October 30, 2014: The Dilemma of Converting to Judaism in Israel
Destination Yisrael – “On October 2014, the Knesset Conversion Bill to Judaism was in open debate. For all Lost Israelites who have a desire, hope and vision of living in the Land of Israel should take notice. This letter was written great clarity in the midst of the religious-political environment as the Israel Conversion Bill was looming just days into the future.
Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum wrote this letter giving a very cogent and deep understanding of the issues involved within the State of Israel as to whom is invited into the Land of Israel as a citizen of the State of Israel while keeping true to the halakhic understanding given to Moses and the Children of Israel at the mount called Sinai.
At this moment of time in human history, the presence of HaShem, the G-d of Israel came the closest to His “Chosen People”. There not only was an elevated state of consciousness simultaneously seen on Planet Earth but it included hundreds of thousands of the children of the ancient Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At that time, they were also declared by “El Shaddai”, the Almighty One of Israel that they were now the “Nation of Israel.”
With his poignant and spiritual insight, Rabbi Greenbaum reaches back to the halakhic truths given at Sinai and he replants it now into today’s modern world of a strange new dilemma that is being revealed to the Observant Jewish people; the rise and integration of the collective understanding of all the prophetic understandings of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. Today, for modern Israel today is a Jewish State, is strangely silent about the Lost Ten Tribes of the House of Israel. Yet if the collective insight of the ancient Hebrew prophets of old unfolds, there will be a rise of spiritual consciousness, given by the hand of HaShem that will united the entire House of Judah, Klal Yisrael (All 12-Tribed Israel) of the descendants of the Ancient Children of Israel.
If the prophetic picture hangs true, in the near future date we may witness the potential unfolding of the soon coming “Era of the Messiah”. This supernal event may occur within the next 18 months as the 7th Sabbatical Week of Years will finish at Rosh Hashanah 2016, and the Jubilee Year of 2017 [Jewish Year 5777, the 5000 years of man plus the insignia of G-d, 777) the “gates of heaven” may open up and all the prophetic streams of the past will converge into a Mighty Stream of Divine Reality sweeping all Jews, observant or not, and all Lost Ten Tribed Israelites into the futuristic era called the “World to Come.” Let us open our hearts to each other and to the Almighty One of Israel and with teshuvah, repentance prepare to become a part of that glorious moment.
Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum – “Today’s letter is not actually from Jerusalem as I am visiting Safed for a few days, where I have been having discussions with some distinguished authorities on the subject of the Ger, literally a “dweller”, a Torah term with varying shades of meaning. In some contexts it means a full convert to the religion of Israel (Ger Tzeddek), while in others it may refer to a non-Israelite who has rejected paganism and undertaken to observe the Seven Laws of the Children of Noah, and who is permitted to reside with the Children of Israel in their Land (Ger Toshav).
The subject is particularly relevant this week as we begin studying the Torah portions telling the story of the world’s first Ger Tzeddek, the patriarch Abraham. He sought no formal certificate of conversion from any rabbinical court in recognition of his submission to the One God, because in Abraham’s time there were, of course, no rabbinical courts.
For Abraham, recognition came from the One God Himself, Who spoke directly in Abraham’s heart. Instead of a paper certificate, Abraham inscribed his testimony of conversion in his very flesh in the form of the circumcision, sign of the Covenant: Brit Milah.
The Israel Conversion Bill
The timeliness of the topic of Gerim is underlined by this week’s vote by the Israeli Knesset’s Committee on Constitutional Law and Justice to send a proposed new Conversion Bill for its second and third readings despite fierce opposition from the Israeli chief rabbis, from the “national religious” Jewish Home, and the “haredi” (orthodox) Shas and United Torah Judaism parties.
The proponents of the Bill, from the Russian secularist Yisrael Beitenu and Israeli leftist Labor, HaTenuah and Yesh Atid parties, seek to diminish or even eliminate entirely the orthodox Israeli chief rabbinate’s control over conversion in the country, arguing, in the words Knesset members (Yesh Atid):
MK Ruth Calderon – “Easing’ the conversion process will ‘open the door before anyone who wants to tie his fate with that of Israel… The entrance into the Nation of Israel does not pass through one gate but through many gates, which are in line with the identity of each community, an identity that cannot always be measured with the halachic yardstick.”
MK Aliza Lavie – “Israel has been committing a crime against the converts…we are murdering with our own hands those who seek to join the Jewish people.”
