We cannot make it impossible for people to live as religious Jews! For goodness sakes, there isn't one of us who keeps the mitzvot exactly like any other of us. This is why the Torah is a LIVING document. This is why the rabbis are RELEVANT to our lives!
The Shuchan Aruch is not a list of rules to follow like automatons. It is a GUIDE for those who already know the law (because one law can sometimes be more important than another, and the exceptions to laws are not generally know). It takes the education and experience of a seasoned rabbi to know how to rule on laws, and then, not every situation is the same.
A P'sk is somewhat like a perscription medicine from the doctor--unless you especially trained, you don't have the knowledge and experience required to decide on a perscription, you can't assume someone else would also gain from taking a perscription perscribed especially for you, and you would never share your perscription with the general public.
And, there are three versions of the Shuchan Aruch (did you know that?). We are SUPPOSED to have questions about how to follow the law, and our rabbis are supposed to be there to educate us on how to follow it.
When a Ger is told to follow the law a certain way by their rabbi, we don't have a right to question that perscription for halacha. Everyone needs to stop trying to be a rabbi to other people--it's not your job AND it is a very dangerous thing to do.
Please remember this (something I say to my children): Pay attention to your own mitzvot. Once you have all 613 laws down perfectly, you can then pay attention to someone else's.
Thou Shalt Not Oppress the Ger
Posted June 1, 2009 - 11:39am
A long-time Orthodox convert to Judaism, the author (who prefers anonymity) relates some of the difficulties faced by converts to Judaism. She particularly focuses on issues she herself has had to face within the Orthodox community. This article appears in Conversations, Issue Four (Spring 2009), published by our Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.
I am a convert. There can be no question that I am halakhically Jewish, at least if you trust the Lubavitchers to know halakha. I am writing to protest the downright shameful treatment of converts by the Orthodox community, which so conveniently forgets the explicit commandment to not oppress the ger.
First, let me state my background—though I will omit identifying details for reasons that will appear later. I was raised as a Christian in the Bible Belt to believe that the Bible was the word of God. Nobody explained to me why “God’s Word” did not include the laws in the first five books, which today are observed only by Jews. Due to my parents’ severe opposition, I could not do anything toward converting to Judaism until I went away to graduate school in a small college town.
This was more than 35 years ago. At that time, I took instruction from the only Orthodox rabbi in the state, who could be described as Modern Orthodox. In those days, I knew nothing of Modern/Hareidi distinctions among Orthodox Jews; in fact, there were no Hareidi Jews in my immediate vicinity. The Bet Din consisted of my rabbi; the only Conservative rabbi in that town (he was a Sabbath observer), and one other person. As I started meeting other Jews for the first time (I had had no significant social Jewish contact before my conversion), I started getting questions about this conversion. I had met a community of Lubavitchers by this time, and they decided that although they believed my conversion was valid, they would redo it just to remove all question. They even placed a call to New York and got a ruling that I should not say God’s name in the blessing for this re-run. This second conversion took place about a year and a half after my first conversion.
I did not meet and marry my husband until nine years later. His entire family is Hareidi, and he is yeshiva-educated. We are Shomrei Shabbat but not “yeshivish,” and live in a small college town with a bare minyan for our Orthodox community. We have one child, a son, who is also Shomer Shabbat.
The basic problem a convert faces in the Orthodox world stems from the following mind-set: If you observe one mitzvah more than I do you are a fanatic, and if you observe one mitzvah less you are an apikores, or heretic. This is hard a enough mind-set for a ba’al teshuva to navigate and to figure out what is essential halakha and what is less essential minhag, or custom—and even more so for the convert. If a convert is at all less stringent than the person he or she is speaking to, the logic seems to extend that the convert has not accepted all of the mitzvoth, and therefore the validity of the conversion is in question. I’ve even had an Orthodox rabbi say this to me in those very words! . . . (Read More)
This article appears in the magazine Conversations, Issue Four (Spring 2009), published by our Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. Please consider becoming a member!