Our Total Non-Affiliation with “Dor De`ah”
b’Shem HASHEM El `olam
To Whomever It May Concern:
The following statement is made with no intention to neither insult nor defame anyone, but purely in the defense of Torah truth. Moreover, we in no way infer any bad intentions on anyone’s part. Our protest is not against people, but against actions and statements made public.
Please be aware that, while we count Mr. Yosef Eliyah ben Avraham as a sincere, learned and well-intending friend and budding scholar, The Ohel Moshe Society (Beth Midrash Ohel Moshe) is in no way affiliated with the new organization “Dor De’ah”, which he has formed together with Mr. Asher Meza.
A SELF-DEFEATING NAME THAT INSTIGATES IRE
Calling an organization of so-called students of RaMBaM “Dor De`ah” reveals great ignorance. The term “Dor De`ah” was traditionally a negative term for the troublesome generation of Israelites who left Egypt, witnessed HaShem’s awesome miracles, and yet rejected the Land, only to die in the desert. “Dor De`ah” became a moniker used by kabbalistic zealots for those Yemenites who remained loyal to the original, ancient traditions of Yemenite Jewry before the works of the Ar”i came to Yemen.
It is a term that that has inspired bitter strife and division within the Yemenite community, even excommunication. In a generation when all Torah communities have so much to learn from one another, for many, this self-defeating name brings us back to a time that all Yemenite Jews have done their best to forget. For this reason, calling a RaMBaM-based Torah center “Dor De`ah” flies in the face of the path of our RaMBaM-Yemenite greats, namely HaRav HaGaon Mori Yosef Qapahh of blessed memory. It threatens to undo much of what his life work was about: “redifath shalom” – seeking peace, and through that, influencing the greater Torah world.
A MOCKERY OF AUTHENTIC HALAKHAH
While we thank and appreciate Mr. Yosef Eliyah for the zeal for Mishneh Torah and the other important Torah sources he shares with a wide and growing internet audience, we see it as a tragedy that he has joined a promoter and performer of mass conversions, one who routinely puts down normative Orthodoxy, insults the Noahide path –as if Noahides were no better than idolaters without conversion to Judaism– and shows ignorance in halakhah.
Mass Conversions… and by Converts
To promote and perform mass conversions, especially as a convert oneself (see below to “No Lack of Love for Converts Here”), even to officiate as a rabbi to begin with –all this in the name of the RaMBaM– is a cascade of halakhic error and a stumbling block:
1) Mishneh Torah forbids putting converts in any position of authority (M.T. Laws of Kings and Wars 1:5. Whoever imagines that “seraroth” (positions of authority) couldn’t apply to officiating over conversion, must not have read the law, which reads plainly, “…even over an irrigation channel”. Is commanding the transformation of the souls of righteous, God-fearing human beings less of a charge than an irrigation ditch?
2) To claim loyalty to the authentic halakhah of RaMBaM on one hand, and to encourage non-Jews who are unable to access a proper Beth Din to convert themselves –that such conversion is fully kosher– is disingenuous. RaMBaM states unequivocally: “One who immerses by himself and converts by himself or even before two [witnesses] is not a convert.” (Laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations 13:6) What part of this law is unclear?
3) Mass conversion makes careful investigation of converts nearly impossible. The tragic phenomenon mentioned by RaMBaM and true to this day, is that most converts end up returning to their formers ways (about 95% according to surveys by the Israeli Rabbanuth). Not for nothing did RaMBaM speak of the influx of insincere converts as being “like the plague of leprosy” for the Jewish People. (Laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations 13:15)
Due to this tragic phenomenon and the fact that conversion is irreversible, RaMBaM (restating authentic Talmudic Law) devotes a string of laws to warning against accepting converts without proper investigation (Laws of Forbidden Sexual Relations 13:14-15[17-18]). This brings in a Trojan horse of insincere Jews among our ranks. Moreover, it creates a disaster in which innocent non-Jews, who could have enjoyed the Life of the World to Come under the much simpler, lighter Noahide covenant, are now cut off from the eternal life of the soul – now being obligated to keep Shabboth and the other severe obligations of the Torah. (14:3) RaMBaM even relates how conversion was forbidden altogether in the days of King and David and Solomon. (13:12)
4) Aside from special, individual cases, efforts to convert non-Jews outside of Israel by a beth din hediototh (a non-official court of three observant Jewish men) –even with the converts’ full awareness that the conversion will not be recognized by the mainstream Orthodox world, much less by the Israeli rabbinate– are destined to create strife. If the effort succeeds, it can only give rise to a cult of that will remain cut off from the rest of the Torah world.
Disrespect for Torah Scholars
Despite the opinions we share with “Dor De`ah”, such as the importance of halakhah according to Mishneh Torah, we do not share nor condone their brazenly critical tone of ”Dor De`ah” against the greater Torah world. However we may protest the opinion of a Torah scholar, there is no permission to cast him as a “desecrator of Torah” We lament the blasting of such a critique to an audience overwhelmingly made up of non-Jews, converts and ba`ale teshuvah. If one wishes to express his private opinion as to how halakhah should be followed, he may do so. However, to tauntingly rebuke rabbis who hold even an errant opinion and to do so in public, inspires hhillul HaShem, hatred and cynicism of Torah scholars – one of the reasons for the destruction of the Holy Temple (Talmud Bavli tr. Shabboth 119b). In the end, we all lose: halakhic purists and followers of halakhic compromises alike.
