In a recent case the Israeli Rabbinical Court has revoked someone's conversion to Judaism on the grounds that they were deceptive. This decision was

"...Based on the fact that she completely changed her lifestyle shortly after her conversion, with no remnants of observing the religious commandments (mitzvot) she agreed to uphold".

However, another Rabbi in the article disputes being able to revoke a conversion:

According to Chuck Davidson, a modern Orthodox rabbi and social activist on what he calls “the conversion crisis in Israel,” it is very clear in rabbinic literature that there is almost no instance in which a conversion can be revoked.

“From the Middle Ages onwards, the greatest of the rabbis wrote explicitly that even if immediately after the conversion the convert goes off to worship idols, the person is still considered Jewish,” said Davidson, who has published extensively on this subject.

What are the sources for both opinions?

What would/do other Battei Din do?


4 Answers 4


See https://judaism.stackexchange.com/a/48512/21 for more.

If we have some magical machine that can tell us that a person is completely sincere about their conversion, then it can't be revoked by their behavior afterwards.

But if we have reason to suspect an insincere conversion, then their behavior immediately afterwards could be used as an indication. Rabbi Hershel Schachter tells a story that Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveichik was asked of a non-Jewish fellow who was dating a Jewish woman. Immediately after converting, he kept nothing whatsoever. He then married her and then disappeared with her money. Rabbi Soloveichik ruled that if he kept nothing, it was obvious the conversion was a sham for nothing but the sake of marriage, and therefore invalid. (Thus the Jewish woman could remarry without a Jewish divorce.)

Now if someone kept most/all for a reasonable time after conversion, and then later their religious observance slipped, we'd assume their initial commitment was sincere. Now how much has to be kept, and for how long, ... it's really hard to tell.

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    +1. Just to clarify: If the person was acting in a manner at the time of their conversion that demonstrated that they were not sincere in accepting mitzva observance, they are simply not Jewish. The conversion isn't revoked by the beis din; the conversion was never valid to begin with. If a person did sincerely accept mitzva observance and only later on changed their mind and stopped observing mitzvos, they are still Jewish. No beis din could change that, nor would any beis din try to change that.
    – Fred
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 2:49

The opinion expressed by Chuck Davidson is based on a straight reading of the Shulchan Aruch (YD 268:2 & 12), which states that if a properly functioning beis din performs a conversion, the conversion is final and valid even if the convert subsequently fails to keep Torah law.

On the other hand, according to most poskim, a beis din is not empowered to accept a convert whom they know to be completely insincere, and if they do so the conversion is indeed invalid. (In fact, this may actually be a unanimous opinion, the disagreement being only on what qualifies as "completely insincere".)

An intermediate case is discussed by R' Moshe Feinstein (YD 3:106 & 108). He writes that in a case where a beis din chose to accept a convert who was known to have questionable motives, the validity of the conversion remains uncertain until the convert demonstrates his sincerity through his actions. (R' Moshe says that this is the intent of the Shulchan Aruch's statement, וחוששין לו עד שתתברר צדקתו (YD 268:12), regarding such a conversion.)


The only ways to revoke are a conversion are when:

1) The mikveh is found to be not kosher

2) The mila (of a male) is found to be not kosher

3) The "dayyanim" are not frum males over the age of 13

4) It can be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that the convert had no intent of ever joining the Jewish people. Non-observance does not, in and of itself, prove that. The case of Rav Soleveitchik was a case where the convert never intended to do anything but steal the spouse's money ... there was no intent to join the Jewish people.

For sources see: http://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6697161/17

  • 3
    Welcome to Mi Yodeya! I hope you stick around and enjoy. The question sought "What are the sources for both opinions? What would/do other Battei Din do?" Please edit your post to address these questions. As it is now your post is merely a "link only" post, which is frowned upon here at Mi Yodeya for fear of link-rot.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 6:39

In Hilchot Issurei Biah 13:17, the Rambam states that:

גר שלא בדקו אחריו או שלא הודיעוהו המצות ועונשן ומל וטבל בפני ג' הדיוטות ה"ז גר אפילו נודע שבשביל דבר הוא מתגייר הואיל ומל וטבל יצא מכלל העכו"ם וחוששין לו עד שיתבאר צדקותו ואפילו חזר ועבד כו"ם הרי הוא כישראל מומר שקידושיו קידושין ומצוה להחזיר אבידתו מאחר שטבל נעשה כישראל ולפיכך קיימו שמשון ושלמה נשותיהן ואע"פ שנגלה סודן:

Or, in English:

A convert whose intentions were not checked nor who was informed about the commandments and their punishment, but was circumcised and immersed in front of three laymen: he is a convert. even if we know that he is converting for an ulterior motive, if he was circumcised and immersed he is no longer considered a gentile, although we are suspicious of him until his righteousness becomes apparent. and even if he returns and worships an idol he is considered as a sinning Israelite.

