Thursday, October 30, 2008

Do Pre-Conversion Gerim Have a Jewish Soul Hidden in a Gentile Body?


About a year before I converted, I was talking to a local educator back in Dixie, and I asked him, "I feel Jewish already. Could it be that I already have a Jewish soul, but that it is just in a non-Jewish body right now?" He answered me that he didn't think so, but that when a person converts, he gets a new Jewish neshama.

A Simple Jew pointed me toward an interesting footnote (Page 2, footnote 6) in the English Translation of Sefer Baal Shem Tov on Parshas Lech Lecha AVAILABLE HERE, which was quoting a piece in the Degel Machaneh Ephraim. The translator of the sefer and author of the footnotes, Rabbi Eliezer Shore, wrote that "before their [converts') conversion, their souls are trapped in a gentile body." ***

This seems to be a source for the idea that Gerim have a Jewish soul before they convert, but that it is hidden, or trapped, in a gentile body until that point. Does anyone out there know if this is a chidush or is it an accepted principal? Personally, I felt that this was true before my conversion, but hey, what do I know about the deeper spiritual aspects of reality!? Thanks for any insights!

UPDATE 10/31/08: See my follow up post with more detials on the nature of the non-Jewish soul (both preceeding conversion and not).

-Dixie Yid

*** ASJ found the Sefer Baal Shem Tov's source online. The Degel Machaneh Ephraim that it quoted is available HERE, D"H "Oh Yomar."

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28 comments:

Anonymous said...

BSD
I heard from a student of Rav Eliezer Berland Shlita of SHuvu Banim in Yerushalayim IHK that the Rav said in a shiur that in this generation, there are no 'goyim' converting- that all the holy converts are Jewish somewhere in pshat...You might want to research this

yitz.. said...

the baal haTanya in shulchan aruch harav deals with the issue as well and explains there are Jewish neshamoth born to non-jewish parents, and they then convert.

if you think about it, how else could they be mekayem the mitzwoth & halachoth of conversion, if they weren't Jewish.

also i know of a Tzaddik who once told an arab man that he had a Jewish neshamah and the man converted to Judaism because of it..

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Nachman teaches in Likutei Moharan the concept that as a result of persecution of Jews by non-Jews, Jewish souls become trapped in non-Jews, and then the souls later come out as converts.

Interesting - consistent with this idea: there are more Christian converts to Judaism than Moslem converts. Historically there has been more persecution of Jews by Christians than by Moslems.

Αλέξανδρος said...

This is the answer to “unfairness” argument that members of other religions (and atheists) pose to Jews: how come only Jews were given the choice to accept or reject Torah, en masse? The answer is that the choice was given to all the nations’ souls, as well as to Jewish souls of the time of revelation plus all the future Jewish souls. Jews en masse accepted Torah, while the nations’ souls refused — except a few nations’ souls in each generation that accepted. They are the souls of the converts.

In the Lessons in Tanya (Ch. 1), it is written: “It should be noted that among the nations of the world there are also to be found those whose souls are derived from kelipat nogah [just like Jewish nefesh ha’bahamis]. Called ‘the pious ones of the nations of the world’, these righteous individuals are benevolent not out of selfish motives but out of a genuine concern for their fellow.”

I suppose it may be that these souls are potential candidates for conversion.

yitz.. said...

@ αλέξανδρος

i believe that's talking about something else, simply the matter of the origin of non-Jewish neshamoth is said to be from the 3 impure klippoth, the footnote clarifies that there are those 'righteous gentiles' who can act selflessly because their soul originates in klippat nogah, which is half good.

in either case, the discussion is only about the 'animal' soul. (neshamah behami) On the other hand, the jewish 'Godly' soul (neshamah eloki) he describes separately and that, he says, non-jews do not have. However, he does say in another source (ie. not in the Tanya) that on occasion a Jewish Godly soul can be born to non-Jewish parents.

