Conversion

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While Judaism does not proselytize it does welcome converts who come on their own initiative. The process is complex and briefly described below. The purpose of the summaries below are for educational purposes only.

Bet Din for Conversion

  1. All aspects of conversion need the presence of bet din.[1] After the fact, according to some opinions the conversion is valid as long as the kabbalat mitzvot was done in the presence of bet din. In such a case we'd be strict to require another conversion.[2]
  2. The Bet Din for conversions do not need to have three torah scholars.[3]

Order of Procedure

  1. The milah is done before the tevilah. If they did the tevilah before the milah there is a major dispute if the conversion is effective and therefore, they should repeat the tevilah.[4]

Time

  1. A conversion should only be done during the day. After the fact, it is necessary for accepting mitvzot and it is a dispute if it is necessary only for accepting mitzvot or all parts of conversion.[5]

Tevilah

  1. Some say that shehechiyanu is recited after the tevilah and completion of conversion.[6]

Tevilah of Women

  1. Many poskim hold that tevilah needs to be done in the presence of bet din. For a woman they can wear a loosely fitted robe that covers her whole body while entering the mikveh in the presence of bet din.[7]

Pregnant Woman Conversion

  1. If a pregnant woman converts she should notify the bet din that she is pregnant otherwise it could be that the conversion for the baby is ineffective.[8]
  2. If the fetus was a boy and is born on Shabbat there is a discussion if the milah can be done on the subsequent Shabbat or should be delayed to Sunday.[9]

Acceptance of Mitzvot

  1. A prospective ger must accept all of the mitzvot in front of a Bet Din of three men during the day.[10] If the convert accepted the mitzvot but not in front of a Bet Din the conversion is invalid.[11]
  2. If the convert accepted mitzvot but knows or even intends that due to certain desires he won’t be able to fulfill a certain mitzvah it is nonetheless absolutely considered acceptance of mitzvot.[12] Others argue if he intends not to keep a mitzvah because of a desire that is an invalid conversion.[13]
  3. If the convert said that he accepted mitzvot but in his heart did not intend on keeping the mitzvot that is an invalid conversion.[14] If it isn't clear if they accepted mitzvot, some say that it is a questionable conversion.[15]
  4. If the convert accepted all the mitzvot besides one mitzvah the Bet Din should not accept such a convert. After the fact, some say that it is a valid conversion,[16] while most poskim hold that the conversion is invalid.[17]
  5. If the convert intends to keep the mitzvot as he observes other "religious" Jews observing even though it isn't in fact all the mitzvot properly there is a discussion if that is a valid acceptance of mitzvot.[18]
  6. If the convert accepted all the mitzvot besides a rabbinic mitzvah after the fact the conversion is valid.[19]
  7. If the convert is converting for marriage after the fact the conversion is valid as long as they completely accepted all of the mitzvot.[20]
  8. If she didn’t accept mitzvot at the time of the tevilah but planned on accepting mitzvot later that isn’t considered an acceptance of mitzvot until the later time. However, accepting mitzvot is a prerequisite for tevila and the tevila needs to be repeated.[21]
  9. A bet din who accepts converts who don't intent to fulfill the mitzvot are causing a major obstacle to other Jews who will think that they are completely acceptable Jews.[22]

Claiming Oneself is Jewish

  1. If a person was assumed to be a non-Jew and wasn't acting Jewish and now he claims that his mother was Jewish he is not trusted.[23]

Milah

  1. A non-Jew who already had a medical circumcision or was born circumcised needs a hatafat dam brit, and no bracha is recited.[24]
  2. A non-Jew who can't have a milah for medical reasons can't convert.[25]

Milah by Non-Jew

  1. The milah of gerut certainly needs to be lishma and if done by a non-Jew is invalid and needs hatafat dam brit.[26]

Milah with Anesthesia

  1. Doing local anesthesia is permitted for an adult milah. Some permit even general anesthesia.[27]

Adoption

  1. An adopted child should be converted.[28]

Conversion for Marriage

  1. Initially a bet din may not convert for marriage but after the fact it is acceptable.[29]
  2. Even in a circumstance where it is permitted to convert for marriage, the Bet Din should be vigilant in checking and ensuring that the convert for marriage accepts the mitzvot completely.[30]
  3. The bet din should investigate why the convert is converting and only accept him if his intentions are pure or bet din can assess that they will become pure.[31]
  4. Some poskim hold that it isn't considered for marriage if either way they're going to continue to stay married even though she remains non-Jewish.[32]
  5. Also, according to the decision of the bet din it is possible to accept a convert for marriage if the consequences are that potentially the husband might be turned away from religion altogether if his "wife" can't convert.[33]

Milah for Baby Mistakenly Assumed to Be Jewish

  1. The Mohel himself is not trusted to say that the milah was done for conversion, he would need witnesses for that.[34] Anyway, a bet din of three is necessary.[35]
  2. If they did a brit milah mistakenly thinking that the baby was Jewish and did it as a mitzvah and then later realize the children wasn’t Jewish, many poskim hold that the original milah is effective, while others require a new hatafat dam brit.[36]

Disclosure of Mitzvot

  1. If the Bet Din doesn’t tell the prospective convert about the mitzvot, the conversion is nonetheless valid if he accepted to keep the mitzvot when he’ll learn about them.[37]

Non-Jew Mixed into Family

  1. Many poskim hold that if an invalid conversion was done and the non-Jew married into a Jewish family and generations later it is unknown, nonetheless, that is a serious issue and needs to be investigated and revealed.[38]