Some ascribe this to mean that if the convert is later questioned, that he is a safek and needs a ger l'humra in order to be counted in a minyon, in order to get an aliyah, and so on. They treat a safek like a din where he is not "in the covenant." However, I prefer the historical explanation of the Rambam that follows the latter opinion you gave in your question. Rambam also goes on to explain in Hilchot Issurei Biah 14:2 that:

ומודיעין אותו עיקרי הדת שהוא ייחוד השם ואיסור עכו"ם ומאריכין בדבר הזה ומודיעין אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות ואין מאריכין בדבר זה ומודיעין אותו עון לקט שכחה ופיאה ומעשר שני ומודיעין אותו עונשן של מצות

Or in English:

And we inform him of the principles of the religion which are the oneness of God and the prohibition of idolatry, and we expand upon this. And we inform him of some easy commandments and of some hard commandments and we do not expand upon this, and we inform him of the sin of leket, shikheha, peah and maaser sheni [agricultural commandments], and we inform him the punishment of the commandments.

Notice that Rambam says "And we expand upon this," and "We do not expand upon this." One aspect to note about the Rambam in his Mishneh Torah is that not everything in it is a halacha. There are some non-halachic pieces of advice that he gives in this work, just as Pirkei Avot in Mishnah is fairly non-halachic as well.

I claim that the bold parts are his pieces of advice and not halachic in nature because we do not see them from the source text. Rambam is quoting Yevamot 47a, where it states:

Our Rabbis taught: If at the present time a man desires to become a proselyte, he is to be addressed as follows: 'What reason have you for desiring to become a proselyte; do you not know that Israel at the present time are persecuted and oppressed, despised, harassed and overcome by afflictions'? If he replies, 'I know and yet am unworthy', he is accepted forthwith, and is given instruction in some of the minor and some of the major commandments. He is informed of the sin [of the neglect of the commandments of] Gleanings, the Forgotten Sheaf, the Corner and the Poor Man's Tithe. He is also told of the punishment for the transgression of the commandments.

We see that gemara states that we inform of him of the minor and major commandments, that we inform him sins of the agricultural commandments, but we see nothing mentioned of expanding or not expanding on certain aspects of Judaism, or, as it appears, not even about the oneness of God or the prohibition of idolatry. Rambam, when he quotes a halacha, quotes it verbatim, or, at least in paraphrase, from that of Gemara. This is how Mishneh Torah typically works, which is why we see the depth and authority of his work even though he never directly cites any of his halacha (outside of maybe a verse from Torah).

As argued in this paper, the Rambam understood that the requirements for a valid conversion are largely hinged on ritualistic requirements. While it is the responsibility of the Beit Din to inform the convert and to make sure his intentions are sincere, the Beit Din, itself, does not get to decide whether they thought the convert was good enough. They serve as witnesses to his conversion, not as the gatekeepers. The paper argues that Rambam felt that, personally speaking, conversion should require devote faith, but that he understood that conversions themselves simply require what the halacha states, and that even a convert who "lied through his teeth" is still considered a sinning Israelite.

  • 1
    Downvoters should comment on why they are downvoting
    – bondonk
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 19:13
  • I can think of a few reasons. I'm arguing that not every word in MT is a halachic opinion. I'm arguing the Jews don't get to safeguard derech Torah (even though we know about the ger shenitgayer levin hanacharim). I'm essentially arguing against the RCA, rabbinate, et cetera and arguing along the lines of R' Avi Weiss, and he is considered a "fringe" opinion. I'm not saying my answer is right, but you did ask for answers following the latter opinion you gave. So I'm not sure what's up other than, "I don't like the answer."
    – rosenjcb
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 19:23
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    I down voted because it is a horrible review of the relevant opinions about the Rambam, or even the relevant sections of the Rambam in the very chapter quoted, and the paper claiming that the Mechaber paskens like that is just ... too much misinformation (see the Kesef Mishna by the same author on that Rambam). That isn't so much your fault as it is the paper that you quote, but still it needs to be objected to. CC @bondonk.
    – Yishai
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 20:05
  • 1
    @rosenjcb, If the answer was "they say X" quote them directly. I wouldn't down vote that. Right now the answer is being evaluated on how plausible the reading of the Rambam is. Who are looking for a quote from? (The Kesef Mishna shows the Rambam isn't talking all about one case in the quote, because the Rambam himself says you don't return a lost object to an idolatrous Jew, making the reading proposed more implausible).
    – Yishai
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 20:53
  • 1
    @rosenjcb, you can do whatever you want. I'm just saying that when I read your answer, I read it as your analysis of the Rambam ("Some ascribe .... However, I prefer"). If it was more about X reads this into the Rambam as such, I would evaluate it differently.
    – Yishai
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 21:12

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