[In Adar II, 5703 (1943) HaRav Yonah Mertzbach zt'l
published the following article in the chareidi publication
HaDerech, dealing with the disastrous halachic problems
created by the aliya from Europe. This immigration included
people disbarred from Jewish marriage, as well as bogus
converts to Judaism who threatened to mix with the general
populace in the Holy Land. Because of judicial decisions
concerning fictitious conversions and recognition of the
Reform Movement's activities, and the general problems of
bogus conversion among Reform, Conservative and
Orthodox rabbonim, this article has renewed relevance
Before I even begin, I know that what I am
writing here will be like talking to the wall. It will be
like blowing a trumpet during a peal of thunder.
Nevertheless, I cannot be silent. From day to day corruption
is endangering the very heart of my people.
In the Diaspora we were already fighting this milchemes
mitzvah. We rebuked the people there to the greatest
possible degree, even to the point of maledictions and open
denunciation. The enemy from the outside swallowed up all our
weapons against it. Who knows if we did not harm ourselves by
all this? "Wars were only created to destroy the
mamzeirim from among Yisroel." Hashem, the vineyard's
owner, burns down the thorns in His vineyard, and after the
fire starts, stacks of good produce are sometimes also
When we emigrated to this Holy Land we were joyful that some
of the country's laws were controlled by our Torah leaders:
Marriage, divorce, and yichus were under the control
of the rabbonim. At least the rabbonim could enforce part of
the Torah's mitzvos, though these were almost the only ones,
due to our many sins. In those matters, we thought, no one on
the inside or on the outside had the power to fetter us. We
rejoiced, but were later disappointed when we saw something
that we had hoped never to see here.
I approached Agudas Yisroel in order to discuss the problem,
and attended its conference in Petach Tikva; but nothing at
all resulted from that. Political questions took precedence
there over everything else. Today politics is more important
than all the 613 mitzvos. In politics everyone finds a place
to excel and be an expert, so why should a person choose to
engage in other things that demand that one seek advice and
gain much experience?
I went to the Taharas Hamishpocha Conference that took place
in Yerushalayim under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate and
that dealt with a subject bordering on ours. I heard many
speeches, lectures, discussions, and suggestions at the
conference. At its end there were also endless resolutions,
but after all the commotion there was total silence. The
yetzer hora is meanwhile sitting and poisoning the
situation more and more.
What exactly is our present situation? It is necessary to
clarify it for those who do not know.
I will not write at length. The stories will speak for
themselves; the facts will show what is happening. The
following is only an example, one case out of many that have,
incidentally, become known to us. Similar occurrences are,
unfortunately, numerous, to our great shame.
A family from the country in whose rabbinate I once served,
emigrated to Eretz Yisroel. This family's children are
mamzeirim mideOraisa: the father married his brother's
widow, despite the fact that she had living children from her
previous husband. It was a clear case of marrying a brother's
wife without a mitzvah of yibum.
We know that when Jews in western countries forsook many of
the mitzvos, the laws about arayos, too, collapsed
where these laws were different from the non-Jewish ones.
When uprooters of the religion saw that the nation sinned,
they presented themselves as rabbonim and arranged
"rabbinical" conferences and passed resolutions. In fact,
they did not only pass resolutions; they also acted.
They arranged marriages even for those whom the Torah
prohibits from marrying and even said the sheva
brochos there. They wrote bills of divorce not according
to the halocho and even against the husband's will, as
if they were Heaven's emissaries to carry out justice. They
permitted another issur and yet another, and caused
irreparable damage. The result: mamzeirim were born
because of them.
Then the great aliya came. People immigrated from all
over the world to Eretz Yisroel.
When I was still in the Diaspora I warned the rabbonim in
Eretz Yisroel about the particular case just mentioned, but
at that time no one knew where they were living. After I too
made aliya I located them, but what did I find? One of
the mamzeirim meanwhile had made chuppah and
kiddushin and the second was about to become
This is not the proper forum to clarify the entire halachic
subject of a mishpocha shenitme'oh. There are many
differences of opinion. The Rishonim differ over
whether nitme'oh means having become admixed into the
populace or whether it means the family's origins were
forgotten. When this principle applies and when it does not
is also a matter of opinion. But all in all, who gave us
permission to bring about such a situation with our own
Indeed the heart aches over these unfortunate people who were
born mamzeirim. We are ready to honor them more than a
Kohen godol who is not fitting for his position,
recognizing when they are fitting for such a position if it
were not for their being mamzeirim. There is,
nevertheless, a decree of the Torah, and we cannot raise
doubts about it. Are we allowed to let them enter kehal
Hashem and marry?
There are many such cases in our land. You do not know, your
son does not know, your daughter does not know, who will be
their future mates. Can you ever be sure that, Hashem
yishmor, your grandchildren will not be
Is this the time to be silent? Should we simply do
Non-Jews, too, have mixed in among us, some
pretending to be Jews.
