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

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

Chapter Thirteen[edit]

[Formal Requirements for Conversion, 1-5]

(1) Israel entered the covenant by three means: Circumcision, immersion, and sacrifice. (2) Circumcision took place in Egypt, as it says, "but no uncircumcised man shall eat of it" (Exodus 12:48). Moses circumcised them because they had all stopped circumcising in Egypt except for the tribe of Levi, about whom it is said, "and Your covenant they preserved" (Deuteronomy 33:8). (3) Immersion took place in the wilderness before the giving of the Torah, as it says, "consecrate them today and tomorrow, and they shall wash their cloaks" (Exodus 19:10). And sacrifice too, as it says, "And he sent the lads of the Israelites and they offered up burnt offerings" (Exodus 24:5)—they brought the sacrifices on behalf of all Israel.

(4) The same is true for all generations: When a gentile wishes to enter the covenant and reside under the wings of the Divine Presence, and accepts the yoke of the Torah upon himself, he requires circumcision and immersion and to offer a sacrifice, and if she is female then immersion and a sacrifice, as it says, "one statute for you and for the proselyte" (Numbers 15:15)—Just as you were with circumcision and immersion and offering a sacrifice, so will the proselyte for all generations be with circumcision and immersion and offering a sacrifice. (5) What is the sacrifice of the proselyte? A burnt-offering of an animal, or two turtledoves or two young pigeons, both of them for burnt-offerings. But today when there is no sacrifice one requires circumcision and immersion, and when the Temple is built he will bring his sacrifice.

[Imperfect Procedure, 6-8]

(6) A proselyte who has been circumcised but not immersed, or who has immersed but not been circumcised, is not a proselyte until he is circumcised and immerses. And he must immerse in the presence of [a court of] three. Because the matter requires a court we do not immerse him on the Sabbath, nor on a holiday, nor at night. But if they immersed him, he is nevertheless a valid proselyte.

[Presumption of Conversion, 9-10]

[Conversion of Servants, 11-13]

[Ulterior Motives, 14-18]

(14) Do not imagine that Samson the savior of Israel, or Solomon the King of Israel and beloved of God, married foreign women without conversion. Rather, the truth is as follows: When a male or female proselyte comes to be converted, the proper procedure is for the court to check him, lest he come to enter the religion because of money that he will receive or power that he will acquire; or out of fear. If he is male, they check that he has not set his eyes upon a Jewish woman. And if she is a woman, they check that she has not set her eyes on one of Israel's young men.

If no ulterior motive was found, they inform them of the weight of the Torah's yoke and how difficult it is for people to keep it, so that they will reconsider. But if they accepted this and did not leave, and the court saw that they have repented out of love, then we accept them, as scripture says, "When Naomi saw how determined she was to go with her, she ceased to argue with her" (Ruth 1:18).

(15) It is for this reason that the court did not accept proselytes throughout the era of David and Solomon. In David's days lest they came out of fear, and in Solomon's days lest they came for the sake of the kingdom and the great good that Israel enjoyed. For anyone who comes from the gentiles for worldly reasons is not one of the righteous proselytes. Nevertheless, many proselytes converted before laymen during the days of David and Solomon, and the great court was wary of them: They did not reject the since they had already immersed, but they did not draw them close until their future behavior became clear.

(16) Since Solomon converted women and married them, just as Samson too converted and married, and it is well known that they converted for ulterior motives, and it was not the court who converted them—scripture regards them as gentiles, and forbidden. Furthermore, their later behavior proved their initial intentions, since they serves their foreign gods and built shrines for them; scripture blames Solomon for building them, as it says, "At that time Solomon built a shrine" (1 Kings 11:7).

(17) A proselyte who was not investigated, or was not informed of the commandments and their penalties, but was circumcised and immersed before three laymen—he is considered a proselyte. And even if it becomes known that he converted for ulterior motives, he has left his gentile status for being circumcised and immersed, but we remain wary of him until his righteousness is proven. Even if he returned to idolatry he is like an apostate Jew, his marriage is valid, and we are obligated to return his lost object. Since he immersed he became an Israelite. This is why Samson and Solomon kept their wives, even though their secret was revealed.

(18) This is why the Sages said: Proselytes are as terrible for Israel as leprosy. For most of them come with ulterior motives and deceive Israel, and it is terribly hard to keep separate from them after they have converted. Learn from what took place in the wilderness with the golden calf and the graves of desire. And similarly for most of the trials [in the wilderness], the rif-raf were the first to be involved.