Rectifying a Doubtful Conversion

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Dear Rabbi Simon,

[This question was forwarded from a family member who lives overseas.] A quick question. I've never heard of a giyur le-humrah before and it has come up for my friend. It has been really intense watching her go through the experience of having her Judaism questioned. I am really curious about what it even means. Can you give me some insight on this? When is it used and how long have we been doing this? Who makes the decision that someone needs to do this and what is taken into consideration? I know it's a lot of questions but I am so confused about this and really need to seek some answers. Can you help?

Thank you! Anonymous


Dear Anonymous,

Giyur le-humrah is not a monolithic halakhic category. It is a term (sometimes used euphemistically and imprecisely) for a corrective or “just-to-be-sure” conversion procedure for one whose Jewish status is uncertain. This may be due to a prior doubtful conversion, or that of his/her mother. Sadly, it is not rare today—a result of spurious conversions conducted by innumerable rabbis and so-called rabbis for a range of reasons, both fair and foul. The nasty part is that the “victims” are often completely blameless, as the original, questionable, conversion took place in his/her infancy/childhood, or even in the previous generation. 

I hope this helps to answer your question – even if it does little to alleviate your friend’s distress.

Best wishes,

Rabbi Rashi Simon

Questions & Answers
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Questions and Answers

Ask the Rabbi: Easy as א-ב-ג?
Dear Rabbi Simon,
I hope you fasted well yesterday.
Thank you for the insights into the Kinnot, making them easier to understand.
In the afternoon, I was listening to a shiur on Eichah on Torahanytime.  As an aside, the speaker mentioned that the 1st perek of Eichah is the source for the order of the alef bet as we know it.  Other chapters also follow the alef bet chronology but with ayin en peh interchanged.
He quoted Rabbi Shimon Schwab as his source.
Although he did not elaborate on this, surely Sefer Tehillim predates Megillat Eichah by centuries.  Several psalms are written in the alef bet order (e.g.
psalm 119).
Can you please clarify?
Thank you & best wishes.
PhilippeHi Philippe
TY for your sophisticated Q.
I have also heard that the question of the sequence of samekh and 'ayin is subject to dispute. It seems that there are indications that in Paleo-Hebrew the order is reversed from what we know. It is alleged that chapters 2, 3 and 4 of Eichah (chapter 5 is not alphabetical) reflect the original order. Of course, as you say, ch 1 conforms to the order with which we are family.
You are right that Tehillim predates Eichah, however a critic can claim that the order was redacted to bring it in line with the accepted/preferred sequence. This is particularly true for ch. 119, where each of the 8 vv per letter are their own group, and each set of 8 vv. can easily be repositioned. The question is in Ps. 34 or 145, if the internal logic of the passage sheds light on the correct sequence. In Ps. 34, some claim that the v. starting with the letter peh makes more sense to follow the verse starting with samekh (due to the common appearance of the word ra'). I am not convinced that this argument is compelling.
I will stick with the mesorah, that 'ayin belongs before peh. Best to look before speaking.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
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