For a year or two the Jewish Agency did not even bother
asking the religion and faith of the immigrants' wives when
they handed them a certificate of aliya. They and
their Christian wives, and their halachically non-Jewish
children, made aliya, and more children were later
There are also non-Jews who pretend to be Jewish. Reform
rabbis in western lands had good and compassionate hearts.
Anyone who came to them to become Jewish was accepted with
their blessings. They did not check if these people's
intentions were lesheim Shomayim or not. They did not
demand of them to agree to observe all the mitzvos, since
they themselves did not observe or even accept all the
mitzvos; and "What is hateful to you, you must not do to your
Many times these so-called rabbis accepted geirim even
without halachic immersion in a mikveh. There were
some rabbis who just brought these non-Jews to the
shul, and after standing them in front of the open
aron kodesh they read the posuk of Shema
Yisroel -- and in that way they "entered" Klal
Yisroel. These were geirim according to the Reform
rabbis. According to the halocho, without
tevilla and accepting the yoke of mitzvos they
remained non-Jews, and the children of female "geirim"
of this sort are non-Jews, and their daughters' children
I am acquainted with immigrants of both types. They live in
several cities in Eretz Yisroel, and no one knows that
according to halocho they are non-Jews. There is no
one to prevent them from joining am Yisroel through
Even when people are aware . . . I wonder what the Chief
Rabbinate offices in Eretz Yisroel will do if that professor
of the Hebrew University who tells chassidic stories and
"prophecies," or that poet who is a Citizen of Honor of the
Hebrew city (Tel Aviv) and whose poems are printed in
Israel's newspapers, demands chuppah and
kiddushin for his children from his non-Jewish wife.
These two men's wives never converted properly and never
accepted upon themselves the yoke of mitzvos, and therefore
their children, are, according to halocho, non-Jews. I
just wonder what the Rabbinate offices will do. What will
they tell them? What they will answer them?
These are only a few cases we are aware of. Again I ask: are
we to sit with folded hands and see non-Jews assimilating
among us? Are we to observe passively while holy Jewish
hearts and souls, until now pure, are strangled by marriage
to non-Jews who were not sanctified by halachic conversion? I
again ask: Are you, the reader of this article, certain that,
chas vecholila, your children will never intentionally
or unintentionally realize the posuk, "she [the non-
Jew married to a Jewish man] will remove your son [from the
Jewish nation]." If this happens, it will only be because our
generation was spiritually impoverished and irresponsible.
Should someone not have given the warning to make a proper
distinction between Jews and non-Jews?
All the people of improper yichus in
Babylonia went up with Ezra the Scribe, and some opinions
claim that Ezra forced them to come up to Eretz Yisroel. Our
land then became an isah ("dough"), as Chazal write (a
mixture of yeast, water, flour, salt, and bran, figuratively
speaking) in comparison to Babylonia.
Woe to our generation, in which our holy land is liable to
become an isah again in comparison to other lands, to
the entire world, to become a mixture of those who were held
unfit by the whole Diaspora. This is liable to happen if we
do not do something about it.
How great is our shame! Not only because of the immigrants,
not only because of the filth of the sitra achra that
dwells in the impure lands, have we sullied ourselves. There
are unfortunately other reasons.
The nonobservance of Jewish marital laws within the secular
leftist kibbutzim in Eretz Yisroel is a strict secret that
can only partly be revealed. We cry out from the bottom of
our hearts over their chillul Shabbos. We are deeply
shocked in seeing their war against our faith and any sacred
values. We are not to blame for all this. When the time comes
-- and we are sure that it will come -- and these people
truly return to Hashem and His Torah, then even intentional
sins will be transformed to unintentional ones. If they
repent because of love for Hashem, then their sins will be
transformed to merits. However, there are sometimes
Woe to us that we are forced to talk like this! Woe to ears
that hear such talk! We hope that Hashem's honor will be
restored and that things will change. I will only cite what
one government-appointed rabbi of a community in Eretz
Yisroel bitterly wrote. With his pure heart he moans: "Why
should we bother trying to do something against the isolated
cases of mamzeirim mentioned above, when in the
kibbutz near where I live the majority of children
born are . . . "
"For the sin that we have sinned before You by gilui
arayos." "We have sinned" is emphasized in that prayer.
If we do not do anything, we will see the glory of Klal
Yisroel trampled upon by reckless feet, and sacred Jewish
values will be desecrated. Can we remain silent, can we not
take even the most extraordinary means to save what still can
Yirei Shomayim -- the rabbonim in Eretz Yisroel --
have already conferred together about what should be done to
prevent the many severe aberrations that have happened in
past marriages. They have made some takonos: two
witnesses must testify about the chosson and the
kallah, and the names of the intended pair are printed
in local newspapers. (Though what have they gained by
printing the names in the papers if their original homeland
is not printed too?)
But we all know what happens in reality. People consider
testifying about the future chosson and kallah
a mere formality, a matter of honor and kindness. The couple
request someone of their acquaintance who knows them --
sometimes even someone who does not know them at all -- to do
them a favor and honor them by signing in the Rabbinate
office on a form that certifies that the undersigned has no
knowledge of any reason to prevent the marriage of this
couple. Is there any good-hearted person who will refuse to
sign? In addition, many times the yichus of the person
who signs needs to be vouched for too.
