Sunday, May 18, 2008

Baseless Hatred

it is said that the Second Temple fell to the Romans because of baseless hatred. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in The Essential Talmud has this from Bava Metzia 30b:

In discussing the question of why the Second Temple was destroyed when the people at that time led blameless lives and studied Torah, the Talmud comments harshly that "Jerusalem was only destroyed because the law of Torah was delivered there". This perplexing statement is elaborated: the people of Jerusalem were punished because they judged only in accordance with the laws of Torah and did not advocate leniency. This implies that although existing laws bind all men, there are various considerations for tempting the law, in certain cases, with mercy. If those authorized to pass judgment do not act with temperance, their behaviour denotes the onset of destruction. Thus the law--particularly the statues regulating relations between man and his fellow man--is but an external framework containing other frameworks that must also be taken into consideration.

Rabbi Avraham Sherman wrote a 50 page legal decision calling into question thousands of conversions by Rabbi Druckman. Rabbi Sherman has caused pain to many and he did so without even looking into the conversions he is calling into question. One of those who may be affected had this to say:

SHANEY GILBERT, a convert to Judaism who might be affected by the High Rabbinical Court's decision, was preparing for Shabbat when she first heard about Sherman's decision.

"My table was set; my Shabbat candles were ready; and I had some time before sundown," recalled Gilbert. "So I decided to check the news on the Internet. I could not believe what I saw. I started shaking all over. I could not believe that I had been through so much, and now this court could come along years after the fact and take away my Jewish status retroactively. Just like that, without any investigation into who I am."

Gilbert said that the decision was a clear violation of the biblical commandment to love the convert and not to wrong him.

"On the day of their judgment, those judges will be accountable for every tear that I and thousands of other converts shed," added Gilbert

Rabbi Steinsaltz also expounds upon Sodomite Rule:

There is an aggadic tradition that regards Sodom not necessarily as the center of wild and indiscriminate corruption but as a place in which the legislation was evil because of a combination of malice and excessive respect for the letter of the law.

There is just a few weeks to Shavuot when the Megillah of Ruth will be read. Ruth, whose heart and soul made her a convert. Ruth, a Moab, who after her conversion and acceptance of the Commandments was allowed to marry Boaz. At the time, those in Israel could not marry Moabites. Ruth, whose marriage to Boaz would led to King David.

Converts to Judaism have a long road to follow, whether it is through Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox. In some cases, family members of the convert will actually walk out of the room. A convert leaves one world behind and accepts the 613commandments. Thus is at the heart of Rabbi Sherman's desicion. He arbiterially decided without investigation that a thousand or so conversions were invalid. This doesn't even begin to discuss the appropriatness of his desicion to even question those who have already converted. That is a different matter. Do not harm the convert:

"The Holy One, blessed be He, greatly loves the proselytes. To what may this be compared? To a king who had a flock which used to go out to the field and come in at even. So it was each day. Once a stag came in with the flock. He stayed with the goats and grazed with them. When the flock came in to the fold he came in; when they went out to graze he went out. The king was told about the stag and felt a certain affection for him."

"When the stag went out into the field, the king ordered, 'Let him have good pasture; do not harm him; be careful with him!' When he came in with the flock, the king told them, 'Give him water'; he loved the stag very much. The servants said, 'Your majesty! You have such a large flock of goats and lambs and kids, but you never caution us about them; yet you give us instructions every day about this stag!'"

"The king responded, 'The other animals have no choice; whether they want or not, it is their nature to graze in the field all day and to come in to sleep in the fold. Stags, however, sleep in the wilderness. It is not in their nature to come into places inhabited by man. Is it not to a sign of this one's merit that he has left behind the whole of the wilderness to stay in our courtyard?' In like manner, ought we not to be grateful to the proselyte who has left behind his family and his relatives, his nation and all the other nations of the world, and has chosen to come to us?"

After my conversion, I felt as this man:

The following day his neighbors woke up to a very peculiar sight. That very same convert was seen dancing through the streets of Yerushalayim singing “shelo asani goy, shelo asani goy (thanking Hashem for not creating him as a member of the other nations of the world)!”

For I could now say what my heart had long been telling me: I'm a Jew!. I'm home. My home is the Jewish people. My ways are those of the Jewish people and like my Hebrew name, Shira, my heart sings. Ahava Amo Yisrael.

This is what is so damaging about Rabbi Sherman's desicion. His decision has torn the song from many converts. I wonder if he would have made the same desicion for Ruth's conversion.


Anonymous said...

Just found your blog! This post was very thoughtful. As one of the converts who shed tears over Rav Sherman's psak, I agreed with everything you wrote.

Goldwasser Story said...


shira said...


Thank you.

shira said...

goldwasser story,


Jack said...

Remember that smicha does not always bestow kindness, wisdom or common sense.