Friday, December 4, 2009

Bleg: Looking For Insights to Help Understand This Difficult Torah on Gerim

A Simple Jew pointed out a couple of interesting Torahs relating to Gerim that he found in the second Chelek of Mei Hashiloach from the Izbitzer. I translated the first piece (below), but I'm not sure of how to explain it other than what it says on its face, which is fine. I'd settle for having my "ceiling" being the level of Tzadik, though the teaching is still somewhat disconcerting. The pshat may just be that not everything is bunnies and puppies and I just need to learn the truth for what it is. After this teaching, I wanted to point out another one which serves as an interesting counter-point. I'm interested to understand more deeply how the two pieces shtim.

Mei Hashiloach Beis, Parshas B'ha'alosecha, D"H "Vayomer al na ta'azov osanu"

This requires explanation. Moshe did not need Chovev (Yisro) to be his guide. And why did he tell him "You shall be eyes for us." The idea here is as the Gemara in Bava Basra 75a, which says "ואמר רבה א"ר יוחנן עתיד הקב"ה לעשות שבע חופות לכל צדיק וצדיק שנאמר (ישעיהו ד) וברא ה' על כל מכון הר ציון ועל מקראיה ענן יומם ועשן ונוגה אש להבה לילה כי על כל כבוד חופה מלמד שכל אחד ואחד עושה לו הקדוש ברוך הוא חופה לפי כבודו עשן בחופה למה אמר רבי חנינא שכל מי שעיניו צרות בתלמידי חכמים בעולם הזה מתמלאות עיניו עשן לעולם הבא ואש בחופה למה אמר רבי חנינא מלמד שכל אחד ואחד נכוה מחופתו של חבירו "

"Raba said in the name of Rav Yochanan, in the future, Hakadosh Baruch Hu will make seven chuppahs for each and every tzadik, as the pasuk says (Yeshaya 4:5 - "וּבָרָא ה עַל כָּל-מְכוֹן הַר-צִיּוֹן וְעַל-מִקְרָאֶהָ, עָנָן יוֹמָם וְעָשָׁן, וְנֹגַהּ אֵשׁ לֶהָבָה, לָיְלָה" 'And Hashem created on every dwelling place... because he dwells above every chuppah.'" This teaches that Hakadosh Baruch Hu makes a chuppah for every individual according to his kavod. Why does there have to be "smoke in the chuppah"? Rabi Chanina said that anyone who looks with suspicion at Talmidei Chachamim in this world will have his eyes full of smoke in the world to come. And why is there "fire in the chuppah"? Rabi Chanina says that this teaches that every individual will be burned by his friend's chuppah." And chuppah primarily means that which is written in the same pasuk that according to each person's kavod is his chuppah.

This means that each person will be honored according to what he acquired in this world and he will be honored by comparison to his friend who is lower than him. But even the lowest Jew will feel honored relative to the greatest of the Gerim. And therefore it must be there there should be Gerim in the world to complete the greatness and the kavod of Klal Yisroel to show them to their eyes that relative to the kavod of the Ezrach (born-Jew) and of the root of Yisroel, it is impossible for any creature, even after great avodah, who is not of the seed of Yisroel to attain that level of kavod. And even though, in truth, the Ger has done a great thing to enter under the wings of the Divine Presence, nevertheless, the Zohar says (Yisro 87a) "The convert is called 'righteous' (Ger Tzedek), but nothing more." And this is what Moshe meant when he told Yisro " And you shall be eyes for us." As the pasuk said in Yeshaya (66:21) And even from them (Gerim) I will take as Kohanim and as Levi'im." Meaning that even though Gerim may attain the level of "Avodah," they can never reach the root of Yisroel in the garment of Gerim, as the Zohar has already said (Saba Mishpatim 95b).

Then, the Mei Hahsiloach says in the last piece in Vayikra in the second chelek that just as a born-Jew, through is minus, i.e. longing against the ratzon Hashem, can distance himself from his root, so too, a Ger, even though he is not from the seed of Yisroel, can become planted in Yisroel through his desire and longing.

Looking at these two pieces together, is the Izbitzer saying that the default level of the Ger is lower than an "Ezrach" as he described in the piece in B'ha'alosecha, but that through great Tshuka, desire, the Ger can replant himself as part of "Zera Yisroel?" Or is that understanding belied by his statement that even after great avodah, the Ger cannot reach this level? Or is that statement referring only to a case where the Ger works in the bechina of avodah (alma d'bechira, l'umas alma d'yedia), but where he tries to reach the level of shoresh Yisroel through tshukah, then he can attain that level?