Furthermore, what will these attempts to rectify the
situation help when there are Liberal rabbis, of the German
[i.e., Reform] type, who do not recognize the eternity of the
Torah and its laws, and who officially conduct marriages for
the Rabbinate? These "rabbis" do not even agree to all the
Rambam's Thirteen Principles of Faith. What is
prohibited in other cities is permitted in Yerushalayim, the
Holy City! There is a Reform rabbi who arranges marriages
there, and no protest -- not even from Rav Meir Berlin, the
president of Mizrachi, who was enraged and cried out against
this -- did anything to help to remove this
We need to act, not to make takonos. Who still thinks
that the world will continue in the same way? There are truly
many problems, but there are many ways to deal with them.
It happened that an immigrant from Iraq asked me a question
that astounded me. In her homeland, parents are even today
accustomed to marry off their daughters as minors, which they
are allowed to do according to the Torah. Her father, too,
married this woman off a few years ago. Since the
chosson was disliked by her, she never agreed to the
match and a chuppah was never made. The father,
however, took the kiddushin money and therefore she
is, according to halocho, an arusah, a married
In the meantime she has immigrated to Eretz Yisroel and her
arus has remained in Iraq. Now a new life has begun
for her and she wants to become engaged to someone else. She
thinks that what her father did in Iraq does not obligate
her, since she was very small when he did it, and
furthermore, she never agreed to it. She asked my opinion: do
I not agree with her?
Now what will be, if all the efforts to obtain a get
from her halachic husband are not successful? Will she
withstand this test of faith? What will be with those who
never came to ask a rabbinical query, and who never will
come? Is it not possible that this young woman, who is
actually an eishes ish, will be married with
chuppah and kiddushin, here in the Holy Land,
even before the most chareidi Rabbinate, because of not
knowing that there is a problem and an inability to
investigate the case?
How many of the unfortunate children who have been saved from
the Gehennom of the wicked oppressor, and of those
that will be saved (may Hashem, Who has abundant mercy even
when He is angry, save their multitudes) are clearly aware of
their parents' status, or of who their parents really were?
Is there not a danger, as our sages z'l always feared,
that a brother may marry his sister, chas vesholom? Is
it possible any longer to postpone making takonos and
taking corrective steps? Or is it perhaps already too
Let no one think that I have enumerated even half of the
problems. I could add much more, but what I have already
cited is sufficient to show what is needed. Things that have
never happened before are happening in our generation.
It is our obligation to save the remnant of Jewry until the
Redeemer comes, the king upon whom we daily wait. We will
then come before him and tell him that we did all that we
could. Our obligation is to save, to save both the body and
the neshomo, the Torah and its mitzvos, am
Yisroel and its yichus.
Is there any way to do this? Is it at all possible?
Yes, it certainly is!
All the possibilities cannot be described in this article,
but one way is worth being cited here.
We all fondly remember the Dutch rabbonim and their lay
leaders who showed us the way; they themselves took it and
succeeded. They carried out one idea that, although it cannot
solve all problems, could greatly help.
Let us follow them, let us act as they did. Let us demand
that what they did be done here. What was done in Holland can
also be done in Eretz Yisroel: arranging a certificate of
A certificate of yichus is signed by a beis din
after they have clarified a person's status according to the
halocho and based on reliable witnesses who know the
neighborhood where that man or woman was born. These
witnesses have testified that there is no uncertainty about
the yichus of the certificate's holder. With such a
certificate our children and grandchildren would be able to
know which people there are no doubts about, and which were
born with halachic doubts that must be looked into.
The yichus certificate would immensely help in several
halachic questions. Furthermore, its enforcement will be
sufficient to arouse people's attention to the importance of
It is currently still possible to investigate many halachic
doubts, but in the future there will be doubts that cannot be
clarified. With these yichus certificates we can save
the pure yichus of the future generations.
"HaKodosh Boruch Hu only lets His Shechina
dwell on families that have a yichus." Let us fulfill
our obligation, so that Hashem can once again let His
Shechina dwell upon the Jewish Nation.
Incomparable suffering surrounds us. The external enemy
threatens to destroy us. Let us take the example of Ezra the
Scribe. When our archenemies planned to destroy us, what did
Ezra do? With a strong hand and a resolute heart, without
fear of anyone, through his deeds he saved the yichus
of our nation, and in that way saved the people.
Who will stand up to save our pride, our yichus? If
not now, then when? Do the leaders of our nation and the
gedolim not see that we cannot delay? It is now a time
of pikuach nefesh. Let us try to save ourselves.
HaRav Yonah Mertzbach zt'l was rosh yeshiva in Yeshivas
Kol Torah in Yerushalayim. This English translation was first
printed in the Rosh Hashana edition, 5757. We are reprinting
it because of its relevance to the renewed issue of