Hatafat Dam Brit

  1. A non-Jew who had a medical circumcision and know wants to become Jewish needs hatafat dam brit without a bracha.[39]
  2. Hatafat dam brit is deoritta according to most poskim.[40]
  3. Some say that scratching the area of the milah with a nail is sufficient for hatafat dam brit.[41]Others hold that it is necessary to extract a drop of blood.[42]

Adoption and Child Conversions

  1. If the parents aren't religious some say that it isn't considered a zachut for the child to be converted and therefore it is invalid even if the child later is religious. Others argue that it is still valid.[43] Therefore, a bet din may not do such a conversion where the parents aren't religious.[44] After the fact, if the child wants to be Jewish when he is bar or bat mitzvah they should do another tevilah and accept the mitzvot before bet din. If he doesn't want to be Jewish and protests, certainly the original conversion is uprooted. If he does want to be Jewish and not do another tevila and acceptance of mitzvot before bet din, there is no clear consensus if he is Jewish, though many hold he is not Jewish.[45]
  2. If the parents are religious it is a valid conversion.[46]
  3. It is important to tell the children that they were converted and can accept or reject Judaism[47] before they become bar or bat mitzvah so that they can either accept Judaism or protest the conversion.[48] If he weren't told, he would be able to protest or accept Judaism whenever he finds out.[49]
  4. If a child is converted by bet din when he is bar or bat mitzvah he could protest the conversion or accept Torah and mitzvot. A child who converts with his parents might not to be able to protest the conversion when he becomes bar or bat mitzvah.[50]
  5. There is no mitzvah to adopt and convert a non-Jewish child.[51]
  6. There is a discussion whether the bracha for the tevila of a child convert is recited by the bet din or child.[52]
  7. Yichud with children who are adopted is a serious halachic issue and should be dealt with a Rav in advance.[53]

Russian and Ethiopian Jews

  1. Regarding Ethiopians, Igrot Moshe EH 9:1, Tzitz Eliezer 12:66, 17:48, Yabia Omer EH 8:11, Minchat Avraham 1:16
  2. Radvaz 4:19 and in Divrei Dovid 5 and 9 writes that the Jews of Ethiopia are certainly Jewish and from the tribe of Dan. The Maharikash his student reiterated this point. Yabia Omer EH 8:11 thinks that on this basis we should not question the authenticity of the Jews from Ethiopia as being Jewish. He concludes that they should be accepted without conversion and there is no issue with mamzerut. His reasons that there is no issue of mamzerut are like the Radvaz described that it could be that both their kiddushin and gittin were invalid. Also, Rav Ovadia adds that according to their current tradition their kiddushin didn't involve any giving of money to effectuate the kiddushin which is certainly invalid. Rav Moshe Feinstein, however, in Igrot Moshe EH 5:1 questions the Radvaz that it isn't clear how the Radvaz knew that they were certainly Jewish since they didn't observe the Torah. He therefore treats them as questionably Jewish but says that there is no concern of mamzerut if they do convert. Either way they should be saved from trouble because they might be Jewish. Also, they should be accepted with open arms either as Jews from birth or converts. Tzitz Eliezer 12:66 also questions the authenticity of the Jewishness of the Ethiopian Jews. He thinks that they need to convert but also they would be questionably mamzerim if they want to marry into the Jewish people. His opinion is further clarified in 17:48. There he cites Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Elyashiv, and Minchat Yitzchak as agreeing that the Ethiopians would need to convert to be accepted as Jews. Rav Avraham Shapira in Minchat Avraham 1:16 and Barkay v. 3 writes that the chief rabbinate accepted the proof from the Radvaz but because there are some concerns that they aren't Jewish they should convert as a chumra. Yalkut Yosef (Klalei Giyur p. 105-6) writes that his father, Rav Ovadia Yosef, accepted this ruling in practice so that there wouldn't be any disputes. Rav Hershel Schachter describes the analytical background of this discussion.
  3. Yabia Omer EH 7:1 ruled that the Russian Jews who say that they're Jewish are believed, however, it is important that they clarify their definition of Jewish. If they know that Judaism depends on the mother then they can be believed. His primary source is that we trust someone who says he's Jewish since the majority of those who claim that they're Jewish are in fact Jewish as long as there wasn't any presumption that they are non-Jewish. He says that this majority applies whether or not they are observant of halacha when they make this claim. This principle that we can rely on majority even if the person currently isn't religious is the subject of debate of rishonim and achronim. Piskei Din Shel Batei Hadin Harabanim v. 9 p. 357 describes this at length. The case they're discussing is about a son who claims he's Jewish but his mother claims she and by extension he are not. In summary, most rishonim (Tosfot Yevamot 47a, Rabbenu Tam in Sefer Hayashar, Ramban, Rashba, etc) hold that claiming that you're Jewish is enough to presume that you're Jewish even if there is no other evidence to support that claim unless there is a presumption that previously he was assumed to be a non-Jew. However, the Meiri and Maggid Mishna hold that further proof is necessary in order to get married. The Bach YD 268 and Shach sides with the lenient rishonim, while the Bet Hillel EH 2 sides with the strict rishonim. Rav Chaim Ozer 3:27 does seem to support the strict approach. Rav Ovadia sided with the Bach who is lenient unlike the Bet Hillel. Rav Moshe in Igrot Moshe EH 1:8 also seems to be strict.

