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Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. Note that this is not a homework service!

Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Circumcision Suction

I was at a Bris Milah ceremony and the mohel used his mouth to draw blood from the infant's wound. Is this oral contact sanctioned by Jewish tradition?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The process you describe is called "metzitzah," whereby the mohel suctions out some blood from the wound area, so that it does not become infected. This process is considered essential for the baby's health, and may be performed even on Shabbat (Talmud – Shabbat 133b). Further, there are kabbalistic reasons why this suction is part of the circumcision process. ("Orach Chaim" to Leviticus 12:3, echoing "Tikunei Zohar")

However, when there is a problem of health risk (AIDS, VD, etc.), which is contagious and transferable through an open wound, the suction is done through a glass tube. (source: "Har Tzvi," by Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, Y.D. 214)

A Convert's Soul

I have read that someone who becomes a Jew through conversion has a Jewish soul already – and the conversion is just correcting a mistaken birth. Can you give me some insight on this?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Indeed, I have spoken to many converts who have described the feeling of having been Jewish their entire lives.

The idea that all converts already have a Jewish spark comes from a verse in the Torah. On the last day of Moses' life, all the Jewish people gathered together and God spoke to them, saying: "Not with you alone do I seal this covenant and oath. I am making it both with those here today before the Lord our God, and also with those not here today." (Deut. 29:13)

This verse is rather perplexing. Who is the group that God refers to as being “not here today"?

The Talmud (Shevuot 39a) explains that this refers to future converts, whose souls were also at Sinai. (By the way, this helps explain why one of the primary requirements for conversion to Judaism is the acceptance to keep all the 613 mitzvot – just as the Jews did at Mount Sinai.)

A close look at this verse in the original Hebrew reveals something startling. In the first part of the phrase, "but with those here," the last letters of those four Hebrew words actually spell out the name "Yitro." Yitro was the father-in-law of Moses, and the first convert to Judaism following the exodus from Egypt.

Another source for the phenomenon you describe is found in the Talmud. In discussing the laws of conversion. It says: "A convert who comes to convert..." This begs the question – why does it say "a CONVERT who comes to convert"? Rather, it should say, "a GENTILE who comes to convert"! The reason is because the future convert already has a Jewish spark inside of him.

One of the most well-known converts was the Polish nobleman, Abraham ben Abraham. He converted to Judaism in the 18th century, and was sentenced by the church to death. It is said that even before his conversion, unidentifiable feelings, which testified to the greatness of his spirit, would overwhelm him every Shabbat. Rabbi Yoel Schwartz in "Jewish Conversion" quotes him as saying: "Although the nations rejected the Torah, individual members of those nations sought to accept it. Only the refusals of their peers prevented them from realizing their aspirations. The souls of these individuals appear in every generation as converts."

We would be happy to hear from any converts who have experienced this phenomenon.

Niturei Karta

I saw a video of Orthodox Jews cavorting in Iran with Iranian President (and Jew-hater) Ahmadinejad. Apparently these "rabbis" were there to attend a Holocaust denial conference. What gives?!

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Most religious Jews, in Israel and the Diaspora, have worked out a modus vivendi with the non-religious government, and support Israel financially, as well.

The Neturei Karta, however, are a tiny minority of people who lived in Israel for generations before the inception of modern political Zionism. They and their supporters abroad believe that since the State is founded on principles of secular democracy, rather than the Torah, that it constitutes a negative development in Jewish history.

In many regards, the entire spectrum of the Torah community condemns these people for their despicable actions which work against the interests and security of other Jews. After these Jews met with Ahmadinejad, they were totally condemned and ostracized by the Torah-observant community. As reported in Ynet News (December 15, 2006), the Satmar Hassidism Court published an unprecedented statement calling on the public to disassociate themselves from the Neturei Karta members, and ordered that they be shunned and their actions condemned.

The following was published in the orthodox newspaper, "Yeted Neeman" (May 3, 2002): "It is with shame, sadness and outrage that we publicly condemn the irresponsible and dangerous actions of a small group of individuals" known as Neturei Karta. Due to their reprehensible actions in joining the enemies of our people, they endanger the interests of the Jewish nation. This despicable minuscule group does not accept or listen to the rulings of the leaders of our communities, and was ejected decades ago from our synagogues and communities.