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27 Teves 5760 - January 5, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
A Call To Save Our Pure Yichus

by HaRav Yonah Mertzbach

[In Adar II, 5703 (1943) HaRav Yonah Mertzbach zt'l published the following article in the chareidi publication HaDerech, dealing with the disastrous halachic problems created by the aliya from Europe. This immigration included people disbarred from Jewish marriage, as well as bogus converts to Judaism who threatened to mix with the general populace in the Holy Land. Because of judicial decisions concerning fictitious conversions and recognition of the Reform Movement's activities, and the general problems of bogus conversion among Reform, Conservative and Orthodox rabbonim, this article has renewed relevance today.]

Before I even begin, I know that what I am writing here will be like talking to the wall. It will be like blowing a trumpet during a peal of thunder. Nevertheless, I cannot be silent. From day to day corruption is endangering the very heart of my people.

In the Diaspora we were already fighting this milchemes mitzvah. We rebuked the people there to the greatest possible degree, even to the point of maledictions and open denunciation. The enemy from the outside swallowed up all our weapons against it. Who knows if we did not harm ourselves by all this? "Wars were only created to destroy the mamzeirim from among Yisroel." Hashem, the vineyard's owner, burns down the thorns in His vineyard, and after the fire starts, stacks of good produce are sometimes also destroyed.

When we emigrated to this Holy Land we were joyful that some of the country's laws were controlled by our Torah leaders: Marriage, divorce, and yichus were under the control of the rabbonim. At least the rabbonim could enforce part of the Torah's mitzvos, though these were almost the only ones, due to our many sins. In those matters, we thought, no one on the inside or on the outside had the power to fetter us. We rejoiced, but were later disappointed when we saw something that we had hoped never to see here.

I approached Agudas Yisroel in order to discuss the problem, and attended its conference in Petach Tikva; but nothing at all resulted from that. Political questions took precedence there over everything else. Today politics is more important than all the 613 mitzvos. In politics everyone finds a place to excel and be an expert, so why should a person choose to engage in other things that demand that one seek advice and gain much experience?

I went to the Taharas Hamishpocha Conference that took place in Yerushalayim under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate and that dealt with a subject bordering on ours. I heard many speeches, lectures, discussions, and suggestions at the conference. At its end there were also endless resolutions, but after all the commotion there was total silence. The yetzer hora is meanwhile sitting and poisoning the situation more and more.

What exactly is our present situation? It is necessary to clarify it for those who do not know.

I will not write at length. The stories will speak for themselves; the facts will show what is happening. The following is only an example, one case out of many that have, incidentally, become known to us. Similar occurrences are, unfortunately, numerous, to our great shame.

A family from the country in whose rabbinate I once served, emigrated to Eretz Yisroel. This family's children are mamzeirim mideOraisa: the father married his brother's widow, despite the fact that she had living children from her previous husband. It was a clear case of marrying a brother's wife without a mitzvah of yibum.

We know that when Jews in western countries forsook many of the mitzvos, the laws about arayos, too, collapsed where these laws were different from the non-Jewish ones. When uprooters of the religion saw that the nation sinned, they presented themselves as rabbonim and arranged "rabbinical" conferences and passed resolutions. In fact, they did not only pass resolutions; they also acted.

They arranged marriages even for those whom the Torah prohibits from marrying and even said the sheva brochos there. They wrote bills of divorce not according to the halocho and even against the husband's will, as if they were Heaven's emissaries to carry out justice. They permitted another issur and yet another, and caused irreparable damage. The result: mamzeirim were born because of them.

Then the great aliya came. People immigrated from all over the world to Eretz Yisroel.

When I was still in the Diaspora I warned the rabbonim in Eretz Yisroel about the particular case just mentioned, but at that time no one knew where they were living. After I too made aliya I located them, but what did I find? One of the mamzeirim meanwhile had made chuppah and kiddushin and the second was about to become engaged.

This is not the proper forum to clarify the entire halachic subject of a mishpocha shenitme'oh. There are many differences of opinion. The Rishonim differ over whether nitme'oh means having become admixed into the populace or whether it means the family's origins were forgotten. When this principle applies and when it does not is also a matter of opinion. But all in all, who gave us permission to bring about such a situation with our own hands?

Indeed the heart aches over these unfortunate people who were born mamzeirim. We are ready to honor them more than a Kohen godol who is not fitting for his position, recognizing when they are fitting for such a position if it were not for their being mamzeirim. There is, nevertheless, a decree of the Torah, and we cannot raise doubts about it. Are we allowed to let them enter kehal Hashem and marry?

There are many such cases in our land. You do not know, your son does not know, your daughter does not know, who will be their future mates. Can you ever be sure that, Hashem yishmor, your grandchildren will not be mamzeirim?

Is this the time to be silent? Should we simply do nothing?

Non-Jews, too, have mixed in among us, some pretending to be Jews.

