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preview of book Conversion
text of book Conversion


Publisher: Bar-Ilan University Press
Publication Date: 2006
Subject:  Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, Law
Number of Pages: 784

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About this title
This volume deals with the halakhic process of conversion – a topic that is on the public agenda in Israel constantly, and that is of great concern to Jewish communities throughout the world. The question “Who is a Jew?” touches directly upon the subject of conversion, the process by which a non-Jew enters the community of Israel. This groundbreaking study examines the entire halakhic literature in the realm of conversion, from the periods of the Mishnah and the Talmud until the present, in order to gain an understanding of the essential nature of this fateful legal process. Special attention is devoted to the application of the laws of conversion in the responsa literature, especially in recent generations.
The book illustrates the fascinating ways by which halakhic authorities rule on the concrete queries that are directed to them, remaining faithful to the basic principles of conversion, while taking into account the unique circumstances of the particular case and broader contemporary issues.
This work is unique in its legal analysis of conversion. The author complements the halakhic discussion with a description of several relevant historical issues from the annals of the Jewish people, adding an additional dimension to the legal discussion.

זהו מחקר הלכתי ומשפטי מקיף של הגיור בדיני ישראל, מתוך מגמה לעמוד על מהותה של פעולה משפטית רבת חשיבות זו, שבה נכנס הנכרי לכלל ישראל. בחיבור זה יש עיון בספרות ההלכתית בנושא הגיור ובמוסדות המשפטיים הקרובים לו, החל ממשנת תנאים ואמוראים ועד ימינו.

עד כה טרם נכתבה עבודה מדעית העוסקת במחקר כלל תקופתי של הספרות ההלכתית בתחום הגיור. תשומת לב מיוחדת מוקדשת לבחינת יישומם הלכה למעשה של עקרונות הגיור בספרות השאלות והתשובות, במיוחד בדורות האחרונים. מאלפת היא דרך פסיקתו של המשיב החותר להכריע בשאלה המסוימת שנשאל, באופן התואם את עיקרי הלכות גרות, ויחד עם זאת אינו מתעלם מנסיבות המקרה ומבעיות שהזמן גרמן. ניתוח משפטי זה הוא מחידושי הספר. את הדיון ההלכתי משלימה בספר זה בחינתם של כמה עניינים היסטוריים, הנוגעים לתופעת הגיור בתקופות שונות בתולדות ישראל.
הספר חשוב לאיש ההלכה, למשפטן העוסק במשפט העברי, ולקורא המשכיל המתעניין בתרבות היהודית בכלל ובנושא הגיור בפרט.

About author
Menachem Finkelstein
The author, Dr. Menachem Finkelstein, served as Israel Defense Forces Advocate General, with the rank of Brigadier-General, until 2004, after having served as Deputy President of the IDF Military Court of Appeals. Dr. Finkelstein is currently a judge in the Haifa District Court. He lectured for many years in the Law Department of Bar-Ilan University and in other academic institutions.

המחבר, ד``ר מנחם פינקלשטיין, עורך-דין, כיהן כסניגור הצבאי הראשי, כתובע הצבאי הראשי וכמשנה לנשיא בית הדין הצבאי לערעורים. כיום משמש כפרקליט הצבאי הראשי, בדרגת אלוף.






