Eicha? How is it that in the last few decades there has been such a great explosion of super pious, Yeshivah trained, Orthodox Rabbis arrested and convicted in court of taking, and even soliciting bribes and pay offs; engaging in or covering up sexual molestation of boys and girls; and perpetrating various forms of fraud and money laundering?
Eicha? How it possible that in June of 2020 Israeli media reported that the Orthodox rabbinate and the Interior Ministry retroactively revoked the Jewish status of 2,200 Jewish children?
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria’s book “Gate of Reincarnations”: Chapter Seven, Section 8 offers a fascinating and unexpected explanation. Rabbi Luria says that a person who perfects his Nefesh (soul level) cannot normally receive his Ruach (soul level) in the same lifetime if his Ruach was blemished in a previous gilgul. He will have to die and reincarnate.
But by meditating on the verse, “My Nefesh has desired You at night; even (with) my Ruach that is within me will I seek for You…” when he goes to sleep at night, he can cause his Ruach to descend in place of his Nefesh.
This will allow him to rectify the Ruach in the same lifetime that the tikun of the Nefesh was completed. That Ruach will descend in the morning in place of the Nefesh while it is clothed within the Nefesh of a convert. The Nefesh of a convert returns in its place to make possible the tikun of the Ruach during a single lifetime.
What this means, according to Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; is that the souls of converts to Judaism can help born Jews rectify two aspects of their souls within the same lifetime.
The Orthodox rabbinate (especially in Israel) pushes non-Jews away with their negative, suspicious, hard line attitudes, thus making conversion an unpleasant experience; which results in a much to high percentage of potential converts who are so alienated by rabbinic negativity that they do not complete the process.
Thus, fewer souls of converts are available in Israel to help pious Jews there who desire to elevate their souls; and more corruption becomes visible among the most pious Yeshivah graduates like the Safed rabbi convicted of rape for ‘sex therapy’ an ex-yeshiva head, who confessed to using his position as a spiritual leader to take advantage of eight Jewish women.
The state-run, ultra-Orthodox controlled Conversion Authority, works slowly and bureaucratically, deterring hundreds and thousands of immigrants from the former USSR, who have Jewish lineage but who are not halakhicly Jewish. In 2011 the state’s Conversion Authority performed just 4,293 conversions, down more than 45% from 8,008 in 2007.
This decline is not a fluke. There is a policy among the ultra-Orthodox of increasing exclusion as these numbers show: from 8,008 in 2007 to 6,221 in 2008, down to 4,645 in 2010. (Orthodox Rabbi David Stav in The Jewish Daily Forward 4/9/13).
There are a few years, when under outside pressure, the number of conversions rise; but they always include a high percentage of people whose conversion process were not completed due to rabbinic disinterest or hostility from rabbis who follow the view of Rabbi Helbo, who said that converts are an irritation like an itch, a sore or a scab.
Most Orthodox Rabbis try to test the sincerity of potential converts by making great demands of time and effort from them.
Opposing this Rabbi Yohanan advises that you should push potential converts away with your left hand and draw them close with your right hand. Since most people are right handed if you actually push away more than a few non-Jews you are being too negative.
And the Talmud (Sanhedrin 99b) condemns those who push potential converts away by relating that Isaac and Jacob pushed away Timna the sister of Lotan who wanted to become Jewish. She then married a son of Esau. One of her descendants was Amalek who attacked Israel shortly after they escaped from Egypt. If, instead of being pushed away, Timna had become Jewish, Amalek would have been on our side, and not one of our enemies.
Indeed, Rabbi Yohanan says the reason the Jews were oppressed and enslaved in Egypt, was because Abraham didn’t try to influence some captives he rescued to become Jewish. (Neddarim 32a)
Even the attitude of just failing to encourage potential converts is a major sin according to Rabbi Yohanan; and in Israel today according to Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; it is a major source of the growing moral and spiritual corruption of the official Israeli rabbinate.
The Talmud also says Jews suffered the great damage of being enslaved in Egypt because Abraham failed to give some non-Jews an opportunity to convert. Neddarim 32a states: “Rabbi Abbahu said in Rabbi Eleazar’s name: Why was our Father Abraham punished and his children doomed to Egyptian servitude for two hundred and ten years?… R. Yohanan said: Because he prevented people from entering beneath the wings of the Shechinah (converting to Judaism), as it is written, ‘The king of Sodom said to Abraham: Give me the people, and take the property for yourself’ (and Abraham agreed). (Genesis 14:21)
Thus, when Rabbi Yohanan says the Jews were oppressed and enslaved in Egypt because Abraham didn’t try to influence some captives that he rescued to become Jewish; he means that even failing to encourage potential converts is wrong.
Rabbis today should welcome potential converts and not discourage them. We may not be saving souls, but by rejecting people who want to be Jewish, we may be making them, or their descendants, into future enemies, at a great potential cost to our descendant’s.
The Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 268:2) states: “One [a non Jew] is taught some of the minor commandments and some of the major commandments,” but, “we should not burden or be strict with them.” The reason for this is that even a sincere person, suddenly confronted with all of the stringencies and fine details, will recoil and change his or her mind about converting. We should not allow this to happen, if we do, we transgress the Mitsvah “Do not oppress the convert.” (Exodus 22:20)
As the Midrash teaches, “When a person wants to become part of the Jewish people, we must receive him or her with open hands so as to bring that person under the wings of the Divine Presence” (Leviticus Rabbah 2:9).