Sunday, May 11, 2008

Transcript of the Verdict of R' Shirman's court, Part I

[This week's Haveil Havalim is here]

I have been reading more than I ought to be reading of the back-and-forth regarding R' Shirman's disqualification of R' Druckman's courts, and their past conversions.

I still don't have a "side" in this; I can see problems on both sides, regrettably. And the real tragedy, of course, is for the individuals and families caught in the middle. The whole thing is sickening.

But I am particularly aggravated by the number of people who are commenting on this without reading what is a publicly available document, the decision of R' Shirman. It's not secret, it's not classified, it's publicly available on-line. And yet, the pontificators and bloviators are out in force, commenting on that which they have not bothered to read.

So I've decided to do something about it: I am posting an English digest of the major points made in R' Shirman's decision. Here is Part 1; I'm not sure whether I'll get to Part 2 tonight, but eventually I hope to cover the whole thing:

Section 1: Cites the claims of each side
R’ Attiyeh’s claim that the woman and her children are not Jewish, because:
a) the court which converted them is pasul and the judges are pasul, such that the conversion itself is invalid, and
b) the woman never accepted mitzvot, and does not observe central mitzvot to this day.

The woman’s response is that her conversion was valid, with valid judges, and that she does observe mitzvot to some extent, including Shabbat candles, Yom Tov celebration, fasting on Yom Kippur, avoidance of chametz on Pesach and sitting in a Succah on Succot.

There is also a further issue, in which the court wished to list the woman and her children in the registry of people who may not wed. The woman contends that the court has no standing in this matter, for one court does not have the ability to overturn the conversion of another court.

The woman also contends that the court cannot list her children in the registry, for she is not personally credible to disqualify her children, with their chazakah of Judaism.

The woman concluded her charges by declaring that R’ Attiyeh’s court is guilty of the severe prohibition of Onaat haGer, oppressing the convert.

Section 2: ביטול גיור משום פסול בית הדין המגייר
The court examines the possibility of rescinding a conversion based upon disqualification of the converting court. This is based upon the charge that R’ Druckman’s court frivolously discounts the halachic requirement of קבלת מצוות, acceptance of mitzvot, and in disregarding this law they are guilty of מגלה פנים בתורה שלא כהלכה, knowingly misinterpreting Torah and its laws, so that they are rendered “intentional sinners and apikorsim.”

If so, then per Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 268:3, which requires three כשרים for a court, the conversion had no court.

R’ Attiyeh also cited R’ Moshe Shternbuch’s Teshuvot v’Hanhagot disqualifying conversion which will not lead to mitzvah observance. R’ Shternbuch himself cited many authorities, and said that a court which accepts such converts is causing them to stumble and guilty of great sin. He added that such a court would not be a legitimate court, since they give inappropriate rulings. Therefore, if a court would know that that converts will not maintain their mitzvah observance, their conversions would be invalid.

R’ Shternbuch further argued, in another responsum, that all courts operate for conversion as proxies of the courts which had true semichah, and that courts which would accept non-observant converts would lose their ability to be proxies of those older courts.

In a third responsum, R’ Shternbuch refused to grant an aliyah to a sincere, observant convert, because he had converted previously in a court which accepted converts who did not accept mitzvot. He wrote that the man is a נכרי by letter of the law.

R’ Shternbuch did write that perhaps we could accept him, if we were stuck, until he could immerse before proper judges, if we could argue that the judges thought they were doing a mitzvah.

R’ Attiyeh then brought further, similar material from the Teshuvot Migdal Tzofim.

As far as the possible acceptance of the judges because they think they are doing a mitzvah, this would likely not be relevant in our case. The source for that principle is the acceptance of witnesses who bury people on the first day of Yom Tov, a sin which does not relate directly to functioning in court. Here, the transgression relates directly to their function as judges. It’s like disqualification for taking a bribe.

To be continued in Part II here.


  1. Thanks for posting this. You're the first I see addressing the issues and not screaming out of innuendo.

    BTW anyone ever mention that when Israel are strong they're not supposed to accept geirim?

  2. יהוא-

    I haven't seen that issue brought up in this round, probably because the major players don't see us qualifying for that title of "strong." Given the news media as well as the Middle East, we hardly qualify as either respected or safe...