Volume 55 Number 59
                    Produced: Fri Aug 31  5:56:51 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Are You A Manhig Yisrael (5)
         [Meir Shinnar, Allen Gerstl, Dr. Josh Backon, Ari Trachtenberg,
Shayna Kravetz]
Child of a woman who converts (from Judaism)
         [Batya Medad]
Is a Converted Jew Still a Jew?
         [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]


From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 09:19:55 -0400
Subject: Re: Are You A Manhig Yisrael

J F Schachter
> If this is Rav Yaaqov Kamanetsky's position, though, I question it.
> We're supposed to decide halakha with our heads, not with our viscera,
> and we're supposed to obey the dictates of our intellect no matter what
> our viscera have to say about them.
> So, getting back to the posting by Martin Edelstein that started this
> whole essay, perhaps the best that you can hope for is not that they
> marry a nice Reform Jewish boy or girl.  Perhaps the best that you can
> hope for is that they will marry non-Jews.

While I agree with Jay that we should think with our head, the real
question posed is the criteria that our head should use.  He is positing
a simple calculus of number of averot and their relative weight as
counted by an issur karet versus drabanan.  We are, however, told that
to be careful with a mitzva kala as a hamura, because we do not know
their schar - which puts this calculus into question.  When one weighs
in on public policy issues, this becomes far more complicated.

Intermarriage has been an issue that has always been far more
complicated - the relative weight given to the issur has been far more
than its status as a mere issur lav.  One thinks of the book of ezra -
the people were violating many prohibitions, but what he complained
about was intermarriage (does one think that those who were lax on
everything else truly kept family purity?) - and the rabbis made
intermarriage as serious as they could - declaring that one violated
four issurim, including nidda.

More broadly, I think that 50 years ago there wouldn't have been a
single major posek who would have reasoned as Jay does - to advocate
intermarriage for those who won't keep family purity.  This would have
been viewed as a reduction ad absurdum.  What rav kaminetsky was saying,
IMHO, is that being a manhig yisrael requires more than the counting of
averot and mitzvot - but requires understanding of the impact on the
community.  After all, underlying halacha is the brit between am yisrael
and hashem.

I would go further.  The position that Jay advocates reflects, IMHO, a
major, dangerous trend today - that in our (legitimate) concern about
halachic issues, we lose the perspective of what halacha is about - and
lose the concern about our obligations not just for individual mitzvot,
but to the overall brit.  Some have become so frum they cease to be Jews
- and the problem of talmide chachamim who are no longer Jewish - who no
longer understand their obligations to the broader community - is a
modern plague that needs to be fought, and fought vigorously and

From: Allen Gerstl <acgerstl@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 07:59:17 -0400
Subject: Are You A Manhig Yisrael

As to the issue of introducing two non-observant Jews: a family member
of mine once asked this of a currently well-known posek who advised that
if the people have a serious interest in Judaism and hence a potential
to possibly (not necessarily) becoming observant then it is proper to
introduce them to each other.

I also should mention that an excellent summary of the parameters of
"lifnei eveir" [the law forbidding causing someone to sin) is found in
Rabbi Michael Broyde's, The Pursuit of Justice and Jewish Law (see

An aside: IMO there should not be merely mechanical application of
halacha without any consideration of its underlying purposes and leading
to a result that would be an absurdity. This certainly does NOT mean
twisting the real meaning of halachic sources - but rather having a
sensitivity to both the integrity of the halachic process and fidelity
sources and also halachic purpose especially when dealing with gray


From: Dr. Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 16:11:05 +0300
Subject: Re: Are You A Manhig Yisrael

