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 is part 2 of translated excerpts from the meeting. Part 1 appeared in issue 24 of Wonders (available online at: https://inner.tiny.us/Wonders24). For more elucidation of these topics see also issue 22 of Wonders (available online at: https://inner.tiny.us/Wonders22).
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 it—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, 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? 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. 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 he has already 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.
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. After Mashiach comes, converts will not be accepted. So we must hasten to convert whoever has a Jewish spark in order to bring the redemption.
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.
Rabbi Eliyahu: We need much Heavenly help. It is impossible without it. The Rabbi is speaking about a huge undertaking.
Regarding the non-Jews, it is written: “Then you will see, and you will be illuminated, and frightened and your heart will broaden.” Great illumination but also fear. It is simultaneously frightening and very joyful.
It is written that pachad (fear) is the rectification of peh-echad (unanimously)— that all will unanimously acknowledge that there is a God in Israel.
I see the picture as follows: There is the first stage of dissemination during which we must reach millions, as many as possible. After that comes the second stage, or even the third, which is to accept those who study Torah. That is not exactly our role, but because it is the end goal, and Mashiach is waiting for it, we have to take care of it and ensure that all the tools and vessels exist. Regarding the first stage, people will already ask about all the people who will decide to convert.
There is also the second, intermediary stage. Those who are involved in this area say that there is the stage in which the person does not yet wish to convert, but he suddenly asks questions pertaining to Jewish law. He asks, “I am not a Christian; conversion is too much for me. What am I now?” There are suggestions to establish communities for Noahides. I can’t even completely explain why not, but this direction does not sit well with me.
[Comment from one of those present: Some say regarding the establishment of Noahide communities that not only do they not help them advance, but they set them back. There are Christians who don’t go to the beach, don’t watch television, pray a lot and then they come to a rabbi of Noahides and all that he tells them is “Do not murder” etc. and allows him to do all the other things that they did not previously do….]
Rabbi Eliyahu: Some say that there are tens or hundreds of millions of Jews totally assimilated into the non-Jewish world today.
Rabbi Ginsburgh: The descendants of the conversos in Spain. That estimate is without the Ten Tribes. If we add them—clearly that is the magnitude.
Rabbi Eliyahu: I read that one hundred fifty years ago in Europe, mostly in Germany, there was a lot of Jewish conversion to Christianity. In Russia as well. I do not know the exact numbers.
Rabbi Ginsburgh: The Lubavitcher Rebbe once said that there are ten million Jews in Russia who do not know who they are.
Rabbi Eliyahu: There is a book called “The History of Zionism,” in which it is written that one hundred fifty years ago, there was a great deal of assimilation throughout Europe, in the generations after Mendelsohn. The Reform movement was born to try to stop it. Ultimately, they also fell in, but in the beginning, they attempted to stop it. Today there is assimilation without conversion. But back then they converted to Christianity in order to improve their status and careers.
[Comment from one of those present: I recently saw a quote from the Rebbe of Sanz, that after the Holocaust there are millions who have to return to this world as Jews, but because there are not enough Jewish mothers, they are sent down to this world as potential converts.]
Rabbi Eliyahu: There are discourses of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on rectification of the world. There is rectification associated with conflict and there is rectification that stems from loving-kindness.
Rabbi Ginsburgh: The Rebbe said that Esau is ready for redemption and the problem is that we are not prepared to accept them. Then, when Jacob sent (the gifts) to Esau, Jacob was prepared and Esau was not. Today the opposite is true. Esau is primarily Christianity.
Rabbi Eliyahu: But how can we differentiate between Esau and Amalek? There is a verse: “When the whole earth rejoices, I will make you desolate. As you did rejoice over the inheritance of the House of Israel, because it was desolate, so will I do unto you; you shalt be desolate, O mount Seir, and all Edom”
Rabbi Ginsburgh: The grandfather and the grandson (Esau and Amalek). In any event, Esau has the merit of his forefathers [Isaac and Abraham].
[A discussion ensued about the clarification of Amalek].
The descendants of Haman learn Torah. They converted at a certain point.
Rabbi Eliyahu: What about the Muslims?