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Yirmiahu said...

"they can never reach the root of Yisroel in the garment of Gerim"

This seems like an important qualification which may suggest your resolution is on the right track. It would help to see the second piece more fully, and if anyone can provides some background to "garments of gerim" in this context.

holy chuppah said...

advance apologies for the length of this comment. I think the key is not to look at the whole issue in a 2-dimensional way, since the reality is that there are so many types of geirim, different levels and even sources (where they come from). I heard this personally numerous times from Rav Elazar Mordechai Kenig in Tsfat. He also said that there is no such thing as a “goy” who converts. Rather, he cited a lashon found in the gemara: “ger sh’ba l’hitgayer” – a “convert who comes to convert” as “proof” i.e., that there is certain pre-existing Jewishness in the soul of a potential convert and it is restoration of what belongs to the Jewish people anyway (the soul of the ger itself!). But he then reiterated again the complexity of the issue and pointed to Likutey Moharan 17 as describing different types of converts (as opposed to different types of conversions!). You can also see in Likutey Moharan 14 how much (ironically) gerim are intrinsically linked to the inyan of kavod and restoration.

What you bring here from the Mei Hashiloach really highlights the profound difference between zera yisrael and not. But the point from the previous comment, understanding what the “garment of geirim” means is important. Undoubtedly it has to do with the physical body which, according to the Arizal (Shaar HaGilgulim), is the body of a goy (and a source of turbulence for the ger). It is compounded by the fact that the nefesh of a ger is also not Jewish! This non-Jewish body and nefesh act as a carrier for a Jewish “ruach” in need of tikkun. Until Rebbe Nachman, any ger had to be reborn to a Jewish mother to complete their tikkun(underscoring the same point about the profound ma’alah of zera Yisrael). It wasn’t until Rebbe Nachman that it became possible for a ger to complete their tikkun in a single lifetime. Obviously, this is a stupendous claim since it would mean that the body of the ger would have to undergo some sort of extraordinary transformation, a tikkun that only mashiach himself could catalyze.

There is so much more to say on this topic, particularly in the context of Breslev chassidus, since it is a very wondrous pathway for geirim. But also very tough and tumultuous. Not for the weak-hearted. All of this isn’t even mentioning the need to integrate into this topic the inyan of gilgulim (who the converts were previously and why they need to come back this way...)don't forget that pinchas came from yitro.
i've got to believe it will all work out somehow in the final accounting:))

holy chuppah said...

btw, regarding the yearning and tshukah, the souls of some gerim are actually created from (the zivug of) tzaddikim. the whole piece you bring here from the mei hashiloach is busting with beautiful remazim about the different types of gerim.

Anonymous Chosid said...

I would imagine he means for a certain length of time to remove the last vestige of impurity or something to that effect.
In the end, we know that l'fum tza'arah agrah. I am sure that the Ishbitzer does not mean to contradict this obvious rule.
Let me give an example, when the ger tzedek of Vilna was burned the Gra said that he lessened the power of impurity in the entire world!
But what does this mean practically? When Rav Yosef Chaim Sonenfeld was asked why people are lenient not to wash neigel vaser immediately upon awakening, in contradiction to the Zohar and halacha that one should not go four amos before washing he gave a startling reply. "Although one should certainly wash immedaitely, there is a limud zechus: since the Gra said that impurity was lessened in the world with the sacrifice of the ger tzedek of Vilna it is plausible that this is not as damaging as it was before his sacrifice when impurity was stronger in the world."
Do you really think some Joe shmo who spent his entire life running away from Torah will be ahead of him? And do you believe that even most tzaddikim will be greater than he?
In truth, it is also discussing those who make it to Olam Haba. Some people (presumably Jews as well) will only reach the olam haneshamos and not make it to the next wolrd (as in physical techiyas hameisim.) This is clear from Ramchal and is explicit in the Lev Eliyahu and other sources as well.
So of the great people who will have made it he will feel some shame that he was required to start in a lowly place for whatever reason the hashgacha decreed this. But eventually this will most likely fall away when he advances enough.
In addition I think he is only talking in a certain respect, not absolutely.
Hope this was helpful.

Yeshaya said...

I don't think we're required to believe every hashkafic comment on geirim that is out there. No one has the last word on haskafa. There are negative and positive comments about geirim, now and all the way back to the Gemara. A person can be a great tzaddik with ruach hakodesh but have written individual bits of hashkafic views that are either misleading or wrong. That's how I think about it at least.

