The Conversion Progress Report

Several weeks into the current conversion fracas, and I have participated in a webcam debate, read two of Rabbi Sherman’s piskei din, plus teshuvos both modern and pre-modern, several articles in Techumin, a few chapters of an academic work on conversion standards, and several screeds that drip with more violence than a remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The questions, however, continue apace.

Strip away all the detail, and the conflict boils down to two hostile assessments of what the other side stands for. Haredim believe that the dati-leumi (DL) camp is prepared to subvert “real” Torah to the dictates of non-religious and anti-religious forces in the government. They charge that when Torah matters are left in the hands of members of the DL orbit, issues of State ultimately trump issues of halacha. Gerus is just the latest in a series. The DL camp, on the other hand, believes that haredim have turned a deaf ear to concerns of Israeli society as a whole, content to contribute their mitzvos and learning, but nothing in areas of the enormous political, military and social issue that face Israel. At the same time, haredim have moved to assert greater control over a Rabbinate that their own people do not use, while attempting to impose their piskei halachah (e.g. the attempt to ban all Shemitah produce that relies on the heter mechirah) on a public that needs all the flexibility that halachah can legitimately deliver.

In duking it out in the current imbroglio, both sides have simply reinforced the stereotypes held by the other. In alienating the other, both sides deserve near-perfect scores.

Rabbi Druckman’s supporters have not responded to a single one of Rabbi Sherman’s charges in halachic language. They have thus added fuel to the fire of those who believe that the DL camp is incapable of dealing responsibly with sophisticated Torah thinking. Rabbi Sherman may or may not be right, but he raises important issues. Rav Druckman, to the best of my knowledge, is a fine gentleman, but not one of the halachic luminaries of the DL world. Professional politicians and MK’s – of any religious party – rarely are. The DL world suffers from no shortage of real bnei Torah and a group of authentic poskim who could and should be dealing with Rabbi Sherman’s point in halachic language.

The have compounded this error by taking comfort in the Israeli Supreme Court’s move a few days ago to freeze Rabbi Sherman’s decision. This should not have been a cause for celebration. It is harder to imagine a less appropriate deus ex machina to answer haredi critics. Rather than winning in the milchamtoh shel Torah, the DL world cheered as Big Brother showing up carrying a big, secular stick.

Many years ago, one of Rav Shach’s, zt”l, addresses enraged the Israeli public. He had dismissed kibbutz-members, cultural icons in general Israeli society, as “rabbit eaters,” devoid of all spiritual content. The nation was enraged. For weeks, people castigated R. Shach and the haredim, while touting the accomplishments of kibbutzniks on the battlefield. One journalist finally pointed out the irony. He observed that all the commentors were actually proving R. Shach’s point. All that the kibbutz defenders could point to was physical prowess and might. Nobody praised them for any spiritual accomplishment. You could imagine R. Shach getting up after all the charges and recriminations, and with a smile on his face saying, “The prosecution rests.” Nothing could make the haredi argument more effectively than a few rallies to support the honor of Rabbi Druckman, speeches denouncing the cold-heartedness of the haredim, appeals to a secular agency to trump the authority of a beis din – and silence on the substantive halachic issues.

To compound the injury, various writers in the DL camp have called for a new Israeli disengagement – this time, from all things haredi. Some have used militaristic vocabulary, speaking of the drawing of battle lines, and the waging of war against the forces of darkness and oppression in Bnei Brak. They’ve called for asserting their independence from haredi influences, of purging the country of their influence, of asserting that the haredim are alien to Torah, and that the real traditional Jews are the dati-leumi (DL), while the haredim are really Saducees. (Last time we heard this, it was Robet Gordis at JTS, I believe, saying the same about Orthodoxy in general back in the ‘30’s.) The writers may have felt better after venting, and may have scored points with their constituencies, but speaking in such terms about the most accomplished halachic minds of the generation – no matter how foreign some may find their attitude towards the State and modernity – does not create the impression of a whole lot of Torah depth.

On the haredi side, the silence has been equally disturbing and revealing. There have been no soothing voices allaying the fears of thousands of converts now in limbo. No one has insisted to the general public or to the DL community that the needs of the rest of the country concern haredim as well, but halachic principle rests atop a list of priorities. No one has answered all the pain and indignation expressed by good people within the DL world. Silence is the worst form of contempt.

Weeks into the controversy, I am left with more questions than I began. Does the DL world really expect decisions by a conversion court to be forced upon dayanim of other courts just because the former have government sanction? Even if they satisfy themselves (and I don’t understand how they could) that minimalist standards are enough to declare conversion candidates Jewish, can they expect that a dayan should now be compelled to officiate at such a convert’s wedding? If not, can he compelled to recognize such a convert’s wedding? Why do some in the DL camp point to liberalized standards of conversion as the solution to the crisis of several hundred thousand non-Jewish Russians living in Israel? Do they not recall that our last experiment in quickie mass conversions (over two thousand years ago) gave us not loyal Jews, but an Idumean fifth column and the reign of Herod the madman?

In the other corner, I do not understand how Rabbi Sherman can speak of “all” poskim rejecting conversion without proper acceptance of mitzvos. Did he not realize that his decision would be pored over by hundreds of people checking for integrity? What would he have lost had he conceded that there are one or two voices in the other direction who are so outweighed that they cannot be relied upon, even when conditions press for a leniency? Rabbi Sherman cites important poskim that flouting accepted halachic norms invalidates a person’s reliability as a witness, and therefore as a dayan as well. He concedes that these same poskim allow for the possibility that if a person thought he was doing a mitzvah by ruling leniently, he does not lose his reliability. Rabbi Sherman then goes on to differentiate between the reliability of witnesses and judges, but offers no evidence for the distinction other than his own opinion. Regardless of whether he is correct or incorrect, should not a decision that affects the lives of tens of thousands of people rest on something stronger than his own opinion?

At the real core of the matter is the status after the fact of hundreds, if not thousands, of converts whose acceptance of mitzvos is suspect. Take a hypothetical person who converted ten years ago. He watches television on Shabbos, but doesn’t drive. He eats kosher – most of the time. If he comes to Rabbi Sherman and asks him to be able to walk out of his marriage, marry a non-Jewish woman, and allow his present wife to remarry without a get, will Rabbi Sherman give him the green light? In similar cases in the United States, we have treated such people as safek gerim, questionable converts. We would never sanction such a person to “drop” his Yiddishkeit, nor on the other hand marry a Jewish woman without redoing the conversion. In both the Ashdod and Rechovot cases, the convert would never have gotten past the recognized batei din in the US, in either yeshivish or centrist forms. But in both cases, the convert did show some changes in behavior – changes that Rabbi Sherman rejects as cultural, rather than religious. Is this distinction sufficient to invalidate the candidate with absolute certainty, or only misafek? I ask (and I am asking, not stating) particularly in the light of Rav Moshe Feinstein’s zt”l position (Igros Mosher, YD3, #108) that to invalidate a conversion after the fact (which he does, in fact hold is possible, like so many others), the evidence of insincere kabbalas mitzvos has to go beyond a clear umdena(legal presumption), and rise to the bar of an anan sahadi (presumptive certainty)!

