Is there an explanation of why it is that we discourage a goy who wants to convert, yet we force a Jewish-owned gentile slave to accept circumcision, mikveh and take on mitzvot of woman? And in the event that this slave is freed he becomes a Jew by halakat?
Seems strange...must be reason
Mark from Raanana
1) We do not force the Eved to accept circumcision, etc. The Gemara states (48b) that if somebody buys an Eved from a Nochri and he does not want to be circumcised, we wait and try to encourage him during a period of 12 months to circumcise. If, by the end of 12 months, he still does not want to undergo Milah, we re-sell him to a Nochri.
2) The Rambam (Hilchos Isurei Bi'ah 14:9) writes that if one buys an Eved from a Nochri we do not say to him, "Why did you see fit to convert" [in the way that we say to an ordinary Ger; see Gemara 47a, -DB]. Instead, we ask him, "Do you want to be one of the Avadim of Yisrael and be one of the Kosher people or not?" If he wants to, then we follow a process similar to that followed for other Gerim. However, if he does not want to, then we wait for 12 months, but for longer than this we are not allowed to keep him with us. Again, we see from the Rambam that we may not force the Eved to accept the Mitzvos at all.
3) The Rosh 48b (chapter 4, near the end of Siman 38) writes that it is not good to obligate the Eved in Mitzvos if he does not want to observe them. In addition, the Nimukei Yosef (page 16b of the pages of the Rif, DH Tanu) writes that if the Eved says that if he will be immersed in the Mikvah he will not subesquently keep any Mitzvos, and the master sees that he is indeed a stubborn Eved, he may not be immersed against his will.
4) It follows that if, later on, the Eved is freed and thereby becomes obligated in all the Mitzvos, this is only after he accepted the Mitzvos of a woman voluntarily earlier on.
What about a yefass toar? After the one month waiting period (if she does not voluntarily convert immediately after her capture), isn't she converted against her will and married to the capturer also against her will?
Thanks and kol tuv,
This is a very good question and it requires further study but I am just going to give a quick answer now.
1. I suggest that Yefas To'ar is a special case. The source for this is the Gemara in Kidushin (end of 21b) that states, concerning the Din of Yefas To'ar, "The Torah speaks against the Yetzer ha'Ra. It is better that Yisrael should eat the meat of 'Temutos' (this is a dangerously-ill animal which the Halachah permits only with difficulty) rather than eat Neveilah (which is totally forbidden)." If the Torah would not have permitted the Yefas To'ar, there would have been a concern that the soldier would marry her without any Heter whatsoever.
Accordingly, I suggest that even though, generally speaking, we must be sure that the candidate for Gerus does really want to keep the Mitzvos, in the case of the Yefas To;ar this is another aspect of the special leniency aimed against the Yetzer ha'Ra, that she may be converted against her will.
2. I later found, b'Siyata d'Shmaya, that my answer above is similar to what the Ritva writes on the Sugya in Kidushin 21b.
Rashi there (Kidushin 21b, DH Kohen) implies that the Yefas To'ar is permitted to the soldier only after her Gerus. The Ritva asks: if so, why is a special Heter required for Yefas To'ar? If she underwent Gerus, then it should be obvious that she is permitted, so why does the Gemara in Kidushin 21b say that the Halachah of Yefas To'ar is a Chidush and is only a special leniency because of the Yetzer ha'Ra?
The Ritva answers that the novelty of the Din of Yefas To'ar is that even though she does Gerus only because she is forced to do so and does not do so b'Lev Shalem, whole-heartedly, nevertheless the Torah permitted her. The Ritva compares her to the "Gerei Arayos" mentioned in Yevamos 24b. They converted only out of fear that the lions would eat them if they did not convert. This is what encouraged the Kutim to become Gerim, as related in Melachim II 17. One should not accept Gerim with such motives in general. This is the special leniency of Yefas To'ar, that one may l'Chatchilah accept her as a Giyores, even though she is performing Gerus only under duress.
3. We see from this that all other candidates for Gerus must do so out of their own free will, because Yefas To'ar is a special case which does not usually apply.