Adoption in Judaism / Giur (Conversion) / Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz

Conversion to Judaism: Minors and Fetus, Part 1

Before I start I have to stress the following:
There are people who may find themselves in exactly the same situation I am describing in this small article series. If you have any further questions and are in need of details, please ask your Rabbi / the Rabbi of your conversion programme. In this series, I am only stating some Halachot and repeat what I learned at a Shiur. I am not an expert in this field !
Last Tuesday I went to my weekly Halacha Shiur given by Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz. This time the subject was: Conversion to Judaism of minors and fetuses. 
Please note:
A minor cannot convert to Judaism on his own. Only when someone is 18 years old he is able to participate in a conversion course. 
Talmud Tractate Ketubot allows the conversion (Gerut) of minors. It happens quite frequently that either a non – Jewish woman with children wants to convert to Judaism or a whole family (parents and kids) want to become Jewish. However, I cannot say anything about the conversion course procedure, as this differs from community to community. Whether parents and children are studying together with a Rabbi or separately. It also depends on the age of the children ! 
Lets say a non – Jewish woman and her child or a non – Jewish family with children converts to Judaism. Orthodox and according to halachic standards. At the age of 12 (girls) or the age of 13 (boys) the child has a right to declare that it doesn’t want to be Jewish. The same applies to a non – Jewish child adopted by Jewish parents.
The reason is that the children didn’t have much of a choice when the parents converted. The same with an adopted formerly non – Jewish child adopted by a Jewish family.
The children can declare before their Bar or Bat Mitzvah that they don’t want to be Jewish. If they do not declare anything, celebrate Bar Mitzvah and continue their Jewish life, nothing is going to happen and the children remain Jewish.
Rabbi Breitowitz only mentioned the issue briefly and so do I: Apparently there is a whole halachic dispute whether a halachic Jew is allowed to mechalel (desecrate) Shabbat in order to save a life of a converted minor. What if the child, later on, declares that he doesn’t want to be Jewish any more ?
I didn’t think about it at the Shiur but when I listened to my recording, it occurred to me that I have never thought about the Pikuach Nefesh topic in depth. A Jew is obligated to desecrate Shabbat in order to save someone else’s life. Example: Taking him to hospital, calling an ambulance, etc. 
I always thought that this applies to Jews and non – Jews alike. Maybe someone knows the exact Halacha: Is a Jew only allowed to mechalel Shabbat in order to rescue another Jew or is there a difference between a Jew and a non – Jew ?

2 thoughts on “Conversion to Judaism: Minors and Fetus, Part 1

  1. B”H

    The Halakhah obligates a Jew to save the lives of all human beings, Jews and Goyim alike, even by desacrating the Shabbes. This is the universal conclusion of all the Poskim. They only diverge on why the Talmud does not say it explicitely.

    The Talmud, and the Rishonim, establishes that for the sake of preventing enmity (mipnei eiva), Jews may violate certain prohibitions. Many Poskim used this dispensation to justify violating transgressions in order to save the lives of Goyim.

    Rabbi Moshe Sofer noted that the failure to save non-Jews would not only create enmity, but could also lead to gentiles refusing to treat Jews, or even to pogroms. As such, Jews must save the lives of all humans, even if it entails violating biblical prohibitions on Shabbes, because a lack of reciprocity endangers the Jewish community.

    Rabbi Menachem Hameiri contended that the Talmudic failure to explicitely apply the dispensation to save the lives of non Jews only applied in ancient societies where the non- Jewish majority regularly abused its Jewish inhabitants. In cultures where the larger population acts on ethical principles, no distinction is made between saving the life of a Jew and that of a gentile.

  2. B”H

    Thank you very much for this insight !

    Rabbi Moshe Sofer’s opinion is what I thought: How could a Jew distinguish between Jew and non – Jew when it comes to save a life ? This simply wouldn’t work and the Gentile world would freak.

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