If the law does not pass,” she threatened, “there will be a civil rebellion here!” On the other hand, if the law does pass, the orthodox communities will stage their own rebellion and maintain independent population registries.
The question of “Who is a Jew” has long been hotly debated both in Israel and in Jewish communities in the rest of the world. Since the State of Israel was set up as the “Jewish homeland”, it would seem to make sense that those whom Judaism recognizes as Jewish should have the right to live here, a right which for new Olim (immigrants) to the country carries some valuable privileges including financial assistance in setting up, career training, acquiring a home, etc.
The essence of the problem is that on the one hand, the Halachah as derived from the Talmud and codified in the Shulchan Arukh centuries ago, leaves no room for doubt “Who is a Jew” whether through matrilineal heredity or full conversion. On the other hand, centuries of Jewish intermarriage, cultural and social assimilation among the surrounding nations have left a huge proportion of the present-day “Jewish” population across the world with little or no connection with the Torah and its practice.
The defenders of the proposed Israel Conversion Bill claim that “easing” the Halachic requirements for becoming a convert will help solve the anomalous status of over 330,000 immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union and their children, who are not Jewish according to the accepted halachic definition, but who were allowed to enter the country as Olim because of having a Jewish male ancestor even though the halachah requires matrilineal Jewish descent. Under the present law, unless they undergo a demanding orthodox conversion they cannot be married by the rabbinate or buried in the regular sections of Jewish cemeteries.
The proposed solution is to transfer control over conversions in Israel from the Chief Rabbinate – who have the power to impose vetoes on what they see as non-halachic conversions, which they have used not infrequently – and transfer it to local rabbinates, who are expected to be more “flexible” in their requirements. In other words, the new converting Beit Dins will be able to wave a magic wand and set aside the actual Halachah in order to create new “Jews”.
I personally doubt if most of the proponents of the new bill have the slightest interest in these new Jews or the kind of Judaism they will practice if any. They appear to be mainly interested in better integrating Israel’s halachically non-Jewish immigrants into the new secular society they seek to fashion, being hell-bent on severing the country’s links with the Torah tradition we have received from our ancestors.
It is widely understood that the massive Jewish Agency-sponsored airlifts of hundreds of thousands of new Olim into Israel when the doors of the Soviet Union opened in the 1980s and 1990s, including a huge proportion who were neither Jewish nor had any interest in practicing Judaism, were secretly intended as an exercise in social engineering.
The airlifts reached their peak in the early months of 1991, when Israelis together with all the rest of the world were preoccupied with the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. At the time it seemed amazing that all these planeloads of new immigrants were apparently undeterred by Hussein’s almost daily scud missile attacks on Israel. Perhaps it was the lure of a nice apartment in Ashdod or Ashkelon that made it worth the risk. Meanwhile, the secret plan of the Aliyah bosses was to flood Israel with a new influx of secular voters, who it was hoped would act as a counterweight to what they perceived as the menacing rise of the orthodox and religious nationalist constituencies in the country.
Today the chorus calling to break the Israeli chief rabbinate’s control over conversion is strongly reinforced by the Jewish Reform and Conservative movements, which while relatively small and ineffective in Israel, are of course very powerful in America and elsewhere, where they provide a means of “Jewish” self-expression and identification which does not require observance of the Torah as our ancestors knew it.
Insight from Rambam
I would like presently to discuss why I think that neither the proponents nor the opponents of the new Israeli Conversion Bill have begun to grasp the real challenge of our times.
But before I do so, in order to throw light on the destructive intentions of its proponents, I would like to refer to a work by RaMBaM (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, “Maimonides”), which is well worth studying in our time for many other reasons besides the insights it contains on our present topic. This work is Iggeret Teiman, the “Letter to Yemen” which Rambam wrote in order to guide, inspire and comfort the imperiled Jewish communities of his time in Yemen who were faced with forced conversion to Islam or death. The work includes Rambam’s incisive analysis of Christianityand Islam (which today would immediately see him hauled into the dock for political incorrectness).
In the context of our present discussion of the current war against the Halachah, what is relevant is Rambam’s explanation of how the plans of enemies like Amalek, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar etc. to make physical war on Israel were thwarted, as were those of the ancient Persians and Greeks etc. who sought to undermine the Torah with intellectual arguments and counter-proofs.
