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Friday, June 13, 2008

Rabbi Druckman, Rabbi Sherman and the Conversion Crisis (Part 5)

This week's volume of "Me'at Min HaOr" (A Little Bit From the Light), Rabbi Chanan Porat's parsha sheet, features an article by Rabbi Druckman on the front page. It is a nice dvar Torah, certainly worth reading. I hoped for naught that the rabbi would mention something about the conversion crisis.

However, Rabbi Porat, in his column "Midrashir", praises Rabbi Druckman and then adds the following:
על כן כמה צר ומר פסק דינם של כמה דיינים שהעיזו פנים להטיל בו דופי ולפסול את הגיורים שגייר בלא לשמוע אפילו מה בפיו. חובת המחאה על ביזוי תלמיד חכם מוטלת על כולנו ולה אנו שותפים ב'מעט מן האור'.

ברכתנו שלוחה לרב דרוקמן שליט"א שימשיך ללכת על פי ה' ויוסף לקדש שם שמים ברבים ללא מורא וללא חת
My translation:
Therefore how narrow and bitter is the ruling of a few rabbinic court judges that acted impudently to defame him and to invalidate the conversions that he performed without hearing what he had to say. The obligation to protest the degradation of a Torah scholar is incumbent upon us all and we at "Me'at Min HaOr" are partners to this [obligation].

Our blessing is sent to Rabbi Druckman (may he live a long life) that he will continue to go according to God and to fearlessly sanctify the name of Heaven in public.
Let's take a look at this and see if this statement is "A Little Bit From the Light" or something else entirely.

"Therefore how narrow and bitter is the ruling of a few rabbinic court judges that acted impudently to defame him and to invalidate the conversions that he performed without hearing what he had to say."

If we are concerned with the honor of Torah scholars, this includes the rabbinic court judges who for some reason are not mentioned here by name.

The claim that they invalidated the conversions is also not exact. Rabbi Rosen got it right when he wrote, "The ruling casts a doubt on myriads of conversions (and their offspring), but does not invalidate them in a sweeping manner (each case should be considered on its own)."

Rabbi Porat raises an interesting point with by saying that the judges did not hear what Rabbi Druckman had to say. This is what Rabbi Druckman told Arutz 7:
"הרב אברהם שרמן שהיה אב בית הדין בדיון, פרסם אותו לפני כשלושה חודשים בכנס דיינים כללי והרצה עליו, והזכיר אותי ב"תוארי כבוד" רבים, תוך כדי אמירת גיבובי דברים. בעקבות ההרצאה הזאת טלפנו אלי דיינים כשהם מזועזעים מכך, שבלי לדבר איתי או לשמוע את הצד שלנו, הוא פרסם פסק דין כנגדי".

"רק שבוע לאחר הכנס הם הזמינו אותי לשמוע את דברי, לאחר שכבר היה פסק דין! הגעתי לדיון ואמרתי להם שבכך שהם פרסמו את פסק הדין בלי לשמוע את הצד שלנו, הם פסלו את עצמם מלדון, ופניתי לרב עמאר, שהורה להם שלא לפרסם שום פסק דין אלא להעביר אליו את התיק".

"יומיים לאחר ההחלטה של הרב עמאר הם פרסמו את הפסק, כל מאן דהוא מבין שזה כתב פלסתר. אלו דיינים? אלו לא יכולים להיות דיינים! דיינים, שכביכול באצטלה של בית דין, כותבים פסק בלי לשמוע את הצד המדובר, איך אפשר לעשות דבר כזה?", אמר הרב דרוקמן
Rabbi Druckman explains that before the ruling was made public Rabbi Sherman publicized it at a convention of rabbinic court judges. A week later they invited Rabbi Druckman to tell his side of the story. Rabbi Druckman told them that since they came to a decision without hearing him first, they invalidated themselves from adjudicating the matter. Rabbi Druckman notified Chief Rabbi Amar who instructed the court not to publicize the ruling. Two days later they publicized the ruling against the explicit instructions of Rabbi Amar who is the President of the Great Rabbinic Court.

