Shabbat Parashat Bereshit | 5765
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Conversion - The Process and Its Impact on Family Status - Part II - From Chavot Binyamin, siman 67.
[We saw last time that there is a concept that geirut (conversion) severs halachic ties to previous relatives. However, we did not fully understand why that rule applies only selectively, and, for example, did not seem to apply to the conversion of the whole nation at Har Sinai. In order to understand better, we will now begin analyzing the geirut process, in general.]
The geirut process contains three parts: kabalat (acceptance of) mitzvot; milah (circumcision) for men; tevilla (immersion in a mikveh). Although the gemara (Yevamot 47b) derives the need for a beit din of three from the reference to mishpat in the context of geirut, Tosafot (ibid. 45b) says that it is fully necessary only at kabalat mitzvot. This is very strange, as the kabalat mitzvot is but the first stage of the process, after which the candidate is not yet Jewish at all and can still back out without consequence. One would have thought that at tevilla, which is the critical moment where the geirut takes effect, the presence of three would have been most necessary.
We must also understand the need for three, as two witnesses that he underwent the process should suffice, as they do for marriage and other matters. Also, why does the gemara mention the concept of accepting the ger (convert) (see ibid. 24b- “They did not accept gerim at the time of …”). This demonstrates the requirement for beit din’s positive involvement in accepting the geirut, unlike the passive role of witnesses, where they apply. This concept finds expression in the gemara’s statement, explaining why geirut is a process that cannot be accomplished without others’ agreement. It says: “Who is to say that three will agree to take part?” (Kiddushin 62b). If one needs only the presence, not the agreement, of three, then the statement is not logical. Can’t he find three people standing together and make a quick statement of kabalat mitzvot?
But what is the nature of beit din’s active role in accepting the geirut, and why is it most focused on kabalat mitzvot. The following appears to be the explanation. The main element of geirut is the acceptance of the ger into the ranks of Klal Yisrael. The beit din serves as representatives of the nation. In order to determine if the candidate is appropriate to accept, they have to see if he is willing to accept the mitzvot, without which they have no right to accept him. When they are satisfied with his suitability through the process of kabalat mitzvot, the candidate demonstrates his full agreement to the obligations of being a member of Klal Yisrael by performing the milah and tevilla. However, that part can be done in front of any two witnesses.
Why, though, should the candidate require our agreement in order for the mitzvot of the Torah to apply to him? Is it not between Hashem and him? Apparently he can accept the mitzvot on his own, but then he would remain as one who does mitzvot without being obligated (eino m’tzuveh v’oseh), which is on a lower level. This is because only Bnei Yisrael were commanded to keep the Torah, and only by being part of Bnei Yisrael can he be included in that obligation. We can then say that the whole essence of geirut is becoming included in Klal Yisrael,only that that is impossible to do without accepting the mitzvot. The connection between the two is that at Har Sinai all of the Jewish people accepted the Torah by saying “na’aseh v’nishma.” At that time all of the Jewish people joined together to become one entity with the Torah. The ger has to show that he is willing to become part of the nation that accepted the Torah. Then the mitzvot become obligatory for him as a member of Klal Yisrael and without a need to accept each individual mitzva, which, in fact, hedoes not do. This concept is captured in the words of the convert, Ruth, “your nation is my nation and you G-d is my G-d.” Through the former, the latter becomes true.
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