Krisos 4 - 10
Signing in BloodA non-Jew who wishes to convert to Judaism must follow the same pattern as that of the Jewish People when they entered their covenant with Hashem and received the Torah.
"So it is through all the generations," summarizes Rambam (Laws of Forbidden Relations 13:4) "When a non-Jew wishes to enter the covenant and to take shelter beneath the wings of the Divine Presence, he must commit himself to the observance of Torah law and he is required to undergo circumcision, immersion in a mikveh and to offer a sacrifice."
Our Gemara points out that the inability of the conversion candidate to offer a sacrifice today, because we have no Beis Hamikdash, does not prevent him from being accepted as a full-fledged convert. This is based on the Torah passage (Bamidbar 15:14) which uses the term "In all your generations" when discussing the conversion process. There was a brief period in history when a convert was required to put aside funds for purchasing a pair of birds for sacrifices when the Beis Hamikdash would be rebuilt. This practice was, however, abolished by the court of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai because of the danger that these funds which had been designated for a sacred purpose might inadvertently be used for a secular one. Nevertheless, points out Rambam (ibid. 13:5), the convert will have to offer the required sacrifice when the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt.
A careful reading of the Chumash (Shmos 24:5-8) reveals the immersion and sacrifice which preceded the Giving of the Torah. There is no mention there, however, of circumcision. For this we are directed to the Prophets, where we read in Yehoshua (5:5) that "all of the people who went out of Egypt were circumcised," and in Yechezkel (16:6) that "in your bloods shall you live" which refers to the blood of circumcision and the blood of the Korban Pesach which served as merits for the Exodus from Egypt.
During the Egyptian exile, all of Jewry, except for the Tribe of Levi, abandoned the practice of circumcision. Their pre-Exodus circumcision therefore served as a preparation for receiving the Torah. But what about the Levites who had already been circumcised because of the command given to Avraham?
Tosefos explains that since their initial circumcision was for the purpose of entering the covenant with Hashem begun by Avraham, and to separate themselves from the nations, that earlier circumcision served as a valid preparation for their new, elevated status.
The Yom Kippur ParadoxYom Kippur atones for every sin a Jew has committed whether he repents or not, except for one who totally rejects of commitment to obey Torah law, one who mocks the Torah with sacrilegious interpretations and one who abrogates the covenant of the flesh by willfully avoiding circumcision. These three gain atonement on Yom Kippur only if they repent their sins.
An interesting problem is caused in regard to this ruling of the Sage Rebbie. What if a person commits a sin on Yom Kippur itself by eating or working - how is it possible that there is a punishment of kares (premature death) if Yom Kippur immediately provides atonement?
The Sage Rava contends that even though Rebbie's position is that Yom Kippur without repentance is sufficient for atonement, this does not apply to a sin committed on the day itself. But his reasoning is not accepted by the Gemara. Three alternative solutions are offered for how kares can apply to a Yom Kippur sin even if Yom Kippur itself does serve as an atonement for it:
- He choked on the food he ate, so that there was no atoning interval of Yom Kippur between his sin and the punishment.
- While he was working, the tool he was using struck and killed him.
- He worked a moment before sunset, so that his sin was not followed by any part of Yom Kippur.
One of the Tosefists, Riva, cites the first of these solutions as a challenge to the opinion of Rashi that every case of kares includes the loss of children. Only the father, he points out, died instantly after his sin, while his children enjoyed the benefit of the ensuing moments of Yom Kippur serving as an atonement. Tosefos, however, rejects this by pointing out that once the parent's sin was not atoned for because no Yom Kippur moment followed it, the effect of that sin will indeed be suffered by his children if they are minors.