At the end of our lunch the other day, you excitedly informed me that you had discovered a new group of non-Jews that believe in the God of Israel and in the authority of the Torah, a group that calls themselves Gerim. I must have appeared stunned, for you asked immediately what was wrong, but, as we were about to part, I did not have time to explain. I had time only to issue a brief warning not to become too quickly involved with the Ger movement. I send this missive in order to explain that warning.
It is prudent before adopting any philosophy to investigate it to the limits of one’s ability. This is no less true with the claims made by Katz and Clorfene, the founders of the Ger movement. They claim to be teaching Torah, and since you already know the Torah to be true, it might seem reasonable to accept their teaching. But I would urge the greatest caution. Philip, you know how many claim to represent Torah but do not. The Church from which you extricated yourself misrepresented itself as the authentic interpretation of Torah. Nor is the Church the only group to attempt to cloak itself in the authority of the Torah. That Katz and Clorfene are rabbis does not mean that they represent Torah properly: one can leave the true path.
I must admit that there is a difficulty in analyzing their claims. Katz and Clorfene often rely on oral tradition to establish their doctrine, and neither you nor I are well-versed in the oral tradition. Though they will tell us that they have fairly represented the sources, we have little ability to verify their claims. Even when Katz tells us that we should look up what he has said, we do not have the context. The oral tradition was not meant to be transmitted through writing, and though it is now available in writing, you and I lack the requisite learning to understand the discussions. Admitting this weakness, I would nevertheless urge you to treat their work with the greatest suspicion. Their work is contradicted by the great majority of rabbis. Their redefinition of the term “ger” is out of sync with the accepted halachic understanding, and knowledgeable rabbis have said that, contrary to the assurances of Katz and Clorfene, they have indeed misrepresented the sources. Katz, as the originator of the work, appears to be an innovator in the negative sense of that term.
I would urge you to treat them with suspicion for another reason, as well. Katz and Clorfene flatter their students. The Ger is, according to Katz, superior to the Noahide. The Ger is the non-Jew that has totally stripped himself of idolatry, clinging to God, while the Noahide (of the modern Noahide movements) still retains shituf, acknowledging a power beside God. The Ger is essential for the redemption of the world and shares in the mission of Israel. He is a “fourth house” of Israel, though a non-holy one, and the Ger is attached to Israel. The Ger is not restricted in his observance of mitzvot, able to keep Shabbat—a Ger Shabbat or Krisos 9a Shabbat, as opposed to a Jewish Shabbat—and study the entirety of the Torah. He is allowed, too, to delve into the mystical secrets of the Torah. Moreover, the Ger is to consider God to be his teacher; he does not rely upon rabbis. All of this is flattery and will eventually undermine the development of the non-Jew that wishes to be close to God.
Perhaps the most obvious error is that the Ger is entitled to learn the secrets of the Torah. It is no wonder that people will be intrigued by such secrets. Nevertheless, the desire to know these secrets poses a danger to those that have not mastered the fundaments of Torah. Keep in mind, Philip, that you were raised in a Christian home, not a Jewish one, and that the formative years in your life were spent in doctrines that undermine and pervert the foundations of Torah rather than establishing them. Now that you have rid yourself of Christianity, you must not assume yourself to be an expert in Torah; you are still laying the foundations. Delving deeply into Torah is not for amateurs. This leads to confusion and jumping too quickly to unwarranted and incorrect conclusions. In any field of learning, one works his way up to expertise. Those that do not frequently create bizarre, error-riddled theories due to their ignorance.
The Torah was given to the Jewish people, and they accepted it. The history of the Tanach is their history. The Jewish people passed along their Torah, not just the written words, from generation to generation. The meaning of the written words is part of what has been passed down, and though certain basic things can be understood from the text, you and I do not have the background necessary to understand the Torah on our own. Let us not, then, be presumptuous and pry into the secrets before we understand the foundations of Torah.
Philip, do not be unnerved and discomfited by this notion. Do not take it into your head that you are second class. You will notice that the language of the Ger community will prey upon that— the way they call the Seven Laws a “Bronze Age slave law” being but one example. The temptation is to compare yourself to the Jew. “Why may I not study the Torah fully, as may the Jew? Why may I not keep Shabbos, as may the Jew?”
Shabbos has become a major issue for the Ger community. It is quite understandable that people who have been attending Church all their lives should seek replacement religious observances for those that they have given up. However, the Sabbath is reserved for the Jewish people, a covenant between them and God. To usurp what was given to another is theft. If you wish to keep Sabbath, a path is open to you: you may join the Jewish nation through conversion.