In summary: They did not hear his side of the story. When they invited him to hear his side of the story he refused to tell it. In the meantime, I, and others like myself are waiting to hear Rabbi Druckman's response to the "forgery affair" as described by Rabbi Rosen.

"The obligation to protest the degradation of a Torah scholar is incumbent upon us all and we at "Me'at Min HaOr" are partners to this."

We also have an obligation to make sure that the special conversion courts are acting in accordance with Jewish Law. We have an obligation to demand that the rabbis that sit in the courts will not act in a way which will cast a doubt as to the validity of the conversions. We have the obligation to protest the continuing disinformation being circulated with regards to this affair which gives the impression of an attempted whitewash.

9 comments:

yitz said...

Just one question, Cosmic. Why is it that only you & I seem to be concerned about the Halachic issues here, while the rest of the J-Blogosphere seems to be only concerned about the political side of things?

Cosmic X said...

Yitz,

Good question. I don't know for sure but here's a little bit of speculation:

1) Most of the bloggers did not read the ruling. It's long, written in Rabbanese, and not everybody has the time, knowledge and energy to go through it. (If you did not see it yet, check out The Rebbetzin's Husband translation/transcription of the ruling. One of the most amazing posts in jblogosphere history, IMHO.)

2) Some are relying on the pronouncements/manifests of rabbinical bodies (RCA, Tzohar) opposed to the ruling.

3) Some are just anti-Hareidi, and they fell for the "Hareidi vs. Dati-Leumi" spin. This is quite sad.

4) Some are upset at the anguish that the decision causes to righteous converts, and that blinds them from judging the ruling on its merits.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

CosmicX:

4) Some are upset at the anguish caused to righteous converts? Well, considering it's an issur d'oriata, and also a Chilul Hashem, I can understand why some might be miffed.

3) The "Hareidi" worldview which ignores the 21'rst century reality of Israel is quite sad.

2) And why do you think Tozhar and the RCA are "against" the ruling? Only they are concerned with the political side of things and not the halachik? Do you honestly think for a second that the Beit Din that deliberately ignored R' Amar for anything LESS than political reasons? Saying that the psak Beit Din is purely halachik, their actions were purely halachik, and there was no politics involved whatsoever on their part is naive.

1) Your summary does a grave disservice to R' Drukman. In summary: They did not hear his side of the story. When they invited him to hear his side of the story he refused to tell it

He refused to "tell his story" because the psak was already publicized at the convention of rabbinic court judges.

You can't understand his point of not wanting to presenting his case once it was announced publicly? (It was in the news right after the convention...)

Why do you think that no one is concerned with the actual halachik ramifications of the conversions?

I cringed when hearing on the radio last week, the head of the Absorbtion Ministry going on and on about how people in the IDF conversion program should be given priority because they are IDF soldiers. You think that doesn't bother people?

Its one thing to be concerned with the actual halachik process, which I think everyone is honestly concerned about. Its another to think that beit din's psak exists in a vacuum and is untainted by politics and hashkafa.

Cosmic X said...

Jameel,

Yesterday I did a Google blog search on "Druckman Rosen" and the only blogs that came up with connection to the conversion crisis were "Cosmic X" and "The Rebbetzin's Husband". Since this is in my opinion and the opinion of many others the most damaging part of the ruling it is odd that almost nobody is mentioning it. Since the matter has been made public I would really appreciate it if Rabbi Druckman would respond to what Rabbi Rosen wrote.

No I am not naive and I know that there are political aspects to the ruling. This cannot be used as a justification for not dealing with the halachic aspects.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

CosmicX: I'm trying to understand: The most damaging issue in your eyes is that R' Druckman wasn't present, though 3 other dayanim were, and he signed on the conversion?

Cosmic X said...