The only glimmer of hope comes from the realization that both sides, further apart from each other than ever before, are animated by exactly the same concern! Both sides feel that the other is compromising Torah and creating chilul Hashem. Haredim feel that nothing can ever trump halacha, and that DL playing fast and loose with halachah compromises the integrity of Torah. The DL world argues that the inability of haredim to come up with a modus vivendi for so many issues plaguing the State implies that our Torah is antiquated and not a Toras Chaim that can shine Divine illumination upon the issues over which we agonize. Each side sees the sanctity of the Torah violated and desecrated, and abreacts in pain.

If only we could both sides to realize that precisely what separates them is what unites them – a deep commitment to the eternity and centrality of Torah. If only they could use that common enthusiasm for Torah to mend the breaches and work together for the benefit of all of Klal Yisrael!

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93 comments to The Conversion Progress Report

  • Zev

    Why does Rabbi Adlerstein keep talking about “the charedi side?” R’ Sherman is not charedi, nor are the rabbis who complained about R’ Druckman’s practices. The charedim surely agree with R’ Sherman, but they have no dog in this fight.

  • Miriam Shear

    “In 1988 I was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to address the Knesset and speak with various groups in Israel and the United States on the Who is a Jew issue. I was zocheh to be in the company of Rav Soloveitchik and Rabbi Immanuel Schochet during many of these speaking engagements.”

    Really-by 1988 Rav JB Soloveitchik had withdrawn due to illness from active participation and sadly was in no condition to be where the writer states he was. Rav A Soloveichik spelt his name without a t.”

    Comment by mycroft — June 18, 2008 @ 12:45 am

    I may have spelled the name wrong. However, I object to you questioning my integrity. I have pictures with Rav Soloveichik – in his wheelchair – and I am standing right next to him in the Jerusalem Sheraton Plaza Hotel. Yes, he was quite ill and his energy clearly ebbing. But he felt this issue was so important to Klal Yisrael that he made the difficult trip to Eretz Yisrael to speak on this issue. I would be glad to send the pictures except for the fact that they are packed as I am moving to Eretz Yisrael within the next 2 weeks. You owe me an apology for your false accusations.

    To Friar Yid and Bruce: Thank you for your graciousness in accepting my apology. I believe we are all on the same page and I welcome your suggestions on how careful we must be with our speech. I am taking your lead and will sincerely attempt to incorporate that very good advice into my own spoken and written words.

  • YGB

    I reserve comment on the conversion issue in question. But it should be noted that an organization subject to significant question and controversy has taken one of the sides of the argument, and this link has not been sufficiently analyzed. See:

    http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/article.php?p=17855

  • Yitzchok Adlerstein

    My kids have been in yeshiva their whole lives. Will Rabbi Adlerstein come and tell my kids, innocent bright children who spent their whole lives in yeshivot, raised frum their whole lives, and explain to them that suddenly they are not Jewish?

    I won’t, because I don’t believe that this will be the bottom line. If you read my piece again, perhaps you will see where I was heading. I don’t believe that when the halachic dust settles, very many conversions (if any) will be seen as completely invalid after the fact. Those will only be conversions (if they exist at all) in which there was no change in behavior from before the conversion to after. Some cases will be treated as safek, with people who care about what other communities think quietly undergoing a second immersion, without fanfare. (No I don’t know what will happen in the case of a female offspring who has by now wedded a Kohen. My guess is that on a case by case basis, such questions will be dealt with with the same gravity as agunah questions, and top-notch poskim will be meikal in appropriate instances.) I have no idea what will happen in cases in which R Druckman himself was one of the three dayanim in actual attendance, since no one I know of has stepped forth to offer a halachic argument as to why that would not invalidate him. Again, there may never have been such cases. I know that it is easy for me to say, but I would not lose any sleep over this. I will be happy to explain all of this to your children – in person, or by phone.

  • very frightened

    R. Adlerstein-

    Thanks. If there are issues, I’ll call you. The kids are still in yeshivo ketano, actually, we are in your area; I would prefer to raise them as the normal yeshiva kids they are, and hopefully this will blow over. But when they use the language of “all” in talking of invalidation, I think its clear that alot of well meaning individuals are being hurt here, and its not just a series of fake giyur. I will be happy to provide you any details you wish.

  • Bob Miller

    Regarding the comment by cvmay — June 18, 2008 @ 8:26 am

    A modus vivendi attempted by DL-affiliated rabbonim is not above reasoned criticism on halachic grounds simply because their aim is noble.

    A halachically defective modus vivendi, if such exists, is at least as problematic as none at all.

  • Shalem

    , but I am very curious as to where this Gemara is. Are there no meforshim that discuss the scenario?

    In any case, it is certainly very possible to occur with a Ger katan she’matbilim oso al daas beis din (that is discussed in the beginning of Kesubos) who, for whatever reason, never received a proper Torah educa”

    The Talmud is around Shabbat 68a-b. There are some rishonim on it. The Rambam actually explains that the gemara refers to a case of a child who was converted (ben hanochrim).

  • Moishe Potemkin

    “…and top-notch poskim will be meikil in appropriate instances.”

    This is pretty consistent with the thought that this is far more about which team gets the final say than whether the geiruyos were valid.

  • mb

    To Miriam Shear,
    Regarding Rav Soloveitchik being in Israel in 1988. I am rather surprised hear this. In R.Rakeffet’s book he qotes the Rav saying he would not go again( he went in 1935 to interview for the CR of Tel Aviv) and be in public because it would cause the Briskers to come out and protest his visit because of his Zionist stance. He did not want to create Machlokes. I’m also surprised others do not know of this visit.
    Perhaps you could post the pictures at some point? It will clarify the confusion.
    Thanks

  • Shalem

    #

    Again, there is an issue in that the court abolished ALL of the giyur done by R. Druckman and R. Avi-Or. The apologeticists and attackers keep framing this debate in terms of extremes, in which a case here or there may not have meant to have a real giyur. A case by case review when there is some kind of safek, may be worthwhile.

    However, the fact remains that not all of the converts in Druckman’s bet din were these controversial cases. Many fine frum dati leumi yeshiva types went to Druckman and Avi-Or because the local Rosh Yeshiva sent them, whether its to adopt a child from overseas or to marry a giyoret who had settled in Israel. I know for a fact, since I’m one of these, a yeshiva student who married a giyoret, sent to this bet din, with the best intentions, by a well known rosh yeshiva in Israel.

    My kids have been in yeshiva their whole lives. Will Rabbi Adlerstein come and tell my kids, innocent bright children who spent their whole lives in yeshivot, raised frum their whole lives, and explain to them that suddenly they are not Jewish?

