Israeli Chief Sephardi Rabbi Rav Shlomo Amar today defended his decision to approve the military conversions which are undertaken according to orthodox Jewish law. His reaction came in the wake of claims from parts of the Ashkenazi-charedi camp that such conversions should not be considered valid, since the process the candidates underwent was faulty and the converts never really intended on maintaining a Jewish lifestyle, as evident in the fact that many of them do not keep mitzvos in the years that follow.
In a letter, Rav Amar noted the general guidelines of conversions – the necessity that the convert have a bris, immersed in a mikvah, face a qualified bais din and “take upon himself the mitzvot of the Torah,” all of which are conditions that can prevent or even retroactively annul a conversion. The chief rabbi then proceeded to make the distinction between those who never really accepted “Torah and mitzvot at the time of [their] conversion,” and are not considered converts. On the other hand, converts who had the right intent at the time of their process, but did not remain observant afterward are Jewish and must be married and divorced accordingly, he wrote.
“A convert who was circumcised and immersed in a mikvah, and accepted the Torah and mitzvot in front of three [rabbinic judges], and everything was done according to Halacha, and later on returned to his old ways and transgresses the Torah’s mitzvot – such a person is considered a Jewish apostate,” RavAmar wrote. “But his Jewish matrimony and divorce” are valid, the chief rabbi stressed, citing the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch.
At the end of the typed letter, Rav Amar added in hand that not only do the IDF converts accept the “burden of Torah and mitzvot,” after learning the principles of Judaism and being tested on them, they also are accompanied by religious families, who appraise them to the dayanim converting.
Rav Amar also noted that in his ruling he was following the lead of Rav Ovadia Yosef, whose affirmative decree on the subject of the halachic validity of the military conversions was what led the chief rabbi’s decision on the topic some ten days ago.
Today’s letter, which was also endorsed by Rav Yosef who signed its bottom, does not seem to bear much tidings, since Rav Amar had reiterated that the military conversions are, and were, conducted in accordance with Halacha, and therefore receive his approval and signature, as the law demands. But sources close to Rav Amar explained that the doubts cast by gedolei hador on the military process, which inevitably lead to aspersions on Rav Yosef and Rav Amar, who endorsed them, led the chief rabbi to release the latest letter. On Sunday, there were reports in the charedi online media that Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv had signed a letter declaring the military conversions halachically invalid, and that other senior poskim were adding their names to it.