Spreading Confusion and Derision at the Path of the Seven Laws
Based on Laws of Idolatry 10:9 and Laws of Kings and Wars 8:13, Mr. Meza understands that for RaMBaM, a Noahide is none other than a Ger Toshav (resident alien) – a status that will not exist again until the Jubilee (and Sanhedrin) is restored. Therefore, no option but conversion exists for a righteous non-Jew. He mocks rabbis who teach that we are to spread the Noahide Laws, showing an image of Pinnochio and his that keeps growing longer the more lies he tells. Besides stooping to such a disgraceful way to prove his point, Mr. Meza reveals himself to be terribly confused when elsewhere he speaks about “Bene Noahh” being permitted, if not obligated, to keep Shabboth. I thought there were no Noahides at this time in Mr. Meza’s universe?
If it were true that no option exists for non-Jews except conversion, this would mean that even the most sincere, God-centered Noahides are cut off from the Life of the World to Come (eternal life of the soul) until Geruth Toshav (resident alien status) can be restored, Heaven-forbid. While the sources quoted above refer to how Israel is to relate to non-Jews in the lands we conquer, nothing can take away from the simple fact that any non-Jew who accepts upon himself the Seven Laws is a “hhasid umoth ha`olam” –a pious one of the nations– with a place in the World to Come. (Laws of Kings and Wars 8:14)
Mishneh Torah was not meant to be studied in a bubble, but only after learning TaNaKh (M.T. Introduction point 42). Heaven forbid we should understand the halakhoth regarding non-Jews outside the context of Psalm 145 (verse 9), which Jews are bidden to recite thrice daily: “HaShem is good to all, and his compassion is over all his handiwork.” Are we to forget how Elisha` the prophet related to Na`aman, the heathen general of Aram, when he accepted the yoke of Heaven upon him as a righteous gentile without converting? Did he need to accept the 7 Laws before three Fellows * among the Sages of Israel – as required for a resident alien? Of course not: He remained in Aram, outside Israel’s jurisdiction.
Whoever would deny HaShem‘s love for Noahides even outside of Israelite sovereignty clearly speaks of a cruel God, not the God of the Torah.
NO LACK OF LOVE FOR CONVERTS HERE
Any claim that we are hereby committing the grave sin of hurting the righteous convert is disingenuous: First, the fact that Mr. Asher Meza and Mr. Yosef Eliyah are righteous converts is a publicized fact on the Internet, and therefore not rekhiluth (forbidden gossip). Moreover, none of what is written above is a personal attack on either one of them, but purely a response to widely-promoted work and false Torah teaching. One cannot accept or assume the position of rabbi, undertake to spew misleading Torah teachings that exhibit ignorance of halakhah, produce a growing number of converts and followers, and hide behind one’s rights as a convert.
Besides naturally-born Jews, Beth Midrash Ohel Moshe is home to a number of amazing converts, whose well-being and happiness we are continually preoccupied with. In all humility, it is safe to say that few, if any, Torah organizations have done more with their available resources and manpower to show love for the righteous convert.
Lastly, our own scholars are known for sharing the frustration with the current conversion crisis. Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear of amazingly sincere candidates being unfairly made to suffer through a dauntingly difficult path. Nonetheless, while a solution is yet to be found, mass conversions by novices in halakhah is not the answer. Meanwhile I continue to meet successful converts living happy lives in Israel, having been converted by normative rabbinical courts.
WHO WE ARE
While committed to RaMBaM’s Mishneh Torah, Beth Midrash Ohel Moshe is a normative, recognized Orthodox Torah community and outreach center, and an integral part of the local Yemenite community in Ramat Beit Shemesh. While we are dedicated to our pure halakhic path, we are equally dedicated to our role as members of the wider Torah community, and loyal citizens of Israel.
We wish our like-minded friends in Israel and abroad success in pursuing and growing in authentic Torah, and spreading its truth. Moreover, we pray that whoever accepts upon himself the great responsibility of spreading the poorly-known Torah of the RaMBaM in any official capacity, do so responsibly:
(1) Accurately, by inviting peer review and haskamot of noted hhakhamim (letters of approbation),
(2) with sensitivity, in a way that helps students to connect with the greater Torah world, and prepare him for life in Israel, our only true homeland,
(3) sagaciously and with love, with words that inspire unity with the greater Torah world, showing attachment to and sensitivity for the greater Torah world and our Land, and with great respect for the Torah giants of our generation.
We are a fractured and divided people. It takes no great skill to, through the verses of Mishneh Torah, pontificate to the ignorant about the ills of our society, to “increase mahhloqeth in Israel”, Heaven forbid. It is too easy to make quick judgments and spew barbs against poorly-understood policies of high-ranking Torah leaders (many of whom happen to know Mishneh Torah practically by heart), rather than undertaking to investigate what the rabbi truly said and why. It takes much greater skill to, through true Torah mastery and self mastery, humility and love, to emphasize the teachings that will strengthen the bonds that will unite us as a people.
With blessings from Beit Shemesh,
Michael Shelomo Bar-Ron, Beth Midrash Ohel Moshe