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Bava Metzia 58b one is not allowed to remind a convert that they converted. However, they are given the name "Ben Avraham Avinu/bat Sarah Immenu" which makes them stand out and is a constant reminder as well as revelation to everyone who hears it that they are a convert.

What am I missing here? Would it be possible to leave out the Avinu/Immenu either officially or unofficially, such as when called to Torah or when they tell people casually? Could they lie about their name altogether as even "Ben Avraham/Bat Sarah" might raise suspicions, especially if they look a little/lot different?

Would they be allowed to leave it out of documents like a ketuba?

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    There are different takes on this. For example, the Tosefta in Gittin 6:4 writes that Jews overseas would have different names, and hence it is acceptable to have another name than ben Avraham etc...
    – Shmuel
    Mar 25, 2023 at 21:08
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    Although it is from a source that I would not use myself, since it is Conservative Judaism, see this article: rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/public/halakhah/…
    – Shmuel
    Mar 25, 2023 at 21:09
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    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/56346/27180
    – Shmuel
    Mar 25, 2023 at 21:09
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    In practice, the title Avinu and Imeinu isn't used. If the ger gets an aliyah, they could just be the child of someone called Avraham.
    – N.T.
    Mar 26, 2023 at 3:25
  • And I think the problem with reminding is if it is done in a derogatory way, to imply they are less than. Treating their conversion as something to be ashamed of and never mentioned is actually counterproductive.
    – N.T.
    Mar 26, 2023 at 3:26

1 Answer 1

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Bava Metzia is talking about ona'at devarim -- verbal abuse. Ona'a from the same root as koneh (I think that's R' Hirsch) -- I want to dominate that person and make them feel "less than." So I'll say -- how dare you speak up? You used to worship idols! or you should be thanking us to be allowed in here; your grandparents were Nazis or why should we allow someone into our yeshiva who used to do every possible noxious thing?

There's also the crucial, crucial distinction between "what's necessary to be made known to everyone, all the time" and mental convolutions of trying to hide a basic truth. A convert doesn't have to walk around in shul with a giant neon sign saying "HI I'M JOE I'M A CONVERT" ... but if someone astute picks up that they're a Jew-by-choice, that's fine. The point is not to exploit that to hurt them.

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  • Shalom this is exactly my understanding of this nekudah as well, but what is our source? Mar 26, 2023 at 11:55
  • @יהושעק Reading that Gemara in context!
    – Shalom
    Mar 26, 2023 at 20:28
  • @Shalom so the gemara is just giving a practical example of ona'at devarim, and there's no specific halacha for converts?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Sep 3, 2023 at 14:47
  • @RabbiKaii precisely. Mishna says just as you can't abuse someone in business, you can't abuse them verbally. It then gives three examples of verbally exploiting someone's vulnerability -- a.) they need to sell something (so you get them to jump through hoops) b.) they are born-Jewish but have a spotted past c.) they weren't born Jewish. Now there is an additional prohibition on verbal abuse of a convert -- in cases where it is verbal abuse! "Joe is a Jew by choice" is not verbally abusive. "Shut your pagan mouth, Joe" is abusive.
    – Shalom
    Sep 4, 2023 at 10:12
  • @Shalom Thanks so much. I do know of converts who absolutely have a trauma reaction by the idea someone might find out. I therefore will use that as my own personal guide to what counts as "hurting someone with words", and encourage others to consider it. Your source and explanation is perfectly good, +1 accepted. How amazing Torah is! It really proves how someone who says "I can be good without Torah" really has no idea what they are talking about. Being good is a lifetime's study, and the Torah puts us all to shame with its expectations of morality!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Sep 4, 2023 at 10:16

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