Far more insidious, however, explains Rambam, was a new kind of sect that “resolved to lay claim to prophecy and to found a new faith, contrary to our Divine religion, and to contend that it was equally God-given. Thereby it hoped to raise doubts and to create confusion, since one is opposed to the other and both supposedly emanate from a Divine source, which would lead to the destruction of both religions. For such is the remarkable plan contrived by a man who is envious and querulous. He will strive to kill his enemy and to save his own life, but when he finds it impossible to attain his objective, he will devise a scheme whereby they both will be slain.”
Rambam – writing over 800 years ago – viewed Christianity and Islam as being such sects. It seems highly likely that had he lived to witness the development of Reform and Conservative Judaism, Secular Zionism, Jewish Liberalism etc. etc. from the 1800’s onwards, Rambam would have classified these too as new fronts in the war against the integrity of the Torah. Reform and Conservative Jewish ideologues present their anti-halachic pathway as a reasonable modern “alternative” to orthodoxy, which they portray as merely one possible “interpretation” of the Torah among many.
As a Jew who has accepted the authority of the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch Torah law code over every aspect of my life, I see the proposed Israel Conversion Bill, as merely the latest attack on the integrity of the Halachah by forces that not only have no interest in the Torah and its practice but seek to undermine them.
My hunch is that in the end the Bill will in any case be killed somewhere along the line in the Knesset, because Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week came out publicly against it even though he had previously expressed his support.
Here again political considerations seem to weigh more heavily than any new-found respect for the Halachah, since the present government coalition, an unlikely concoction of partners, is seemingly soon to break up as Israel lurches towards new elections in an attempt to re-juggle the political pieces. The Prime Minster currently seems to be siding with the parties that oppose the new bill – Jewish Home, Shas and United Torah Judaism – because he will likely have to partner with them in a new coalition when the leftist Yesh Atid and Tenuah leave the present one.
Thus unfortunately we see that across the Israeli political spectrum, the concern is less for the actual prospective Gerim than with jockeying and wheeler dealing in preparation for new elections.
What about the Lost Ten Tribed Israelites?
What is so short-sighted about this whole debate is that it completely ignores an entirely different category of people numbering hundreds of thousands if not millions and millions across the world. In the great majority of cases they will in all likelihood never be able even to visit Israel in the foreseeable future, let alone reside there in a Torah-observant community so as to undergo an orthodox “conversion” to Judaism. Yet their souls today are spontaneously awakening with an inexplicable and insatiable thirst for the God of Israel and the Torah of Israel, and for some connection with the People of Israel. These are real living people, deep, deep souls, and they crave some kind of recognition.
These are people across the world who are the strongest supporters of the Jewish people and the State of Israel at a time of exploding anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Yet I daresay the party politicians of Israel who claim to be promoting the interests of the Jewish people, and even the Rabbis who seek to defend the integrity of the Halachah, have little or no knowledge at all of the existence of these people and their yearnings. Are they Gerim? Potential Gerim? Or might they be sparks of the Long-lost Tribes of Israel?
The founders of Israel did not call it the State of Judea, though it is known and considered as “the Jewish” state. When they called it the State of Israel they legitimately or illegitimately associated it with the tradition of the historical people of Israel in the wider sense, the Children of Israel, the people of the Torah. Do not all the Children of Israel, including those who have long been lost and exiled, deserve their share in the Land of Israel?
The appalling, willful historical myopia of those forces that have hijacked and today control the State of Israel causes them to ignore the fact that the actual land of Israel promised to Abraham goes way beyond the borders of post-1967 Israel, let alone the 1948 Armistice Lines. While ISIL dream of a new Caliphate, it is time for all Jews and all Israelites in the wider sense to wake up and remember that God promised us all the land “from the river of Egypt [the Nile] to the great river, the river Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18).
It may not be politically correct today to announce this in the hallways of the United Nations and on campuses etc., but the fact is that these boundaries include the entire eastern Mediterranean seaboard from the Nile all the way up to the Turkish city of Antakya, ancient Antioch, thus encompassing the whole of present-day Lebanon and Syria as well as huge swathes of southern Turkey.
As we study the story of Abraham, the first Ger, it is surely time to broaden our perspective on who really is a Ger, who is a true Israelite, who is a Jew and what is the Land of Israel.
The present debate in Israel on the Gerim focuses on how to convert people to a Judaism that many of them are unlikely ever to practice halachically, while completely ignoring the millions of awakening souls who are convinced they have a share in the God of Israel and who seek guidance in how they should observe the Torah.
