Archive for 'Conversion'

Four Tales about Hillel’s Tolerance

The Talmud relates (BT Shabbat 31):

“A gentile once came to convert to Judaism, on the condition that he could learn the whole Torah while standing on one foot. He approached Shammai, who rejected him. So he went to Hillel and asked him that he wanted to be taught the Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel told him: “That which you hate, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah, and everything else is commentary–go and learn!”

Another ...

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Religious Contortionism, Conversion, and the “Groucho Marx Syndrome”

While the government considers it a national task, the state of conversion in Israel continues to deteriorate. Official data indicate a 12% drop in the number of conversions to Judaism in Israel in 2009. Just 986 out of 300,000 people with no religious affiliation have converted to Judaism in the last year. The drop in the Israeli Defense Forces stands at 4% compared with 2008. The reason for this drop is because of the feeling shared by many potential converts ...

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Why didn’t Judaism become a large international faith like Christianity and Islam?

If parallel worlds exist, I wonder what would the world be like if Judaism became one of the world’s largest religions? The question for some people may seem kind of funny. Can you imagine donating money to the government so that they could print the pictures of your parents or grandchild’s Bar Mitzvah on the national currency? But on a serious note, ask yourselves this question: Why didn’t Judaism attract the same following that Christianity and Islam later achieved?

Interesting question, ...

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Rabbi Ben Tsion Uziel’s Compassionate but Pragmatic Approach to Halacha

There is a tendency among most Jews to think that Halacha by definition must always lean toward conservatism. However, the historical facts do not support this hypothesis.

Modern Halacha examines an interesting question: Should we go out of our way to attract potential conversions?  There are serious circumstances where we should openly encourage conversion whenever possible– specifically when we have an intermarried couple. There is every valid Halachic reason to go out of our way to welcome the non-Jewish spouse and ...

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Using Compassion in Determining Halacha: An Early 20th Century Example

Rabbi David Tzvi Hoffman was a most unusual rabbi for his time. His attitudes toward a perspective convert was pretty liberal–especially when compared to the positions taken by numerous Modern Orthodox and Haredi rabbis living today. It is unfortunate the past generations of rabbinic scholarship expressed far more imagination and creativity than the newer generations of rabbinic leaders we have today.

R. Hoffman was born in Verbo, Hungary in 1843, and he died in Berlin in 1921. His great erudition encompassed all ...

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