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Must a Convert Honor His Biological Parents?

Must a Convert Honor His Biological Parents?

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Question:

As a potential convert, I wanted to know what Jewish tradition says about the relationship of a convert to his parents who are not Jewish and who are not interested in conversion. Are they still considered his parents after the conversion?

Answer:

Our sages say that when someone converts, it is as if he or she becomes a new person, now charged with a Jewish mission. “A convert who converts is similar to a child being born.”1

But while this is the case spiritually, the physical facts must also be taken into consideration. There are biological parents who gave birth to and raised that individual. The fact that someone has the opportunity to convert is due to what those parents did for that child. Practically, according to Jewish law, one should honor his or her biological parents.2

It can be difficult for parents to see their child choose a path so different from their own, and it is important to remain sensitive to their feelings.

Leaving a certain life behind you while still respecting those who got you there can be tricky. Finding the right balance is something to discuss with the rabbi you would be working with on your conversion.

Let me know if this helps.

Yours truly,
Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar
Ask the Rabbi @ Chabad.org

Reply:

Dear Rabbi Cotlar,

It was a pleasure to receive such a prompt response to my question. Moreover, it was wonderful to receive such an enlightened, considerate, well thought out, sensitive opinion. Judaism is a beautiful religion, and the Jewish people comprise a nation of “menschen” because of spiritual leaders such as you.

Footnotes
1.

Talmud, Yevamot 22a.

2.

See Encyclopedia Talmudit, vol. 6, p. 262.

Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar is a Chabad rabbi in Cary, North Carolina. He is also a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Discussion (23)
June 29, 2014
Rabbi so if we the nations obey the Torah,the teaching and instructions of G-D ,are we part of the root of Isreal?
Atta Thomas
June 28, 2014
i think the title is incorrect. it should be "MAY" a convert honer his parents?
david
mexico
June 27, 2014
My father was not Jewish
My great Aunt Lola informed me when I was in late 20's I am Jewish. I am very close to my fathers family. He was not Jewish. My grandparents did not tell my mother or uncle we were Jewish. My Grandmother was Jewish, her mother, on back were Jewish. I first learned the history, culture, then the spirituality. I do not feel as I belong anywhere at times. My fathers side is not very accepting of my being Jewish or the least bit observant. At times I do not feel welcomed by my Jewish encounters. Converting would be a difficult transition. I am 57 now
Anonymous
June 27, 2014
Parents of the Ger
It can be reduced to what is Jewish and what is not. Yiskar, Shiva, Kaddish, Yarhtzeit, etc are distinctly Jewish. Honor, respect, communication, love, care, sharing of course are B'nai Noah as well and are shared by all righteous people.
When in doubt, look it up first and then confirm with your Rabbi.
Baruch
USA
June 27, 2014
non-jewish parents
it is clear that Jewish law requires one honor their parents. I have said Kadish for
both of my dead parents. Would you give them less than you would have BEFORE
your became Jewish?
michal melchiore
June 26, 2014
Converts and thier parents
Jews also believe that we choose our parents before being born into this life. This is because the situation we are born into provides the opportunities for learning, growth and spiritual elevation.
Yes, it is sometimes painful for all parties involved when this life calling has been made - but we must try our best to be as respectful as possible to each other and empathise with those who this hurts. If it makes one feel any better, this is understood by each soul on the higher planes.
I have been working for 15 years to be converted - obviously, lessons still need to be learned. I will merit HaShem's grace when He is ready for me (or I Him)!
Rivkah
Colorado springs
June 26, 2014
Converts join a new family
Sorry to be the downer but a convert does not sit Shiva for biological parents, nor does he/she recognize the same familial role. My husband converted and much was said about this during the process. A lot of it is actually to protect the biological parents who G-d chose to bring the convert into the world. Liability law, etc. But it is something so important to address before conversion there is no sugar-coating. Once you come out of the mikvah you are Jewish and they are not. It has to be considered seriously. Plus, we had to inform my husband's family why we could not attend their marriage or funeral ceremonies in churches. It is what it is. G-d loves everyone and this is not about that. It is about a Jewish commitment, a Jewish life and a Jewish Covenant. Noahides are equally cherished. Choose wisely with educated and compassionate rabbis. Once a Jew always a Jew. Kol tuv.
Shoshana
June 26, 2014
A Convert Honoring thier Biological Parents
B"H I believe this is one of those questions one should consult a rabbi or two for an answer. But at the same time, as was written, the physical side of Life is also important. Bringing Holiness into THIS world, is called, Tikkun HaOlam, Repairing the world. Even if one's earthly parents are in darkness, Once HaShem has brought the Light of Torah into a persons' life, it becomes that persons' responsibility to shine what they were given from on high, unto even the most wretched of places, for it is HaShem who steers everything into its' proper place. I know of a few, whose parents were drug addicts. After their conversion, they took it upon themselves to do an intervention of their parents. It worked. The parents did not become Jewish, but they got clean & sober and began making a difference to others in the Recovery field. Even if it seems hopeless, remember that All of the darkness cant stop the light of a single candle, unless you allow it.
Anonymous
Pasadena, CA
June 26, 2014
Actions can be commanded. Feelings cannot be commanded.
"Honour" can have 2 meanings:- (1) behave properly towards the people/deity you are honouring; (2) Feel respect for the people/deity you are honouring.

It makes sense to command people to act properly. Indeed I hope that my behaviour towards people whose morals or opinions I despise is such that they have no idea what I really think about them.

It makes no sense to command people to have an emotion or opinion. Emotions arise from the actions of others, and opinions come about when one thinks about things. I know parents whose children would need to be masochists if they honoured their parents in the emotional sense.

As a parent I have absolutely no desire to be honoured by my children because of a command. They behave properly because they are decent people. They are autonomous people and can have opinions which are not the same as mine, just as long as they have thought about their opinions.

The convert should continue to honour his biological parents in the behaviour sense.
Natalie Kehr
London
June 26, 2014
It is a command to honor thy father and mother.
Susan Pelayo
Artesia, NM