1) TELLING A CONVERT ABOUT IDOLATRY
QUESTION: The Gemara derives the things that Beis Din must tell a Nochri who wants to convert from the things that Naomi told Ruth when she wanted to convert. Naomi told Ruth about the Mitzvah of Techum Shabbos, and that there are 613 Mitzvos which a Jew must observe, and that once a person becomes a Jew she becomes prohibited from worshipping idols.
Why is a prospective Ger told that if he becomes Jewish, he will no longer be permitted to worship idols? Idolatry is forbidden to everyone, whether or not he is Jewish! (MAHARSHA, 47a)
(a) The MAHARSHA answers that Naomi did not actually tell Ruth that she will become forbidden from worshipping idols if she converts. Rather, Naomi told her that once she becomes Jewish she will be prohibited from leaving Eretz Yisrael, because one who lives outside of Eretz Yisrael is "as if he has no G-d" (Kesuvos 110b).
(b) The ARUCH LA'NER answers that Naomi's words to Ruth referred to forms of idol-worship that are permitted only to a Nochri and not to a Jew, such as "Shituf" (worshipping another god along with Hash-m) according to some Rishonim (see Tosfos to Sanhedrin 63b, DH Asur l'Adam).
Other Acharonim add that a Jew may not derive benefit from an object worshipped as Avodah Zarah while a Nochri may derive benefit from it (see MITZPEH EISAN). The TUREI EVEN (Chagigah 11b) rules that although a Jew is forbidden (with an Isur Lav) from kissing an object of Avodah Zarah, a Nochri is forbidden only from serving it in one of the four main forms of idol-worship (slaughtering or burning an offering to it, pouring libations before it, or prostrating oneself to it) or by serving it in the way it normally is served. The RIF in the Ein Yakov adds that a Jew is prohibited even from owning an object of Avodah Zarah and keeping it in his home even when he has no intent to worship it, while a Nochri is permitted to keep such an object in his home.
(c) The RIF in the Ein Yakov asks another question. Naomi had told Ruth already that a Jew must observe 613 Mitzvos. Since the prohibition against Avodah Zarah is one of those Mitzvos, why did she need to mention Avodah Zarah separately?
The MITZPEH EISAN and IYUN YAKOV suggest that Naomi intended to warn Ruth that the object of Avodah Zarah of a Jew remains forbidden forever and cannot be annulled. In contrast, the Avodah Zarah of a Nochri becomes permitted once he shows that he no longer worships it. Naomi did not repeat to Ruth that Avodah Zarah is forbidden, but that the object of Avodah Zarah of a Jew is more severe than that of a Nochri.
2) THE ORDER OF PROCEDURES FOR CONVERSION
QUESTION: The Gemara states that a Ger must perform Milah immediately upon his acceptance of the Mitzvos, before he immerses in a Mikvah, because "we do not delay the performance of a Mitzvah." After he recovers from the Milah, he performs Tevilah.
If it is important to expedite the conversion process, the Ger should immerse first and then perform Milah immediately afterward, thereby becoming a Ger right away. Why should he perform Milah first, wait until he recuperates, and then immerse?
(a) The RAMBAN writes that the Ger must perform Milah first because if it is left for the end of the conversion process, he might back out when he considers the pain involved, and he will have wasted Beis Din's time and efforts. Nevertheless, if a Ger immerses first and then performs Milah, b'Di'eved his conversion is valid.
(b) TOSFOS and the TOSFOS HA'ROSH imply that the order does make a difference. If Milah is not done first, the conversion is invalid. The Rosh records the wording of the Gemara in Kerisus (9a) that "our fathers entered the covenant of Hash-m with Milah, Tevilah, and Haza'ah," which places Milah first and implies that this is the appropriate order. The source for this order apparently is the order in which the Jewish people performed their Gerus process.
(c) The RASHBA (see also RITVA and Insights to Yevamos 71:1) explains that Milah must be done first because the removal of the Orlah represents the removal of the Tum'ah of Nochrim (see Mishnah, Nedarim 31b). The Tevilah afterwards is done in order to acquire the Kedushah of Yisrael. If the Ger would do Tevilah while the Orlah is still in place, he would be like a person who immerses in a Mikvah in order to become Tahor while he holds a Sheretz in his hand. The Ritva adds that because of this reason, the Gerus is invalid if the order is reversed. (The Rashba, however, remains in doubt about whether the Gerus would be invalid.)
A practical difference between these approaches may be whether a Nochri who performs Milah without Tevilah is considered a partial Jew or remains a full-fledged Nochri. Does Milah start the process of Gerus, or are all of the components of Gerus necessary in order for any degree of Gerus to be achieved?
The RADBAZ (3:917) writes that since Milah removes the Tum'ah of Nochrim from the Ger, he is considered a Jew in certain respects even though he did not yet immerse in a Mikvah. (For example, other Jews must provide him with financial assistance if he is poor. Also, if he touches wine it does not become forbidden.) The ARUCH LA'NER (in TESHUVOS BINYAN TZION YD 91) writes that a Ger who does Milah without Tevilah should observe Shabbos; he is no longer considered a Nochri who is prohibited from observing Shabbos. This view perhaps follows only the opinion that Milah removes the Ger from the category of Nochri, and thus the process of Gerus has already begun. According to the other opinion, Milah alone is meaningless because Gerus does not even begin until both Milah and Tevilah have been performed. Without both procedures, he remains a complete Nochri.