Essentially the Baal HaTanya's line is: if a person has a Jewish soul it will be revealed by the fact that they will sacrifice everything rather than deny the existence of God; whereas a person without a Jewish soul has no such will. (their ends will prove their beginnings, essentially -- if they die Jewish they testify that their soul was always Jewish.)

He also said (apparently at the same time) that (shelo neida) non-Jewish souls can be born to Jewish parents..

DixieYid said...

Great Comments! Thank you!

Anon 5:46:

I have also heard this idea that you quote from Rabbi Berland. But according to those opinions, Gerim are not even jewish souls trapped in gentile bodies. They are Jewish souls in Jewish bodies! It's just that because of confusion through the generations, we are not allowed to halachicly consider them Jewish. I suppose that those sources that talk about a Ger getting a new Jewish neshama or even having a Jewish neshoma in a non-Jewish body, would disagree with this source you're bringing from Rabbi Berland since they would hold that at least the body of that Ger was indeed not Jewish before their conversion.

Yitz,

Do you have the ma'areh makom for that idea in Shulchan Aruch HaRav? I'm not clear though. Is he saying that they are already Jewish? Or a similar idea to what we're talking aboutr here that they are Jewish neshamos trapped in gentile bodies?

I don't understand your point though. Why would they need to be jewish before their conversion to fulfill the halachos of conversion? The halachos speak to certain acts the Ger must do (receiving a Bris mila and dipping in the mikvah before a beis din) and a certain state of mind he must have (kabalas ohl ha mitzvos). It's not a matter of him getting schar for doing a mitzvah of conversion. Halacha makes a statement of fact. When a non-Jew does certain acts in certain circumstances and has a certain state of mind, Hashem causes his conversion to take effect. How is it necessary for him to be Jewish before the whole process starts for the process to work?

Anon 7:30,

Do you the ma'areh makom for that in Likutei Moharan? Interesting he'orah too. It does make sense that the more a nation persecutes Jews, the more converts would be created in that nation. But what's the *svorah*? I'm wondering *why* would persecution of Jews cause other goyim to become future converts?

Alexander:

I'm very fascinated by your second point. You said that there are some goyim who have legitimate selfless love for others. Although this seems to contradict the pasuk which says "Chesed l'umim chatas." Are you famaliar with the Drushim on this pasuk, which seems to be directly opposed to what you quoted in Lessons in Tanya. Does Lessons in Tanya bring a source for this? I would be very interested to see what the source would be that there are exceptions for the general "chesed l'umim chatas" rule.

-Dixie Yid

DixieYid said...

Yitz,

Just saw your second comment. Would it still be fair to say according to the Tanya then that there are cases where non-Jews, even if it's because their nefesh habahamis is rooted in Klipas Nogah, have the ability to do mitzvos selflessly, rather than selfishly on some level, as per the drasha of "chesed l'umim Chatas."

Where in Tanya does it indicate that some goyim have a nefesh habahamis rooted in klipas nogah?

-Dixie Yid

yitz.. said...

@DixieYid,

(i dont think it says in tanya that some goyim have a neshamah behami rooted in klipat nogah, that was apparently a footnote to lessons in tanya)

Anon's source is one of the long early Torahs in Likkutei Moharan, there he goes into great detail about how this mechanism works exactly, and it's Jewish souls in non-Jewish bodies. (which i think is the basis for things like the talmud's statement bnei banav shel haman are learning torah in bnei barak)

The Baal HaTanya's source I will look up, I was told once it was in hilchot talmud torah but i never found it. (i think we discussed this once before)

My point was this: Torah doesn't apply to non-Jews. They aren't bound by it. It can only apply directly to Jews. So how can they be bound by halachah to convert in a certain fashion unless they are already Jewish? Essentially how can halachah relevantly address them, if they never received the Torah? I think it's the same question as: how can we connect to HaShem if He's truly infinite and beyond us?
The answer being we're already connected via a chelek eloka mima'al. same would seem to have to be true for the ger. Otherwise in a way a ger would be an even more novel event than the birth of a Jew, because a novel connection with the infinite nature of HaShem would have to be forged. But if that were the case then why would we be told that Avraham Avinu already conceived all of the neshamoth of the geirim that would ever be born? So it would seem pretty straightforward that they were born with a Jewish neshamah, the alternative would be that they get their Jewish neshamah at the time of conversion.

