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LEARNING

What does it mean

to Belong to the Jewish People?

A Global Jewish Teenage Conversation

Opening Text: Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 47b

The Sages taught in a baraita: a convert who comes to convert at the present time, they say to him: What did you see that motivated you to come to convert?

Don’t you know that the Jewish people at the present time are anguished, suppressed, despised, and harassed, and hardships are frequently visited upon them? If he says: I know, and although I am unworthy then the court accepts him immediately.

And they  inform him of some of the lenient/light mitzvot and some of the stringent/heavy mitzvot, and they

inform him of (the sin of neglecting the mitzvah to allow the poor to take) gleanings, forgotten sheaves, and

produce in the corner of one’s field, and about the poor man’s tithe. And they inform him of the punishment for (transgressing) the mitzvot.

תנו רבנן גר שבא להתגייר בזמן הזה אומרים לו מה ראית שבאת להתגייר

 

אי אתה יודע שישראל בזמן הזה דוויים דחופים סחופים ומטורפין ויסורין באין עליהם אם אומר יודע אני ואיני

כדאי מקבלין אותו מיד

 

ומודיעין אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות ומודיעין אותו עון לקט שכחה ופאה ומעשר עני ומודיעין אותו ענשן של מצות

What questions

does this passage raise for you?

 

How does one become Jewish?

The Sages taught in a baraita: a convert who comes to convert at the present time, they say to him: What did you see that motivated you to come to convert?

תנו רבנן גר שבא להתגייר בזמן הזה אומרים לו מה ראית שבאת להתגייר

Shabbat 31:

There was another incident involving one gentile who came before Shammai and said to Shammai: Convert me on condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one foot. Shammai pushed him away with the builder’s cubit in his hand. The same gentile came before Hillel. He converted him and said to him: That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.

Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Issuray Biya, Ch. 14:

1: What is the procedure when accepting a righteous convert? When one of the gentiles comes to convert, we inspect his background. If an ulterior motive for conversion is not found, we ask him: "Why did you choose to convert? Don't you know that in the present era, the Jews are afflicted, crushed, subjugated, strained, and suffering comes upon them?" If he answers: "I know. Would it be that I be able to be part of them," we accept him immediately.

2: We inform him of the fundamentals of the faith, i.e., the unity of God and the prohibition against the worship of false deities. We elaborate on this matter. We inform him about some of the easy mitzvot and some of the more severe ones. We do not elaborate on this matter. We inform him of the transgression of [not leaving] leket,shichachah, pe'ah, and the second tithe.

Goren, Conversion in Israel Only.

Who can join the Jewish people? (If you were creating a Beit Din, what would your conversion standards be?)

What does it mean to be Jewish?

What do you have to do to be a Jew?

What does Rambam add to the Talmudic process?

In order to convert, should a person have affirm any specific beliefs?

Should there be a standard process to convert to Judaism or should it be  movement-based?

 

What is our relationship to the non-Jewish world?

Don’t you know that the Jewish people at the present time are anguished, suppressed, despised, and harassed, and hardships are frequently visited upon them? If he says: I know, and although I am unworthy then the court accepts him immediately.

אי אתה יודע שישראל בזמן הזה דוויים דחופים סחופים ומטורפין ויסורין באין עליהם אם אומר יודע אני ואיני

כדאי מקבלין אותו מיד

Berachot 61b:

The Sages taught: One time, after the Bar Kokhba rebellion, the evil empire of Rome decreed that Israel may not engage in the study and practice of Torah. Pappos ben Yehuda came and found Rabbi Akiva, who was convening assemblies in public and engaging in Torah study. Pappos said to him: Akiva, are you not afraid of the empire?

Rabbi Akiva answered him: I will relate a parable. To what can this be compared? It is like a fox walking along a riverbank when he sees fish gathering and fleeing from place to place.

The fox said to them: From what are you fleeing?

They said to him: We are fleeing from the nets that people cast upon us.

He said to them: Do you wish to come up onto dry

land, and we will reside together just as my

ancestors resided with your ancestors?

The fish said to him: You are the one of whom they say, he is the cleverest of animals? You are not

clever; you are a fool. If we are afraid in the water,

our natural habitat which gives us life, then in a habitat that causes our death, all the more so.

So too, we Jews, now that we sit and engage in Torah study, about which it is written: “For that is your life, and the length of your days” (Deuteronomy 30:20), we fear the empire to this extent; if we proceed to sit idle from its study, as its abandonment is the habitat that causes our death, all the more so will we fear the empire.

What is the mashal/fable?

What is the nimshal (the moral of the story)?

Do you think this depiction of the fox and fish are accurate today?

To what degree should you go unto the shore?

Is an open declaration of our Judaism worth the potential risks?(create modern cases/examples)

In your city/society, is there a fox or a net?

Is Torah a source of life?

 

What are the most important Mitzvot?

And they  inform him of some of the lenient/light mitzvot and some of the stringent/heavy mitzvot, and they inform him of (the sin of neglecting the mitzvah to allow the poor to take) gleanings, forgotten sheaves, and produce in the corner of one’s field, and about the poor man’s tithe. And they inform him of the punishment for (transgressing) the mitzvot.

ומודיעין אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות ומודיעין אותו עון לקט שכחה ופאה ומעשר עני ומודיעין אותו ענשן של מצות

Makkot 23b-24a:

Stage 1:

613 mitzvot were told to Moses, 365 were negative commandments, by the solar calendar, 248 positive commandments that represent the limbs of a person.

 

Stage 2:

Rabbi Simlai continued: King David came and established the 613 mitzvot upon eleven mitzvot, as it is written: “A Psalm of David. Lord, who shall sojourn in Your Tabernacle? Who shall dwell upon Your sacred mountain? He who walks wholeheartedly, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. Who has no slander upon his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up reproach against his relative.

In whose eyes a vile person is despised, and he

honors those who fear the Lord; he takes an oath

to his own detriment, and changes not. He neither gives his money with interest, nor takes a bribe against the innocent. He who performs these shall never be moved” (Psalms, Chapter 15)....

Stage 3:

Micah came and made the mitzvot stand on 3, as it is written: “It has been told to you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord does require of you; only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Stage 4:

Habakkuk came and established the 613 mitzvot upon one, as it is stated: “But the righteous person shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

Main question: In your opinion, What are the (three) most important Jewish commandments, practices, and commitments and why?

 

(If you were building the future of Judaism/a Jewish colony on three, what would they be and why?)

 

Why do the Rabbis choose the ones they choose?

 

What would happen if you only lived with the most important mitzvot and disregarded the others? Would the essence of Judaism change?

The Global Beit Midrash seeks to inspire young Jews throughout the world to connect, collaborate, and create through the paths of story, texts, culture, and social action.

Created by Students of Milken Community Schools

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