Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Gerim and BT's
I should really have said Gerim and Not-Cradle B.T.'s, but that's kind of clumsy; there are also those who - reasonably or not - consider themselves BTs simply because they became Charedi at some point, which they at times see as inherently an "upgrade" (regardless of whether or not their observance or Hashkafa 'before' has subtantially changed). I'm not sure where they would put themselves so I haven't really included them here, though maybe something later.

Ger in the ancient world vs. now; In the ancient world, they were exposed most often to communities or to a contexted Klal Israel In Eretz Israel, communities in Bavel, etc, to Jews fresh from Exile, to the Rabbis of the Gemara, etc. Nowadays, most people who convert are exposed first to dis-embodied ideas, beliefs, books, expressions of ideal views of Judaism, not first to communities, astounding scholars, etc. Very often these ideas are radically-modified forms of traditional Judaism fit for already-Jews who are new to Torah, kiruv literature and apologetics, IOW. Not a criticism, just a fact. What happens when they actually find the LIVED context of the ideas - communities - disagreeable to them? Often these principles and ideals are discovered to have comparably-limited actual application - perhaps even as minority opinions tolerated for outreach purposes, etc ("Jews as scientists", "a religion of asking questions",etc).
That’s why it so imperative for such people to live in a community before making the decision. There’s also the Greater Context of the Torah Judaisms it would seem G-d has in “mind”, ones where Gerim and BTs are actually respected as people, not as “proof” of Judaism’s rightness or the rightness of the specific hashgafa the Ger chooses.

There is an enormous religion in the world - lets just call it Christianity - wherein the belief in being converted or being “born again” into the religion is incumbent on all for membership (with few dissenting opinions). No child, born to parents of that religion, has immediate membership. In some circles, if others so much as intuit or perceive that you aren’t converted (for example - moving into a new neighborhood and merely switching churches of the same denomination!!), that you aren’t “born again”, you aren’t fully part of the faith community until there’s some clarification. Public declarations are made whereby members obligate themselves to others, and others hold them responsible for abiding by their shared life ways. Sincerely or not, religious Christians wear ‘transformation’ on their sleeves; the untransformed aren’t considered redeemed in this world or the next. Many dimensions of Orthodox Judaism are opposite this; unless you were born into an Orthodox family (even if you are, there are certain societal, external-to-Torah-mandate pressures that may also have questionable constructive value), there is a particular kind of pressure from the community to bury evidence of being “transformed” - of being a BT - or “worse” - a Convert. At best, one is expected to "grow out" of it and into dress codes/reading habits, speech patterns, etc, of other mortals. I don't think it's simply about us being 'tzniusdik' about it* (see below).

Obviously without question, actual Torah on the subject abounds with insight - but it would probably be better to call it merely nice talk - "but it’s Torah!!" - Exactly!...it's Torah and we “talk” it like chizzuk to little kids!!!... about how R. Akiva was descended from Gerim, how a BT stands in a place where even the greatest cannot stand, how the Gemara says descendents of Gerim will be Talmidei Hakhamim and excel in business, how more than any other counsel in Torah is repeated the mandate not to alienate the Ger…If this is all Torah and we give it lip-service - as we do - what does everything ‘else’ we call Torah mean to us? While I'm asking that question...isn't Torah how we define ourselves?...Or have we now even sublimated Torah to societal norms and mores? (I ask that regarding both the "modern" as well as the "reactionary" kehilot - both arguably sharing in their innovations).

The founders, thinkers, doctrinarians and expounders of the dominant religion in the West have almost always been converts to their faith; whether “cradle Catholics” or evangelical “born-agains” - all must take Confirmation/First Communion or “accept the spirit” (respectively), or something at a benchmark age of their life - often more than once. The hagiographies (books of saints, as well as saint-scholars/leaders - considered to share a high spiritual level in the postlife extended community of the given "church"), document life after life of persons who - already-xtian martyrs aside - became religious in their faith.

