Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bechoros 30b - Accepting Mitzvos Except for One

The Braisa says that a Goy who accepts Mitzvos with the exception of one mitzvah, is not accepted as a convert. R. Yossi Bar Rav Yehuda adds that even for a detail that is d'rabonon we don't accept him. It is unclear from the gemara whether אין מקבלים אותו means that l'chatchila the Beis Din pushes him off, or that even bidieved would prevent the conversion from being binding. In the Teshuvos Beis Yitzchok (cited by Achiezer 3:26:5) he questions whether this is only lichatchila or even bidieved. The gemara in Shabbos 31 about the story with Hillel and the ger who didn't want to accept the oral torah implies that it is only lichatchila. If acceptance of everything would be essential to the geirus working, Hillel couldn't have converted him today just because he was confident that later on he would truly accept. But if it is only a lichatchila, it would be possible for Hillel to convert him today and wouldn't reject him because he was confident that with time he would fully accept (Even within the approach of Rashi who says that he didn't reject the oral Torah just didn't trust it's divinity, it would still seem impossible for Hillel to accept him today unless it would be binding bidieved regardless).
R. Chaim Ozer (Achiezer) rejects the notion that this requirement is merely lichatchila. The Rambam writes that the acceptance of the mtizvos is integral to the conversion (similarly Tosafos in Yevamos writes that it must be done by day in the presence of a Beis Din), the gemara in Bechoros seems to simply be defining "accepting the mitzvos". Therefore, if one doesn't accept a Torah mitzvah the geirus isn't binding. But R. Chaim Ozer questions that perhaps the rejection of a Rabbinic mitzvah wouldn't invalidate the geirus on a Torah level. R. Moshe Feinstein (E.H. 2:4) concurs with R. Chaim Ozer that the accepting of all the mitzvos is essential and not doing so would undermine the conversion entirely. Just as for the Kohen and Chaver mentioned in the braisa, if they lack commitment to their requirements, their acceptance would be void even bidieved, the conversion of the goy would also be void bidieved.
However, there is a very fundamental dispute between R. Chaim Ozer and Rav Moshe regarding the definition of חוץ מדבר אחד. They were faced with Jews coming to convert who were living with non-jewish women and would be Rabbinically prohibited to stay with them after the conversion. Therefore, the entire conversion was with the assumption that they would be violating the issur of staying together. Another example would be a Kohein who comes to convert his non-jewish wife, and clearly plans on staying with her after the marriage. This would be a conversion with the intent of violating a Torah prohibition.
Rav Chaim Ozer (3:26:4) writes that one who converts with the realization that their desires to violate a mitzvah is too strong and they will be in violation, would not qualify as a חוץ מדבר אחד and the conversion would be binding. The Braisa only intends to exclude one who stipulates that they are converting on the condition that such activity will not be prohibited to them. They are essentially picking and choosing which laws will be part of their Torah. But one who accepts all of them, just that he or she intends to violate some of them, would be a valid convert. R. Chaim Ozer realizes that following this approach one can potentially "accept" all 613, but not keep to any of them - would their conversion be valid!? He qualifies this by saying that if we are sure that he will definitely violate major prohibitions in the Torah such as Shabbos and Kashrus, it is and indication that he doesn't mean to truly accept mitzvos, and the lip service of declaring his acceptance is worthless. It is hard to understand where exactly R. Chaim Ozer would draw the line. Perhaps he would not consider violation of details an invalidation of the conversion, only the uprooting of an entire mitzvah. The underlying approach of R. Chaim Ozer seems to be that one need not commit to fulfill every detail, but they have to accept and recognize that this is a prohibition which they should be keeping. Based on this R. Chaim Ozer permits accepting a convert who is honest about where he stands and says that he will not be strong enough to keep one of the mitzvos in the Torah.
Rav Moshe takes a much clearer and harder line on this issue. Anyone who converts with the understanding that they will not be fulfilling one of the mitzvos in the Torah, even if they theoretically recognize it and accept it's divinity, cannot be a convert and the conversion isn't binding. Acceptance by definition is accepting to keep it. Although a ger may be ignorant and doesn't need much education to convert (the gemara in shabbos discusses a case of a ger who wasn't aware of the issur to worship idolatry), he must accept to follow the mitzvos of the Torah as he is taught them. Rav Moshe is troubled with the gemara in Shabbos where Hillel converted someone who wasn't willing to recognize the oral torah. This seemingly is no worse than חוץ מדבר אחד so how was the geirus binding? He explains Rashi to be saying that the convert wasn't rejecting the oral Torah, rather the convert didn't yet believe that the p'sakim of Hillel and Shamai were part of that divine torah. He hadn't yet come to terms with the sages of the generation being able to convey the divine message but wasn't rejecting any particular law. Even so, Hillel wouldn't have accepted him as a convert unless he was confident that in the future he would recognize that even that the discussions of the Rabbis were part of the oral torah. Rav Moshe understands from Rashi that had this qualified as a חוץ מדבר אחד, the geirus wouldn't be binding even bidieved, but since it was merely a lack of education which misled him to think that the torah discussed by hillel and shamai wasn't part of the oral torah, Hillel's confidence that education  would change his attitude was sufficient to convert him today.
The D'var Avrohom (3:28) wrote a letter to R. Chaim Ozer thanking him for sending him a copy of his sefer and offers some comments on this particular teshuva. He writes to R. Chaim Ozer that after reading his distinction of "accepting the mitzvos" and "keeping" the mitzvos, he laughed - ואני חוכך בזה. In this aspect he concurs with R. Moshe that if one "accepts" something with the intent of violating, it doesn't qualify as an acceptance. But regarding the first issue whether the חוץ מדבר אחד is enough to invalidate the geirus, he questions that it may only be a lichatchila requirement as suggested by the Beis Yitzchok. Strangely enough, Rav Moshe (Y.D. 3:106) in a later teshuva leans toward saying that the חוץ מדבר אחד is only a lichatchila for the beis din to reject him, but is not me'akev the geirus. He bases this on the point that was mentioned by R. Chaim Ozer that the rejection of a d'rabonon couldn't invalidate the geirus on a Torah level, therefore it would just be a lichatchila. Since the same language is used for the rejection of a Torah mitzvah - אין מקבלים אותו, this would also only be lichatchila.
There are some orthodox batei dinim that are lax in their insistence on kabalas ha'mitzvos. According to R. Chaim Ozer this would often not prevent the geirus from being binding, but according to Rav Moshe (in the earlier teshuva) any mitzvah that wasn't fully accepted at the time of the geirus would invalidate the entire process.
Unfortunately, I have seem many converts who reject certain halachos such as hair covering and other tznius related issues very soon after their conversion, and there is reason to believe that they had never intended to adhere to these rules. R. Moshe (y.d. 3:106:1 end of section) writes that when the religious people of that community are lax in certain halachos, it wouldn't be fair to consider these things a חוץ מדבר אחד to invalidate the geirus because the fact that all the "religious" women don't abide by it, causes the convert to think that it is just a chumrah being imposed by the beis din.Therefore, rather than regarding this as a חוץ מדבר אחד where she fails to accept something, it can be regarded as a lack of education which would not invalidate the geirus.

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