In essence, it's probably something like the yetzer tov (neshamah eloki) which we really only receive on becoming bar/bat mitzwah. Yet what made us Jewish before then? there must have been a Reshimu, an imprint of that neshamah eloki on us from before then. So I would imagine it's true of geirim as well, that they probably do get their full-on yetzer tov (neshamah eloki) at their conversion or bar mitzwah (if they converted younger than bar mitzwah with their parents) but they are probably born with the Reshimu of that neshamah eloki, just as a Jew from birth.

This would seem to have some support in my limited understanding of some kabbalistic texts (that i have yet to finish reading(ive seen it mentioned in both Hesed L'Avraham (Azulai) and Mishnat Hasidim)) in which there is mention of a person's complete full-grown tzelem coming down to the mother in the womb, and then waiting until the child reaches (physical and spiritual) maturity to receive it fully. This full grown tzelem leaves a roshem (or reshimu, same thing) on the person while still in the womb.

I will ask about this though, (b'n) because I'm sure the Arizal goes into this in great depth and has very exact answers about this topic --- rather than my shooting in the dark :)

A Simple Jew said...

Facinating discussion, Dixie Yid!

You may also recall this source from Imrei Pinchas here

Anonymous said...

My understanding was the goy had a *spark* of a Jewish soul inside him, not an entire nefesh that was Jewish but a spark. At time of conversion the gair is given (I read in the Ari but don't have source to hand) a corrected nefesh and begins future tikkune at the level of ruach.

DixieYid said...

Yitz,

As to your point about being at a lower level before Bar Mitvah, see also the Meor Einayim that I quoted here: http://dixieyid.blogspot.com/2007/02/born-again-in-adar-sheni.html

I like your pshat about analogizing the Jewish neshama of a Ger before conversion to a Jew before Bar Mitzva.

If you can find those ma'aeh mekomos for the Baal Hatanya in Shulchan Aruch Harav, that would be awesome.

Although your explanation is really nice and makes sense to me, with regard to how the halachos of Gerus can apply to a non-Jew before conversion due to "reshimu," I'm not sure you need to come on to that in this context. It may be true, nonetheless, but with the explanation that I said, you wouldn't need it to explain this inyan. The halacha is not commanding a goy to do his conversion in a certain way the way it commands someone to marry in a certain way if he wants to get married. Rather, it is saying that if certain acts and states of mind are present, a goy transforms into a Jew. It's not about commanding or directing him to do any particular thing before his conversion. But rather, it's just saying that if he does do certain things, certain circumstances are there (Beis Din), and he has a certain state of mind, that a Gerus takes place. He's more of a cheftza in the process than a gavra, to user a Brisker lashon...

You hear?

-Dixie Yid

DixieYid said...

ASJ,

That Imrei Pinchas resonates with me as well. I certainly felt like I was being pulled in this direction and that I didn't truly have free will until a year or so after the conversion actually. Everything seemed kind of like there were no other choices, until that point!

Anon,

I'd be interested in the source for that concept as well! It connects in some way to what Yitz had said. It divides up the idea of a Jewish neshoma up in to two states. It's in one state before the Gerus. And it has a tikun or is taken to a higher level after the conversion. Thank you!

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

What I find interesting is that the gair would come in with a corrected nefesh and begin correcting the ruach. If one was born a Jew the nefesh must be corrected through tikkune work in the life time, some G-d forbid, never reaching the level of Ruach.... it's spoken about in the Gates of Reincarnation

yitz.. said...

@DY,

the best support for your cheftza approach is eved k'na'ani, where he becomes a Jew entirely against his will, simply by becoming a slave to a Jew,(and then being freed) at least as far as I understand it.

otherwise i would have a hard time seeing what you are saying considering one pre-requisite is recieving the yolk of torah and mitzwoth and if the non-jew is mostly cheftza, how does his 'will' enter into it? (that's actually a really good pun on the word hefetz חפץ)

lars david shalom said...

