Sunday, May 18, 2008

Conversion Redux: The Ground is Burning

President Bush’s Middle East visit and the on-going bribery investigation of PM Olmert, have overshadowed the controversy surrounding the Haredi attempt to delegitimize the Israeli Rabbinate’s Conversion authority, and willy nilly to retroactively revoke the over 25,000 conversions carried out in the past decade. It has, however, not gone away. On the contrary, the Jerusalem Post reports that the fallout has thrown the entire rabbinate into disarray. [This, of course, is exactly what the extremist Lithuanian faction wants.]

No one knows whether the Sephardic Chief Rabbi, R. Shlomo Amar, will succeed in neutralizing the Sherman ruling. In the interim, the lives of close to one hundred thousand people are in turmoil. The converts don’t know if they are Jewish. Their spouses don’t know if they are married. Their children don’t know if they are Jewish. The latter’s children (and their prospective spouses) don’t know if they are Jewish and/or getting married. So much for Haredi awareness of the fact that, on forty eight separate occasions, the Torah commands that one love the convert and forbids one to hurt him or her. (Uri Urbach has an important take on the larger context of the issue, here.)

In the interim, Tzohar has published a statement supporting Rav Druckman and excoriating the Sherman Psak in the strongest terms. Signed by 80 Religious Zionist Rabbis (including this writer), it is a strong response and a big Kiddush HaShem. In a parallel report, YNet highlighted R. Aharon Lichtenstein's impassioned words at last week's conference. As reported (accurately, I was there) by YNet:

"כמה שנאה, כמה טינה, כמה עוינות יש בפסק הדין האיום והנורא הזה", אמר הרב ליכטנשטיין, "במערך הגיור ישנם דיינים יראי שמים ותלמידי חכמים אשר השקיעו את מרצם וחייהם למען התורה. אי אפשר לדחוק אותם ולזרוק אותם לרחוב". לדבריו, "בנקודה הזאת צריכים להיות תקיפים. אסור להשלים עם הסגנון הזה ועם הגישה... היכן שמענו או ראינו כי כל הסומך על מיעוט הפוסקים, בניגוד לדעה הרווחת, אפיקורס במזיד יקרא? אוי לאוזניים שכך שומעות ואוי לבית דין מגמתי שכזה אשר כך התבטא". "כמה שנאה, כמה טינה, כמה עוינות יש בפסק הדין האיום והנורא הזה", אמר הרב ליכטנשטיין, "במערך הגיור ישנם דיינים יראי שמים ותלמידי חכמים אשר השקיעו את מרצם וחייהם למען התורה. אי אפשר לדחוק אותם ולזרוק אותם לרחוב". לדבריו, "בנקודה הזאת צריכים להיות תקיפים. אסור להשלים עם הסגנון הזה ועם הגישה... היכן שמענו או ראינו כי כל הסומך על מיעוט הפוסקים, בניגוד לדעה הרווחת, אפיקורס במזיד יקרא? אוי לאוזניים שכך שומעות ואוי לבית דין מגמתי שכזה אשר כך התבטא".

On the other side of the issue, the Post report included an interesting fact:

However, Sherman received backing from the haredi rabbinic establishment. For instance, Rabbi Avraham Dov Levine, who heads an independent rabbinical court based in Jerusalem that specializes in determining Jewish genealogical trees (yihus) in the haredi community for couples before marriage, claimed in an interview this week on Radio Kol Hai that the vast majority of converts converted by Druckman's authority did not adhere to Halacha after the conversion. Therefore, this was proof the conversions were not valid.

I was not aware of R. Levine's existence until last week. It was then that a colleague called my attention to a decision issued by R. Levine, when he served as chief marriage registrar of the Jerusalem rabbinate (פסקי בתי הדין הרבניים, תיק תקכ"א שעל ידי בית דין מס' 126, תש"ס).

A girl came to the Rabbinate to register to marry. Her mother had been married to a young man who was killed in the Yom Kippur War, when his tank took a direct hit. No physical remains were found, though shreds of clothing were identified as belonging to him. Based upon this and the military reports, the Army Rabbinate declared him to have died and issued a certificate that the young widow was free to remarry. After some time she did so, and the young lady in question was the child of the second marriage. Twenty-Seven years later, she came before Rabbi Levine to receive the required documentation that would allow her to marry.

R. Levine reexamined the Army Rabbinate's decision and disqualified it. He argued that the latter had not elicited sufficient evidence of the soldier's death. Hence, the wife was a safeq Eshet Ish and her daughter a safeq mamzeret. He informed the stunned girl that she was unable to marry. The only out that he offered was that if she were to represent the case to a 'God fearing Bet Din'
(בית דין ירא שמים), she might find relief and be able to marry.

Now, anyone who knows anything about Halakha knows that one NEVER reopens the case of an Aguna, who was freed by a recognized Bet Din, certainly not a quarter of a century later.

One never creates the circumstance to create mamzerim.