While the rabbis entrusted to guard the Halachah are surely justified in opposing the present assault that aims to undermine it, let them also awaken to the plight of our long lost Israelite brothers and sisters who yearn to find their way home.
Avraham ben Yaakov (Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum)
Destination Yisrael - For all the Lost Ten Israelites, scattered predominately in America, Northern Europe and the colonial nations of the British Empire, may you say, Baruch HaShem Adonai, for the arms of the Divine are opening up to a renewed prophetic reality; the return of the Lost 10-Tribed House of Israel back into the fold of Judaism.
One of the halachic provisions that may be restored is the original halakhah at Sinai, if your mother is an “Israelite” that is all 12-tribed Israel, then you are a redeemed Israelite of the House of Israel. (Ezekiel 36).
Let’s face the true reality in our present day, the geo-political environment continues to deteriorate around the entire globe. ISIS races across the Middle Eastern landscapefrom Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Then they plan to head towards Egypt, Libya, Morocco and then on to Spain and Europe.
Today, Putin’s Russia and Obama’s America finds more to disagree concerning the strangle hold of oil and gas in Ukraine, yet let us face one historical reality; Ukraine is one of the ancient homelands of the Lost Ten Tribes of the House of Israel.
Now we have been exposed to the blunt reality by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu in his Purim speech to the American Congress of the United States. It is the intention of Persia-Iran to destroy Israel (Little Satan) and Edom-Rome plus America (Greater Satan) by a nuclear holocaust.
This is not recent news, for the sages of Judah have exposed these prophetic truthsfor centuries. Peres (Persia/Iran) in the prophetic eyes of the Tzaddiks of Judah have recognized that at the “End of Days” the Persians will attack the Vatican (Edom-Rome) but at the end Edom-Rome will conquer Persia.
Today, Northern Europe is the ancient homeland of the Lost Ten Tribes of the House of Israel. Those days in exile are about over for as the Prophet Ezekiel foretold, the G-d of Israel will someday soon uproot the Lost Ten Tribes of the House of Israel and return them back to the lands of their forefathers in Samaria, the spiritual battleground of the Palestinians seeking to uproot the Jewish people in Judea. Yet, we may have to concede, the “welcome mat in Israel “may be our last safe haven as HaShem, the G-d of Israel has promised to protect only one nation and city; Jerusalem and theLand of Greater Israel.
Lost Tribers, it’s time to “wake up” like the Jews had to do in Nazi dominated Europe. It’s time to prepare to return early to the land of Israel and be saved, or be exterminated by those who hate and despise you.
The prophets are also united in their clarity that only a “remnant will survive”, and that redemption will be a part of the rise of the new Empire of Greater Israel. Whatever view you have of the future, “Heaven”, the “World to Come” will be here on Planet Earth. It will not occur on some starry nebula in the heavens for when that future Succot arrives and Melekh haMachiach (King Messiah) is revealed, the meaning of the name of Succot reveals his hidden truth as the day when HaShem, the G-d comes of Israel come down to dwell with man [on Planet Earth].
Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum is an internationally-known teacher of Torah spirituality, Chassidut, Kabbalah, preventive healthcare, healing and environmental responsibility, and the author of over twenty-five books…
Rabbi Greenbaum founded Azamra Institute in 1986 with the insight of disseminating Torah teachings using the languages and media of our times. Azamra established one of the first Torah websites on the internet (1994). You are welcome to visit his website at Azamra.
If you have wondered how biblical prophecy fits into your life, and how it will affect the Return of the House of Israel, then the G-d of Israel is beginning his “call” to bring you home, too. You might desire to reconnect with the Biblical portrayals on what is and may be happening in your near future. This Biblical portrayal includes Prophecies that the Lost Tribes of the House of Israel are about to return to the Land of their Biblical Inheritance. This is Divine Destiny in living reality as the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel return to their Homelands first in Shomron (Samaria), Israel.
For inquiries about the Kol Ha Tor Vision for the Lost Tribes of Israel,
Visit their Web Site“Kol Ha Tor”,
They also offer – “a Spiritual Retreat and Guest House in Samaria that hosts Shomron (Samaria) Tours to reacquaint the Returning Lost Tribers of the House of Israel to their chosen destiny. For details refer to Shomron Lives!”,
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