OH YES!!!!!!!!

YES THYE DO!!

DixieYid said...

Yitz,

Why can't you hear it. It's not that the gentile's "daas" is affecting anything. The state of his daas is a mere circumstance, which, when taken along side other required circumstances, constitutes the right mix of factors for the Torah/Hashem to create a status of Ger in that person. It doesn't necessitate that his daas is doing the acting. But rather, his daas is a mere fact or circumstance that would be required for a Gerus to descend from above, so to speak.

Ya hear?

:-)

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

Rav Perets told me that the soul is there with limited access, but access nonetheless. there are myriads of cases i'd assume, each different. the important thing is for gerim to stick together. that was told me by Rebbe Yosef Saban.

elisha

Anonymous said...

Elisha:

I a wondering why gerim shoul stick together--can you elaborate?

Kol tov,
HaSepharadi

DixieYid said...

Elisha,

Yes, I'm also curious what the importance of sticking together is for Gerim in particular. Thanks for the comment!

-Dixie Yid

Αλέξανδρος said...

Torah doesn't apply to non-Jews. They aren't bound by it. It can only apply directly to Jews. So how can they be bound by halachah to convert in a certain fashion unless they are already Jewish? Essentially how can halachah relevantly address them, if they never received the Torah? I think it's the same question as: how can we connect to HaShem if He's truly infinite and beyond us?

What about Noahide laws? They obviously apply to goyim. In the post above I didn’t mean that all goyim with soul coming from klipas nogah are the ones that become geirim, I just thought that geirim come from that group. Although, now I am wondering: does a goy have a choice about becoming a ger? Anyway, I do understand where you’re coming from. Nice analogy with reshimu, etc.

Considering what Chassidus and Kabbalah say about the essence of the Jewish soul (e.g., one of the ma’amorim by Lubavitcher Rebbe for last week mentioned that its source is even beyond the point where Hashem’s ratzon makes a choice between his infinite powers to chose particular ten, with which to start creation of the world), it is indeed difficult to imagine that a person could receive something like this and remain the same entity even superficially. Also what you said about goy transforming into a Jew being even a greater miracle than creation of the world, unless we say that ger already had a dormant Jewish soul. It makes much more sense that he always had nefesh elokis, but its connection with his nefesh ha’bahamis and his body was not evident — except for the subconscious calling that eventually lead him to yiddishkeit.

Somebody quotes the Rebbe (Likkutei Sichos, vol. 10, p. 89) here:

“I dont know the source of this idea that those who did accept are the Gerim, but I dont know waht is so hard to understand, The Midrash speaks about the collective, and that "vort" is about indviduals who were renegade souls!

“On spiritual terms, they are the holy sparks who are ingrained in Klippah and are yearning to get close to kedushe.

“But as mentioned in another thread about Goyim, the common explanation used by the Rebbe numerous times, which comes from the Chido (But in a footnote in Likutei Sichos, I saw, the Rebbe found a source for that concept in some newly published manuscript of the Baalei Tosfos) is thus. [Why does] Gemara [use] the term ‘Ger Shnigyir’; apparently the proper term should be ‘Goy shnisgayir’? To indicate, that the eventual Ger has a hidden latent Jewish soul which waits to be discovered and activated.

“According the AR the Geirim are stray sparks which fell in Klipeh and are restless until they are becoming Jewish.

“The AR explains that this restlessness has to do with Avraham’s circumcision, which caused that holy souls belong exclusively to Avraham and not to anyone else (until that point, you could have a holy soul and need not convert as Meshiselech, Mamerei who had great souls but did not feel an urge to convert), so if an holy spark somehow ‘fell’ into a goy's body the holy spark cant rest calmly in the goys body and has a irresistible urge to become Jewish since Avraham’s mileh dictated that all holiness has to be Jewish.