Shabbat

  1. A non-Jew should not observe Shabbat.[54]
  2. A convert who did milah and didn't do tevilah, according to some poskim should specifically do melacha on Shabbat.[55] However, most poskim hold that it isn't necessary and shouldn't do melacha.[56]
  3. A Jew who isn't certain that he is going to convert to be strict, between when he is aware of this doubt and when he converts, he has a dillema whether he should keep Shabbat. If he's non-Jewish he can't keep Shabbat, but if he's Jewish he can. See note for some solutions.[57]

Teaching Torah

  1. Meiri Sanhedrin 59a s.v. ben writes that a non-Jew who is interested in converting can learn Torah.

Volunteering Mitzvot as a Non-Jew

  1. A non-Jew who volunteers to do mitzvot according to many opinions is rewarded. However, they may not observe mitzvot as an obligation because doing so is considered creating a new religion.[58]

Conservative Conversions

  1. Conservative conversions are generally considered invalid by Orthodox halacha.[59]

Baal Teshuva

  1. There is a rabbinic tevilah for someone who completely left Jewish practice and wants to do teshuva.[60]
  2. The general halacha is that if the mother is Jewish the child is Jewish.[61]

Sources

  1. The Gemara Yevamot 46b establishes that conversion requires the supervision of a bet din of three members. Tosfot s.v. mishpat explains that everyone agrees to this halacha even those who say a bet din can sometimes consist of one member agree here. This is accepted by the Rambam (Isurei Biyah 13:6) and Shulchan Aruch YD 268:3. Shulchan Aruch YD 268:3 writes that after the fact the bet din is only necessary for the acceptance of mitzvot, while the Rambam and Rif hold it is necessary for the milah and tevilah as well.
    • Tosfot s.v. mishpat writes that even though we don’t have semicha we can still perform semicha based on the principle of shelichutyahu.
  2. What is the presence of Bet Din necessary for?
    • Tosfot Yevamot 45b s.v. mi holds it is necessary for kabbalat mitzvot and not other aspects of the conversion except initially.
    • Rambam Isurei Biya 13:9 holds the fact that he is acting Jewish is only a proof that he did a valid conversion earlier.
    • Ramban, Rashba, and Nemukei Yosef in understanding the Rif hold that kabbalat mitzvot is the only thing that is necessary before Bet Din in order to have some conversion not to invalidate the children. However, unless entire conversion is in front of Bet Din the convert can’t marry a Jewish woman.
    • Ritva 45b writes that Bet Din is necessary for everything even after the fact. The gemara means that even if you don’t intend for conversion it is still valid.
    • Hagahot Mordechai Yevamot 4:111 says that if a convert converted without a bet din some say that the conversion is invalid while others say it is acceptable. Darkei Moshe 268:3 understands that this corresponds to the opinions of Tosfot and Rambam. Mordechai Yevamot 4:36 quotes Rabbenu Simcha and Rabbi Yehuda Bar Yom Tov who hold that a conversion only needs one judge.
    • Shulchan Aruch YD 268:3 writes the opinion of Tosfot and Rosh as the anonymous opinion and then notes the opinion of the Rif and Rambam by name. Yabia Omer YD 1:19 is strict even though it seems to be an explain of stam vyesh. Achiezer 3:27 implies that even after the fact not having bet din for milah or tevila is an issue like the Rif and Rambam. Similarly, Perach Mateh Aharon 2:51 writes that we’re strict for rif and rambam that if lacking bet din you need to do it again.
  3. Igrot Moshe YD 1:159 clarifies that the three people who serve as a bet din don't all need to be torah scholars.
  4. Rama YD 268:1 quotes a dispute between the Ramban and Raah whether the order is essential after the fact, the Ramban positing that it doesn't and the Raah holding it does. The Shach 268:2 adds that they should do the tevilah again because of this dispute.
  5. Bach CM 5:6 we should be strict about a din at night because of the Rashbam and Smag that a din at night is effective.
  6. Radvaz 1:434 holds that a shehechiyanu is recited at the completion of conversion (and not at the milah) since he is now joyous that he is now able to fulfill mitzvot.
  7. Rambam and Shulchan Aruch hold that the tevila of both men and women need to be in front of bet din. Minchat Yitzchak 4:34:3 writes that it is possible that after the fact it is an effective conversion since according to Tosfot a bet din isn't necessary for tevila and also according to others it might be effective since the bet din knows that she went into the mikveh. Yabia Omer YD 1:19 says that they need to do the gerut again because it might not have been a valid gerut at all. He would allow her to wear a loosely fitted robe or a sheet above the water to make it more modest.
    • Igrot Moshe YD 2:127 agrees that it is an unresolved machloket and needs to be redone. However, in Igrot Moshe 3:112 (11 years after previous one) he says that even if only one of the judges saw the woman go into the mikvah and others were there and heard it, it is valid. There he explains that even according to the Rambam and Rif it is valid since the judges know she went to the mikveh properly even though they didn't see it. It seems to be contradiction to his earlier teshuva. Teshuvot Vehanhagot 1:621 also says that it needs to be redone if the tevila was done without the bet din watching in the room.
  8. Dagul Mirvava 268:6 notes that the presence of bet din is necessary for the tevila of the baby (since the baby doesn't have kabbalat mitzvot). If the bet din wasn't aware of the fetus it is like the bet din isn't present. Aruch Hashulchan 268:11 is lenient since we hold like the opinion that the fetus is part of the mother and the conversion of the mother works for the baby. Igrot Moshe YD 1:158 says that it is proper to be strict for the dagul mirvava.