>Suppose you have a friend -- a man -- Jewish, but not religiously
>   observant.  You have a choice between matching him up with one of two
>   different women: a nonreligious Jewess, i.e., a woman who will almost
>   certainly never go to the miqveh, or a non-Jewish woman.  Which woman
>   do you choose?
>I did a quick mental calculation, in the manner of Tom Swift, except
>that I did not pull out the pocket slide rule, since I no longer carry
>one.  To have sexual relations with a Jewish woman who has never gone to
>the miqveh involves both parties in a violation of Leviticus 20:18, and
>subjects both parties to the punishment of "karet".  This word can be
>translated by the English word "excision", and although we don't quite
>know exactly what manner of excision is meant, our tradition tells us
>that crimes punishable by karet are serious crimes, comparable in
>magnitude to crimes that carry the death penalty.  On the other hand, to
>have sexual relations with a non-Jewish woman is, at the very worst,
>only an "'issur lav".  This term denotes a prohibition for which no
>specific punishment is mentioned in the Torah, and it is a kind of crime
>which can be translated freely but quite accurately by the English word
>"misdemeanor".  And that is only, as I said, at the very worst.  If the

This is faulty logic and halachically incorrect.

Cohabitation (for the sake of marriage) with a gentile is a biblical
prohibition (see: Chelkat Mechokek EVEN HA'EZER 16:5) and is punishable
by *karet* since it is a public act (see also Maharam Shick EH 155).
Already in Tanach we see how the prophet Malachi (2:11) deemed
intermarriage "bagda Yehuda v'to'evah ne'esta b'yisrael
u'beyerushalayim; ki chilal yehuda kodesh hashem asher ahev u'va'al bat
el nechar": a major desecration of God's name (chilul Hashem). The
Rambam (Hilchot Issurei Biah 12:1) rules like R. Shimon bar Yochai in
the gemara (AZ 36b) that the prohibition of intermarriage is *biblical*
even if the gentile is not one of the 7 Nations (as per Deuteronomy

Those who deliberately intermarry have placed themselves outside the
fold.  The Iggrot Moshe OC III 12 holds that those who are *kofrim
mamash* are not eligible to get an *aliya* to the Torah.

To summarize: Cohabitation (for the sake of marriage) with a gentile is
an issur karet (civil marriage = "public") and is a state of VADAI
(certainty).  Every single minute living with such a person engenders a

However, marriage to a Jewish woman who may not observe Taharat
haMishpacha violates Daat Moshe as per Shulchan Aruch Even Ha'Ezer
115:1-4. The husband should but is not forced to give her a GET (EH
115:4; see also Chelkat Mechokek there EH 115 s"k 18). Perhaps (as per
the Iggrot Moshe Even Ha'Ezer IV #14 she may have gone swimming at a
secluded beach or lake and she really wasn't a niddah. The husband isn't
required L'afrushei m'issura (Minchat Chinuch 48). Eventually, she may
even do tshuva and observe taharat ha'mishpacha.

In other words, the situation is one of uncertainty (SAFEK).

In a toss-up between the two scenarios, marrying the Jewish woman is
obviously the best choice.

Josh Backon

From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 12:40:54 -0400
Subject: Re: Are You A Manhig Yisrael

Avi Feldblum wrote on 08/30/2007 06:31 AM:

> From: Jay F Shachter <jay@...>
> one.  To have sexual relations with a Jewish woman who has never gone to
> the miqveh involves both parties in a violation of Leviticus 20:18, and
> subjects both parties to the punishment of "karet".  ...

>I carried out these mental calculations with lightning speed, and after
>performing my lightning-fast calculations I gave my esteemed colleague
>the results: that it is better to match up your friend with the
>non-Jewish mate than with the Jewish one.

I feel that there are several deep holes in your logic, but I will
outline two.

First of all, my understanding is that karet is only punished for
relations during menses, and, even then, one would require witnesses,
knowledge, etc.  If a woman never goes to the mikveh, but does not have
relations during her menses, it's not clear to me that the punishment
would be so severe.

Secondly, I think that it's impossible to do mental calculations with
mitzvot and aveirot, "she eyn atah yode'ah matan scharam" (that you do
know the value of their reward - Avot 2:1).  However, if you insist on
doing mental calculus, why not take it a step further and consider the
children of both unions, whereas the children of a Jewish-Jewish union
would still have the opportunity to perform mitzvot as Jews.

