May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.
This week we learned Zevachim 45. These are some highlights.
Zevachim 45: He found out that the grandfather of his girlfriend was a Nazi; must he break the shidduch?
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein deals with a remarkable situation that was brought to his attention. There was an institution in Israel dedicated to educating European converts. A young woman from that institution was proposed as a shidduch to a yeshiva student. They told the yeshiva student about the excellent character of the young lady. He met her and was most impressed; she was brilliant, had wonderful middot and was a devoted member of the Jewish nation. The relationship blossomed. The yeshiva student wanted to marry her. He began to research her background. He discovered that she was German. Her grandfather had been a Nazi. In fact, her grandfather had served as an SS officer in the same camp in which his grandfather had been murdered. After further research, he found out her grandfather had actually directly killed his grandfather. His parents now want him to break the relationship off. Does he have to break the shidduch?
Rav Zilberstein brought the question to Rav Elyashiv. Rav Elyashiv felt that the shidduch did not need to break. The Gemara tells us that the grandchildren of Haman learned Torah in Bnei Brak. We do not need to pay attention to the evils of an ancestor. Rav Zilberstein added that we have a biblical example of ignoring the wickedness of ancestors and marrying a convert from a family of wicked gentiles. Kaleiv Ben Yefuneh married Batya, the daughter of Paroh (Megilla 13a). Paroh was like Hitler. He tried to wipe out the nation of Israel. Even so, a leader of Israel married his daughter, who had converted. When a convert converts it is as if he is reborn, geir shenitgayeir k’katan shenolad dami. Once the young woman in our story converted, she was no longer the descendant of a Nazi. She was the child of Avraham and Sarah. She had good character and values. There was no halachic reason to break the shidduch.
Our Gemara is a proof to the idea that geir shenitgayeir k’katan shenolad dami.
There are two types of sacred items, kodshei bedek habayit, items whose value is holy to help the upkeep of the Temple, and kodshei haguf, items intrinsically holy to be offered on the altar. Our Gemara teaches that there is a prohibition of me’ilah (misappropriation) with the kodshei bedek habayit of the gentiles. If a gentile donated an item to the upkeep of the Temple, anyone who would benefit from that item for himself would violate me’ilah. Rav Yosef Engel (Tziunim LaTorah Klal 23) has a remarkable idea about our Gemara. He argues that if the Gemara states that there is a me’ilah violation possible with kodshei bedek habayit of gentiles, this means that if a Jew derived benefit from the kodshei bedek habayit donated by a gentile he would get lashes. How could he ever get lashed? We have a rule that lashes need a warning. A conditional warning is not a warning. Any case of kodshei bedek habayit of a gentile should generate a conditional warning; perhaps the gentile will convert to Judaism and ask a chacham to remove the sanctifying vow he made when he was a gentile. There was no possibility for a definitive warning when the man ate or derived benefit from the kodshei bedek habayit of the gentile. Rav Engel proposes a special answer. When a gentile converts to Judaism he becomes a new person, geir shenitgayeir k’katan shenolad dami. The regret about his sanctifying vow that he expresses as a Jew is irrelevant to the vow he made when he was a gentile. He is a different person. He would not be able to unravel the vow he made as a gentile. It is now like a different person expressing regret about an action of someone else. It cannot impact the vow at all. In light of the idea of Rav Engel, we see that a convert is a totally new person. In our case, the German convert is a suitable wife for the yeshiva student. She is not considered related at all to the man who had murdered the yeshiva student’s grandfather. If the man’s parents can overcome their feelings, Rav Zilberstein feels the shidduch is fine. (Chashukei Chemed)
By Rabbi Zev Reichman
Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.