Thursday, October 16, 2008

Judaism DOES Have a Place for Attracting Converts


I just learned (from my rebbe) of sources that indicate that Yiddishkeit not only welcomes sincere gentiles who want to convert to Judaism, but even indicates that we out to encourages it.

In the Parsha of Hakhel (the gathering of the entire Jewish people during the Sukkos after the Shmita year, just like this Sukkos) in Parshas Vayelech, the Torah says that one of the kinds of people who must be brought to Hakhel are "gercha asher b'sha'arecha," "strangers in your gates." I always understood this to refer to Gerim, converts to Judaism. However, many meforshim learn that this refers to Gerei Toshav, Bnei Noach, gentiles who have committed to observing the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach. This, alone, is interesting enough. It's not just that a Ger Toshav has a special status in that they are gentiles who are allowed to continue living in the land of Israel. They are even invited to come to Hakhel, the once-every-seven-years gathering of the Entire Jewish people to listen to the King of Israel read Mishna Torah, Deuteronomy, which is an experiential reenactment of the giving of the Torah on Har Sinai!

But this is not all. The Ibn Ezra there says that the reason why Bnei Noach are encouraged to attend Hakhel is so that they will be so impressed with this re-experiencing of the receiving of the Torah that "Ulai Yisyaheid," "hopefully they will convert!"

I had always heard that we welcome converts but never engaged in any activities to attract converts. Here, there's an example right in the Torah of the fact that we are commanded in the Torah a certain mitzva for the purpose of encouraging Bnei Noach to take it to the next level!!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of 7kanal.com)

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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

BNEI NOACH ARE DIFFRENT THEY ARE CLOSER TO THE TRUTH

Anonymous said...

bsd
In Yerushalayim IHK this week there were thousands of gentiles, some coming for tours, some for whatever their reasons, and they walked all over the city, mingling with and seeing all the blessed large holy Jewish families who are out being metayel on Chol Hamoed.
May all Jews in Chul manage to come home soon and may all of us who are already here, BH, merit to remain!
BTW, have any of you read R Sendes Zeyv's books? Alef Shin and Lost Ten? They are Mashiachdic novels, and righteous, holiness seeking gentiles hold a strategic place in his view of Geula. The books were a great inspiration to me and opened up storehouses of Tikva at the endless possibilities of Geula scenario
Chag Sameach to all!

Αλέξανδρος said...

You think X-ians invented the idea of converting heathen by themselves? They stole this from us too. Around the turn of common era, there were massive conversions to Judaism all around the Mediterranean, according to Hyam Maccobi in his book, Revolution in Judaea, — which made Romans and Greeks very nervous.

The whole idea that Judaism is against active conversions is a myth (just like an idea that in Judaism there is no idea of hell). Judaism doesn’t believe that goyim have to be “saved”, but active encouragement of goyim to be Bnei Noach and Jews to be frum is definitely a mitzvah, and everyone should do everything in his abilities to do it; furthermore, conversion of goyim to yiddishkeit is a positive outcome, although one should always be cautious and not overly aggressive about it.

DixieYid said...

Alexander,

Well there is a practical side to it. Which is that if you encourage it, then there are likely to be more people who might eventually convert who will not really be that self-motivated and won't be observant at some point after conversion. This is a BIG takala. So I think the cultural norm of not trying to attract converts grew out of a desire to avoid this situation.

I can tell you growing up in a small Jewish community in the south that there were (and probably still are) 2-3 gentiles coming to Shul and in the conversion pipeline at any given time. Many of those that ended up converting ended up just dropping away from observance and any connection to the Jewish community. It ended up being more of a religious phase or fad for them than a real commitment. So there are serious problems with conversion as well which is why the process should be long and difficult so as to weed out those who are not really committed.

-Dixie Yid

lars said...

yes i converted but been a longtime in heaven

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that we hear increasing reports of indigenous groups in various African and Asian countries claiming connection to Judaism or interest in becoming Jews. That passage from Zechariah (8:23) comes to mind. To paraphrase: "People will grab the shirt of a Jew and tell him: We will go with you because we have heard that G-d is with you." I once met Ted Hayes, a black guy who represents the homeless community in Los Angeles.
He grabbed my shirt and said, "I believe what the prophet Zachariah says. Lead me, brother."