Leniency Within the Orthodox Movement

Rabbi Uziel holds that as long as the judges first attempt to break off a projected marriage to a non-Jew, they are obligated to convert the non-Jew, even if the motivation is marriage.

Print this page Print this page

In view of the stringent prohibition of marrying a bat el nehar Rabbi Uziel argues that it is better to convert the non-Jewish partner so that the Jewish partner could be spared from this severe transgression. Such conversion is also better for the children who would be born to the couple since they could now be considered legally as Jews. Considering the alternatives of conversion or intermarriage, Rabbi Uziel ruled in favor of conversion.

Rabbi Uziel, however, qualifies his opinion in that he feels that the judges should do everything they can to break off the projected marriage and resort to conversion only when it is clear that the couple definitely will not be dissuaded. The judges should direct their hearts to God when they perform the conversion, and "the merciful God will forgive."

It is clear that Rabbi Uziel offers a halakhic perspective that reflects a profoundly sympathetic and understanding spirit. Recognizing the practical realities of our world, it is essential that halakhic authorities courageously respond to the needs. Ours must not be a haughty and elite attitude towards would-be converts. We have a moral obligation to convert those who seek conversion, not only for their sakes but for the sakes of their children. Of course, we must make every effort to teach them the Torah and to encourage their adherence to the mitzvot [commandments].

But in the final analysis, we must put our faith in human reason and compassion, and, certainly, we must put our faith in God ( Vehu Rachum Yekhaper ... [And He, The Merciful One, will make amends]).

Reprinted with permission from The Conversion Crisis: Essays from the Pages of Tradition (Ktav), edited by Emanuel Feldman and Joel B. Wolowelsky.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Marc D. Angel is Rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel, the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in New York City.