The idea sounds a lot like the statement I've heard, that even the holiest non-Jew will never get up to the level of the least holy Jew. I could never bring myself to believe this, unless it was perhaps the majority view in the Gemara (which didn't talk about such things, as far as I'm aware).

Holy chuppah, where do you get the idea that until Breslov, gerim had to be reborn to achieve their tikkun? I've never heard that. From what I know about gilgulim, which is not that much, I get the impression that we can't say for certain how the process works -- everybody has their own ideas. For example, I've heard from R' Lazer Brody that for sins again G-d, one only experiences some purgatory, but for sins against man that are not forgiven, one must be reborn. I don't know if every one agrees with that. Regardless, all we can do is try our best to achieve our tikkun in this lifetime.

Yeshaya said...

One thing to keep in mind is that many or most modern-day converts are "of the seed of Israel," since most have European blood, and so many Jews have (forcibly or not) converted (or been raised as captives by non-Jews), starting over 1000 years ago, that by chance alone it would seem that the vast majority of Europeans are descended in part from Jews. This probably differs country-by-country, though. Also, there are some Orthodox Jews who strongly believe that Europeans are descended at least in part from the lost tribes.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Sent by Rabbi Dovid Sears and posted with permission:

First, we need to understand what is meant here by "kavod."

Second, if we are talking about this from the ger tzedek's point of view, we must lok at the broader picture in terms of gilgulim. Some kabalists (including the Rashab) have stated that most of the geirim today are Jewish neshamos that fell out of the lop during a previous gilgul. The Arizal also indicates that the destiny of first-time geirim (like Eliezer "eved [buzz word] Avrohom") is to be nisgalel the next time around as born-Jews ("ezrachim"). (In Eliezer's case, Zechariah HaNovi and Rav Moshe COrdovero among other great figures, if I remember correctly). So this neshamah-comparison seems to be more of a "local picture" relative to the pep-talk for the Jew who has fallen in the Izhbitzer's drush. Hashem is the True Rachaman and if the Torah says He loves the ger, we can rely on that!

Anyway, that's how it strikes me.

There are a few other things you'll eventually come across (if you haven't already) re. the problem of the ger's spiritual baggage ("kasha le-Yisrael ke-tzapachas," etc.) and its effect on the natives. But overall, I would say that Judaism is extremely "pro-geirim," and so are the overwhelming majority of Jewish communities.

Have a good Shabbos!


DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


Good question. The answer would, I guess depend on whether it's possible for a Ger to shed his Ger levush, at least in his lifetime. One thing I like that you said what suggesting that perhaps it was having the guf of an aino-Yehudi that causes much of the inner turbulance for a Ger and perhaps is the meaning of why the "levush haGerim" holds us back. That point definitely rings true.

Holy Chuppah,

For more on the topic you're bringing up, check out these posts.

You are of course also right that "it will all work out in the final accounting." It's a bit of an academic discussion, as I indicated in the opening line about settling for my ceiling being that of "Tzadik." But on an emotional level, I think there is still a tachlis in trying to understand these teachings better.

Anonymous Chosid,

Thank you very much for the comment. I am sympathetic to your logical argument that it would be incomprehensible to imagine that the Ger of Vilna is on a lower level than the most prosta Jew. But the Izbitzer also knew about the Ger of Vilna, Shmaya, Avtaliyon, Ben Bag Bag, Bar Hey Hey, Onkolos HaGer, and the many other big Tzadikim and Talmidei Chachamim who are Gerim. His statement must therefore be valid even despite such great Gerim.

I'm really most inclined to understand the statements according to an amalgam of what y'all have been saying and according to what I hinted at the end of the post. Perhaps because of having the guf of an eino-Yehudi, he is more limited, no matter how much koach and avodah he does. But that does not mean that through tshukah, longing, ratzon, and davening, but not through is own avodah, he can break through that "glass ceiling" and reach the highest levels.


It is understandable that we may not understand everything said by those who are much greater than us.

But saying that you or I don't have to believe everything that we don't understand, said by great people, is somewhat absurd.

Just as it would be absurd to "disagree" with a great physicist on a matter relating to physics, it is equally absurd to "disagree" with one of the great Tzadikim and Chachaim on a matter of Chassidus or Kabbalah.

Gut Shabbos, a freilichen Chanukah and thanks to all of you for your input in this! I know that you will see the peiros of your efforst in due time.

Neil Harris said...

