Converts and an Angelic Mix-up

This week, Yeshiva had two days of Yimei Iyun on the topic of Geirut.  One of the presentations was by Professor Rami Reiner who discussed the differing and changing attitudes towards converts during the period of the Tosafists.  He summarized his fascinating article on the topic (which is available in Hebrew and English on Academia.edu).  In short, he argues that Rashi and Rabbenu Tam have a very suspect attitude towards gerim, while the Ri, and most of the Baalei HaTosafot after them embrace gerim very warmly.  He argues that in the earlier period, Jews were much better off, so the gerim that converted were often less sincere.  However, as the 12th century continued, the situation became very difficult for Jews – they were hated and killed, and many martyred themselves.  The gerim who converted then were the most sincere – those that left Christianity to join a nation being killed by crusaders, and those converts were often the first to martyr themselves.

Two amazing sources that reflect this total embrace are found in the writings of R. Yehuda HaChasid and R. Elazar of Worms.  

The Maharam MiRutenberg quotes R. Yehuda HaChasid as follows:

אין בן דוד בא עד שיכלו כל הנשמות שבגוף. פיחדר יש ברקיע וגוף שמו וכל הנשמות העתידות לינתן בבני אדם בתוכו ומלאך הממונה על ההריון לוקח מן החדר ומשים במעי אשה. ולפעמים טועה ומשים נשמה שראויה להיות גוי במעי יהודיה ואותו נעשה משומד. ולפעמים משים נשמה שראויה להיות יהודי במעי גויה ואותו נעשה גר

 He claims that there is a room in heaven with all souls.  A Ger is a Jewish soul that the angel accidentally put in a non-Jewish body.  That person eventually finds his or her way back to the Jewish people.  In other words, R. Yehuda HaChasid entirely erases the distinction between Jews and non-Jews, because a Ger is just a Jew who was put in the wrong body.

R. Elazar of Worms in the Rokeach argues similarly, though he claims that the souls of Gerim were those that were closest to the dividing wall in this heavenly room – almost Jews even before conversion, though not actually Jewish yet.

בחדר הגוף כל הנשמות הן של ישראל הן של גוים אלא שיש כותל מבדיל ביניהם, והנשמות הן סמוכות אצל הגוים, בקרוב היה ראוי להיות גוי אלא רחמי הקבה. ותדע כי הגויים מתייחדים [צל: מתייהדים] מחמת שנשמתן היו קרובים בגוף לישרשגברו

Anyways, the rest of the article is fascinating as well, but anyone who interested can read it inside.

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