Sunday, February 20, 2011

In Rav Yoshe Ber's Words

13.11 Surrender to Halakhah

Related by the Rav in his address on Gerut (Conversion) to the Yeshiva University Rabbinic Alumni, Yeshiva University, June 19, 1975

The Torah summons the Jew to live heroically. We cannot allow a married woman, no matter how tragic the case is, to remarry without a get [divorce document]. We cannot allow a kohen to marry a giyoret [convert]. Sometimes these cases are very tragic. I know this from my own experience.

I had a case in Rochester of a gentile girl who became a giyoret hatzedek [righteous convert] before she met the boy. She did not join our nation because she wanted to marry somebody. Then she met a Jewish boy from an alienated background and had no knowledge of Yahadut [Judaism]. She brought him close to Yahadut and they became engaged. Since he was now close to Yahadut, the boy wanted to find out about his family, so he visited the cemetery where his grandfather was buried. He saw a strange symbol on the tombstone - ten fingers with thumbs and forefingers nearly forming a triangle. So he began to ask - he thought it was a mystical symbol - and he discovered that he was a kohen.

What can we do? This is the halakhah. A kohen may not marry a convert [Shulhan Arukh, Even ha-Ezer 6:8]. We surrender to the will of the Almighty. On the other hand, to say that the halakhah is not sensitive to to problems and is not responsive to the needs of people is an outright falsehood. The halakhah is responsive to the needs of both the community and the individual. However, the halakhah has its own orbit, moves at a certain definite speed, has its own pattern of responding to a challenge, and possesses its own criteria and principles.

I come from a rabbinical house - the bet ha-Rav. This is the house into which I was born. Believe me, Reb Chaim used to try his best to be meikil [lenient in his halakhis rulings]. But there were limits even to Reb Chaim's kulot [lenient rulings]. When you reach the boundary line, all you can say is: "I surrender to the will of the Almighty."

With sadness in my heart, I shared in the suffering of the poor woman or the poor girl. She was instrumental in bringing him back to the fold and then she had to lose him. She lost him. She walked away.

--The Rav: The Wolrd of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Volume 2, by Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff

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