Ari Trachtenberg,                                      Boston University
http://people.bu.edu/trachten                    mailto:<trachten@...>

From: Shayna Kravetz <skravetz@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 09:55:24 -0500
Subject: Re: Are You A Manhig Yisrael

After Jay F Shachter suggested that it is preferable to match a
non-observant Jewish man to a non-Jew (relations with whom are 'merely'
transgressing a lav) rather than to a non-observant Jewess who is
unlikely to go to miqvah (thus incurring the punishment of karet for
both parties), JFS's editor Yaaqov Elman replied:

>Rav Yaaqov Kamenetsky apparently held that a calculus of severity of
>prohibitions is not where the manhig yisrael stops.  The manhig yisrael
>is more concerned with the following calculus, in the words of my
>esteemed colleague: "If your friend marries a nonreligious Jewess,
>maybe they will do teshuva.  Maybe their children will do teshuva.
>They are not lost.  If your friend marries the non-Jewish woman, he is
>lost, and his children certainly will be lost."

I don't know from JFS's post whether it was his editor or Rav Kamenetsky
who used the term "lost" in describing such a family.  But to me,
immediately the analogy to the lost objects discussed in Baba Metzi'a
arose, and it seems natural to read back from the laws of lost objects
into the situation of 'lost' people.  One could imagine a whole little
homily here (e.g., what are the 'simanim' = distinctive insignia that
someone 'belongs' to the Jewish people?  how could someone become 'lost'
by the Jewish people in the first place?, etc.) but I'll just raise this
one point: a lost object becomes the property of its finder when the
presumed owner despairs (mityaeish) of ever finding it.  The position in
favour of matching Jew with Jew says that we can never despair of the
return of the non-observant Jew. Sound thinking, in my opinion, and
certainly seasonally apt!

Shanah tovah to all JF-ers from Shayna in Toronto


From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 14:23:07 +0300
Subject: Child of a woman who converts (from Judaism)

>From the various responses, we seem to have reverted to quoting psak
from here, psak from there.  There are differences from case to case,
and LOR must be consulted.  From what I've heard over the years,
sometimes they're simply considered Jews and other times, they must do a
"symbolic" conversion.  Of course, the men have a tougher time, since
circumcision must be "halachik."

There's a whole branch of my family like that, and I dream of hearing
that my cousin's kids or grandchildren (from her daughters) want to live
as Jews.... or for those who must... convert.



From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabba.hillel@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 05:09:14 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Is a Converted Jew Still a Jew?

From: Eitan Fiorino <AFiorino@...>

> I am travelling (in zichron yaakov at this particular moment) and have
> no immediate access to sources, but perhaps others will be able to dig
> them up (though I should have mekorot at home from a lecture by
> R. Ephraim Kanarfogel that I heard on this topic). There was some debate
> amongst the rishonim of Ashkenaz as to whether a Jew returning to
> Judaism after conversion to Christianity (forced or voluntary) requires
> tevilah.  While it does not seem as if this was considered an act of
> gerut, it does raise questions of what the status of such a person was
> before or after they had done teshuvah but had not yet immersed in the
> mikveh (according to those who held tevila was required).  Certainly it
> would be possible to misread these sources as indicating that these
> rishonim held that conversion to Christianity makes one not Jewish.  The
> debate of course must be viewed in light of the deeply held revulsion
> for the "polluting waters" of baptism found in medieval Ashkenaz.  I am
> not aware that any achronim hold according to this position.

One of the points often made in discussions is that tevilah was often
required, *not* as geirus, but in order to show that the person had
fully done teshuvah and was explicitly rejoining klal Yisrael.  Thus,
the status of a person who had come back but had not yet done tevilah
might be similar to a ganav who had not yet returned the item he had
stolen or someone who was on his way to request mechilah from someone he
had wronged.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz | Said the fox to the fish, "Join me ashore"
<Sabba.Hillel@...> | The fish are the Jews, Torah is our water


End of Volume 55 Issue 59