    While its fun to debate frumkeit and knock this party or that one, does anyone have any idea how real world horrible this is for many of us?

    Comment by very frightened — June 18, 2008 @ 3:29 pm”

    Let me begin my remarks that I understand and feel your pain and regret that the situation is such that it causes somuch main and sorrow to you and many other people.

    Let me also state: that NO ONE is having “FUN” in this issue where so many may feel a terrible pain.

    But that notwithstanding: We are dealing with serious Halachik issues thatmut be addressed and cannot shoved under the rug or carpet.

    Let me also state: that for instance if if a Ger was negayer and went to a mikveh and someone knowns that the mikveh was passul at the timeof gerut and the person who went through that gerut was serious amd raised his family frum and yiddish and sent them to yeshivot and learnt torah and did mitzvot, does that absolve the person who has information that the mikveh was passul at the time of conversion to share his information with others? Or is he obligated to share what he knows to try to fix the problem that needs to be fixed? It would appear that the later becomes mandatory!

    Now: Please understand that Rav sherman and those who share his views explained the Halachik problem in great detail and to summarize we have *two* problems!:

    1) THose conversions where the convert converted without ever wanting to have any kabbalat hamitzvot!,

    2) Even those where there was a serious kabbalalt hamitzvot but the *dayan* was unfit to be a Dayan can also invalidat the gerut even to those cases where the converts were genuine and sincere to enter the covenant between them and G-d!

    IF a Dayan was known to disregard the need for the Halachik requirement for KAbbalat Hamitzvot (ie. that he consistently and systematically disregarded and dismissed out of hand the need to comply with those requirements as opposed to an occasinal mistake) he may become disqualified to be a kosher dayan for these matters.

    No one (and mean no one not even Rav Sherman despite all his attackers and scoffers here and abroad) takes pleasure in sharing this opinion. But they feel that this is the honest to goodness truth of Halacha.

    Let me also add: That Rav Sherman in very end of the ruling stated he is not categorically dismissing the status of that particular convert as Jewish and lcaimed that if there would a call to clarify her status as such there should a new hearing. I’m not clear myself whaT thismeans in light that he dismissed the need for having a divorce. But this is what he stated noetheless.

    How much more so: regarding the other numerous people who were converted by Rav Druckman that he did not categorically state that they are certainly not JEwish. I know that this is not the greatest of comfort but it is important to state what was said and ruled in that particular ruling.

    I assume and hold that great sages would deal and find a Halachik solution to this mess. I do sincerely hope that there can be a way to validate all the sincere conversions (as your wives and many others) in Halachik terms. I thought to myself that maybe there can be found a way in this extrenuating circumstance to utulize the reasoning of one of the rishonim that there is a “Collective” “we” of dayanim that are judging that your wife and many others accepted torah and mitzvot (similar to a thought raised by tosafot in *one* of their suggestions in talmud yebamoth 45b) But obviously for this or any other novel decision we need real bona fide RAbbonim and Possek decisors who know the Halacha well and have Siyata Dishmaya to to tule according to the will of Hashem (As it is known that only Rabbis who practice Rabanut have the help and special assistance of G-d to be “mechaven” to the Will of Hashem as the famous story with the great Sage the NOda Biyhuda) SO maybe some solution can be found to these very painful situations.

    But certainly no one (but no one) is having “Fun” with this mess. They feel the obligation to apply the Shlucan Oruch to the unfortunate cituations and most importantly to change the situation from now on so that Geyrey Tzedek as your wife and many others would be the gerim that appear in klal yisrael and are those whom Hashem commanded us to love them more than He commanded to love other JEws and the Jewish people will be able to benefit immensely from the greatness of the Gerey Tzedek that contribute to klal yisroel and as we pray especially in the tfilat amidah 3 times a day that gerey hatzedek get should be pured over the special mercy given by the ALmighty G-d!

    SHalom Vehaltzcha,

    Shalem
    #

  • Dotan

    Rabbi Alderstein: “I don’t believe that when the halachic dust settles, very many conversions (if any) will be seen as completely invalid after the fact. Those will only be conversions (if they exist at all) in which there was no change in behavior from before the conversion to after. Some cases will be treated as safek…”

    Rabbi Alderstein, I think this is entirely divorced from the actual forces at play in Israeli reality.

    I think that when the dust settles (I disagree that it is truly “halachic” dust), there will be a Religious Zionist alternative to the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel (perhaps in the form of Tzohar). All of Rav Druckman’s conversions will be accepted by this body, which will also marry the converts. The CR may even be disbanded entirely.

    The minority of charedim in Rav Elyashiv’s camp (unlike the majority in Shas) will insist on giyur lechumra in the rare cases when they “intermarry” with the wider Israeli society or with the descendants of such chozrim bitshuvah.

  • AK

    Hi,
    As an Israeli living in a mixed community but predominatly DL , but a Chareidi rabbi, I have been witnessing a coming together around a common purpose of becoming Bnei Torah and Ahavas Yisroel. The Mk Rav Gafni made a similar comment , saying today there is a big community of DL who are very serious about their Yiddishkeit and when looking at the big picture the differences between them and the chareidi community are small and not so critical. He was critical of the DL political leadership. The way the latest conversion issue has been handled has done a lot of damage to the unity of purpose in serving Hashem. As the rabbi has said , that the practical ramifications for geirim may be few , but a lot of damage has been done. If people would have the big picture in front of them , the WAY issues are handled would be different.

  • Chareidi Leumi

    >1) THose conversions where the convert converted without ever wanting to have any kabbalat hamitzvot!,

    2) Even those where there was a serious kabbalalt hamitzvot but the *dayan* was unfit to be a Dayan can also invalidat the gerut even to those cases where the converts were genuine and sincere to enter the covenant between them and G-d!

    Don’t these position contradict each other? In order to explain the Gemara on Shabbos 68 above, you had to posit a position where even 3 hedyots could be kosher dayanim for a conversion. Now you seem to be saying that mumchim are needed. Further, it is questionable at best, as Rav Lichtenstein put it, if you can consider a dayan who relies on a minority opinion to be unfit. Its things like this that make the RZ side doubt that all this is comming from a pure halachic contension – there is a political side to this whole parsha that you simply can not miss – and it gets uglier the closer you look!

  • elana

    Miriam and others – the R. Soloveichik in the story was probably the rav ztl’s brother R. Aaron ztl. (the wheelchair and year seem to match) as you probably do not know, he wrote a very long tshuvah on conservative rabbis desire to use an orthodox mikveh for conversion that was in strong opposition to RMF ztl’s very liberal ruling. Perhaps out of respect for RMF’s advanced age he did not identify who he was opposing. it is well known that both he and his brother were stricter than RMF on some geirut related issues. (I was told not so much on halakhic grounds but on meta-halakhic grounds, that would not necessarily apply to the russian olim) Almost role reversal relative to their positions on Synagogue council and how to relate to other factions within judaism.

