QUESTION: According to RaMb"M, are Gerim ("converts to Judaism" themselves) permitted to conduct conversion (to Judaism) ceremonies - by sitting on the bet din?
ANSWER: Absolutely not. The [Mishneh] Torah forbids converts from most positions of authority (M.T. Laws of Kings and Wars 1:5). Anyone claiming that these things are permitted misunderstands the legal limitations placed upon Gerim, in terms of the direct leadership roles they ARE and ARE NOT permitted to occupy. Becoming a "Rabbi" or leader (or member) of a conversion court is definitely not permitted in our faith. Contrary to what is being incorrectly perpetuated in the name of Maimonides, these roles are not permitted to GERIM. This has nothing to do with who is native born-Israeli and who is not.
From an MT perspective, the claim that Hilkhoth Melachim 10:14 gives permission for these practices, is being totally warped out of context. Hilkhoth Melachim 10:14(11) refers to a "Ger Toshav" (Resident Alien) - and not a Ger (convert to Judaism)! It's preposterous to claim otherwise. This is clear to anyone who views this term within the greater context of the entire Mishneh Torah. Thus, according to RaMbaM, a GER TOSHAV is not a GER (convert to Judaism) - as is being claimed. In fact, the term definitely falls into the context of issues that relate to the 7 Noahide laws, not conversion to Judaism! For proof of RaMb”M’s definition of Ger Toshav, see http://www.mechon-mamre.org/i/5114.htm#7 . Therefore, quoting this verse is not only mistaken, but is disingenuous.
The other verse being used to stretch the legal role of Gerim (in becoming Rabbis or the heads/members of conversion courts - in THESE matters) comes from Hilkhoth Sanhedrin 11:12 . Again, a very simple reading of this so-called proof [in context] shows these issues to be 100% financial in nature.
The pereq starts:
"All individuals are acceptable to judge cases involving financial laws (דִּינֵי מְמוֹנוֹת), even a convert, provided his mother is a native-born Jewess." It continues: "A convert may judge a fellow convert even if his mother is not a native-born Jewess. Similarly, a mamzer and a person who is blind in one eye are acceptable to adjudicate financial disputes."
This says nothing about Gerim sitting on a bet din for conversion. Trying to extract more from this (than just a mere reference to financial matters) is akin to suctioning sap from a tire. The tire is good, and works perfectly, but it does not contain sap - after being processed.
end of the day, I humbly call upon my brothers and sisters involved in
this practice to desist from
openly "converting" converts. In addition to being
problematic, these conversions are creating division amonst Benei Yisrael.
This is not the way to make things better - and is certainly the opposite
of promoting peace.
"We see [this practice] as a tragedy - [one that] promotes and performs mass conversions, [and] one who routinely puts down normative Orthodoxy, insults the Noahide path –as if Noahides were no better than idolaters without conversion to Judaism– and shows ignorance in halakhah."
Noahide Path Still "Most Viable" Way To The "World To Come"
And to those who are desperately trying to ditch the Noahide path, I say the following (paraphrased from the words of the Mishneh Torah):
Moses himself was commanded to compel the world into practicing the Seven Noahide Laws (see Hilchoth Melachim 8:10). If it was good enough for MOSES, it's good enough for us!
Our Love & Reverance For Converts Is Solid and Holy
However, for those who convert properly:
Torah commandments (recorded in the Mishneh Torah) concerning righteous converts:
Postivive command #207: To love the convert, as it is written "love ye the stranger" (Deuteronomy 10,19).
Negative command #252: Not to wrong converts in speech, as it is written "and a stranger shalt thou not wrong" (Exodus 22,20).
Negative command #253: Not to wrong the convert in buying and selling, as it is written "neither shalt thou oppress him" (Exodus 22,20).
Negative Command #256: Exodus 22:22 - Not afflicting the orphans and widows.
Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Negative command #280: Not to pervert the judgment of converts and orphans, as it is written "thou shalt not pervert the justice due to the stranger, or to the fatherless" (Deuteronomy 24,17).