Jameel,

Here's a quote from my first post on the issue:

"In his letters which are quoted in the Psak, he accuses Rabbi Druckman of signing conversion certificates which falsely state that he was part of the Rabbinnic court which presided over the conversion. This is not simply an administrative matter, as one blogger claimed. This is bearing false witness, something which is forbidden for every layman and certainly for a judge in a rabbinic court. Rabbi Rosen also claims that some of the conversion certificates bearing Rabbi Druckman's signature were not signed by Rabbi Druckman. He accuses Rabbi Avior (a member of Rabbi Druckman's rabbinic court) of being responsible for the forgery.

Rabbi Sherman states that the halachic ramifications of these acts of bearing false witness are that Rabbi Druckman and Rabbi Avior are halachically unfit (pasul) to be rabbinic judges. Therefore any converts that converted in their court never appeared before a fit rabbinic court, and therefore never converted! These are very harsh words with very severe ramifications. I really do wish that Rabbi Sherman and his court are mistaken here! However I cannot find any flaw in Rabbi Sherman's arguments."

Do you see that we have a problem here?

Dotan Damti, Ashdod said...

Hi, are you Israeli? Yes, this is a relevant question. Because if you are Israeli and in touch with Israeli reality (not in some American ghetto), then you would know that the Israeli rabbinic court system is so corrupt that administrative shortcuts like signing a paper that you were there while actually sending someone else to represent you is commonplace.

It is so commonplace that huge numbers of dayyanim do it. It is so commonplace that those who oversee the court system have called it to task for such violations, including blaming illustrious dayyanim such as none other than Rav Sherman himself (!):

http://benchorin.blogspot.com/2008/05/one-of-main-arguments-put-forward-by-r.html
http://myobiterdicta.blogspot.com/2008/05/kol-ha-posel-or-rabbi-sherman-revelatus.html

Does that make it right? No. Should such a corrupt rabbinic court system be overhauled (or maybe abolished)? Yes. Was Rav Druckman wrong? Yes.

But is this really relevant to the current conversion controversy, other than as an an extremely cynical ploy by Rav Sherman? No. Does this have any halakhic relevance to gerus or to the gerim themselves? No.

I add that the Israeli rabbinic court system is hell for those who have to use it. When bent or corrupted, that is usually for the people in power (the dayyanim), not for the good of Israeli citizens. Rav Druckman, on the other hand, bent the rules precisely to make it easier for people on a bureacratic level. He was wrong to do so, but not in the same way others like Rav Sherman are wrong for exactly the same offense.

To conclude, your repeated assertions on your blog that this is issue is of crucial relevance, or even of halakhic relevance, is utter nonsense.

That is why "nobody else" is treating it as such.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Dotan raises a point I was thinking about last night.

Rav Druckman, on the other hand, bent the rules precisely to make it easier for people on a bureacratic level. He was wrong to do so, but not in the same way others like Rav Sherman are wrong for exactly the same offense.

Agreed 100%.

I'm not sure there is any real halachik ramification in signing a bureaucratic form -- and the proof is that RAS did the exact same thing himself.

While it's wrong to circumvent the system, one can easily understand the rationale in light of the regular bureaucratic ineffectiveness of the courts.

Cosmic X said...

Dotan,

You said, "To conclude, your repeated assertions on your blog that this is issue is of crucial relevance, or even of halakhic relevance, is utter nonsense."

You must be an outstanding Torah scholar to make such a claim. I'm just a simple guy, and when I learn the Gemara and see how the Rabbis did not want that something should even be "mechezei keshikra", appear as if it were a lie, on legal documents, I am shocked that one can so easily dismiss an out and out lie as utter nonsense. Rabbi Rosen did not think it was something that could be ignored.

And yes, BTW I am Israeli and have been here for over 20 years, served in the army, eat humous, wear sandals, etc.

Jameel,

You wrote "I'm not sure there is any real halachik ramification in signing a bureaucratic form -- and the proof is that RAS did the exact same thing himself."

I'm not sure either! I do believe that this is an issue that must be addressed. I'm not a groupie of RAS and if he falsified documents I hope he gets the boot.

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