  9. Rav Dovid Karliner (Piskei Halachot p. 7 fnt. 5) writes that if a pregnant woman converted with her fetus and the fetus is a boy, it can have the milah on Shabbat. He argues with the Ramban that the milah is part of the gerut. Rav Chaim Ozer in Achiezer 4:44 agreed.
  10. Tosfot Yevamot 45b s.v. mi clarifies that accepting mitzvot is a critical part of conversion and is invalid without it. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 268:3 codifies Tosfot. Chemdat Shlomo 1:29, Bet Meir, Achiezer, and Igrot Moshe all hold that acceptance of mitzvot is critical and without it the conversion isn’t valid.
  11. Tosfot Yevamot 45b s.v. mi, Ramban Yevamot 45b, Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 268:3
  12. Achiezer 3:26:4 explains that accepting to keep the mitzvot doesn’t mean that he must accept to actually practice all of them. Accepting mitzvot means accepting that they’re all true and binding. If he says that he doesn’t want to accept one mitzvah it isn’t an acceptance of mitzvot. But he says he accepts all mitzvot but because of a certain desire intends not to keep one mitzvah it is nonetheless a valid conversion. Minchat Asher (Shabbat 34:1) writes that if he isn’t intending to violate a mitzvah because of a desire but rather just knows that likely because of the difficulty of mitzvot that he will be overcome with desire and not fulfill a mitzvah that is certainly considered a valid conversion.
  13. Dvar Avraham argues that it shouldn’t be a valid conversion but isn’t completely convinced that after the fact it is invalid. Lhorot Natan is convinced that the Achiezer is incorrect. Accepting mitzvot means accepting actually practicing all the mitzvot.
  14. Bet Yitzchak YD 2:100:9, Achiezer 3:26, Igrot Moshe YD 1:157 and 3:108, Minchat Yitzchak 6:107. Bet Yitzchak explains that intentions can't invalidate a statement (dvarim shebelev einam dvarim) for matters that relate to two people, however, conversion is between a person and Hashem and one's intentions certainly do count. Therefore, if the convert says that they plan to keep Torah but intends otherwise it is invalid.
    • In a specific case of a woman who said she accepted mitzvot but had in mind to violate some halachot, Igrot Moshe 3:108 writes that it is a valid conversion. His reasons are (1) since her children are practicing Judaism she isn't trusted about them to say that they're not Jewish. (2) dvar shebelev einam dvarim unless there is a clear circumstance that everyone knew that contradicts her words. (3) If she accepts the mitzvot but because of financial pressures she won't be able to keep all the mitzvot under pressure that is an acceptance. The last reason he isn't certain about. However, regarding (1) Achiezer 3:26:2 argues that for the actual acceptance of mitzvot dvarim shebelev isn't relevant since it is a matter between him and heaven. If he doesn't accept mitzvot it is invalid.
  15. Igrot Moshe YD 3:106 writes that although the convert said that they accept mitzvot but the circumstances make it clear that this statement is questionable, the validity of the conversion is questionable. Kger Kezrach ch. 32 discusses this opinion and supports it.
  16. Igrot Moshe YD 3:106
    • Rashi 31a s.v. gayrey says that Hillel did a conversion even though the convert said he didn't intend to accept one thing because he didn't deny the oral Torah but didn't believe it was from Hashem and Hillel knew he would convince him otherwise. Igrot Moshe 3:106 learns from Rashi that excluding one thing doesn't invalidate the conversion but you shouldn't do such a conversion unless you know afterwards he will accept it. Minchat Asher Shabbat 34:1 understands this Rashi differently. He did accept the oral Torah but wasn't convinced it was divine. That is considered like he accepted the Torah because he believed in the oral Torah and just didn't believe in the divine source of the oral Torah and for that Hillel knew he'd correct him later.
  17. Bet Yitzchak, Biur Halacha 304. Achiezer 3:26 is uncertain. It seems that Rav Moshe retracted because both in Igrot Moshe YD 3:107 and 3:108 which are written after 3:106 he says that it isn’t a valid conversion. Igrot Moshe 3:106 holds that chutz mdvar echad is only lechatchila but in 3:107 and 3:108 he says that isn't the case.
  18. Igrot Moshe 3:106 suggests that perhaps it is an acceptance of mitzvot if she plans on doing mitzvot like other "religious" Jews even though they violate certain halachot such as tzeniyut. Though he isn't ready to be lenient based on that logic.
  19. Bet Meir, Biur Halacha. Achiezer 3:26 isn’t certain if it is a valid conversion on a biblical level or not at all.
  20. Yevamot 24b, Igrot Moshe, Achiezer, Dvar Avraham
  21. Igrot Moshe 3:108
  22. Bet Yitzchak YD 2:100:11 writes that it isn't lifnei iver for the convert himself since it is the convert's obligation to keep Torah and he isn't responsible for his actions (Rashi Niddah 13a). However, he adds that it is a problem since others will think that they are Jewish and that is a major problem for them. Therefore, he says it isn't proper to accept such a convert who doesn't intend to keep mitzvot. Minchat Shlomo 1:35:3 disagrees and holds that it is lifnei iver to cause him to become Jewish and be punished for his sins. Igrot Moshe YD 1:157 writes that there is no reason to accept a convert who isn't going to practice mitzvot.
  23. Achiezer 3:27
  24. Tosfot Yevamot 46b s.v. drabbi yosi quotes a dispute between the Bahag and Rabbenu Chananel whether a convert who already has a milah needs hatafat dam brit. Bahag holds he does. The Tur 268:1 cites the Itur who distinguishes between a non-Jew born without a foreskin who doesn't need a hatafat dam brit, and a convert who had a medical circumcision previously who needs a hatafat dam brit. Bet Yosef culls the opinion of the Rif Shabbat 55b, Rosh Shabbat 19:5, and Rambam Shabbat 1:7 as holding like the Bahag. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 268:1 codifies this opinion that he needs a hatafat dam brit without a bracha. Shach 268:1 explains that there is no bracha because it is a dispute in the rishonim.
