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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Would you adopt a baby found on your doorstep?

Daf Yomi Yevamos 22

Have you ever thought about what you would do if your doorbell rang one day and you opened the front-door to find a baby lying there?  If the parents could not be located, would you take the child into your own family or give it up to someone else for adoption?

True, that kind of thing only really happens in movies.  But at any given time, there are thousands of children in your town looking to be adopted.   Let alone the hundreds of thousands of children in poverty-stricken areas of the world who are desperately seeking parents.  Would you bring a child who needs love and care into your home and family?

The Talmud teaches: A convert is like a newborn child.  Rashi explains this means that all of his biological relationships have no legal bearing.  Thus, theoretically, a brother and sister who both converted could marry each other. 

Nevertheless, our Sages decreed against such unions, lest people say that these converts came from a state of greater holiness to a state of lesser holiness – up until now they would not have contemplated this relationship (due to the Noahide prohibition against incest) but now that they have converted to Judaism they are permitted to engage in such a relationship!?!  

Rabbi Nachman taught: Although the Torah does not allow witnesses to be related to one another for fear of collusion, the rule is different for converts who have acquired the status of newborns.  Maternal brothers who converted to Judaism should not testify together in court.  However, if they did, their testimony is usable.  Paternal brothers may testify in the first place.  According to Ameimar, even maternal brothers may testify in the first place.

The Gemara asks: How is this case different from sexual relationships between siblings, which the Rabbis proscribed?  The Gemara answers: Relationships are seen by all (and an onlooker would misunderstand), whereas testimony is in the hands of the court, who understand the law that a convert is like a newborn child.

You don’t need to go to an adoption agency to find children who need your love and care, although that is certainly a most worthy, incredible mitzvah.   Know any converts?  Then you already know newborn children who don’t have parents.

The awkwardness in dealing with converts is that we spend a year or two attempting to dissuade them from their decision to convert.  And then when we finally do accept them ‘under the wings of the Shechina (Divine),’ we suddenly need to welcome them with open arms.  Until now they’ve been strangers in our midst; now all of a sudden they’re one of us.

It’s not easy to switch gears like that, but when you heed the words of the Talmud, you realize that it’s a whole different ballgame now.  The person you’re seeing today is a completely different person you’ve known for the last year or two.  S/he is a newborn and needs your care and attention. 

In fact, being a newborn, they don’t have parents of their own.  Often their decision to become Jewish means breaking ties with their biological families who have other religious expectations of them.  That’s an enormous leap of faith and commitment for G-d.

Instead of looking askance at them and asking, ‘Why on earth would anyone want to become Jewish?’ you should be opening the front-door, seeing the baby on the doorstep, and welcoming them into your family.  They need parents to adopt them.   They need parents to guide them as they start their own Jewish homes.   And the same way that parents who adopt love their children unconditionally without any expectation in return, so should you love your new adopted child(ren).

We all pay lip-service to the idea of converts being born again.  What are you prepared to do for these precious souls who need adopting?