Volume 39 Number 60
                 Produced: Sun Jun  1 16:20:13 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Conservative Acceptance of Reform Conversions (2)
         [Shmuel Himelstein, Avi Feldblum]
Conservative Conversions (2)
         [Shalom Kohn, Yitzchak Moran]
Folding Talis on Motzoei Shabbos
         [Chaim Mateh]
Goals of Judaism (2)
         [Akiva Miller, Tzvi Briks]
Safek bracha
         [Danny Skaist]


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Thu, 29 May 2003 13:37:41 +0300
Subject: Conservative Acceptance of Reform Conversions

Both Edward Ehrlich and Alana Suskin take issued with my statement that:

"there are many Conservative clergymen who will accept the conversion of
any person by any Jewish clergyman."

As I have no reference works available to me, I had recourse to the Web.
There I found the following note:

On the "Ask a Rabbi" site (see URL below), Rabbi Danny Horwitz, who is
listed as a Conservative Rabbi, was faced with the following scenario:
"I wonder about how the Conservative administration [of the Conservative
day school her child will attend - SH] will view a Reform conversion."

His answer is:

"Conservative rabbis often accept Reform conversions as valid,
particularly if they included those rituals traditionally associated
with conversion, especially immersion ... the rabbi who serves in the
synagogue which is associated with the day school is the ultimate
arbiter in these matters."

In other words, there are Conservative rabbis who are willing to accept
Reform conversions as valid, even if they don't include the rituals.
There is no hint of recrimination against Conservative rabbis who accept
Reform converts even without Milah and/or Tevilah. Indeed, the fact that
the local rabbi is the arbiter implies that he has the right to decide
whether to accept a Reform convert who did not undergo any of the
required rituals.

The URL for this is http://jewish.com/askarabbi/askarabbi/askr166.htm

[From second email. Mod.]

My previous note on this was written without my having access to my home
library. Now that I am at home, I checked what might well be called the
Conservative Shulchan Aruch, "A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice," by
Rabbi Isaac Klein. There, on p. 447, you will find:

"A few of our (i.e., the Conservative movement - SH) colleagues would
recognize all conversions performed by any rabbi (with the exception of
one where there was no circumcision) in order to prevent further
fragmentation in the House of Israel."

He does add, though, that "The majority opinion is that circumcision or
hatafat dam (i.e., a ritual prick to eject a drop of blood, in a case
where the person was already circumcised - SH) and immersion should be
required of all proselytes and that proselytes converted without these
cannot be recognized."

The above strengthens the point of my original posting, that at least
some Conservative rabbis will allow people who have not undergone the
ritual aspects of conversion to nevertheless be considered as Jews.

Shmuel Himelstein

From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Sun, 1 Jun 2003 15:48:27 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Conservative Acceptance of Reform Conversions

> The above strengthens the point of my original posting, that at least some
> Conservative rabbis will allow people who have not undergone the ritual
> aspects of conversion to nevertheless be considered as Jews.

However, I think you have more conclusively shown that the majority
opinion, and the one that to the extent that there is an official
position of the Conservative movement, is that conversion requires
Milah, Tevilah and Kabbalot Ol Mitzvot. That there are individual
Rabbi's that do not follow this, is true but I am not sure of the
relevance. As has been discussed in the threads on Fraud, there are a
number of things that individual Orthodox Rabbi's have done that most of
us would agree is not ke'halacha.

The discussion of whether someone converted by a Conservative Beit Din
which required Milah, Tevilah and Kabbalot Ol Mitzvot, and was comprised
of three male members can or should be accepted by the Orthodox
community is a more difficult question and is one that needs to be dealt
with by the community poskim.

Avi Feldblum


From: Shalom Kohn <skohn@...>
Date: Thu, 29 May 2003 11:48:56 -0500
Subject: Conservative Conversions

Re: the recent threads as to conversions by Conservative and Reform

It is fundamental that conversion requires acceptance of mitzvot before
a Beit Din (Jewish Court), tevilah (immersion) and (for a male),
circumcision.  It is a common assumption that non-Orthodox conversion
are not valid because of a deficiency in the convert's acceptance of
mitzvot, based on the rationale that if Conservative and Reform Judaism
does not accept all mitzvot, then obviously their converts do not
either.  Upon reflection, this assumption does not appear to be correct.