  25. Tosfot Yevamot 46b s.v. drabbi yosi writes that if a male's male organ was cut off he can still convert and he becomes Jewish with tevilah like a woman. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 268:1 codifies this opinion. Although someone who can't have a milah for medical reasons seems to be similar to that case, the Achiezer 4:45 and 4:46 rejects that comparison and holds that he can't convert. This is also the opinion of Zecher Yitzchak 3, Derech Pikudecha (Mitzchak Aseh 2, Dibbur 30), Rav Kook (Daat Kohen 150), and Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank YD 220. Rav Kook distinguishes between from the case of Tosfot since the medical situation could be temporary, it could be possible if they want to put themselves in danger, or that we don’t have shiluchutayhu for an uncommon situation.
  26. Achiezer 3:27
  27. Teshuvot Vehanhagot 1:590 and 2:510 only allows local anthesia and writes that this is the minhag. Though they shouldn't do general anesthesia because it is like one is doing the mitzvah thoughtlessly (mitasek). He says that the milah is part of the process of gerut and must be done with intent to accept the torah at that time and being under anesthesia disables a person from accepting the torah then. Yabia Omer YD 5:22 disagrees and allows local or general anesthesia when discussing an adult's milah. Imrei Yosher 2:140 writes that the reason that one shouldn't use any anesthesia is because milah should involve pain and the minhag was never to use anesthesia even though it was available.
    • Yabia Omer YD 5:22 proves that being asleep is still able to fulfill mitzvot through his agency as the gemara Gittin 70b indicates and is codified by Bet Shmuel EH 121:2. Seridei Esh 3:96 only allowed local. Chelkat Yoav (Ohel Moed 1:7 cited by Yabia Omer) lenient. According to Maharach Or Zaruah 11 the purpose of the milah is the result and isn't an action that you need to appoint someone with shelichut. He disagrees with the Koret Habrit (261:4) who holds that the milah shouldn't have anesthesia because it should involve pain.
  28. Igrot Moshe YD 2:126 writes that you can't trust the adoption agency that the baby is Jewish. If you did then it would be a problem of asufi. However, we assume he's non-Jewish and can convert.
  29. Yevamot 24b. The Ritva writes that it is acceptable after the fact because of the extenuating circumstance of wanting to get married they decided to convert and that is binding. Hagahot Mordechai (Yevamot 4:101 s.v. katuv) seems to write that it is valid only if afterwards we see that they keep Judaism properly.
  30. Igrot Moshe YD 1:159 notes that since many who convert for marriage don't really accept mitzvot one should be very weary of accepting such a convert. He says that the majority of converts for marriage in the 1950s in America are invalid because they didn't actually accept mitzvot. Bet Yitzchak YD 2:100:9 echoes this sentiment in Ashkenazic countries in the 1800s.
  31. Achiezer 3:27 explains that the halacha that we check for the intentions didn't stop applying. The bet din has to decide if he's doing it for pure intent or for marriage or any other reason in which case they shouldn't accept him. If they can assess the situation and think that he will eventually accept Torah for pure intent it is acceptable to accept him even if his original intentions aren't pure. Achiezer 3:26:2 suggests that if it is evident to the bet din that his intent isn't pure then they can't accept the convert initially. However, if it isn't clear even after investigation then they can.
  32. Achiezer 3:26:7
  33. Achiezer 3:26:7 based on Rav Shlomo Kluger. See Minchat Yitzchak 6:107 s.v. vheneh who writes that if a Jew married a non-Jew it is better to leave her as a non-Jew than have her convert and not keep the laws of niddah, which is worse.
  34. Igrot Moshe 2:128 writes that the mohel isn't trusted to say it was for gerut. He needs another witness so that there's at least two witnesses. Anyway, there should be three for a bet din. He doesn't rely on a safek safeka of the Rach and maybe the mohel did it for conversion.
  35. Shulchan Aruch 268:3. Igrot Moshe YD 2:126 implies that the three people constituting the bet din need to be aware that they're watching a process of conversion and not thinking it is just a regular milah. However, they don't need to formally think that they're doing the conversion as the bet din.
  36. In terms of intent, Melamed Lhoil 2:82 writes that intent for a gerut of mitzvah is the same intent for milah of gerut and nothing else is necessary. Igrot Moshe YD 1:158 s.v. vheneh and Har Tzvi YD 2:219 agree. However, Gerut Khilchata 3:4 p. 25 quotes that Rav Elyashiv disagreed.
    • In terms of having the presence of a Bet Din, Igrot Moshe YD 1:158 writes that there is room to be lenient for several reasons: (a) According to the Bach 268:7 a bet din isn’t necessary for milah. (b) According to the Bet Yosef a bet din is necessary for milah but perhaps that’s only if the milah is done second. (c) Even if a milah was done without a bet din according to Tosfot that is acceptable since the kabbalat mitzvot was in bet din. (d) If a convert had a milah without a bet din they don’t need to do hatafat dam brit according to the Rabbenu Chananel.
    • * Igrot Moshe 2:126 is lenient not to require hatafat dam brit because likely the mohel knew that the baby was non-Jewish and there were another two religious people in attendance.