    For those who want a pretty complete introduction to this topic of geirut(and some snippets on the Neeman commission and R. Druckman from shiurim given years ago)well before this crisis, listen to R. rakeffets shiurim given at gruss on geirut on the yu website. (despite his rebbe’s beliefs we always felt the boys at gruss got more!!) you will hear multiple opinions that would likely support R. Druckman from many great poskim. (r. rakeffet has a great line that R. Lamm’s liberal stance was more reflective of RMF than the RAV.) sadly, the world has gotten so politicized that even reading tshuvot has been impacted.

  • mycroft

    Really-by 1988 Rav JB Soloveitchik had withdrawn due to illness from active participation and sadly was in no condition to be where the writer states he was. Rav A Soloveichik spelt his name without a t.”

    Comment by mycroft — June 18, 2008 @ 12:45 am

    “I may have spelled the name wrong. However, I object to you questioning my integrity. I have pictures with Rav Soloveichik – in his wheelchair – and I am standing right next to him in the Jerusalem Sheraton Plaza Hotel. Yes, he was quite ill and his energy clearly ebbing. But he felt this issue was so important to Klal Yisrael that he made the difficult trip to Eretz Yisrael to speak on this issue. I would be glad to send the pictures except for the fact that they are packed as I am moving to Eretz Yisrael within the next 2 weeks. You owe me an apology for your false accusations.”

    When one refers to Rav Soloveitchik-without a first name-one assumes one is referring to RYBS rather than RAS.
    I’ll assume it was an unintentional mistake to spell the name wo a first name and spelt the way RYBS spelt it- people could assume you were referring to RYBS. One can’t assume that the views of obne are the views of the other-they were personally close but had many hashkafic differences-while they both were fighting independently for Torah and its values.
    As far as RYBS and geirus I refer to the quote in comment 38 of this blog.

  • Shalem

    “>1) THose conversions where the convert converted without ever wanting to have any kabbalat hamitzvot!,

    2) Even those where there was a serious kabbalalt hamitzvot but the *dayan* was unfit to be a Dayan can also invalidat the gerut even to those cases where the converts were genuine and sincere to enter the covenant between them and G-d!”

    Charedi Leumi writes
    “Don’t these position contradict each other? In order to explain the Gemara on Shabbos 68 above, you had to posit a position where even 3 hedyots could be kosher dayanim for a conversion. Now you seem to be saying that mumchim are needed”.

    Shalem responds: No, they do not contradict each other at all: YOu need “Hedyotos” and do not need “mumchim” (and therefore some “hedyot” who occasinally served an “Ad hoc” bet din” and did not do the finest of jobs has his gerut and servcices valid bedievad). But someone who creates a new system contrary to the system prescribed by Halacha (he disregard the need of commitment to observe mitzvot ie. “kabbalat hamitzvot”) has a geder of “less than hedyoto” for this matter!

    Charedi Leumi wrote:
    ” Further, it is questionable at best, as Rav Lichtenstein put it, if you can consider a dayan who relies on a minority opinion to be unfit”.

    Why is it questionable? Someone who follows and adopts a system that is negated by the majority, is legitimately regarded by the majority that he is unfir to perform and judge these issues. A person who follows a medical practice rejected by the majrity of the medical establishment can be stripped by his title for these matters.

    and please re-read Rav Lichtenstein: He did not say that you cannot invalidate his conversions that were followed by minority opinion per se; he rejected calling him a “heretic” for this reason!

    But how can you reject the majority for ruling to adopt the positions of the majority and therefore invalidating the practices of the minority and his title as a person fit to perform practices in this field is actually legitimate and honest fromt he standpoint of the majority.

    Beis Hillel and Beit Shammay lived peacefully with each other but it did not stop them from considering some of their offsprings to be “mamzerim” to the other camp, since according to their opinion the practices of the camp in certain instance brought about mamzerut (tzaras ervah)etc.

  • mb

    Isn’t the fact that the woman involved in this debacle wanting a get substantiates that she has “changed” from her pre conversion status, and therefore a valid convert?

  • Shalem

    “Isn’t the fact that the woman involved in this debacle wanting a get substantiates that she has “changed” from her pre conversion status, and therefore a valid convert?”

    1) She didn;t substantiate that she has “Changed”‘ 2) She actually stated that she had NEVER CHAnged with regards to shmirat shabbat etc.

  • Chareidi Leumi

    Shalem,

    I am not aware of any written source where anyone associated with R’ Druckman’s beis din has argued that kabbalat haMitzvot should not be a requirement for conversion. The most I think anyone can say is that they are too naive in their appraisal of the intent of the prospective ger. If it could be shown that the majority of converts comming out of the court show no change in their lifestyle than maybe someone can make an argument for the court being unreliable.

    However, everyone must admit that EVERY court would have some percentage of its converts who do not sincerely accept the mitzvot. The issue seems to be how tamim should a court be when appraising prospective gerim.

    Has anyone claimed that the beis din in question does not inform the gerim of the mitzvot kalot and chamurot, their schar and onesh? What evidence is there that this court has changed any of the traditional components of giur? Will finding a ger who never accepted mitzvot now serve as ground for paseling dayanim? It seems to me that this is something that is very much up to the subjective judgement of the dayanim and that it stands to reason that sometimes they would get it wrong. Now, if it can be shown that there is a pattern where most procpective gerim comming out of a beis din show NO change in behavior (and I mean no change, I think that most would agree that even a slight change like lighting shabbat candles or saying kiddush or saying shma yisroel would signify kabbalat haMitzvot of SOME kind), then I think that it is valid to discuss the competance of the beis din.

    However, in this particular case, it seems to me that an entire beis din was all their conversions were delegitimized based on ONE case. Further, the dayan who did this did not invite the members of the beis din in question for questioning – did not have all the information regarding this particular woman, and ignored the explicit instructions of the chief rabbi who is his superior!

    I just don’t see this as a valid reason to pasel a beis din – nor does someone in R’ Sherman’s position have the authority to do so. The discipline of dayanim correctly rests in the hands of the chief rabbi – R’ Ammar.

  • Naftali Zvi

    To poster 66 –

    No, she didn’t want a get. She wanted to get divorced. Her “desire” for a get was only because, as long as one is “civilly” (i.e., legally) Jewish, one NEEDS a get to get divorced, even in the secular environment. There is no indication from what we have heard that if she didn’t need one, she would want one. I can’t see how this constitutes a change in behavior which, by all accounts, is what is being required of her.

