Question & Answer With Yirmeyahu - Burning Within
A Simple Jew asks:
In Imrei Pinchas, Shaar Toras Adam, 79, Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz taught that a holy spark falls and burns inside a Ger. It compels him to complete his Geirus and actually does not give him any choice in this matter. Only after his Geirus, is the Ger given free choice.
To what degree can you relate to the teaching from Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz when comparing it to your own life experience?
I have never heard this concept before, but it resonates. I believe we are all familiar with the notion that a convert is born with a Jewish neshamah and I had noted that this implies that conversion is somewhat inevitable since without the formality of conversion one remains mamash an aino-Yehudi.
When I was in high school my youth pastor once quipped, prior to my interest in Torah Judaism as I recall, to the effect that I might have been better suited for an earlier era. While I’m sure it was expressed with a good deal of exasperation, I am not certain that it was meant as an insult. Rather I think it was meant as a recognition that I had personality traits and tendencies which where more appropriate for life under the covenant made at Har Sinai, although in the time that I knew him I had not been sympathetic to Christians who had such practices such as refraining from pork or attending services on Saturday. The connection he perceived was more than superficial.
Of course several years later, once my views developed enough that I would no longer affirm the central tenants of that religion, there was no doubt in my mind that the appropriate step was to embrace Orthodox Judaism. I knew that I wasn’t “required” to in order to obtain life in Olam HaBa, and it wasn’t easy to articulate why I was compelled to do something that wasn’t required. Anything else was just inconceivable.
I suspect that there may be those who find the notion of free will being restricted in such a way to be difficult to accept. The truth is that in any event our circumstances often set the parameters of our free will. I have not seen the Imrei Pinchas inside but I'm not sure that we should understand this to mean that there is not any free will at all prior to geirus. As I understand it, Yevamos 48b sought to explain the suffering of converts on their delaying their conversion. If this is so then we might understand that the geir's free will is only restricted in the same way as that of someone born Jewish, only the former have more say in when they will accept the yoke of the commandments.
To bring it back to the more personal side, I have long felt that the influences and circumstances of my life, and the timing of major events in my life have proven to be a path which led me to where I am today. There is an incongruity between where I started and where I ended up that gives me a great sense of irony, but in retrospect I can perceive a great deal of inevitability as well.