    • Igrot Moshe YD 3:105 writes that in an extenuating circumstance it is permissible to rely on the opinion that hatafat dam brit isn't necessary if there was a milah done for a mitzvah and it could be assumed that there were 3 religious men at the brit or at least publicized to 3 religious men that there was going to be a brit.
  37. Nemukei Yosef (Yevamot 16a s.v. tanu), Bet Yosef YD 268:2, Shach 268:3, Chemdat Shlomo 1:29, Igrot Moshe YD 1:159
  38. Rav Elyashiv (Kovetz Teshuvot 4:136) writes that the principle of a mamzer that got mixed into a family does not need to be revealed and is permitted when it is in later generations unknown does not apply to non-Jews. A non-Jew women who married a Jew all the children are non-Jewish and can impact later generations. Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Ktzaruf Kesef p. 11 cited by R’ Yitzchaki cited below) agreed. See Rav Yoel Amital’s article in Hamaayan where he argues that the Dvar Yehoshua and Chazon Ish EH 1:18 think that it is applicable to non-Jews and Rav Dovid Yitzchaki who argues that the Chazon Ish does not mean that.
  39. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 268:1, Shach 268:2
  40. Achiezer 3:27 unlike Yam Shel Shlomo
  41. Teshuvot Vehanhagot 2:510
  42. Achiezer 3:27 writes that the hatafat dam brit is sufficient with a prick to make it only bleed a drop.
    • Bet Yitzchak EH 1:29:8 suggests that for a child conversion with non-religious parents, the mother non-Jewish and father Jewish, it is possibly a benefit to the child since will merit a portion in olam haba, even if he will sin. Nonetheless, he says that since it isn't a clear benefit he would be able to protest later even according to the Chatom Sofer. Bet Yitzchak YD 2:100:11 reiterates this point.
    • Igrot Moshe YD 1:158 implies that it isn't clear if it is a benefit to the child if he is going to be raised by non-religious parents, since he can have olam haba. Therefore, he thinks it would be proper for him to do another tevilah when he becomes bar or bat mitzvah and accept mitzvot. He raises this possibility again in Igrot Moshe EH 4:26:3. There he writes that if the children are going to a Jewish day school and the parents are intermarried they should convert the children and it will be a benefit to them since they go to a Jewish day school, even though it isn't a clear benefit.
    • Minchat Yitzchak 3:99 writes that the conversion of a child for a non-religious couple would be invalid since it isn't a favor for the child since he could be non-Jewish and not be culpable for any Torah prohibitions, but now that he is Jewish he is obligated to follow the Torah and will be punished for not doing so. Since he isn't going to be brought up in a religious environment he is likely not going to be religious when he grows up. Even if it turns out that he is religious later it is still invalid since at the time of the conversion it didn't seem like a benefit to the child. Secondly, we couldn't assume he's Jewish until he is bar or bat mitzvah and accepted mitzvot because until then it won't be clear that he'll accept Judaism. Thirdly, in order to be Jewish later he must accept mitzvot when he becomes bar or bat mitzvah (Tosfot Sanhedrin 68b). Minchat Yitzchak 6:105 reiterates this position. He notes the opinion of the Bach 268 and Ritva Ketubot 11a in understanding Rashi that the conversion is only for rabbinic purposes and wonders how he could marry a Jewish woman on that basis. Tosfot Ketubot 11a also assumes that the conversion is only rabbinic but nonetheless concludes that he is treated like a Jew in all respects even for biblical laws. The Rashba and Ritva Ketubot 11a though hold that the conversion is completely and unquestionably biblically valid.
    • Seridei Esh 1:46 says it is ineffective even after the fact, but in 2:63 (written earlier) he says that initially you shouldn't convert a child for non-religious parents. Rav Elyashiv (Kovetz Teshuvot 1:29) argues with Rav Moshe that it is not a zechut since even if he isn't aware of the sins he still needs atonement for them. Seemingly it would be ineffective even after the fact. Similarly, Rav Kook (Daat Kohen YD 147) writes 3 reasons why they can't accept a child convert for a non-religious couple: a) Every convert needs kabbalat mitzvot and the parents can express that their intention to accept mitzvot and raise him in that spirit. b) If the child himself want the conversion he needs to have his parents request the conversion (based on Ravyah) but if the parents don't plan to raise him to mitzvot it is like they're not asking for conversion. c) There is no mechanism of sheliychutahu for the bet din to perform the conversion since it isn't such an important spiritual loss for them to covert in such a case. Seemingly it should be ineffective even after the fact.
    • However, Rav Herzog (Heichal Yitzchak EH 1:21) writes that the bet din shouldn't initially accept such a convert if the parents aren't religious. Also, Piskei Din of Batei Din HaRabbanim v. 1 pp. 375-379 records the ruling of Rav Elyashiv, Rav Jolty, and Rav Yakov Ades that they shouldn't do such a conversion but after the fact the conversion is subject to doubt whether it is valid.
    • Klalei Hagiyur of Rav Yitzchak Yosef pp. 53-64 collects many who hold that the conversion is only valid if the parents are religious and supports this from Rav Kook in Daat Kohen YD 147, Zecher Yitzchak 2, Rav Elyashiv (Kovetz Teshuvot 1:103), Shevet Halevi 6:202, Chelkat Yakov 1:128:4, Rav Yitzchak Elchanan quoted by Mateh Levi 2:55, and Seridei Esh 2:61:3. He also says that he heard it from his father Rav Ovadia Yosef. However, he notes that this is in opposition to the Bet Yitzchak and Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe 1:158, EH 4:26:3) and Dibrot Moshe (Shabbat 64:11) where he is inclined to this possibility but not certain.
  43. Yalkut Yosef concludes not to convert a child with non-religious parents. He adds that this was also the position of Rav Herzog (Heichal Yitzchak EH 1:21), Rav Shaul Yisraeli (Mishpatei Shaul 38), and Rav Massas (Shemesh Umagen 3:62).
