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Responsa

Implications of the Current Conversion Crisis

1. A recent conversion case

Recently, a Hareidi rabbinical court in Monsey, NY, required that a family (which includes a parent who converted to Judaism) commit to educate their children in a Hareidi school, un-enroll their children in the modern Orthodox school, and leave the community with which they affiliate. The Hareidi rabbinical court did not even contact the modern Orthodox community, school, or rabbinate to fact find regarding the family. The modern Orthodox school feels rejected, dejected, angry, and is in a quandary as how to respond. A suggested response is to disallow and to reject the conversions of the offending rabbinical court

2. What are kosher conversion standards?


Beards and Jews

Question: Is it traditional for Jews to have beards? Response: When Jews are requested to visualize an image of an authentic Torah leader, I am positive that hardly any will present a picture of a clean-shaven rabbi. Do not the great deans of Yeshivot and Hassidic rebbes all have beards?Indeed, the Shulhan Arukh specifically expresses a preference for a bearded hazzan (Orah Hayyim 53:6). It’s reported that Rav Isaac Luria, the famed kabbalist, refrained from touching his beard for fear that he might remove some hair (Be’er Heitev, YoreDeah 181:5). The Chabad Hassidim, moreover, explicitly prohibit shaving as included in the negative commandment which prohibits a man from wearing a woman’s garment (Deut. 22:5; see also Responsa, Tzemah Tzedek).


Questioning the Status of a Halakhic Conversion is anti-Halakhic and Unethical

Question: What is the status of the 'extra' conversion immersion [tevila leHumra] demanded by some Orthodox rabbis?

Answer:

1. The minimum standard required by Jewish law is that the rabbinical court consist of three observant laymen. Once the convert is accepted by the court, the conversion takes effect and without cause, may not be called into question.

2. a. The converting rabbinical court may include Orthodox rabbis who are themselves converts. [Hoshen Mishpat 7:1] Rabbis need not go through hoops to forbid the permitted on the part of parochials who either do not know or do not accept Jewish law.


Confidentiality and Professional Ethics

Question: Confidentiality
is a vital concern that impacts the freedom of expression of quite a
number of professions. Many professionals receive confidential information
as part and parcel of their normal involvement with their clients and/or
patients. Rabbis are also privy to confidential data. At issue is whether
halakha (Jewish law) provides any guidelines or rules pertaining to
this matter?
 


The Impact of Tearful Prayers

Question: The Talmud contends that "from the day that the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, the gates of prayer were locked...but the gates of tears were never sealed". (Bava Metzia 59a-Berakhot 32b) The implication is that tears have an impact upon prayers. Or better yet, tearful prayers are always in order. How are tearful prayers more significant or potent than simple prayers without tears?


Pikuah Nefesh and the Economic Crisis

Question: A person is an essential member of a United States governmental committee to resolve the current economic crisis.Of concern, Is whether the crisis is deemed a form of Pikuach Nefesh(a danger to life) This classification grants one permission to violate the Shabbat in order to extricate oneself (or a group of people)from this dangerous status.
Response:The following actual case took place.


Reporting and Prosecuting Jewish Criminals: Halakhic Concerns

Question: Does Jewish Law impose a responsibility to prevent criminal action? Does Halakha sanction reporting Jewish criminals to secular authorities? May an Orthodox Jew prosecute Jewish criminals?


Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn - The Forgotten Sage Who Was Rediscovered

Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn (1856-1935), who lived and worked in Jerusalem and in the United States at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, was born in Tzfat. His thought has intrigued many Jews who strive to combine Judaism and modernity, religion and life, thereby seeking to resolve the conflict between their firm commitment to Halakha and their growing openness to the modern world. R. Hayyim Hirschensohn was one of the few among the Religious- Zionist thinkers who confronted the challenges of modernity and grappled with the intricate halakhic problems inherent in the establishment of a modern Jewish state.


Women and Kaddish

By Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen

(Rabbi Cohen serves as Rabbi of Congregation Aitz Chaim in West Palm Beach, Florida. Former Chief Rabbi of the Mizrachi Kehilla in Melbourne, Australia, he is the recipient of the "Jerusalem Award", and author of six books on Jewish law.)

Question: May women recite Kaddish in the synagogue?


Halakhic conversion of non-religious candidates

By Prof. Zvi Zohar of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and Bar Ilan University

The Shulhan Arukh, composed by rabbi Joseph Caro in the 16th century, is a canonical code of Jewish Law. In this work, rabbi Caro writes that a ceremony of Giyyur (=‘conversion') is valid only if it includes Qabbalat Mitzvot. Rabbi Caro does not explain what this phrase means. The so-called "conversion crisis" results from the attempt to pressure all rabbis to adopt a specific interpretation of this requirement, i.e., to agree that Qabbalat Mitzvot means a whole-hearted commitment by the Ger (="convert" =‘proselyte') to fully observe all of the Mitzvot (commandments). On this view, if a person applying for giyyur intends to be a secular Jew, or even a ‘traditional' Jew who observes many (but not all) commandments, that person cannot be allowed to undergo a giyyur ceremony, because Qabbalat Mitzvot is lacking. This position has been strongly supported by ultra-orthodox haredi rabbis as the one-and-only correct interpretation of Qabbalat Mitzvot.


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