Issurei Biah - Chapter Fourteen
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.
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. And we inform him of the punishment given for [violating] the mitzvot.
What is implied? We tell him: "Before you came to our faith, if you partook of fat, you were not liable for your soul to be cut off. If you desecrated the Sabbath, you were not liable to be stoned to death. Now, after you convert, if you partake of fat, you are liable for your soul to be cut off. If you desecrate the Sabbath, you are liable to be stoned to death."
We do not teach him all the particulars lest this cause him concern and turn him away from a good path to a bad path. For at the outset, we draw a person forth with soft and appealing words, as [Hoshea 11:4] states: "With cords of man, I drew them forth," and then continues: "with bonds of love."
Just as he is informed of the punishment [for disobeying] the commandments; so, too, he is informed about the reward for [their observance]. We tell him that by observing these mitzvot, he will merit the life of the World to Come. For there is no completely righteous man other than a master of wisdom who observes these mitzvot and knows them.
We tell him: "Know that the World to Come is hidden away only for the righteous; they are the Jews. The fact that you see Israel suffering difficulty in this world [reflects] the good that is hidden away for them. For they cannot receive an abundance of good in this world as the gentiles do. For they hearts may become uplifted and they will err and lose the reward of the World to Come, as [Deuteronomy 32:15] states: "Jeshuron became fat and rebelled."
The Holy One, blessed be He, brings upon them an abundance of retribution solely so that they will not perish. For all the other nations will perish and they will prevail. We elaborate on this concept to make them feel cherished. If [the prospective convert] retracts and does not want to accept [the mitzvot], he goes on his way. If he accepts [their observance], we do not have him wait, but instead circumcise him immediately. If he was circumcised, we draw the blood of circumcision from him. We wait until he heals entirely and then immerse him.
Three [judges] stand over him and inform him about some of the easy mitzvot and some of the more severe ones a second time while he stands in the water. If the convert was female, women position her in the water until her neck while the judges are outside. They inform her about some of the easy mitzvot and some of the more severe ones while she is sitting in the water. Then she immerses herself in their presence. Afterwards, they turn their faces away and depart so that they will not see her when she ascends from the water.
What is meant by a resident alien? A gentile who makes a commitment not to worship false deities and to observe the other [six] universal laws commanded to Noah's descendants. He does not circumcise himself or immerse. We accept this commitment and he is considered one of the pious gentiles.
Why is he called a resident? Because we are permitted to allow him to dwell among us in Eretz Yisrael, as explained in Hilchot Avodah Zarah.
We accept resident aliens only during the era when the Jubilee year is observed. In the present era, even if a gentile makes a commitment to observe the entire Torah with the exception of one minor point, he is not accepted.
When a servant is purchased from the gentiles, we do not say: "Why did you choose to convert?" Instead, we say to him: "Do you desire to enter the category of Jewish servants and become one of the observant of them?" If he agrees, he is informed about the fundamentals of the faith, about some of the easy mitzvot and some of the more severe ones, and the punishments and rewards [associated with them] as we notify a convert. [Then] we immerse him as we immerse a convert and inform him [of the mitzvot] while he is in the water.
If he does not desire to accept [the status of a servant], we are patient with him for twelve months. Afterwards, we sell him to a gentile. It is forbidden to maintain him for a longer period. If at the outset, he established a condition that he would not be circumcised or immersed, but instead would be a resident alien, it is permissible to maintain him in that status. A servant may be maintained in this status only during the era when the Jubilee is observed.
The only sexual relations forbidden to a gentile are: his mother, his father's wife, his maternal sister, a married woman, a male, and an animal, as will be explained in Hilchot Melachim UMilchomoteihem. Other relations forbidden the Jews are permitted to them.
When a gentile converts or a servant is freed, he is like a newborn baby. Any relatives whom he had as a gentile or a servant are no longer considered his relatives. If both he and they convert, he is not obligated for relations with any of them.
According to Scriptural Law, a convert may marry his mother or his maternal sister after they convert. Nevertheless, our Sages forbade this so that [the converts] will not say: "We came from a more severe level of holiness to a less severe one. Yesterday, this [relationship] was forbidden and today, it is permitted."
Similarly, when a convert engages in relations with his mother or his sister when they have not converted, it is considered as if he had relations with a woman with whom he was not related.
What is the law that applies to converts with regard to relations with their relatives. As we explained, if one was married while a gentile to his mother or his sister and they converted, we separate them as explained [above]. If he was married to any one of the other forbidden relations and he and his wife converted, they are not forced to separate.
A convert is forbidden to marry his maternal relatives after they convert according to Rabbinic Law. He may, however, marry his paternal relatives. [This applies] even when he certainly knows that these persons are his paternal relatives, for example, twins, in which instance it is clear that the father of one is the father of the other. Nevertheless, our Sages did not enforce a decree with regard to one's paternal relatives.
Accordingly, a convert may marry the wife of his paternal brother, the wife of his father's brother, his father's wife, and his son's wife. [This applies] even if they married his brother, his father, his father's brother, or his son after they converted. Similarly, his mother's paternal sister, his paternal sister, and his daughter who converted are permitted to him. He may not, however, marry his maternal sister, his mother's maternal sister, nor a woman who married his maternal brother after he converted. If, however, a woman married his brother while he was a gentile, she is permitted to him.
When two twin brothers were not conceived in a state of holiness, but they were born in a state of holiness, each are liable [for relations with the other's wife] because of the prohibition against relations with a brother's wife.
When a man marries a female convert and her daughter who converted or two maternal sisters [who converted], he should remain married to one of them and divorce the other. If he married a female convert and she died, he is permitted to marry her mother or her daughter. For our Sages ordained their decree only during [the woman's] lifetime.
It is permissible for a man to marry two paternal sisters who converted, for our Sages did not ordain any decrees with regard to paternal relations, as explained.
[Our Sages] did not ordain any decrees with regard to shniot who convert. Therefore a convert may marry his maternal grandmother. Similarly, a person may marry a convert and the mother of her maternal grandmother or her and the daughter of her daughter's daughter. Similar laws apply with regard to the remainder of the shniot.
A servant is permitted to marry his mother while he is a servant.Needless to say, this applies with regard to his daughter, his sister, or the like. [Since] he has already departed from the category of gentiles, the intimate relations forbidden to the gentiles are not forbidden to him. And [since] he has not entered the category of the Jewish people, the intimate relations that are forbidden to the converts are not yet forbidden to him.
It appears to me that if a servant engages in homosexual or Sodomite relations, they should be executed. For these two prohibitions are universally applicable.
Servants who are freed are like converts. All of the relationships forbidden to converts are forbidden to them and all those permitted to converts are permitted to them.
A person may give his maid-servant to his own servant or to a servant belonging to his colleague. At the outset, he may give one maid-servant to two servants.Nor must they follow any restrictions. Instead, they are like animals. There is no difference whether a maid-servant is set aside for a servant or not, for there is no concept of marriage except within the Jewish people or among gentiles themselves, but not among servants themselves or between servants and the Jewish people.
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