"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Conversion and Birth

Conversion and Birth

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

Our sages say: “A convert is like a newborn child.”[1] At first glance, our sages use this analogy to describe the utter transformation that the convert undergoes upon conversion, who becomes a new being, like a newly born child.

However, if this is the purpose of the comparison, it seems lacking. After all, even a newborn child exists before its birth—and fully formed, with all its organs in place. All that occurs at birth is that the child’s hidden existence becomes manifest, and it functions (albeit only on the basic level) independently in the outside world. Why isn’t conversion described with another analogy, one that truly implies a complete metamorphosis?

The answer: Indeed, the process of conversion is directly comparable to physical birth, for the convert’s special Jewish Neshamah existed even before conversion, just as a baby exists before birth. In fact, the convert’s Neshamah was present when the Torah was given, as were the Neshamos of Jews who are not converts.[2] This is comparable to the way that an unborn child is taught the entire Torah,[3] just as the entire Torah was given to every single Jew at Sinai.

However, although the convert’s Neshamah exists, it is hidden, and it has no impact on the “outside world”—i.e., our physical world. When the conversion occurs, the convert’s Neshamah is “born”—it emerges and begins to exert an impact upon the outside world.

Thus, we find that our sages refer to a convert using the apparently odd phrase, “ger shenisgayeir—a convert who converts.” Shouldn’t it refer to “goy shenisgayeir—a non-Jew who converts,” along the lines of a standard Talmudic expression, “katan shehigdil—a minor who becomes an adult”? Rather, this precise expression alludes to the spark of a holy Jewish soul that lay within the convert even before conversion.[4]

Moreover, this Jewish soul existed in the non-Jew from his physical birth.

To explain, the Talmud says, “The son of David [Moshiach] will not come until all the souls to be vested in bodies [lit. “in the body”] have been exhausted.”[5] This means that Moshiach’s coming depends upon a certain number of Jewish people being born. Why is the singular word “guf—body” used to refer to the bodies into which the souls are to be vested?

This alludes to a deeper meaning. Every Neshamah that will ever be placed in a Jew awaits in a heavenly storehouse called “guf—body,” and the angel appointed over birth takes the Neshamah from that storehouse and implants it inside the embryo in the mother’s womb.

However, sometimes the angel mistakenly puts a Jewish Neshamah in the womb of a non-Jewish mother, and that child ends up becoming a convert.[6]

Based on the Rebbe's Hisva’aduyos 5743, Vol. 2, p. 925.

[1] Yevamos 62b.
[2] Pirkei DeRebbi Elazar ch. 41.
[3] Niddah 30b.
[4] Chida, Midbar Kedeimos 3:3.
[5] Yevamos 62a.
[6] Teshuvos Baalei HaTosafos, p. 286, in the name of R’ Yehudah HaChossid.

This post is dedicated to all the righteous converts; may they be blessed begashmiyus and beruchniyus!


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