Sunday, May 11, 2008

Transcript of the Verdict of R' Shirman's Court, Part III

Here is Part III; Part II was here.

I wish to stress again that I am not "siding with" R' Shirman's ruling. I just feel it is important that the issue be discussed with knowledge of the issues at hand.

Section 5: בית דין מגייר שעובר בגיור על לפני עור אין לראותו כשוגג
R’ Shirman then returns to an earlier theme, from Section 2: That a court which ignores the serious results of inappopriate conversion cannot be excused as erring in pursuit of a mitzvah. Therefore, he writes, “Any act of conversion they perform is lacking a kosher beit din, and therefore there is no strength or effectiveness for their conversion.”

R’ Shirman rejects, as he did in Section 2, any comparison between this case and people who bury on the first day of Yom Tov.

R’ Shirman also again rejects any claim that there is a mitzvah in bringing these people into בני ישראל.

R’ Shirman then quotes a member of the conversion courts (ר' פריס) who had written that we live in a time when we must look to the future of the Jewish nation.

He quotes another member of the conversion courts (ר' רוזנפלד) who had written that because of intermarriage concerns we are in an עת לעשות לה', and we must help them convert lest they become mixed into the population in Israel without conversion.

He quotes a third member of the conversion courts (ר' בס) who writes that closing the doors to converts today is in act of opening gates to the outside and to assimilation. He writes that conversion is a public need, and there should be no piling of obstacles in the way of the convert.

R’ Shirman adds that the judges on these courts see conversion as a mitzvah due to national responsibility and public need.

R’ Shirman then tries to contend that this is different from the Yom Tov gravediggers because the Yom Tov gravediggers see the actual deed of digging a grave as a mitzvah, whereas the courts see a mitzvah down the road from their conversion, but then he recants.

R’ Shirman concludes the section by arguing that the idea of converting as a social need is flawed, for these candidates do not begin to function as Jews.

I am breaking here because the verdict then goes in a new direction, addressing the allegations that leading members of the conversion courts had actually forged documents of conversion.

I hope to continue with Part IV tomorrow. [Note: It is now here.]


  1. the idea of converting as a social need is flawed, for these candidates do not begin to function as Jews.

    Wow. This is very interesting stuff. It seems like part of the breakdown here is between those trying to maintain Israel as a unified people/nation, versus those who want to maintain the border between Israel and other nations as a purely religious one, and not a peoplehood/inheritence one. Or something like that - I know I'm butchering what I'm trying to say.

    It seems like there's a problem in judging a court's fitness by the reasons for conversions performed, rather than by the actions/questions/answers/etc., which transpired at the time of the conversion. Would a sincere convert's status be revoked if, much later, it were found that one member of the bet din was receiving a cash bonus for every new Jew they created?

  2. The matter of motivation in general seems to be of secondary concern, as opposed to technical eligibility of the judge to adjudicate.

    However: If the cash bonus were viewed as a bribe, that would indeed be a very big, potentially retroactive, problem.