“However, this is only about the offspring of Avraham which were post mileh, but concerning Yishmoel, since he was born prior to Avrahm’s milah, therefore, the AR says, we see so few converts from bnei Yishmoel, since they were not influenced by Avraham’s mileh, so if a stray spark enters them, they don’t have the urge to convert.”

Hope this helps in some way…

DixieYid said...

Alexander,

Yes, it does help. I can definitedly relate to the idea you're saying of a soul being restless until it can finally find it's way home through Gerus. Yasher koach!

-Dixie Yid

DixieYid said...

See my clarification of Alex's point from Lessons in Tanya from the top comment or two in my new post here: http://dixieyid.blogspot.com/2008/10/pre-conversion-soul-status-continued.html

-Dixie Yid

Devorah said...

I originally learnt that a convert does have a Jewish soul, however it is hovering above him/her, and upon conversion it enters the body.
this is a Lubavitch teaching if anyone wants to research it further.

Anonymous said...

hi sorry i didn't check this again till now. It is important for gerim to stick together and understand our unity despite the many different stories and paths to get here. Yosef Saban told me that in tsfat four years ago, and i didn't understand him at the time, nor did he explain himself. He insinuated that its not an unbiased world in the haredi community, and its very important to know this. i came to understand it somehow on a visceral level. we're a 13th tribe. and not only that, its an amazing thing to be, a ger. we're nothing like baal teshuvas. baal teshuvas are given torah on a silver platter, sent out with room service, and a place to live free. we have to fight to get it and it takes years. it took me over 7 or 8 years, and i finished with a mamish amazing beyt din of mamish tzadikim of the aides haredi... and i'm happy about that. but still, its not like the rest of that world will ever let us 'marry their daughters' so to speak. i was once approached by a man in beitar after i did a siyum of massechet megillah, and he wanted to introduce me to this girl, and he asked my background i told him the truth, i'm a ger. he literally turned and ran away, mumbling something on his way..yet this is still largely the world i chose...we're never really ever accepted on the deepest level, for basic regular reasons common to all people. identity and culture and integral superiority. i'm in a rather good mood and not much koach to describe further the dark sides of the religious world. also not as much energy to devote to how few jews i know that display this textual great "altruism" and "selflessness." i have seen more racism, blindness, and selfishness amongst am yisrael than i ever experienced in the secular world in usa... It will be easy to attack me for raising issues here, but if we are quoting gemara, keep in mind the gemara considers absolutely everything, and nothing is too offensive to consider if it may be true. but none of these 'reasons' are why i feel as i do. i just do. here among beloved am yisrael, as a ger, it is very important for us to be connected on some level and just to know that.

elisha

DixieYid said...

Elisha,

Yes, you're probably right to some extent that there is probably a misplaced feeling that Gerim are on a lower status than other frum Jews. Another factor to consider though is that people are looking to marry (or looking for their children to marry) people that they can relate to, who come from a similar culture, background and family. This may have nothing to do with elitism, but rather, to do with people seeking out others that they feel with be more personally and culturaly compatible with them. This is a legitimate concern and should not necessary be pooh-poohed.

I like your attidude of Ahavas Yisroel dispite the difficult experiences you've had. Yasher koach for sharing in such a heart-felt way. Kol tuv & gut voch.

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

Here's the reference to the Torah in Likutei Moharan quoted last week:

Torah 17.

At a quick glance, paragraphs 4,5 and 6 mention gerim; what I quoted (and a lot more) is in paragraph 6.

Shuky said...

A ger can get married in the BT world, specially with brand new comers at marriage age

Nachson Riversplitter said...

I was taught that there are two types of Gerim.

There are those with a Jewish soul and those with a different "Ger" soul.

(The basic source for this teaching is that the verse says, "Ger She'nisgayer" if a "Ger" converts. Implying that he is already a ger.)

The way you can tell the difference between the two is WHY he converted and HOW he converted.

If he converted for super-rational reasons -- he just felt he "had" to or something like that, then it shows he was a Jewish soul.

If he coverts because he learns about it and it makes sense, this shows that he has the soul of ger.

I believe that this is from the Arizal, and I think its from Shaar Hagilgulim.