For a year or two the Jewish Agency did not even bother asking the religion and faith of the immigrants' wives when they handed them a certificate of aliya. They and their Christian wives, and their halachically non-Jewish children, made aliya, and more children were later born here.

There are also non-Jews who pretend to be Jewish. Reform rabbis in western lands had good and compassionate hearts. Anyone who came to them to become Jewish was accepted with their blessings. They did not check if these people's intentions were lesheim Shomayim or not. They did not demand of them to agree to observe all the mitzvos, since they themselves did not observe or even accept all the mitzvos; and "What is hateful to you, you must not do to your fellow man."

Many times these so-called rabbis accepted geirim even without halachic immersion in a mikveh. There were some rabbis who just brought these non-Jews to the shul, and after standing them in front of the open aron kodesh they read the posuk of Shema Yisroel -- and in that way they "entered" Klal Yisroel. These were geirim according to the Reform rabbis. According to the halocho, without tevilla and accepting the yoke of mitzvos they remained non-Jews, and the children of female "geirim" of this sort are non-Jews, and their daughters' children too.

I am acquainted with immigrants of both types. They live in several cities in Eretz Yisroel, and no one knows that according to halocho they are non-Jews. There is no one to prevent them from joining am Yisroel through chuppah vekiddushin.

Even when people are aware . . . I wonder what the Chief Rabbinate offices in Eretz Yisroel will do if that professor of the Hebrew University who tells chassidic stories and "prophecies," or that poet who is a Citizen of Honor of the Hebrew city (Tel Aviv) and whose poems are printed in Israel's newspapers, demands chuppah and kiddushin for his children from his non-Jewish wife. These two men's wives never converted properly and never accepted upon themselves the yoke of mitzvos, and therefore their children, are, according to halocho, non-Jews. I just wonder what the Rabbinate offices will do. What will they tell them? What they will answer them?

These are only a few cases we are aware of. Again I ask: are we to sit with folded hands and see non-Jews assimilating among us? Are we to observe passively while holy Jewish hearts and souls, until now pure, are strangled by marriage to non-Jews who were not sanctified by halachic conversion? I again ask: Are you, the reader of this article, certain that, chas vecholila, your children will never intentionally or unintentionally realize the posuk, "she [the non- Jew married to a Jewish man] will remove your son [from the Jewish nation]." If this happens, it will only be because our generation was spiritually impoverished and irresponsible. Should someone not have given the warning to make a proper distinction between Jews and non-Jews?

All the people of improper yichus in Babylonia went up with Ezra the Scribe, and some opinions claim that Ezra forced them to come up to Eretz Yisroel. Our land then became an isah ("dough"), as Chazal write (a mixture of yeast, water, flour, salt, and bran, figuratively speaking) in comparison to Babylonia.

Woe to our generation, in which our holy land is liable to become an isah again in comparison to other lands, to the entire world, to become a mixture of those who were held unfit by the whole Diaspora. This is liable to happen if we do not do something about it.

How great is our shame! Not only because of the immigrants, not only because of the filth of the sitra achra that dwells in the impure lands, have we sullied ourselves. There are unfortunately other reasons.

The nonobservance of Jewish marital laws within the secular leftist kibbutzim in Eretz Yisroel is a strict secret that can only partly be revealed. We cry out from the bottom of our hearts over their chillul Shabbos. We are deeply shocked in seeing their war against our faith and any sacred values. We are not to blame for all this. When the time comes -- and we are sure that it will come -- and these people truly return to Hashem and His Torah, then even intentional sins will be transformed to unintentional ones. If they repent because of love for Hashem, then their sins will be transformed to merits. However, there are sometimes irremediable conditions.

Woe to us that we are forced to talk like this! Woe to ears that hear such talk! We hope that Hashem's honor will be restored and that things will change. I will only cite what one government-appointed rabbi of a community in Eretz Yisroel bitterly wrote. With his pure heart he moans: "Why should we bother trying to do something against the isolated cases of mamzeirim mentioned above, when in the kibbutz near where I live the majority of children born are . . . "

"For the sin that we have sinned before You by gilui arayos." "We have sinned" is emphasized in that prayer. If we do not do anything, we will see the glory of Klal Yisroel trampled upon by reckless feet, and sacred Jewish values will be desecrated. Can we remain silent, can we not take even the most extraordinary means to save what still can be saved?

Yirei Shomayim -- the rabbonim in Eretz Yisroel -- have already conferred together about what should be done to prevent the many severe aberrations that have happened in past marriages. They have made some takonos: two witnesses must testify about the chosson and the kallah, and the names of the intended pair are printed in local newspapers. (Though what have they gained by printing the names in the papers if their original homeland is not printed too?)

