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Teshuva in Responsa II

A question considered was whether the apostate forfeits the privileges due to him in Jewish law. It is obvious that he does while he accepts another faith. But what is the position when he reverts to Judaism?


This question was put to Rabbeinu Gershom (Eidelberg no.4, pp 57-60 ) with regards to a kohen  who had converted to Christianity and then reverted to Judaism, a question discussed by the Goanim.

A kohen is called first to read the Torah and it is his duty to recite the priestly blessing during the synagogue service. Can he still enjoy these privileges, if he had been converted, once he returns to the Jewish fold? The privileges of the kohen are based on the verse: ‘And thou shalt sanctify him’ (Lev. 21: 8).[Gittin 59b] Although, Rabbeinu Gershom argues, the apostate, by his conversion, profaned the sanctity that was his, he reverts to the state of sanctity when he returns to the fold. Rabbeinu Gershom quotes the ruling of the Mishnah:(Menachot 13:10)

The priests who ministered in the Temple of Onias may not minister in the Temple of Jerusalem; and needless to say another mater (i.e. priests who had served idols); for it is written: ‘Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, but they dud eat unleavened bread among their brethren’ (Kings II 23:9). Thus they are like those that had a blemish; they ate entitled to share and eat of the holy things but they are not permitted to offer sacrifices.

Rabbeinu Gershom argues that the only disqualification of priests who had served idols. According to this Mishnah, is that they are no longer allowed to serve in the Temple. For all other purposes they have the rights of priests, once they have repented, as have the priests with a blemish to whom they are compared in the Mishnah.

ToolsCompare Rabbeinu Gershom’s response to Teshuva in Responsa I: Do they argue? What are the implications for us? Does this ruling imply that there should be no loss of privilege for one, other than a Kohen who has sinned and then repents? If someone feels ashamed to face God in prayer even after repentance; is he expressing a belief that he has forfeited certain privileges?

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