Rabbi Ginsburgh: Very interesting. On the one hand, according to the Rambam, they are more in line than the Christians. On the other hand, he writes that they are worse, because they deny the Torah. With a Christian, there is some semblance of something in common. He believes in the Bible, and if you point out a verse, it speaks to him. But ultimately, Yishmael will also return. There are opinions regarding what percentage of non-Jews will remain in the days of Mashiach. Some say that a third will remain. There is an opinion that Ham will be gone and Japheth will remain. Shem and Japheth. There are a number of opinions, but nothing decisive. But it is clear that Yishmael today, Islam, has many millions. Apparently a bit less than the Christians, but together, they are the majority in the world. So we need to reach them also.
We also have examples: On our website, which is not geared specifically to non-Jews, there are many people from Muslim countries who respond and wish to convert, and some of them are very serious. They are in a very difficult situation and in danger of being discovered. Esau, on the other hand, does not persecute those who wish to convert. We create problems for them when they come to convert. But in Muslim countries, they are in danger. Even in a very hostile Muslim country, there are people with whom we are in contact who want to flee from there and convert. They are even spreading Torah there.
Rabbi Eliyahu: The problem with Arabs is that one cannot rely on the truth of what they say. Even if you speak with one, and he is aroused to return to God, he does not have internal truth. Even when they take an oath, “their right arm is the arm of falsehood.”
Rabbi Ginsburgh: Just yesterday we spoke about the verse, “the disobedient mouth do I hate.”
Rabbi Eliyahu: But this does not remove responsibility from us. It is written, “For then I will turn to the nations in a clear language, that they may all call upon the Name of God and serve Him with one shoulder.” As the Rabbi said, “Unanimously.”
The Rambam writes that Christianity and Islam are paving the way for the days of Mashiach. The question is how to relate to that issue. The question is how we remain careful not to ingratiate ourselves to them on the one hand, and on the other hand use concepts with which they are familiar. We have to be precise. It is dangerous. In the army, before every shooting practice, they read all the rules—every time they repeat the same warnings.
Rabbi Ginsburgh: In the next stage, perhaps we have to organize a meeting with people who we know who are very enthusiastic about this issue.
Rabbi Eliyahu: Gladly.
Rabbi Eliyahu: Rabbi, from many places in Psalms it seems that the nations’ return to God will be through music.
Rabbi Ginsburgh: It sounds good. I’m all for it, I like that…
Rabbi Eliyahu: We have to think of the significance of that from our standpoint. We have to disseminate appropriate music.
[A discussion ensued about working through the internet as opposed to live get-togethers.]
One of those present: Is it permissible to bring non-Jews for a week-long tour of Israel?
Rabbi Ginsburgh: We have always said that it is appropriate only for those who have some willingness to convert.
Rabbi Eliyahu: After a year of Torah study, as a condition.
Rabbi Ginsburgh: Perhaps.
[A detailed discussion of ways to progress ensued].
Rabbi Ginsburgh: May God help and it will succeed. In the name of God, we will do and we will be successful!
. “We accept him immediately,” Yevamot 47a. Hilchot Issurei Bee’ah 14:1 (and see halacha 5 there). Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Dei’ah 268:2.
. See Likutei Moharan 1, 17:6.
. Yevamot 24b: “Converts are not accepted in the days of Mashiach.”
. Isaiah 60:10.
. Genesis 31:42.
. Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Lev Lada’at, Perek B’Avodat Hashem, bei’ur 8 (pp. 38ff).
. See Piskei HaRosh (Sa’adon) Netiv 37, 94:4 and in Rabbi Ginsburgh’s book, U’kematmonim Techapssenah Vol. 1, end of p.90.
. Discourse for Parashat Vayeitzei, 9 Kislev 5752.
. Torah Or Vayishlach at the beginning (24:2).
. Ezekiel 35:14-15.
. Gittin 57b.
. For example, see Hilchot Avodah Zarah 9:4. Hilchot Ma’achalot Assurot 11:7.
. Rambam’s Responsa 149: “It is permissible to teach the commandments to Christians and to draw them to our religion. But this is not permissible regarding the Ishmaelites, as you know, regarding their belief that the Torah before us is not from Heaven.”
. Sanhedrin 111a.
. Proverbs 8:13.
. Zephania 3:9.
. Hilchot Melachim 11:4.