According to the Rambam (text at home... sorry that I cannot supply the
citations) says that the would-be convert needs to be taught "miktzat
dinei kulot va'chamurot" -- some of the strict and lenient laws -- but
agree in principle to accept all the mitzvot, whatever they be.
Obviously, therefore, the convert need not know every mitzvah, and the
list of mitzvot per Conservative Judaism, even if not coterminous with
Orthodox practice (and I do not mean to enter into the thicket of
whether there is a difference, and in what respects), arguably qualifies
at the very least of "miktzat" mitzvot.  Thus, so long as the convert
intends to accept all the mitzvot -- whatever they may be -- and has not
been taught practices which affirmatively are contrary to halacha
(e.g. driving to shul on shabbat), his acceptance of the commandments
would appear to be adequate.

Thus, since per this analysis the convert has taken all the required
steps for conversion, why should there be an issue about non-Orthodox
conversions?  The only possible issue, therefore, would relate to the
halachic qualifications of the beit din, whose presence is a
prerequisite for a valid conversion.  Judges need to have the same
qualifications as witnesses, at a minimum, and apostates therefore do
not qualify.  According to the Rambam, someone who does not accept the
divine origin of Torah (Torah min hashamayim) or other fundamentals of
faith is deemed an apostate.  Thus, the question becomes whether the
particular rabbis on the conversion panel would qualify based on their
own beliefs, inasmuch as (to my limited understanding) the Conservative
movement has flexible standards on some of these issues.

The halachic implications of the above are that certain Conservative
conversions may well be valid, depending on the circumstances of the
conversion, the convert's pre-conversion religious education, and the
particular panel.  A priori, there are enough issues about conversions
without adding the potential issues about a Conservative conversion.
However, after the fact (e.g., requirements for a Conservative convert
to obtain a get (Jewish divorce) before remarrying, even if they want to
obtain a new Orthodox conversion, or a Jewish woman obtaining a get from
a convert husband), the possibility that the conversion was valid needs
to be carefully considered, and cannot be summarily dismissed (unlike,
for example, Rav Moshe's teshuva (responsum) about Reform weddings
(which was announced in order to solve a "mamzer" problem)).

Shalom L. Kohn

From: Yitzchak Moran <dougom@...>
Date: Thu, 29 May 2003 07:45:06 -0500
Subject: Re: Conservative Conversions

On Fri, 23 May 2003 17:55:45 +0300, Edward Ehrlich wrote:

>I brought up this very question with a Conservative rabbi some time ago.
>He said that any decision about a conversion by a reform rabbi would be
>decided on a case by case basis.  I don't know if "many Conservative"
>rabbis would accept a conversion made by any "Jewish clergyman".  Such
>an acceptance would violate official Conservative policy in any case.
>The words "Orthodoxy" and "Conservatism" have no Halakhic significance.
>The real question is whether a conversion performed by a Conservative
>rabbi which did consist of mikva, circumcision for men and the
>acceptance of mitzvoth is valid or not.  I don't see how the possible
>acceptance of some rabbis in the Conservative movement of non-Halakhic
>converts is relevant anymore than a conversion performed by an Orthodox
>rabbi would be invalid because there are rabbis in the Orthodox movement
>who steal or cheat or occasionally eat a cheeseburger.

I would imagine that one possible area of difficulty for Conservative
conversions would be the issue of the makeup of the beit din itself.  My
understanding of the halacha of conversions is that beit din must be
men, since only men can serve as "witnesses" (I apologize for not
remembering the Hebrew word).  Since the Conservative movement allows
for female rabbis, I would think that that makes it difficult for
Conservative gerim to gain acceptance from Orthodox rabbis (should they
happen to seek it).

Just two other small points in this area:

o) I know of at least one Conservative rabbi who only has male rabbis on
the beit dins for his conversions for that very reason (although he very
much supports female rabbis).

o) I have heard reports of Orthodox rabbis accepting Conservative
conversions on a case-by-case basis when they know the members of the
beit din that was involved in the Conservative conversion.

For what it's worth.



