Translation:Mishneh Torah/The Book of Holiness/Laws of Forbidden Intercourse/Chapter Fourteen

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Mishneh Torah by Maimonides, translated from Hebrew by Wikisource
Laws of Forbidden Intercourse, Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen[edit]

[Practical Guidelines for Conversion, 1-6]

(1) How do we accept righteous proselytes? When he comes to be converted, and the court investigates him but finds no ulterior motive, we say to him: "Why have you come to be converted? Don't you know that at this time Israel is harshly oppressed and harried, suffering terrible afflictions?" If he replied, "I know this, but I am not worthy" then we accept him immediately.

(2) We inform him of the principles of the religion, which are the unity of God and the prohibition of idolatry, and we elaborate upon this at great length. And we inform him of a few light commandments and a few severe commandments, but we do not dwell upon this at length. We inform him of the transgressions regarding gleaning, the forgotten sheaf, the corner of field, and the tithe of the poor. And we inform him of the penalties for the commandments.

How is this done? We tell him: "Know that until you came to this religion, if you ate forbidden fat you were not liable to be punished with karet. If you violated the Sabbath, you were not liable to be stoned. But now, after you convert, if you eat forbidden fat you are liable to be punished with karet, and if you violate the Sabbath you are liable to be stoned." But we do not press him too much, and we are not exacting with him, lest this pressure cause him to leave the good path for the way of evil. For at first we must draw a person with soft, pleasing words, as it says, "I drew them with human ties" and then "with cords of love" (Hosea 11:4).

(3) Just as we inform him of the punishments for the commandments, so do we inform him of their rewards. And we inform him that through keeping these commandments he will merit the life of the World to Come, and that the only perfectly righteous man is a wise person who keeps these commandments and understands them. (4) So we say to him: "Know that the World to Come is kept hidden away for the righteous alone, and they are Israel. And although you see Israel suffering in this world, this is a good that is kept hidden away for them, because they cannot enjoy great good in this world like the other nations, lest their hearts become haughty and they err, thereby losing the reward of the World to Come, as it says, "And Jeshurun fattened and kicked" (Deuteronomy 32:15). (5) But the Holy One, blessed be He, spares them from the the full extent of affliction, so that they do not perish. Rather, all the other nations will perish and they will still stand." And we elaborate on this matter at great length, in order that he find it pleasing.

If he reconsidered, and decided not to accept, he may go his own way. But if he accepted we do not keep him waiting, but rather circumcise him immediately, and if he was already circumcised we take drops of the blood of the covenant from him. We let him tarry until he is completely healed, and then we immerse him. (6) Three judges stand over him and inform him of a few light commandments and a few severe commandments a second time, as he stands in the water.

If she was a woman, women sit her down in the water up to her neck, while the judges are outside. They inform her of a few light commandments and a few severe commandments while she sits in the water, and then she immerses before them, while they turn their faces away and leave, so that they cannot see her when she rises from the water.