Why did he do this? He did this because he is part of what, to my shame as a proud Litvak, religious commentators are terming the 'Litaliban.' He cares not for anything but the supererogatory demands of his tiny coterie. Otherwise, how does this charlatan dare to term the military Rabbinate's Bet Din as not being 'God fearing'? Was he ever in a tank? Did he ever suffer the heat of battle? Does he know the circumstances of what type of remains one might expect to find in a burning tank? [By contrast, as described by R. Benny Lau, Rav Ovadia Yosef sat with military experts to determine the realities of battle, locked himself in a room with the outstanding cases of missing soldiers, and found solid halakhic reasons to release over 1,000 agunot! Evidently, the spiritual heir of R. Isaac Elhanan Spector, the Rov of Kovna who was famous for helping agunot, was born in Baghdad. The Lithuanians have, it would appear, dropped the ball.]

So, the inclusion of R. Levine in this story indicates that conversion is but the tip of the iceberg. This cabal is out to totally destroy the non-Hareidi rabbinate, and it does not care how many lives it destroys in the process.

תורה תורה חיגרי שק


7 comments:

Roni Levi said...

Nice post.

Trivia I noticed about this whole thing: It is interesting (though not surprising) how on the English blogs, it is Rav Lichtenstein's comments and signature that are by far the most significant.

In Israeli circles though, while quite significant, his support for the Tzohar position is not nearly as significant as that of Rav Yaakov Ariel (who is virtually unkown to the Americans). In dati-leumi circles, Rav Ariel is the most widely respected and accepted posek alive today. Rav Lichtenstein, on the other hand is a kind of "kabdehi vechashdehu": "We have the highest regard for him as an extraordinary talmid chacham. But he is not from our world, not from our beit midrash, and he is not our rebbe" (an amalgam of the kinds of things I have heard from many Israelis).

Jeffrey said...

You're right. Unfortunately, tragically, the DL world has lost out on RAL because it couldn't separate politics from Torah.

Dov said...

I'm missing Rav Shlomo Aviner from the list of signers. Any idea why he didn't sign?

mashpiaonline said...

i cannot understand the basis of anything rav levine said. it is hefech hahalacha . after tevilo etc in front of 3 rabbonim even inthe worst scenario where we know it wasn't good kabolo etc.. it is at the worst a sofk . here years later you don't know all the details and i certainly don't believe the statement most...it is a fact that many well meaning gerim change later as do many baaley teshuva as do many charedim due to the struggles of life. it does not invalidate what they did 10-20 years earlier. i have done gerus to the best of my ability for 30 years here in detroit. however, after many years dissilusionment finances and shidduch problems cause attrition within the gerim who actually meant it sincerely...the second case is even more shocking .there are standards that are applied and this is simply cruelty. it is not taliban. it is the phenomena of frustrated people who are cruel to themselves are even more cruel to others..
chaim moshe

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Woolf is well known for among other things his study with the Rav ZT"L. Probably less well known is his study and semicha from R. Gedaliah Felder. Relevance Rabbi Felder among many other scholary works wrote Nachalat Zvi. One part of which deals with Imutz-adoption.First printing 1959 second printing 1978. Probably the only major halachik work dealing with this issue. Relevance-probably the vast majority of RCA geirus in the past 50-60 years dealt with adoptees. RYBS I believe felt that when Jews adopt non Jews there is less problems than adopting Jews -because there is no problem of mamzerut in person born non Jewish. IMHO he would have been shocked at the onaat hager that has resulted by the RCAs acquiescing to the CRs political attack on prior gerus. This of course is due to the new CR bureaucracy wanting to attack the prior CR bureaucracy. Net result which no one cares about are decades of gerus being called into question-involving multiple generations.

mycroft

Anonymous said...

>So much for Haredi awareness of the fact that, on forty eight separate occasions, the Torah commands that one love the convert and forbids one to hurt him or her.

48? you mean more than any other mitzvah in the Tora? I'm 36, a ger at 29. [pardon the brief use of off-color epithets] since I am 'older' and a ger, I am the equivalent of Schwartze that has membership on a technicality with the Jewish Country Club and now expects a dip in the gene pool. our daughters? With you? Feh...oh, you actually think a Ger should be able to *pick* someone he could date?...you should be happy we even work with you...and now this madness over R. Druckman's conversions..I converted under a bet din that would not likely become suspect - but I still think this R. Druckman madness should affect me more than it does. I know Gerim who would *go before a bet din on Shabbat and be mehalei Shabbat* if they knew would immediately annul their conversion. Think about that; if they knew of a HALACHIC way out of Tora, they would take it - if they didn't believe it they could just walk away!!! but they DO believe it - AND want OUT! They are THAT frustrated with the Tora *world* as it has come to be since they've been 'insiders'. I, I"H, am going NOWHERE - I can't leave HKBH'S TORA in the hands of these people. It was given to ALL ISRAEL not just them.

Baruch said...

wow, that's really crazy...