At least be suspicious of Katz’s Ger Sabbath for this reason: he is the only one that found it in the Torah, by which I mean the entire Torah tradition and not merely the Five Books of Moses. For decades, people have been asking if they could keep Shabbos and if not, why not? For much longer than those decades, the answer has been “no.” But now one man, through his own singular interpretation, has contradicted the wisdom of the Jewish people and convinced a second to support him. Katz and Clorfene hardly qualify as even a minority position. Yet, for some, the temptation to follow them will be great, because they present the answer that so many have wished to hear.
But you, if you wish to follow the truth, you must not yield to mere desire. You must not assume the rectitude of their position, because it contains the answer you wish to hear. The truth is not learned in this way. Inquire with other rabbis. Does Krisos 9a teach a Ger Shabbos? Do not accept too readily the answer that tickles your fancy.
Nor should you accept the notion that you can trust Katz and Clorfene, because you sense, pseudo-prophetically, that they have given you the truth. They teach that God is the Ger’s teacher. This is a grave danger, as you must know. Once one begins to follow his inclinations and attribute those feelings to God, he opens himself to deception. The truth is pushed away from the seeker, and he does not know it because he believes himself to already have it in his possession. Self-assuredness blinds.
Was it not just such assuredness that you were being led by God that made it so difficult for you to leave Christianity? You believed that you were being led by the Holy Spirit, so that, even when Tanach said something other than Christian doctrine, you were able to ignore it. You had your own private understanding, given to you by God. So, you could believe that, though Torah openly says that God is one, He was three. And, though it said He is alone, you could believe that He was accompanied by His partners. When you first experienced the cognitive dissonance in recognizing that your beliefs contradicted Torah, you were quite troubled. Two voices competed for your assent, one which you believed to be the Holy Spirit and the other the words that you believed the same spirit inspired. You have experienced the fallibility that comes from believing that one’s feelings are the leading of God.
It would be reasonable to demand of anyone that claims that God is his teacher a sign or a wonder. If God is the teacher of Katz or Clorfene, let him prove it. If he cannot, let him withdraw the claim. Let the Ger test himself similarly. If God is teaching him, let him ask for a communication that can be verified, a prediction. Or let him ask to be able to turn a staff to a snake. If he cannot hear God telling him something he could not know or guess, then let him not accept so readily that he hears God’s teaching on halacha.
But, Philip, even if Katz produces the sign or wonder, this will not give him authority to interpret halacha unilaterally. Halacha is not decided through prophecy: “It is not in heaven.” Rather, it is submitted to the priests, Levites, and judges.
Curiously, Clorfene teaches his own brand of Judaism that excludes the judges, i.e. the rabbis. He writes that the rabbis really have no authority, only the Levites, of which he is one. (One wonders if Katz is a Levite, and if not, why Clorfene then respects his teaching.) Clorfene’s words against Jewish tradition and against the Jewish people are strong. He writes that the rabbis seek to control the lives of others. He writes that they stand in the way of the redemption and in the way of the return of prophecy. Moreover, he writes that the way of the rabbis and the Noahide laws is the way of strict justice, lacking all mercy, while Ger is the way of mercy. And, he writes that Judaism is shituf, while, of course, the Ger has totally rejected shituf.
Also, he literally demonizes his opponents. On his blog, he refers to a “Rabbi Z,” whom he equates to a demon. This Rabbi Z apparently protested this invective as the two fought over the Ger movement. Clorfene goes on to justify his comment, referencing Pesachim 112a, stating that it is the nature of the demon to cause damage.
I do not bring this up to point out that Clorfene is “not nice.” This is not an expression of outrage: “How dare he?!” I bring this up, because the Ger is told that he has an attachment to the Jewish people that is exceedingly strong and sincere. Philip, when their teachers says such things against the Jewish people, how long do you think the Ger movement will cling to them? If the Ger is learning that the Jewish people have kept the presence of God at bay, how long will they love the Jewish people? If the Ger is learning that the rabbis are usurpers, will they not learn to resent those rabbis that object to the newly invented definition of Ger, who teach that the non-Jew may not keep Shabbos, who are supposedly devoid of mercy and are all judgment? And what damage will be wrought by calling oppositional rabbis “demons”? This claim, that the Ger is especially attached to the Jewish people, is nothing but flattery, and whatever love the Ger has for the Jewish people now is likely to erode under the words of Clorfene.
Katz and Clorfene have begun to drive a wedge between their followers and the Jewish people, not bring them together. I would urge you to study this issue most carefully before you adopt the Ger philosophy. The teachers of the Ger movement have appealed to the ego, promising secret Torah, telling the Ger that he is entitled to things that are not his, and that he clings to God more strongly than those that call themselves Noahides. These men have attempted to make a unilateral ruling on halachic matters. They are not to be readily trusted. Take great care in your consideration to become involved with the Ger movement.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal