מאת גמלאי עיריית טבריה

The Fourth Revolution: Rabbi Ginsburgh and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu Part 1

Recently a major project for disseminating Torah on the internet was initiated. The idea is to reach out to all the peoples of the world following Rabbi Ginsburgh’s call for a fourth revolution in Torah learning. In light of this project, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh met with Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat. The rabbis and the other people at the meeting discussed the Fourth Revolution: What is permissible to teach the nations of the world? How should we relate to Noachide congregations? What is the correct path to conversion? This was a particularly pleasant meeting, in which the mutual honor and love between the two rabbis were palpable. The following are translated excerpts from the meeting. For more elucidation of these topics see also issue 22 of Wonders (available online at: https://inner.tiny.us/Wonders22).

 Click here for part two of this article 

Rabbi Eliyahu: The topic of our influence on the nations of the world is the most important topic that pertains to the public. Sometimes I say that all of our liturgy is predicated on it, except for the Silent Prayer. In the Sephardic version, we also pray for the nations of the world in the Silent Prayer, when we say, “And satiate the entire world from Your goodness.” In the prayers of the High Holidays, it is everything, as we pray for the kingdom of God over the entire world.

Rabbi Ginsburgh: Everything is in order to sanctify God’s Name. Both the fulfillment of the verse pertaining to the nations of the world, “And they will fear you”[1], and also that they will have the merit to pray.

Rabbi Eliyahu: Those are the two explanations of the name “Mount Moriah” – that it means awe and prayer.[2]

Rabbi Ginsburgh: Rabbi Yosef Yaavetz said about Rabbi Chasdai [Crescas] – there was a drought in Spain and with his prayers, he brought rain. The Yaavetz writes that many of the ministers of the state became Jewish in their hearts. That is the expression that he used.

Rabbi Eliyahu: There was a story in Jerusalem, as brought by the Ben Ish Chai,[3] that there was a drought and the Arab ruler told the Jews that if rain would not fall, he would expel all of them. They prayed at the grave of Shimon Hatzaddik and exited with raincoats. Is the Rav [referring to Rabbi Ginsburgh] familiar with this story?

Rabbi Ginsburgh: Yes, I have heard it. This is a sanctification of God’s Name, when it can easily be seen that there is a Creator of the world Who watches over the world and hears all the prayers of His chosen nation, “My firstborn son, Israel.”[4]

Rabbi Eliyahu: The problem is that there are those who wish to influence the non-Jews by bowing down to Haman,[5] by attempting to be like everyone else. We have to beware of this. Once my father (Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, of righteous and blessed memory) told me to tell the Chief Rabbis when they went to visit the pope that they should tie a broomstick to their backs. Why? He believed that to even lower the head before the pope is considered idolatry. So, to prevent themselves from even lowering their heads, they should put a broomstick in their shirts. When they returned, the rabbi told me that his back was still hurting him from walking so tall.

Rabbi Ginsburgh: “And Mordechai would not kneel and he would not bow.”[6]  Even before the bowing down there is a state of kneeling[7] and one must beware of that.

Rabbi Eliyahu: Does the Rabbi know that my father was named after Mordechai from the Scroll of Esther because he was born in the month of Adar?

Rabbi Ginsburgh: “Mordechai in his generation like Moses in his generation.”[8] The assertive and healthy mazal of the month of Adar.[9]

Rabbi Eliyahu: I have met with the people behind this project [of disseminating Torah to the nations of the world] and we need direction as to how to influence the non-Jews by means of Torah lessons in the digital channels. In Jewish law, there are two extremes. There is what the Shlah wrote[10] as to how dangerous it is to teach non-Jews, that this is one of the oaths[11] etc. On the other hand, it is written that when the Jews entered the Land of Israel, they wrote the Torah in the seventy languages of the world[12] as well as the entire prayer of “Give thanks to God… announce His feats to the nations of the world.”[13] It is written that the Hodu prayer contains ten synonyms for “speech,” paralleling the Ten Sayings with which the world was created.[14] We have to draw the Torah down to the world, whether it be by the power of Creation (the Ten Sayings) or by the power of the Ten Plagues of Egypt. Apparently, we need them all.

Rabbi Ginsburgh: The plagues are meant to be saved for Amalek… All other non-Jews should follow the path of the first Jew, Abraham, who publicized Godliness throughout the world. This was his self-sacrifice, his mission – to promulgate Divinity. To make God beloved – “And you shall love Havayah your God.”[15]  It is a mitzvah to make God beloved by all.[16] This is a sanctification of God’s Name. To make Him beloved means to cause the other person to love Him. It appears that in our generation, we must teach every Torah thought that can make the Torah beloved. It is not necessary to be flatter, God forbid. It is also not necessary to give any room for false non-Jewish beliefs and superstitions. One must know how to rebuff them respectfully, without flattery, but together with that to teach everything that can make the Torah and Judaism beloved. Now is the time. The world is seeking God, it is thirsty for this. Everyone is blind, as is written by the prophet,[17] and many people want to see some light. In my opinion, there are not many limitations, i.e., things that we are prohibited from teaching or learning with a non-Jew. In fact, when it comes to Halachic litigation—the laws discussed in Choshen Mishpat—even a non-Jew can be an important authority—because non-Jews are also commanded to keep these laws of litigation.[18]

Rabbi Eliyahu: And also matters of faith.