Despite the evidence of history and Torah, it would be a scandal if any Gedolei HaTorah- of the very self-same Torah mentioned above (which is to say not kiruv authors or knowledgable popularizers of Torah – B”H we have them - but specifically Gedolei Israel across the spectrum), were found to be Gerim or BTs. It would seem the general attitude would be "Heaven forbid their yichus be perceived as containing anyone but Tzadik ben Tzadik back to Sinai". Heaven forbid they actually be “tainted” by transformation?... Rav Shlomo Wolbe ZTL, is a recent example of such an individual.

What does this mean to our communities - 'children' of one community which was founded and led by Gerim and BTs? And what is Torah (the true source of true yichus), which was Given to these Transformed Ones as the very means of continued Transformation in our own communities...what does it mean to these communities?

And who are we, who would claim to be Shomrei Torah, "children" of Abraham - the Convert?

* Isn't it said in a sense that one isn’t fully yotzei a mitzvah unless one obligates oneself in it’s performance? - it comes from the inside out; you can’t impose sincerity in modesty, for example, on someone. What Gerim and BTs - at least those in the "pressuring" communities - are on the receiving end of isn’t “modesty”. If sincere modesty [about being transformed] can't be imposed-what is being imposed? And what is it we are pressured to hide?


At 11/06/2006 6:38 PM, Anonymous Chaim G. said...

Very insightful and fascinating post. Why just a hyperlink? Why didn't you copy and paste some of it into the BeyondBT thread? That would really have gotten the ball rolling there. Hey it's not too late.

At 11/06/2006 6:42 PM, Anonymous Chaim G. said...

As for the actual contrast you established between Xtianity and Judaism. There are some notable exceptions even post-Biblically.

Reish Lakish (BT) Onkelos(Ger) and the many Gedolei Admori"m who abandoned the anti-Chasidic faith of their immediate forbears (The Kotzker, Rav Leibele Eiger and Rav Tzadok HaKohen to name a few)come to mind as Tzadikim famous for their transformative epiphanies.

At 11/06/2006 6:43 PM, Anonymous Chaim G. said...

BTW what is a Defenstrator?

At 11/06/2006 6:51 PM, Anonymous Chaim G. said...

Heaven forbid their yichus be perceived as containing anyone but Tzadik ben Tzadik back to Sinai".

Perhaps an even more disturbing manifestation, though logical conclusion, of this attitude is:
"Heaven forbid their biography include a pre-Tzidkus unsteady growth period. Let not even one moment of their lives contain anything but homogenous Tzidkus extending from cradle to coffin"

Had it not been banned the book "The Making of a Godol" might have done much to reverse this misconception but, alas, censorship won the day.

At 11/06/2006 7:01 PM, Anonymous Chaim G. said...

Nowadays, most people who convert are exposed first to dis-embodied ideas, beliefs, books, expressions of ideal views of Judaism, not first to communities, astounding scholars, etc.

As a JFB I may lack authority to opine here but "fools rush in".

IMO this is still an important feature that distinguishes the BT dynamic from that of the Ger. Gerus is not merely about adopting a faith it is about gaining citizenship in a stateless nation. It will not do for a Ger to think "I love Judaism, it's Jews that I can't stand." Whereas for a BT, at least until Jewish self-hatred and internalized anti-Semitism have been "worked out" this may be an acceptable transitional phase.

I think the original poster at BeyondBT was looking for this kind of a contarst. What do you think?

At 11/07/2006 5:30 PM, Blogger Pierre Sogol said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11/07/2006 5:32 PM, Blogger Pierre Sogol said...

Let see...um...6:38 thanks! 6:42 maybe they would be better understood as exceptions to the rule. 6:43 Defenestration is the act of throwing things out of windows. 6:51 I only read the portion of the intro from "MOG" available at yashar books, but it's second edition I haven't heard is to have any real changes, just more sources, etc...the environment is probably such that the book will have a positive affect, but not among the younger generation or those who won't care either way. 7:01 sounds like a really pregnant topic! text and statelessness, etc... thanks! I will chew on these things...


Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>