  44. Yalkut Yosef cites Piskei Din Harabbanim v. 1 pp. 375-379 by Rav Yakov Ades, Rav Elyashiv, and Rav Jolty that after the fact it isn't clear that it is ineffective.
  45. Igrot Moshe YD 1:162 writes that the child can protest even according to the Chatom Sofer since it could be that he would have preferred non-Jewish adopted parents. Yalkut Yosef (Klalei Hagiyur p. 53) agrees that we would accept an adopted child for conversion if the parents are religious. Minchat Yitzchak 3:99 doesn't recommend it and only would allow it after the fact if they already did the adoption. Igrot Moshe concludes that he doesn't recommend adopting non-Jewish children and converting them since there is no mitzvah to do so.
    • Issues with adoption: the parents need to be religious for the conversion to be valid, they need to tell the child before he becomes a bar or bat mitzvah and have him accept mitzvot. If he doesn't know his practicing Judaism isn't an implicit acceptance. Also, the entire concept of accepting a child convert when he is too young to choose to covert is a major question. The Ravyah cited by Mordechai (Yevamot 4:40) writes that would can't convert a child unless he explicit requests it. (This is also the opinion of the Raah cited by Shitah Mikubeset Ketubot 11a.) Minchat Yitzchak isn't certain if the Ravyah would allow the conversion after the fact if it wasn't against the child's will but the child didn't say anything, as is the case with a baby. He also notes that the Bach and Darkei Moshe understand that the Ran disagrees with this Ravyah. Additionally, the Rambam disagrees with the Ravyah. Nonetheless, the Shach cites the Ravyah and together with Shulchan Aruch would hold that it is only possible to convert a child if the parents agreed or the child requests it. Therefore, Minchat Yitzchak says that even for a religious couple it isn't advised to adopt and convert, though after the fact he thinks it is possible to rely on the Ran and Rambam and perhaps his understanding of the Ravyah. Similarly, Shevet Halevi 6:202 rules that even according to the Ravyah it is permitted in cases of adoption because it isn't against the will of the child.
  46. Meged Yehuda YD 28 writes that he needs to know he's Jewish otherwise he could protest later in life, but he doesn't not need to know that he can protest. Rav Soloveitchik in Mpeninei Harav p. 243 wasn't sure about this.
  47. Igrot Moshe YD 1:162 s.v. ub'esem implies that even if the child never found out his entire life it is a valid conversion, however, it is ill-advised because he will likely find out and you wouldn't want him to protest the conversion at a later age. Minchat Yitzchak 3:99:13 disagrees on the grounds that not protesting is accepting the mitzvot and if a child never did that he did not accept the mitzvot and is not Jewish. This position is evident in Tosfot Sanhedrin 68b.
    • Kaneh Bosem YD 1:115 considers that according to the strict halacha it isn't necessary to tell the convert that he is a convert but after he asked Dayan Weiss he concludes that you must tell the convert. His reasoning was that according to Tosfot Sanhedrin 68b without telling the convert it isn't considered a valid acceptance of mitzvot and according to Tosfot Ketubot 11a without telling them it remains a rabbinic conversion instead of a biblical one. However, according to the Rashba and Ritva Ketubot 11a it might not be necessary ever to tell them. Also, according to the Chatom Sofer YD 253 since the child converted with the parents the child can't reject Judaism and accordingly wouldn't be necessary to tell them.
  48. Igrot Moshe YD 1:162 thinks that since the only reason we can assume he is Jewish until he protests is because there is an assumption that when growing up in a Jewish family he is going to accept the mitzvot when he becomes bar or bat mitzvah. However, if they weren't told until they were teenagers or after it isn't such a clear presumption. Once he is independent and also has a greater temptation to sin there is no assumption he will accept mitzvot. Therefore it would even be questionable to allow him to marry a Jewish girl because of the concern that he will later find out that he was converted and protest it and become a non-Jew married to a Jewish woman. Minchat Yitzchak 3:99:13 agrees. Shevet Halevi 5:250 also concludes that it is necessary to tell the convert that he was converted as a child otherwise we can't assume that they're Jewish because they might later find out and protest it. Even in an extenuating circumstance it is necessary to tell the child.
  49. Chatom Sofer YD 253 writes that a child who converted with his parents can't later protest the conversion. This is premised on the opinion of the Rif, who doesn't allow a child convert to protest later, and Bahag, who wouldn't allow a child conversion without parent's consent. He also believes this is the opinion of the Rambam that it is only possible for a child convert to protest the conversion if it wasn't done by the request of his parents. Pitchei Teshuva 268:8 cites this teshuva. Bet Yitzchak 1:29:8 notes that this position is against Shulchan Aruch and although the Chatom Sofer's view should be noted we don't accept it.
  50. Minchat Yitzchak 3:99:1 quoting Rashba Ketubot 11a, Tosfot Ketubot 44a s.v. hagiyoret, and Ran Ketubot 44a. Igrot Moshe YD 1:162 agrees.
  51. Gerut Kehilchata 6:12. See Shevet Halevi 6:194. Derech Pikudecha (Mitzvah Aseh 2, Dibbur 31) isn't sure if the bet din can recite a bracha at the conversion of a child because he might later decide not to accept Judaism. See Rashba Ketubot 11a.