  • LOberstein

    It is obvious that Miriam Shear is telling the truth, that she was referring to Rav Aharon, not Rav Yoshe Ber. Why is her veracity being repeatedly challenged? It is unbecoming on Cross-Currents to attack someone as a bald faced liar not once but twice.
    I find it very disconceerting that the blog world allows people to hide behind fake names abd thus be free to write whatever they wangt without taking any responsibillity. If you have something worthwhile saying, why do you use nicknames and initials, take responsibility for your words,especially since Mrs Shear is a real person and deserves respect.

  • Miriam Shear

    “To Miriam Shear,
    Regarding Rav Soloveitchik being in Israel in 1988. I am rather surprised hear this. In R.Rakeffet’s book he qotes the Rav saying he would not go again( he went in 1935 to interview for the CR of Tel Aviv) and be in public because it would cause the Briskers to come out and protest his visit because of his Zionist stance. He did not want to create Machlokes. I’m also surprised others do not know of this visit.
    Perhaps you could post the pictures at some point? It will clarify the confusion.
    Thanks”

    Comment by mb — June 18, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

    As I mentioned previously, the pictures and mementos of this visit are packed away as I am moving to Israel in 2 weeks. I truly do not have time for this. Either accept what I said or don’t. For those who know me, my integrity and honesty in my dealings is not something that comes into question. For those who do not know me, I am sorry I cannot accomodate you at this time. Moving my family and myself to Eretz Yisrael is pretty big stuff. Everything else right now has to take a back seat.

  • Yitzchok Adlerstein

    #31 Of course, when Hillel converted people that Shammai deemed ineligible, he explicitly disagreed with your formulation. Is there a legitimate source for this innovation?
    To the contrary. When Bais Hillel and Bais Shammai disagreed, they were deferrential to each other. Bais Shammai informed Bais Hillel which people would be forbidden to them in marriage. In the present situation, the DL rabbis are calling for those who disagree with their psak to be forced to abide by it. They insist (and now have an MK who will back this with legislation) that a family court charged with determining who is single and who is married, who is elligible to marry and who is not, must abide by the determination of a gerus court whose halachic leniencies are unacceptable to a large percentage of serious halachic contributors (to put it mildly).

  • Ori

    Yitzchok Adlerstein: They insist (and now have an MK who will back this with legislation) that a family court charged with determining who is single and who is married, who is elligible to marry and who is not, must abide by the determination of a gerus court whose halachic leniencies are unacceptable to a large percentage of serious halachic contributors (to put it mildly).

    Ori: Do they insist that a Charedi court tell Charedim that these gerim are Jews? Or do they insist that a government court allow these gerim to marry spouses who are not Charedi, and who either accept them as gerim or don’t care?

    In the time of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai marriage did not have government involvement. That made it easy to live with disagreements. This is not the situation today.

    Imagine you were Beit Hillel, and you loved and wished to marry a woman who was permitted to you according to Beit Hillel’s opinion. You went to your town’s Rabbanut, who happened to be Beit Shammai, and they told you to forget it. Halacha forbids the marriage, so you’d better find somebody else. How charitable would you feel towards Beit Shammai afterwards?

  • Shalem

    Charedi Leumi writes:

    “Shalem,

    I am not aware of any written source where anyone associated with R’ Druckman’s beis din has argued that kabbalat haMitzvot should not be a requirement for conversion”.

    Shalom! Unfortunately there are many people (and here too we had commenters that repeat this mantra) who write in part of their defense to Rav Druckman’s position that Kabblat Hamtizvit is not necessary, that the Rambam did not write it (something we have shown that it is utterly FALSE!) and so on. I beleive that there is a Proffessor (I forgot their names (Zohar ) forgive me if i’m wrong) who wrote a whole dissertation on this point exactly. I do not recall at this moment that Rav Druckman’s bais din themselves wrote it (And I apologized if I wrote that the themselves have written it); but certainly people associated with their positions keep defending them (and I saw it in numerous places) partially based on this false misconception.

    Charedi Leumi continues:
    “The most I think anyone can say is that they are too naive in their appraisal of the intent of the prospective ger. If it could be shown that the majority of converts comming out of the court show no change in their lifestyle than maybe someone can make an argument for the court being unreliable”‘.

    Dear Charedi Leumi, please if you can, take your time to read what has been said by Rav Sherman in his ruling (even if you disagree with what he ruled, you should at least know what he claims so that you can attack him appropriately. IT is very disconcerting that after such long attacks on him people repeat things that are not actually what he said or that he actually has claimed what some would liked what he should have said), to see that this is actually what he claims and even worse! That Rav Druckman’s Bais Din systemically disregards the requirement to ensure that the convert commits himself to live JEwishly. I don’t know if they claim that these are majority of his conversions; but he claims that there are huge numbers where RD totally disregards the requirement that the convert should commit to do mitzvot. This is a serious breach as far as the literal halachik meaning of kbbalat hamtizvot is concerned.

    Charedi Leumi writes:
    “However, everyone must admit that EVERY court would have some percentage of its converts who do not sincerely accept the mitzvot. The issue seems to be how tamim should a court be when appraising prospective gerim”.

    TRue every Bais Din fails here and there. But they at least try hard to ascertain that a certain serious commitment has taken place.Actually you write about “Tamim”; In our case it is actually worse than that: RD converts whom it’s obvious that they will not observe shabbat kashrut and taharat hamishpacha and he did that systematically convert them in this state and with a shitta about it!

    Charedi leumi writes:
    “Has anyone claimed that the beis din in question does not inform the gerim of the mitzvot kalot and chamurot, their schar and onesh? What evidence is there that this court has changed any of the traditional components of giur?”

    It is not enough to “inform”; the heart and blood of conversion is the commitment to live jewishly. The “informing” comes after the person accepts to live jewishly according to the lifestyle of Torat Hashem to Am yisrael. After this has been established we can move on to “inform” them about kalot vechamurot and schar veonesh; if there is no serious acceptance on the essence of commitment to Jewish tradition and lfiestyle and of beleif in certain basic principles (as fate of the Jewish people and G-d of Israel etc.) then “informing” is merely robotic and conversion is a matter OF LIFE NOT OF INFORMATION!

    Charedi Leumi writes:
    “Will finding a ger who never accepted mitzvot now serve as ground for paseling dayanim?”

    Not the finding of one or few isolated cases; but if one finds that the daayan systematically converts people without them committing to observe especially when it is done with a “shitta” to “davka” do so it is grounds to passel them. ACtually none other than Rav MOshe Feinstein OBM in IM YD 160 raises the problem that such dayanim may not be eligible to fit for dayanim and maybe they are “garua mihedyotot” for this concern exactly!

    Charedi leumi writes:
    “It seems to me that this is something that is very much up to the subjective judgement of the dayanim and that it stands to reason that sometimes they would get it wrong”.