From: Chaim Mateh <chaim-m@...>
Date: Sat, 31 May 2003 21:43:24 +0200
Subject: Folding Talis on Motzoei Shabbos

In vol 39 #53, Andy Goldfinger <Andy.Goldfinger@...> wrote about
segulos, one of which was:
<<(3) A man folding his tallis right after Shabbos will increase the chances
of Shalom Bayis (peace in the home).>>

When I got married many moons ago, I heard of this segula and queried as
its origin.  I was told that since it was a minhag for the wife's father
to buy the choson's talis, if the first thing he does after Shabbos is
fold up the talis that he received from his father-in-law, that would
find favor in his wife's eyes, and thus enhance shalom bayis.

Kol Tuv,


From: <kennethgmiller@...> (Akiva Miller)
Date: Fri, 30 May 2003 17:54:40 -0400
Subject: Re: Goals of Judaism

In MJ 39:54, Harry Schick asked <<< I recently had a discussion with
someone whose claim was that Judaism and Orthodoxy in particular had to
be considered a failure. His reasoning?  The two main goals of Judaism
would have to be the establishment of a just and honest society ...
and/or the bringing of the Meshiach ... What is the counter arguement?

I think he should consider the possiblity that he's mistaken about what
the "goals" of Judaism are. I'm not sure it even HAS any goals by which
its success or failure might be judged.

I do what I do because my Creator told me to do it. If good things would
result from *everyone* doing His will, that would be wonderful, but I
still don't know if that it our goal. My goal is to do what I'm supposed
to do.

Akiva Miller

From: <Brikspartzuf@...> (Tzvi Briks)
Date: Fri, 30 May 2003 17:27:30 EDT
Subject: Re: Goals of Judaism

This is a response to Harry Schick's scathing questions with an attempt
to assuage results from the goals of Judaism.  I don't believe Hashem
really just wanted us to hang around either until we become extinct or
finally have the Mashiach come.  

1.  The creation of the State of Israel is actually a step towards
redemption.  The fact that Hashem desired for us to have a State which we
have with all the problems that can exist in a modern state and all of
the spiritual experiences we have in the marvelous State of Israel is a
miraculous step toward our physical and spiritual redemption.  In the
book Kol Hator written by one of the Gra's famous students in the name of
the Gra, the concept of Mashiach Ben Yosef is attributed to inhabitation,
settling and developing Eretz Hakodesh, Eretz Yisrael.  The fact that 4
and half million Jews inhabit this land and own it is therefore none
other than the proof that the Mashiach Ben yosef concept has 'arrived'.
 After 2000 years of basically a trickle of inhabitation and settlement,
the same people are living in the same land with the same religion,
culture, and language and are causing the land again to flourish.
 Although there certainly is some immorality with which we should truely
be Metaken, some very basic moral codes do present themselves: A moral
army,  the return of displaced Jews, Jews in danger, and other Jews to
Ertetz yisrael, the development of the Hebrew Language, business, etc,
etc.  All this involves a miraculous direction and the hand of the Kadosh
Baruch Hu Himself, based on our Itaruta Deletata, our motivation, our
arousal from below, so to speak.

2.  The idea that there has been a revival of sudy and increase
publications and texts of Kabbalah is another proof that we're just not
'hanging or waiting around.'  The publication and exegetes of the Zohar
into classical and other languages is just the beginning.  There are
texts on the introduction to kabbalah, the refinding and republication of
Kitvei Haari, Rav Avraham Abulafia, the Rashash, the Ramchal, the Ramaz,
 Rav Refael Moshe Luria, etc., etc, etc.  The Kabbalah represents a body
of study and expression which according to the Maharchu represents none
other than the Ohr Mashiach.  It's study in our time reflects the
Messianic desires of our people.  It is the spiritual essence of our
growth and our ability to understand what we are metaken and why we are
doing what we are doing.

There are certainly other proofs. These are the first that entered my
We should remember we are a mamlechet kohanim and goy kadosh. We should
remember this purpose well.

Tzvi Briks  


From: Danny Skaist <danny@...>
Date: Sun, 1 Jun 2003 08:25:22 +0200 
Subject: Safek bracha

<<From: Russell J Hendel 
The law is that since we are in doubt (Whether the commandment is 1 unit
of 49 or 49 units) we therefore do not say the blessing (blessings are
not said when in doubt)  >>

All this talk about safek bracha got me to think.  
The brocho on the tfila shel rosh is in dispute.  Those who make it even
follow up with "baruch shem..etc" which is said after a brocho l'vatala
(unnecessary brocho) 

Why is this disputed brocho different from other disputed brochot ??



End of Volume 39 Issue 60