But we all know what happens in reality. People consider testifying about the future chosson and kallah a mere formality, a matter of honor and kindness. The couple request someone of their acquaintance who knows them -- sometimes even someone who does not know them at all -- to do them a favor and honor them by signing in the Rabbinate office on a form that certifies that the undersigned has no knowledge of any reason to prevent the marriage of this couple. Is there any good-hearted person who will refuse to sign? In addition, many times the yichus of the person who signs needs to be vouched for too.

Furthermore, what will these attempts to rectify the situation help when there are Liberal rabbis, of the German [i.e., Reform] type, who do not recognize the eternity of the Torah and its laws, and who officially conduct marriages for the Rabbinate? These "rabbis" do not even agree to all the Rambam's Thirteen Principles of Faith. What is prohibited in other cities is permitted in Yerushalayim, the Holy City! There is a Reform rabbi who arranges marriages there, and no protest -- not even from Rav Meir Berlin, the president of Mizrachi, who was enraged and cried out against this -- did anything to help to remove this michshol.

We need to act, not to make takonos. Who still thinks that the world will continue in the same way? There are truly many problems, but there are many ways to deal with them.

It happened that an immigrant from Iraq asked me a question that astounded me. In her homeland, parents are even today accustomed to marry off their daughters as minors, which they are allowed to do according to the Torah. Her father, too, married this woman off a few years ago. Since the chosson was disliked by her, she never agreed to the match and a chuppah was never made. The father, however, took the kiddushin money and therefore she is, according to halocho, an arusah, a married woman.

In the meantime she has immigrated to Eretz Yisroel and her arus has remained in Iraq. Now a new life has begun for her and she wants to become engaged to someone else. She thinks that what her father did in Iraq does not obligate her, since she was very small when he did it, and furthermore, she never agreed to it. She asked my opinion: do I not agree with her?

Now what will be, if all the efforts to obtain a get from her halachic husband are not successful? Will she withstand this test of faith? What will be with those who never came to ask a rabbinical query, and who never will come? Is it not possible that this young woman, who is actually an eishes ish, will be married with chuppah and kiddushin, here in the Holy Land, even before the most chareidi Rabbinate, because of not knowing that there is a problem and an inability to investigate the case?

How many of the unfortunate children who have been saved from the Gehennom of the wicked oppressor, and of those that will be saved (may Hashem, Who has abundant mercy even when He is angry, save their multitudes) are clearly aware of their parents' status, or of who their parents really were? Is there not a danger, as our sages z'l always feared, that a brother may marry his sister, chas vesholom? Is it possible any longer to postpone making takonos and taking corrective steps? Or is it perhaps already too late?

Let no one think that I have enumerated even half of the problems. I could add much more, but what I have already cited is sufficient to show what is needed. Things that have never happened before are happening in our generation.

It is our obligation to save the remnant of Jewry until the Redeemer comes, the king upon whom we daily wait. We will then come before him and tell him that we did all that we could. Our obligation is to save, to save both the body and the neshomo, the Torah and its mitzvos, am Yisroel and its yichus.

Is there any way to do this? Is it at all possible?

Yes, it certainly is!

All the possibilities cannot be described in this article, but one way is worth being cited here.

We all fondly remember the Dutch rabbonim and their lay leaders who showed us the way; they themselves took it and succeeded. They carried out one idea that, although it cannot solve all problems, could greatly help.

Let us follow them, let us act as they did. Let us demand that what they did be done here. What was done in Holland can also be done in Eretz Yisroel: arranging a certificate of yichus.

A certificate of yichus is signed by a beis din after they have clarified a person's status according to the halocho and based on reliable witnesses who know the neighborhood where that man or woman was born. These witnesses have testified that there is no uncertainty about the yichus of the certificate's holder. With such a certificate our children and grandchildren would be able to know which people there are no doubts about, and which were born with halachic doubts that must be looked into.

The yichus certificate would immensely help in several halachic questions. Furthermore, its enforcement will be sufficient to arouse people's attention to the importance of yichus.

It is currently still possible to investigate many halachic doubts, but in the future there will be doubts that cannot be clarified. With these yichus certificates we can save the pure yichus of the future generations.

"HaKodosh Boruch Hu only lets His Shechina dwell on families that have a yichus." Let us fulfill our obligation, so that Hashem can once again let His Shechina dwell upon the Jewish Nation.

Incomparable suffering surrounds us. The external enemy threatens to destroy us. Let us take the example of Ezra the Scribe. When our archenemies planned to destroy us, what did Ezra do? With a strong hand and a resolute heart, without fear of anyone, through his deeds he saved the yichus of our nation, and in that way saved the people.

Who will stand up to save our pride, our yichus? If not now, then when? Do the leaders of our nation and the gedolim not see that we cannot delay? It is now a time of pikuach nefesh. Let us try to save ourselves.

HaRav Yonah Mertzbach zt'l was rosh yeshiva in Yeshivas Kol Torah in Yerushalayim. This English translation was first printed in the Rosh Hashana edition, 5757. We are reprinting it because of its relevance to the renewed issue of yuchsin.

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