            Part I: The Essence of Conversion


1. The Fundamentals of Conversion and Their Interrelationships

1. The Formal Conversion Rituals, Acceptance of the Commandments, and the Court

2. Gemirat Da‘at — The Final Internal Resolve to Convert

3. Conversion as a Covenant and as Kinyan


2. The Principal Component of Conversion

1. Acceptance of the Commandments as the Principal Component of Conversion

2. Acceptance of the Commandments and the Court

3. The Views of the Acharonim


3. The Formal Ritual Acts of Conversion and Ritual Purity and Impurity

1. Introduction

2. The Male Convert's Circumcision

3. The Convert's Ritual Immersion

4. The Proselyte's Immersion and the Ritual Immersion of Food Vessels

5. Immersion Prior to Circumcision


4. The Ger Toshav

1. The Ger Toshav (Resident Alien): Conversion and Acceptance of the Commandments

2. The Status of the Ger Toshav

3. The Ger Toshav and the Ger Tzedek


5. The Canaanite Slave

1. The Canaanite Slave: Servitude and Conversion

2. The Status of the Canaanite Slave

3. Monetary Acquisition and Conversion

4. The Acceptance of Commandments of a Canaanite Slave

5. Immersion for Slavery and Acceptance of the Commandments

6. Ritual Immersion for the Sake of Emancipation without Acceptance of the Commandments

7. The Yefat To'ar and Her Conversion


            Part II: Acceptance of the Commandments


Introduction to Part Two


1. Towards a Characterization of the Acceptance of the Commandments

1. The Acceptance of the Commandments as a Condition for Conversion

2. Acceptance of the Commandments and the Desire to Convert


2. Informing about the Commandments and Accepting the Commandments

1. Informing about the Commandments

2. Informing the Proselyte of the Commandments — The Law Ex Post Facto

3. Knowledge of the Commandments and Their Acceptance — In Specific Detail and in General

4. Informing about the Commandments and Accepting the Commandments According to Maimonides and in the Shulhan Arukh


3. Partial Acceptance of the Commandments

1. The Halakhah of “[I Accept the Commandments,] Except for One Thing”

2. A Restrictive Interpretation of “Except for One Thing” 3. “Except for One Thing” — Ab Initio and Ex Post Facto

4. The View of R. Haim Ozer Grodzinski

5. The Rulings of R. Moses Feinstein


4. The Motive for Conversion and Acceptance of the Commandments

1. The Dispute between Tannaim Concerning an Ulterior Motive for Conversion

2. One Whose Status as a Convert is in Doubt and Conversion for the Purpose of Marriage

3. Maimonides' Approach Concerning an Ulterior Motive for Conversion

4. The Motive for Conversion and the Sages' Attitude to Conversion and to Converts

5. Conversion for the Purpose of Marriage in Recent Generations

6. The Prohibition of Marriage for One Suspected of Relations with a Gentile Woman

7. Civil Marriage and Conversion for the Sake of a Jewish Marriage


5. The Conversion of a Minor

1. The Minor Convert and Zechiya

2. The Status of the Minor Convert and His Protest

3. The Conversion of Minors in the Contemporary Period


            Part III: The Act of Conversion


Introduction to Part Three


1. The Laws of Circumcision and Ritual Immersion

1. The Indispensability of Circumcision and Ritual Immersion for Conversion

2. Conversion by Ritual Immersion

3. Intent in Immersion and Circumcision


2. Hatafat Dam Brit — The Drawing of the Blood of the Covenant

1. Hatafat Dam Brit for a Previously Circumcised Conversion Candidate

2. A Gentile Who Was Born Circumcised Who Comes to Convert

3. Hatafat Dam Brit for the Levites, the Sons of Keturah, and Emancipated Slaves


3. There is No Half-Conversion

1. Introduction: The Significance of a Single Act of Conversion

2. One Who Immersed but Was Not Circumcised, or Who Was Circumcised but Did Not Immerse, Is Not a Convert

3. Hatafat Dam Brit as an Act of Conversion

4. A Proselyte Who Was Circumcised but Did Not Immerse

5. A Proselyte Who Immersed but Was Not Circumcised


4. Partial Conversion: A Historical Examination

1. The Conversion of the Royal House of Adiabene

2. A Comparison with the Talmudic Legal Tradition

3. The Phenomenon of “Those Who Fear Heaven” and Gentile Interest in Judaism in and after the Late Second Temple Period


5. The Offering of a Sacrifice

1. The Purpose of the Proselyte's Sacrifice

2. Bringing the Sacrifice as Completion of the Formal Ritual Act of Conversion

3. After the Destruction of the Temple


            Part IV: The Court


Introduction to Part Four


1. “A Convert Requires Three”

1. The Prohibition of Private Conversion in the Talmuds and in the Geonic Literature

2. The Indispensability of Three for the Acceptance of the Commandments

3. The Approach of Rif and Similar Approaches of Other Rishonim

4. The Indispensability of the Court for Immersion and for Acceptance of the Commandments

5. Views of Rishonim Who Acknowledge the Legitimacy of Conversion Not in the Presence of a Court Ex Post Facto


2. Conversion without a Court: Practical Halakhah in the Responsa Literature

1. Law of Converts and Slaves in the Sixteenth Century in the East

2. Responsa on Questions of Mamzerut, Kiddushim (Betrothal), and Levirate Marriage

3. Responsa by Acharonim

3. Conversion and Judicial Proceedings and Rulings

1. Conversion in Court and Judicial Proceedings and Rulings

2. Judicial Proceedings and the Ritual Immersion for the Sake of Conversion Conducted at Night

3. A Judicial Proceeding or “An Action which Requires a Court”? — Maimonides' Approach

4. Immersion for Conversion on the Sabbath

5. The Judicial Nature of Conversion in Actual Halakhic Practice


4. Accepting Converts at the Present Time: Experts and Non-Experts

1. Introduction

2. “We Are Acting as Their Agents”

3. Conversion by Torah Law and by the Authority of Rabbinic Enactment

4. The Exegesis of “Throughout Your Generations”

5. Experts and “Law [Mishpat]”

6. The Halakhic Expertise and the Sagacity of the Judges


            Part V: Invalidation of Conversion due to Lack of Intent to Convert


Introduction to Part Five

1. The Absence of Acceptance of Commandments and the Validity of Conversion

1. The Finality of Conversion and Acceptance of the Commandments

2. The Intent to Convert and a Proven Assessment

3. Umdana de-mukkah — Proven Assessment and Devarim She-ba-lev — Unexpressed Thoughts

4. Acceptance of the Commandments under Coercion

5. The Validity of Present-day Conversions


2. The Convert's Behavior Following His Conversion

1. Conversion for an Ulterior Motive as Conditional Conversion

2. The View of Haggahot Mordekhai

3. “His [Behavior in the] End Proved [what] his [Intent was in the] Beginning”

4. “We Have Misgivings about Him until His Righteousness Becomes Apparent”: Maimonides' Approach


3. Null and Void Conversion: Recent Halakhic Praxis

1. Introduction

2. Fraudulent Conversion: Cairo

3. Annulment of Conversion and Betrothal because of Acceptance for Appearance's Sake: England

4. The Retroactive Annulment of Conversion: The Ruling regarding the Brother and the Sister (Israel)

5. Summary of the Responsa

6. The Rulings of R. Moses Feinstein


Summary and Conclusions





Source Index

General Index

Index of Place Names

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