rabbi amar torah 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar defended on Monday his decision to approve the
military conversions that are undertaken according to Jewish law.
responding to claims from parts of the Ashkenaziharedi camp that such
conversions are invalid, since the process the candidates underwent was faulty
and the converts never really intended to maintain a Jewish lifestyle, as
evidenced by the fact that many do not keep mitzvot in the years that
In a letter apparently aimed at senior Ashkenazi haredi rabbis,
Amar cites the general guidelines for conversion – that the convert (if male) be
circumcised, must immerse in a ritual bath, face a qualified three-man panel of
rabbinic judges and “take upon himself the mitzvot of the Torah.” The absence of
any of these conditions can prevent or even retroactively annul a
The chief rabbi then proceeds to make the distinction between
those who never really accepted “Torah and mitzvot at the time of [their]
conversion,” and are thus not considered converts, and those who had the right
intent at the time of their conversion, but did not remain observant
The latter are Jewish and must be married and divorced
accordingly, he wrote.
“A convert who was circumcised and immersed in a
ritual bath, and accepted the Torah and mitzvot in front of three [rabbinic
judges], and everything was done according to Halacha, and later on returned to
his old ways and transgresses the Torah’s mitzvot – such a person is considered
a Jewish apostate,” Amar wrote.
“But his Jewish matrimony and divorce”
are valid, the chief rabbi stressed, citing Maimonides and the Shulhan Aruch,
who ruled this way.
At the end of the typed letter, Amar added by hand
that not only do the IDF converts accept the “burden of Torah and mitzvot” after
learning the principles of Judaism and being tested on them, they have also
spent time in the homes of religious families, who give their appraisals of the
candidates to the rabbinic judges overseeing the conversion.
noted that in his ruling he was following the lead of senior Sephardi
adjudicator Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, whose affirmative decree on the halachic
validity of the military conversions was what led the chief rabbi’s decision on
the topic some 10 days ago.
Monday’s letter, which was also endorsed by
Yosef, who signed it at the bottom, does not seem to include anything new. Amar
had already declared that the military conversions are, and were, conducted in
accordance with Halacha, and therefore receive his approval and signature, as
the law demands.
But sources close to Amar explained that the doubts cast
by the Ashkenazi haredi rabbinic world on the military process, which inevitably
led to criticism of the two senior Sephardi rabbis – Yosef and Amar – who
endorsed them, led the chief rabbi to release the latest letter.
Sunday, there were reports in the haredi online media that senior
Ashkenaziharedi authority Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv had signed a letter
declaring the IDF conversions halachicly invalid, and that other senior haredi
rabbis were adding their names to it.