"Shoot!" (Q & A)

The Ascent Question & Answer Forum

conducted by Yrachmiel Tilles, Editor of the Ascent Quarterly

"After my stay in Israel, I decided to go through the formal conversion process. Now that I've done so, my status is that of a new-born person, with none of my previous family relationships. Doesn't that mean I should cut off all contact with my non-Jewish mother and her non-Jewish influence?"

Let's not be too rough on your biological mother. It is true that you no longer have a Torah obligation to honor her (1) since, as you said, you are like a new-born, so technically the old son-mother relationship no longer exists. But this doesn't mean that in her eyes you are no longer her son. She still cares about you very much, and you still owe her gratitude for giving birth to you. When you were a non-Jew you were still supposed to honor your parents, right? For that reason the Rambam writes (2) that a convert is forbidden to abuse his non-Jewish parents and is obligated to honor them "somewhat."

I understand that you are concerned about not exposing yourself and your family-to-be to the wrong kind of environment, but it is not as if she is to blame. And you don't want her to think badly of Torah Judaism. If you feel that home visits are too difficult, keep them to a minimum or arrange for her to visit you. And you can still speak nicely to her over the telephone. Anyway, when you move back to Israel, the geographical distance itself will take care of most of this problem!

Yrachmiel Tilles

1. Interestingly, this ruling follows the opinion of Rabbi Akiba, who himself was descended from converts.

2. Laws of Mamrim 5:11 and commentaries.

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