    Actually Rav Moshe writes in his name and his name of his father: that in situations where the convert is converting to marry a jewish spouses and the jewish spouse is not observant it becomes “anan sahadi” grounds for objective assessment that the fellow is not commiting to live jewishly. IN one place RMF writes that there should a “zman gadol” of observance to verify that there was genuine commitment to observe! And unfortunately in these cases (where they convert for marriage and the spouse is non observant) they would “get it right” in most of the cases! -while some would surprise the rabbi as the convert remains observant even if the spouse does not and at times the covnert brings the spouse back to judaism but those are from the “Few” and the “most” are unfortunately the reverse-.

    Charedi Leumi writes:
    “Now, if it can be shown that there is a pattern where most procpective gerim comming out of a beis din show NO change in behavior (and I mean no change, I think that most would agree that even a slight change like lighting shabbat candles or saying kiddush or saying shma yisroel would signify kabbalat haMitzvot of SOME kind),”:

    This too is probably not the accepted opinion of the majority of posskim (actually I would challenge anyone to show me a “minority” who concurs with you in a written pssak din!): Most would not agree that “slight change” like lighting candles or even saying shma yisrael is enough. FOr instance Rav Chayim OYzer who was lenient in some of the issues under discussion, wrote clearly that we would need serious commitment to observe shmirat shabbat, kashrut and taharat hamishpacha meaning restricting oneself from practices that violate issurim deorayta. It would appear that just lighting shabbat candles would certainly not suffice and it does not show any commitment to refrain oneself from practices that are contrary to issurim deorayto. I would even ask you to find a written responsa by Possek that he states that refraining from biblical prohibtions and still violating biblical prohibitions (n shmirat shabbat or kashrus or mikvah) would suffice. IT would appear literally that the fellow must commit to all biblical restricitions. (In fact, even if he rejects outright some of the rabbinical prohibtions may cause a huge problem but certainly if he clearly rejects the acceptance of some biblical command or that he does not accept to refrain in practice from biblical prohibtions to keep shabbat wuld create a rpoblem at least in the realm of “vaday” and put him or her in the realmof “Safek”).

    Charedi Leumi writes:
    “However, in this particular case, it seems to me that an entire beis din was all their conversions were delegitimized based on ONE case”.
    This is really unfair! The Rabbi deligitimized the conversions based on his knowledge about his numerous other conversions as he WRITES IN HIS RULING! (please read it inside).

    “Further, the dayan who did this did not invite the members of the beis din in question for questioning -”:

    The claim of RS is that they once did request to come and he refused.

    ” did not have all the information regarding this particular woman,”
    Why did he not have the information regarding this woman? Is that BD the only source of information about the woman?? There obviously can be other avenues for information about this woman.

    ” and ignored the explicit instructions of the chief rabbi who is his superior!”
    I’m sorry, but this argument is totally beyond me! How can an honest dayan NOT rule according to his honest to goodness opinion??? His superior is THE ALMIGHTY G-D! and he responds to him only! He must rule according to his understanding as to what is the Will of Hashem. Actually Hashem writes in His Torah “loy taguru MIPNEY ISH” that one of the requirements of a judge is not fear ANY MAN (including the chief rabbi!).

    Shalom, Shalem

  • Baruch

    Miriam Shear,
    You are correct what you wrote if Irecall the vote was close back in 1988 and all those paties or people who were against changing the law to read l’halacha thaey have crated this big problem of 300,000 walking around thinking they are Jewish if the law qould have been changed we would not have the issues we have now.

  • John Watson, M.D.

    “It is obvious that Miriam Shear is telling the truth, that she was referring to Rav Aharon, not Rav Yoshe Ber.”

    I agree that it’s silly to question Mrs. Shear’s integrity based on an innocent misspelling of a name (there are different ways of spelling “Soloveitchik” in Hebrew, too), and on the fact that she didn’t include the first name of the Rav Soloveitchik in question. After all, I imagine those commenters probably don’t refer to RYBS by his first name either; they just call him the “Rav”!

    But Rabbi Oberstein, why do you think Mycroft is hiding behind an assumed name? I assure you, he’s a real person; I knew his brother well.

  • Chareidi Leumi

    Shalem,

    It is posts like yours which leave me a bit confused. I am far from an experct in these matters. But I have been trying to educate myself more in this area. Frankly, most treatements on the matter from both the left and right leave me more confused than before. There seem to be several components at play here and I am not sure where each begins and the other ends. In the rishonim and achronim that I have looked at, there seem to be several inter-related issues as I understand them:

    1. intent of the convert (leShem ishut, etc)
    2. kabbalat haMitzvot
    3. things beis din are required to inform the ger
    4. potential hazara leSuro

    This is where confusion sets in. There seems to be a lot of room for kula regarding number 1 in cases where two people have already been living together or if avoiding conversion will lead to more problems than it will solve.

    It seems that the Rambam identifies number 2 with number 3 (not like you say that 3 comes after 2. However, this is not as clear to me in other rishonim.

    What is NOT clear to me is what kabbalat mitzvot means. On the one hand, in order to understand the various gamaras, we have to assume it is a kabbala in a very abstract sense without any connection to a specific din (as you explained above regarding a goy that did not know ikkar shabbat). On the other hand, the beis yitzchok and R’ chaim ozer seem to say that there needs to be SOME particular change of behavior to validate the kabbalat haMitzvot. Nobody seems to be explicit to what extent this is the case – you bring opinions that he must commit to deOraitas but you must concede that the gemara seems to imply that this is not a requirement – that kabbalat mitzvot can exist without this – you did this above (although not leKatchila). Somehow, the beis din needs to decide the sincerity of the prospect before the conversion but nobody seems to be explicit how to decide this sincerity. Many rishonim even seem to suggest that you should not tell him too much, lest we scare him off. Someone like my self is left in utter confusion.

    Add to all this the fact that there does not seem to be many sources suggesting that a beis din has any responsibility to check after a ger after the conversion and the confusion gets even worse.

    Further, some of the responsa I have seen regarding number 1 above seem to me to obviously also lack the kind of number 3 which would satisfy you. For example, in R’ Dovid Zvi Hoffman’s psak permitting marriage leShem Ishut, it is hard to believe that the ger in question would keep the law knowing everything we know about german Jewish society during that period.

    B’Vracha,

    A confused Chareidi Leumi :)

  • Chareidi Leumi

    >Further, some of the responsa I have seen regarding number 1 above seem to me to obviously also lack the kind of number 3 which would satisfy you

    This should read:

    Further, some of the responsa I have seen regarding number 1 above seem to me to obviously also lack the kind of kabalat haMitzvot which would satisfy you.

  • Chareidi Leumi

    BTW, here is Rav Dov Lior’s answer regarding the conversions from R’ Durckman’s beis din:

    שאלה:
    רציתי לדעת מה דעתו ההלכתית של הרב, כיצד ראויי לגייר לאור מצב הגויים בארץ, ומה הרב אומר על פסילת הגיורים של הרב דרוקמן?

    תשובה:
    אני לא בדקתי את הנושא, ואני לא יכול להביע דעה ולהתייחס לדבר שאני לא יודע. רק עיתונאים פועלים כך לפעמים, אך אני לא יכול לעשות דבר כזה. אני יודע שמטפלים בבירור הסוגיה הזו, ונחייה ונראה מה יגידו.
    גירות צריכה להיות בבית דין שמשתכנע שהמועתד לגיור, בין איש ובין אישה, יודעים את החומר וחושבים שהם יקיימו אורח חיים של שמירת תורה ומצוות. אם זה בספק, אסור לגייר. אם בתי הדין האלו פעלו כך או לא, אני לא יכול להביע דעה, אני לא בדקתי את הנושא.

    אם אחר כך התברר שלא שומרים תורה ומצוות,השאלה מתי זה קרה. אם תקופה מסויימת הם הקפידו על תורה ומצוות, ולאחר מכן נחלשו, כתוב מפורשות שגר שחזר לסורו, זה שמו ישראל עבריין, ש”אף על פי שחטא, ישראל הוא”. אם לפחות נשאר בדברים בסיסיים כשבת, כשרות, תפילין, ולא הקפיד על גילוח בחול המועד זה פחות בעיה. אך אם התברר למפרע שתיכף למחרת הגיור, נסעו בשבת,אכלו אוכל לא כשר זה מגלה שאף פעם לא הוחזקו במנהגי ישראל ונמצא כל הגירת היתה בהערמת בית הדין, זו הייתה הצגה. גם אחרי עשרים שנה מתברר למפרע שכל הקבלה הייתה מן השפה ולחוץ. וצריך לבדוק כל מקרה לגופו, האם שמר דברים בסיסיים המקובלים לשמור בחברה דתית ורק בדברים אחרים הייתה לו חולשה, ואי אפשר להתייחס בצורה גורפת.

  • Bob Miller

    Time to take stock. Have the discussion threads here on this topic chnged anyone’s mind whatsoever? Have they clarified anything or have they caused all partisans to dig in?

  • lacosta

    Rav Druckman, to the best of my knowledge, is a fine gentleman, but not one of the halachic luminaries of the DL world.”

    – out of curiosity, and as a point of clarification, when rav adlerstein visits Israel, and obviously goes to see the mosdos hatorah and the gdolim,
    i wonder what is included in that spectrum. to some that spectrum is from black to black; too many people can only lend legitimacy to another camp for Shiva calls…..

  • elana

    Shalem, others, it is not helpful to quote RMF without careful care to the date of his tshuvot. He clearly adopted a more “liberal” stance after coming to the US, not in his personal behavior/POV, but in his ability to find support for those with whom he disagreed. Read the 3 tshuvot in YD 1, in order and do not assume he did not change his mind. the tshuvah where he quotes his father, was written in europe. It is clearly different from the tshuvah after he said he had not yet read Achiezer; it is more liberal even than RCOG. much can be learned from how RMF wrote; he was unique, even in his generation, willing to go against the (overwhelming) majority in cases where he judged great need. But his literary/personal style needs to be appreciated IN CONTEXT. In any case, quoting undated snippets is not acceptable scholarship, particulary because many great tshuvot often consider both sides of an issue and can argue with great passion for a position not finally adopted.

  • Noam

    ” In the present situation, the DL rabbis are calling for those who disagree with their psak to be forced to abide by it”

    On the contrary. No one is forcing the Chareidim to abide by anything they dont want to abide by. They can examine the yichus of someone they want to marry and decide if further “conversion” is desired. They can decide that the food they thought was ok should be be classified as bishul akum and establish their own kashrut seperate from the rabbanut. Oh, they already do that, sorry. They can even establish their own group of “mehadrin Jews” if they want, and exclude everyone they have even the slightest suspicion of. No one is forcing them to accept anything. Unlike the situation earlier this year when they tried to force the rest of the country to eliminate reliance on the Heter Mechira.

    I reccomend this article by rav Shlomo Riskin, who reads the Rambam according to pshat. :-)

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1212659738513&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter

  • Shalem

    Charedi Leumi,

    Thank you for posting this. It is good to hear Rabbis from the RZ expressing their opinions on this matter. Most importantly where we agreement on the essential parts of the contentions that the conversions must carry sincerity and most importantly that they can even invalidate it ex post facto if for instance there was laxity in shabbat kashrus and tfillin. Let us hope that we can find more and more such announcements and a lot of problems will be highly minimized. Todah Rabbah vekol tuv,

    Shalem

  • Yitzchok Adlerstein

    Noam –
    One man’s pshat is another’s krumkeit :-)
    (I think we are going to have to have that phone session to go through the Rambam according to the different shitos.)

    Charedi Leumi -
    Sure looks to me like R Lior holds a position identical to, close to, or perhaps even more demanding than R Sherman! He certainly dismisses R Daichovski’s position! (He then elegantly sidesteps having to comment directly on R Druckman’s conversions.) It is a response completely consistent with the manner of talmidei chachamim, in directly relating to the halachic issues, instead of simply whipping the crowd into a frenzy, as certain other articles did.

  • Chareidi Leumi

    I am also curious to see Rav Eliezer’s melamed article on the issue (it is the third in a series of articles on giur apearing in beSheva and the third installment – for parashat Korach – is supposed to directly discuss this particular issue – the first two just dealt with general approach to giur.

    I am also looking into Rav Yisraeli’s position on giur. I have just purchaced a book with all of his piskei din when he was on the beis din haGadol. I am guessing there is something to be found there.

    I would still like some clarification regardin the questions I posted above (they have not been removed from moderation yet).

    My biggest question is the difference between motive for giur and kabbalat haMitzvot and the interplay between them. It seems to me that allowing someone to be megayer for ishut carries with it an implicit assumption that there is severe danger for a lack of kabbalat haMitzvot.

    I am not surprized by Rav Lior’s teshuva. Most rabbanim that I know in the RZ world are pretty strict on kabbalat haMitzvot as a component of giur. Frankly, for a public policy perspective, I am not convinced that being leniant in this regard is the best policy – I fear that such a course holds more dangers than it actually solves.

    In any case, I think the public reaction from the RZ side is more due to the fact that the psak is seen as blatently political in its nature and it attacks R’ Druckman in terms which are too strong.

    The other question is (and the one which is often ignored): What ARE we supposed to do about the current situation? Even if we say that the solution of the left of orthodoxy is no good. That does not give us the right to ignore the problem. an alternative MUST be found! I actually find the silence from halachic luminaries on the center and the right to be just as disturbing as the reliance on daat yachid on the left!

  • Chareidi Leumi

    I actually think that the single most important opinion on this matter will probably end up having to come from Rav Ovadia Yosef shlit”a. When you think about it, he is sufficiently removed from the ashkenazi chareidim to be shielded from accusations of unnecessary stringincy (in fact, it is silly for anyone to ever accuse rav Ovadia of such a thing)

    Further, he is widely respected in the RZ world as well. He has the kind of stature that the ashkenazi chareidim will not be able to ignore. And Rav Ammer, is a close talmid/haver of rav Ovadia. I think that a peshara would be to let R’ ovadia decide what to do about past conversions as well as what to do about giurim for the future.