The pasuk in B'halosecha uses Yisro's name after become a ger (Rashi).
I think, given the amount of times "Ger' is used regarding a mitzvah and Halacha that there is a "social" function to the Torah community for a ger. For the Izbitzer to use the term "ezrach", whicl also translates as "citizen", only helps prove this. A citizen has rights and responsibilites.

I think, based on the Izbitzer, that a function of gerim is that they provide a perspective on Mitzvah observance, that impacts the others within Knesses Yisrael.
Yisro was being asked to stay, partially b/c of his knowledge and perspective of the Land.
It is a natural feeling that if a Ger makes to move to convert that there "must be something" to a Torah lifestyle. Often their excitement and feeling of "tischadshus" (I believe that's the term to describe a feeling of "newness/freshness" regarding one's avodah) gives over the message to a Jew, who is born into Judaism, that if this person explored my religion and converted, then how much more so, should I really look into the lifestyle that I am obligated to follow. "I'm so luck to have been born a Jew"

You translated:
each person will be honored according to what he acquired in this world and he will be honored by comparison to his friend who is lower than him. But even the lowest Jew will feel honored relative to the greatest of the Gerim. And therefore it must be there there should be Gerim in the world to complete the greatness and the kavod of Klal Yisroel to show them to their eyes that relative to the kavod of the Ezrach (born-Jew) and of the root of Yisroel, it is impossible for any creature, even after great avodah, who is not of the seed of Yisroel to attain that level of kavod."

Of course "the lowest Jew will feel honored relative compared to the greatest of the Gerim." precisely because a Jew is born into Yiddishkeit.
"...even though Gerim may attain the level of "Avodah," they can never reach the root of Yisroel in the garment of Gerim" . A garment often refers to "mitzvah". It's not that Gerim are Chas V"'S, lower than a born Jew, it's just that the mitzvah, garment, of a Ger has a different connection to Hashem. One that is, by default, different than the connection a Jew has to Hashem. The ger has a different relationship with Hashem because his function, and again this is just my thought based on the Izbitzer that you translanted, is within Klal Yisrael, and specific to Klal Yisrael. A completely different function that a born-Jew. One of the functions of a Jew (Ezrach) is to promote a certain level of ethical behavior because we are a "Kindom of priests" (this is a very Hirshian view of the Jew's mission).

The second part you translated from the Mei Hahsiloach shows that one may move within one's given status. The Ezrach can chose to become closer or further to/from Hashem. The ger can, through ratzon graft himself to "Yisrael" as group.

In terms of your last three questions in Friday's post. It's really all a combo of the first and last question/theories.
The default level of Ger is lower, because the Ger's purpose is different. It is to inspire Klal Yisrael from within, not without (see the Hirsch reference above). A function of an Ezrach is to promote Hashem's will to the world at large and inspire. Again, a Ger's function might be to inspire from within.

By working on Avodah and having the right ratzon a Ger can affect his/her status in closeness to Hashem, ie level of "Shoresh". Just like a Jew can get closer to Hashem.

Yeshaya said...


I agree with what you said, and like your interpretations. In fact, I like your approach to this issue better than mine, and I am sorry if my comments implied any disrespect, or the idea that one is entitled to glibly disagree with things that are hard or difficult to understand.

What I meant was that there are many paths in Chassidus, and while of course one is going to accept with simple faith all the teachings of one's chosen path, one is not necessarily obligated or expected to believe 100% of what is said by Rebbes in other paths. I would think that the reason one chooses a particular path has to do with whether the path's teachings strike one as true. For example, non-Breslovers must not believe Rebbe Nachman's teachings on hitbodedut, because if they did believe them they would also advocate and actually practice an hour of hitbodedut a day. But in Chabad literature, in English at least, I think it's very hard to find any reference to the kind of lengthy, conversational hitbodedut sessions Rebbe Nachman advocates.

This said, we should always strive to believe that all the teachings of all the true tzaddikim are true and have something to teach us in our particular path. Who is wise? -- he who learns from everyone! "It is good for a person to visit all the different places in the Torah during his lifetime." Sichos Haran 28.

Anonymous said...

i saw this blog six months ago and started looking into the subject. i found something very important in the sefer "Sod Yesharim al haTorah" parshas mishpatim. which was written by the Mei Shiloach's grandson Gershom Chanoch Heinich Leiner, who happens to have compiled the sefer Mei Shiloach.

In the last paragraph he writes "all of this is only when the birrur is not yet complete...still there is a place above gan eden... and a time when everyone will return to his place, and then also the ger will be made a complete yisroel..."

You can download and read the sefer yourself at