  52. Shevet Halevi 5:205:8 and 6:196 writes that there is no valid permit to violate yichud when adopting children. He says that just because they are brought by parents and feel close to them emotionally it isn't the same as natural parents. He clarifies that he isn't against adoption but it should be done in a way that avoid any question of yichud. Tzitz Eliezer 6:40:21 writes as a way of justifying the practice (limmud zechut) but doesn't actually endorse it. The main reason to be lenient is that since they're brought up by their adopted parent they don't feel any attraction to them.
  53. Sanhedrin 58b. According to Rashi Sanhedrin 58b s.v. amar writes that it is forbidden even if one doesn't intend to abstain from melacha for religious purposes and it is just to rest. The Rambam (Melachim 10:9) holds that it is only forbidden if they intend to do so for a religious purpose since it is like creating a new religion. Yad Ramah Sanhedrin 58b s.v. v'amar identifies this dispute. Meiri 59a s.v. ben writes that a non-Jew can't observe another day of the week as Shabbat because Jews might mistakenly learn from him.
    • The Rambam (Melachim 10:9) implies that it is forbidden for a non-Jew to keep Shabbat or even another day during the week as a day of rest but only if it is for religious reasons. If it is for leisure it is permitted. This is further implied by Yad Ramah 58b s.v. vamar who contrasts the opinion of the Rambam with another opinion (either Rashi or one similar to Rashi) that holds keeping Shabbat purely for leisure is also forbidden. Meiri 59a s.v. ben seems to follow the approach of the Rambam in this respect. Rashi Sanhedrin 58b is of the opinion that for leisure is also forbidden. Igrot Moshe YD 2:7 writes that the Rambam agrees with Rashi.
  54. Avnei Nezer YD 351:4-5 writes that according to the Zohar the Jews kept Shabbat after Marah because that's when they completed their milah with priya, even though they didn't complete their conversion at matan torah. Though, he thinks that the rishonim (Tosfot Yevamot 46b, Rashba Yevamot 71a, Ran a"z 26b) sound like this is incorrect and a convert with milah without tevilah is still a complete non-Jew. Rav Zevulun Charlop cites Pachad Yitzchak (Igrot 56) who distinguishes between Shabbat at marah and Shabbat today for someone who has milah.
  55. In April 1848, a non-Jew from Morocco came to Yerushalayim to convert. While recovering from the milah before the tevilah, on Shabbat Rav Asher Lemel was asked whether or not this perspective convert should keep Shabbat. Rav Lamel told him not to keep Shabbat. Afterwards the rabbis of Yerushalayim all disagreed with Rav Lamel on the grounds that the minhag previously was not to be concerned about this and let the perspective convert keep Shabbat. The Binyan Tzion 91 writes that according to his investigations the minhag in Germany was like it was in Yerushalayim. Also, he held that a non-Jew who did milah and not yet tevila should keep Shabbat. 1) Brit milah is a covenant and Shabbat is a covenant; once one forged one covenant with Hashem it isn't reasonable that one needs to break the other. 2) Tosfot Keritut 9a implies that brit milah causes a person to become separated from the other nations even before completing the conversion. He concludes that he is obligated to keep Shabbat.
    • Lhorot Natan 1:38:15 writes that there is a great proof from Tosfot Yeshanim Yevamot 48b and Midrash Rabba (Devarim 1:27) that it is permitted for a convert who do milah to keep Shabbat even though he didn't finish converting.
  56. Chashukei Chemed Sanhedrin 58b writes about someone from Russian extraction and isn't sure if he is Jewish. Between when he became aware of this and his conversion, can he keep Shabbat? If he is non-Jewish he can't keep Shabbat, but if he's Jewish he should keep Shabbat? Solutions that Chashukei Chemed quotes include: wearing tzitzit in the public domain (Maharam Shik OC 145 quoting the Chatom Sofer), asking a non-Jew to work for him (Maharam Shik), or working on Saturday night (Panim Yafot Beresheet 8:22).
  57. The Rambam Melachim 10:10 writes that a non-Jew who wants to fulfill mitzvot and receive reward we shouldn't stop him. On the other hand, in 10:9 he writes that we shouldn't let him do a mitzvah that he isn't obligated in because he is creating a non-religion in doing so. He should either convert or only keep the 7 mitzvot of bnei noach. The Radvaz explains that the distinction is whether he intends to create a new religion. If he just does a mitzvah voluntarily not intending that it is an obligationi that is acceptable, while if he is does it with the intention of being a commandment he should be stopped. While it seems from the Rambam and Radvaz that the non-Jew is rewarded for doing a mitzvah voluntarily it isn’t absolutely clear. It is possible that the non-Jew is doing the mitzvah voluntarily to get rewarded but isn’t actually going to be rewarded. That is the position of Rav Moshe Feinstein in Igrot Moshe YD 2:7.
    • However, in light of the Rambam responsa 148 (Blau, Pear Hadur 60) it seems clear that the Rambam holds that a non-Jew who does a mitzvah voluntarily is indeed rewarded. He seems to apply it to all the mitzvot. The Meiri Sanhedrin 59a s.v. ben also says this, but Igrot Moshe YD 2:7 writes that it is a scribal error. The other proofs against Igrot Moshe like Pirush Mishnayot of Rambam Trumot 3:9 are dealt with in that teshuva.
  58. Igrot Moshe YD 3:77:2. Minchat Yitzchak 6:108 writes that you shouldn't let Conservative rabbis use your mikveh for a conversion.
  59. Rama 268:12. The Gra cites the source for the Tevilah in Avot D'Rabbi Natan 8:8.
  60. Igrot Moshe EH 1:8 has a fascinating nuance in some rishonim that if the father wasn't Jewish and the mother was completely not religious the child is considered not Jewish. However, Rashbash cited by Bedek Habayit YD 268:12 disagrees that Jewishness is decided by the mother even if she is not religious and the father was non-Jewish.

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