  • Shalem

    Regarding Rav Ovadya: His position reagarding past conversions in general seems to be in between, it depends to the “chozek hooomdenah” (strength of the assessment ahead of time ) that the convert is not accepting the yoke of torah and mitzvot only that he makes a verbal declaration but his heart is remote from it (“bepiv ubissfatav kibduni veliboy rachak mimenee”) and “anan sahadi” that they never intended to keep mitzvot in practice then it appears that even bediavad there is no conversion; if however there is no “umdenah demuchach” at the time of conversion then even if at the end it was known to us his intentions their law is like a yirael mumar… And he writes that this is the opinion of Rav Kook that “bistam” one should not rule lekulah that they are not jews; implying that if we have a clear knowledge about his intentions at the time of conversion then Rav Kook would hold that the conversion is null and void even bediavad (contrary to what was said here in his name). The content of this one can find in periodical Torah She Baal Peh in the year 5731 where there is an article by Rav OVadyah on this matter.

    One more important opinion on the matter is Rav ISrael Rozen’s opinion on similar issues in the past (a person in the centre of this debacle) : IN TEchumim VOl. 23 page 198-202 (one can see page 201 for the conclusions of his opinions) where he is extrmely stringent on these matters:

    1) a constant situation of contravening laws of torah cannot be equated to a situation of “onness”.In addition there are many who hold that if a ger cannotwithstand to an onness (where he is mandated to withstand) there is a problem in the kabbalat hamitzvot.

    2) Where the prospective convert knows the strignency of the prohibition and willfully deceives the beit din that is certainly “anan sahadi” that there is no kabbalat hamitzvot. He does not accept even bedieved conversion done with umdenah demuchach that there will be no kabbalat hamitzvot.

    3) He does not accept even bedieved “deah dechyuyah yechidait” (a sinlge REJECTED opinion) that the concept of Kabbalat Hamitzvot refers to accepting the punishment for violating the mitzvot when there is no intent to keep and perform the mitzvot.

    This is an opinio of Rav ROzen REligious Zionist RAbbi as recorded in the aforementioned periodical.

  • G

    I made it very clear there that only in matters that affect the nation as a whole do I see the need for convergence around a common (yes, machmir) position.

    I know this is off topic but might you go into more depth on this?

    One man’s pshat is another’s krumkeit

    Correct, so why not leave each group to their own devices and if/when their paths cross it is up to each individual to look out for themselves?

  • Chareidi Leumi

    Here are Rav Eliezer Melamed’s articles on the issue. He takes what seems to be a mainline stance on kabbalat haMitzvot but strongly critisizes R’ Sherman and his beis din.

    http://www.inn.co.il/Besheva/Article.aspx/7488
    http://www.inn.co.il/Besheva/Article.aspx/7505
    http://www.inn.co.il/Besheva/Article.aspx/7521

    I also read through R’ Elyashiv’s opinion on the Langer case again as well as R’ Yisraeli’s counter-opinion. It seems that R’ Elyashiv’s position contradicts that which is attributed to him by R’ Sherman. What is most amazing is that R’ Elyashiv gives a high level of importance to the society in which the ger lived in after the conversion. To the point that he does not mind if the ger ignores major portions of Torah law as long as he displayed some level of change. Rav Yisraeli takes issue regarding this point – how can the red line be so subjective?

    I have also spoken to several rabbis who have worked with R’ Drukman’s beis din and they all claimed that the assertion that the beis din does not take seriously the issue of kabbalat haMitzvot is slanderous. They had all sponsered potential gerrim and were asked about the gerim’s progress in the community and their dedication to mitzvot.

    What they DO advocate, however, is a sort of “don’t ask don’t tell” attitude beDiavad. The sort of equivalent to how we treat a get after its complete – we rip it up so that no mistakes can be found later on. This is of course a matter of public policy and needs to be decided by bodies such as the chief rabbinate. Of course, if it can be shown that a beis din converts gerim who consistantly make no change in their lives, then such a beis din should be “taken off duty.”

  • Dotan

    Rabbi Alderstein, here is an article more or less along the lines of what you are looking for, full of serious mekoros, by Rav Yehuda Herzl Henkin.

    http://hazofe.co.il/web%5Cnewsnew%5Ckatava6.asp?Modul=24&id=59336&Word=&gilayon=3190&mador=136

    Bottom line from the article:

    Is it really pshat in the Rambam? Yes.

    Is it really a serious halachic viewpoint, even if a minority one? Yes. (And it is certainly not just “one or two” lonely voices.)

    Is there any validity to what Rav Sherman did? No.

    Rav Sherman, by the way, is being accused of very serious moral breaches in his conduct as a dayan:

    http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART1/756/267.html

    For a lecture about who Rav Druckman shlit”a is and also his approach to giyur, see here (Rav Rakeffet on “Nationalistic Geirus”):

    http://www.yutorah.org/showShiur.cfm/716812/Rabbi_Aaron_Rakeffet-Rothkoff/2003-02-23_Nationalistic_Gairus

    This lecture is from long before the current controversy, and reflects the essentially positive approach that one would expect regarding something like this, had power-politics not gotten involved.

    Rabbi Alderstein, I really think you should apologize for what you wrote: “Rav Druckman, to the best of my knowledge, is a fine gentleman, but not one of the halachic luminaries of the DL world.” He is a posek easily of the stature of some of the best in North America.

  • Yitzchok Adlerstein

    Dotan, I looked carefully at Rabbi Henkin’s article. It comes closer than anything else I have seen to addressing some – but hardly all – of the issues that need attention. I think (as I said from the beginning) that it was wrong of Rabbi Sherman to employ the phrase “kol haposkim” because it would be a lightning rod for criticism. Pointing to a Bach that is roundly rejected does not change the essenial argument. Close to “kol” is functionally the same as “kol.” No, I don’t beieve that R. Henkin is correct at all about the Rambam – and I am not a “supporter” of R. Sherman.

    R. Henkin’s position that signing a falsehood on an official document should be seen as an “error in administrative judgment” is not one that particularly resonates. Without chas v’shalom implying any comparion between the people, should we perhaps call Yeravam ben Navat’s placing of two golden calves a momentary error in political administration? Signing a sheker on an official document is NOT like tying knots on Shabbos, where widespread ignorance may allow us to attribute the action to ignorance of the law. The difference between truth and untruth is well known. Taking liberties with truth is at the core of disqualifying people from testimony and sitting in judgment.

    We are still in need of a better treatment.

    I wish I could say that an apology was in order, but that is not the case. To spell out more would only add more fuel to the fire. My assessment was not my own, and came entirely from sources within the DL world.