In fact, this difference in understanding the role of Milah in Gerus is evident in the Rashba's words elsewhere. The Gemara (end of 46b) compares the Tevilah of Gerus to "Mishpat," the verdict of a court. Tosfos (46b, DH Ein) writes that the Tevilah of Gerus is like "Techilas Din," when a court convenes to discuss a case, even though the Ger has already performed Milah. The Rashba, however, writes that the Tevilah is comparable to the final decision of the court and not to the start of the case, since Milah has already been performed. The Rashba is consistent with his opinion that Milah accomplishes the removal of the status of Nochri even before Tevilah has been performed.
3) THE SOURCE FOR A SLAVE'S OBLIGATION IN MITZVOS
QUESTION: The Gemara states that when an Eved Kena'ani is freed, he does not need Kabalas Mitzvos (acceptance of the Mitzvos) in order to complete his Gerus. RASHI explains that since he immersed "l'Shem Avdus" (with intention to become an Eved) when he first entered servitude, "he was already Shayach to (had some connection to) Mitzvos." Which Mitzvos applied to him as an Eved? Rashi writes that as an Eved he is obligated to observe the Mitzvah of "Lema'an Yanu'ach Avdecha" (Devarim 5:14), which requires that he rest from Melachah on Shabbos. In addition, he is obligated to observe the same Mitzvos a Jewish woman is obligated to observe, as derived from the Gezeirah Shavah of "Lah Lah." Since the Eved already became obligated to observe certain Mitzvos at the time he became an Eved, he is not obligated to undergo a new Kabalas Mitzvos when he immerses upon his emancipation.
Rashi mentions two sources for the obligation of an Eved to observe Shabbos, the verse "Lema'an Yanu'ach" and the Gezeirah Shavah of "Lah Lah." Since the Gezeirah Shavah obligates an Eved to observe the Mitzvos which a woman must observe, why does Rashi write that the Eved must observe Shabbos because of the verse "Lema'an Yanu'ach Avdecha"? (ARUCH LA'NER)
Moreover, the verse "Lema'an Yanu'ach Avdecha" does not seem to be an appropriate source that an Eved is obligated to observe Shabbos. That verse is directed specifically to a Jewish master; it commands him not to make his Eved work on Shabbos. It does not command the Eved himself to refrain from work on Shabbos (as the Gemara mentions later on 48b; see also Rashi there, DH Bein ha'Shemashos).
ANSWER: Rashi may be bothered by a difficulty in the Gemara. The Gemara says that an Eved does not need Kabalas Mitzvos when he is released because he already performed Kabalas Mitzvos when he became an Eved. However, the Gemara itself says that a Jewish master can employ an Eved Kena'ani against his will. If an Eved becomes enslaved against his will, certainly he does not accept upon himself the Mitzvos when he becomes an Eved. Why, then, does the Gemara say that he does not need Kabalas Mitzvos when he is released?
The answer to this question may be inferred from the Gemara later (48a). The Gemara there records a Machlokes Tana'im whether an emancipated Eved is exempt from performing a formal act of Kabalas Mitzvos only when he had served as an Eved for a long time, or even when he is freed immediately after he became an Eved. Rashi (DH b'Yefas To'ar) explains that an Eved who served for a long time does not need Kabalas Mitzvos at the time of his release, because during his enslavement he practiced the Mitzvos in which an Eved is obligated; through observing those Mitzvos, he accepted the Mitzvos upon himself.
Apparently, even the opinion that an Eved does not need Kabalas Mitzvos when he is released immediately after he becomes an Eved (which is the opinion which the Gemara here discusses) follow the same logic, even though the Eved has not had a chance to observe the Mitzvos. By virtue of becoming an Eved (whether voluntarily or not) he has become resigned to observing the Mitzvos in the future, and thus becoming an Eved is considered a proper acceptance of the Mitzvos. This is the logic for the assumption that the Gezeirah Shavah of "Lah Lah" makes his Kabalas Mitzvos unnecessary.
Rashi may have a doubt whether this logic is correct. Perhaps it is incorrect to assume that an Eved who immersed in a Mikvah against his will becomes resigned to observing the Mitzvos. Rather, just as the master immerses the Eved against his will, so, too, he "accepts the Mitzvos" on behalf of the Eved against the Eved's will. However, it obviously is not possible for one person to accept upon someone else the yoke of the Mitzvos. Rather, the master accepts upon himself that he, the master, will observe the Mitzvos which apply to him because of the Eved, such as the Mitzvah of "Lema'an Yanu'ach," refraining from having the servant work on Shabbos. His acceptance takes the place of the Eved's acceptance. For this reason, Rashi mentions that the obligation of "Lema'an Yanu'ach" makes an Eved "Shayach to Mitzvos."