Rabbi Ginsburgh: Certainly matters of faith. This is the primary focus. But it has to be discussed in depth. Faith is not a simple matter. The study of faith is infinite.

Rabbi Eliyahu: Can we speak to non-Jews about the Torah’s inner dimension?

Rabbi Ginsburgh: Yes, Chassidut is faith. Everything is faith. Chassidut is something that a person who merits—including a non-Jew—feels that it is truth. We need something that is beautiful, attractive to others, and also contains that inner feeling of encountering the truth. We have to reach out to them at this point so that they will recognize the truth. Then they will leave their idol worship. First of all, in their hearts. They will become Jewish in their hearts.

Afterward, the next stage, which is not exactly our responsibility, is the topic that we wish to discuss. What to do with those who wish to come completely into Judaism, those who wish to convert? There will certainly be a significant percentage of those who listen to the Torah classes that will be interested in conversion. When this happens, it will signal that the project was successful—when many people will come to convert. We are not talking about millions at the beginning, but many will wish to convert. As far as I understand—I am not an expert in the field—but I understand that right now there is no infrastructure to handle many people wishing to convert. We also do not have the tools to vet them to see if their true intention is to live as Jews.

When I was considering this process, I thought of you as a good person to manage the next stage, to handle the actual conversion. The main point according to Jewish law is that as soon as it is obvious that the person is serious about his intention to convert, the process should not be tedious and dragged out.[19] Our goal should be to teach the convert the main subjects he or she needs to know. We must recall, that if this individual comes to convert after they already have heard a year’s worth of classes, then they already know a lot. The conversion has to be good. The Rabbi doing the conversion has to sense whether a person wishes to convert for the sake of Heaven or not. But I believe—I am certain—that there will be many who will truly want to convert for the sake of Heaven. Personally, I do not deal with conversions, but I have a number of students who do. [There ensued a discussion about the obstacle created by the Israeli Law of Return—eligibility for citizenship—as a condition for conversion in the rabbinical courts, and a discussion about alternatives].

Rabbi Eliyahu: Sovereignty must be returned to God, so the Rabbi says.

Rabbi Ginsburgh: The question is if we should wait until that happens… It is written that Mashiach cannot come until all those who need to convert will do so.[20] After Mashiach comes, converts will not be accepted.[21] So we must hasten to convert whoever has a Jewish spark in order to bring the redemption.

By the way, one of our students, who is involved with conversion here in Israel, was previously a shaliach in Russia and was involved with conversion together with Rabbi Ashkenazi, may he rest in peace. He also related to me that the studies today in the conversion centers include a significant amount regarding Zionism. Not that I oppose that—I am not an extremist [against Zionism]—but it is not the study of Torah and mitzvahs. In Chabad, as well, there is discussion today about conversions, whether they should be done or not; it is not a simple question.

Rabbi Eliyahu: The same is true for us. We very much want to convert, but on the other hand, many problems have arisen from conversions that were not good.

Rabbi Ginsburgh: That is why a “sixth” sense regarding who is truly serious is required. That is the role of those who actually perform the conversions. That is why we invited you.

Rabbi Eliyahu: So we’re running away…

Rabbi Ginsburgh: It is forbidden to run away!

Rabbi Eliyahu: So the Rabbi should bless us.

Rabbi Ginsburgh: In the merit of the mazal of this month, may there be holy assertiveness.

 Click here for part two of this article 

[1] Deuteronomy 28:10 “And all the nations of the earth will see that God’s Name is called upon you and they will fear you.”

[2] See Ramban on Genesis 22:2. “For there they will fear God and worship before Him.”

[3][3] Od Yosef Chai, Beshalach (the story about Rabbi Galanti).

[4] Exodus 4:22.

[5]. As the Jews did in the time of Mordechai and Esther. They believed that by mimicking the nations of the world, they would be in a better position to influence them.

[6] Esther 3:2.

[7] See Berachot 34b.

[8] Esther Rabbah 6:2.

[9] Taanit 29b. See the Rosh Ibid. 4:32.

[10] Masechet Shavu’ot, Ner Mitzvah §102.

[11] Ketubot 111a. The sages learn that there are three vows to which the Jewish people agreed, one of which is to “not reveal the secret to the non-Jews,” which Rashi writes refers to “the secret of the Torah’s reasoning.”

[12] Sotah 32a and 36a.

[13] 1 Chronicles 16:8.

[14] See Abudraham, Shabbat morning prayers.

[15] Deuteronomy 6:5.

[16] Sifri on the verse “Make Him beloved upon the creations as did Abraham your father.” And in the Rambam”s Sefer Hamitzvot, Positive Commandment 3: “That He commanded us to love Him, the Almighty…And they have already said that this mitzvah also includes that we seek out and call upon all people to His, Almighty’s service and to believe in Him. And this is because when you love a person, you put your heart upon him and praise him and desire for other people to love him. And this is a parable for how to truly love God…

[17] Isaiah 42:18, for example.

[18] This is particularly true according to the Ram”a (Responsa of the Ram”a part 10) who is of the opinion that the directive in the 7 Noahide Commandments to establish courts refers to courts according to Jewish law.

[19] “We accept him immediately” – Yevamot 47a: Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei Bi’ah ch. 14:1 (and see halacha 5 there). Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Dei’ah 268, B.

[20] וראה לקומ"א יז,ו.

[21] Yevamot 24b. “Converts are not accepted in the days of Mashiach.”

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