Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Gerim/Converts Are Often More Meticulous in Mitzvos - Guest Post by Rabbi Micha Golshevsky

We find on today's daf (Pesachim 91b) that one may not assemble a chaburah entirely of converts; their meticulousness in mitzvah observance might lead them to disqualify the korban unnecessarily. ("אין עושין חבורה שכולה גרים שמא ידקדקו בו ויביאוהו לידי פסול") Rav Tzaddok HaKohen zt"l (Machshavas Charutz pg. 85a & 84b) explains that this why both the written and oral Torah were built on the foundation of converts. Ma'amad Har Sinai is recounted in Parshas Yisro, and Yisro was the "father" of all future converts; similarly, Rabbi Akiva who was the descendant of converts is the foundation of the oral Torah. The ger personifies absolute self-sacrifice for Hashem and His Torah from pure love, for he has freely chosen to abandon a carefree worldly existence for the demands of fulfilling the Will of Hashem.

After coming into contact with the Torah and sincerely devout Jews in France, young Count Potocki became convinced that he could no longer remain a Catholic. He studied with great devotion, and eventually went to Amsterdam and converted; in time, he assumed the name Avraham ben Avraham. After some travel, he settled outside of Vilna, but one day he was informed upon to the authorities. He had long been sought for the "crime" of conversion, and was quickly arrested; the entreaties of his mother and friends failed to induce him to abandon the Torah. After a long imprisonment and a trial for heresy, he was left to await execution. The Vilna Gaon zt"l sent a message to him secretly:

"I am prepared to save you through a mofes, a miracle brought about by manipulating the Divine Name. Will you allow me to do it for you?"

Avraham ben Avraham sent his bold response back to the Gaon: "I do not wish to be saved—I accept the Will of Hashem, and I will gladly die for the sake of His Name!" The ger tzedek of Vilna was burned at the stake on the second day of Shavuos. Like Rabbi Akiva, he left this world filled with joy to do the Will of his Creator—both living examples of the greatness of converts!

-Micha Golshevsky

(Picture courtesy of wikipedia)

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