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HaShem has created everyone subject to the Seven Laws of Noah. Embracing this Covenant will connect you wonderfully with the Will of G-d!
For some people however there is an inner yearning for "adoption" into the Family of Avraham, Yitshak and Ya'akov. This is only possible through formal conversion into Rabbinic Judaism. If you are interested in conversion contact Rabbi Shlomo Nachman ben Ya'akov, find out if you are eligible, and learn how this course works.
On Sunday October 18, 2020 at 5 PM Eastern, Rabbi Shlomo will present a free introduction to this informative year long course B"H. The course will be available only in our Zoom Shul. We encourage those interested in this course to be present at this class.
For more information contact Rabbi Shlomo Nachman.
Is Conversion to Judaism Right For You?
Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © July 1, 2020
On Sunday, October 18, 2020 Beit Emunah plans to begin a course of study entitled “Judaism 101: The Path Towards Conversion.” In this year long series we will be welcoming those who are interested in learning the fundamentals of Judaism as well those who are interested in pursuing formal conversion. This article is introductory to that class.
Understand that Judaism is very diverse. We focus in this piece on Traditional/Orthodox Judaism. Within Jewish orthodoxy there is a lot diversity depending on whether one is Sephardic or Ashkenazi, Modern Orthodox, standard Orthodox or so-called “Ultra-Orthodox,” a franchise of shuls or an independent congregation, within Israel or outside of Israel, and so on. Judaism is not a 'one size fits all' Path nor people.
The central story of the Jewish people is that HaShem freed us from slavery in Egypt and brought us to the freedom of Har Sinai and His Torah. We are intended to be a free people who serve HaShem through our free will as inspired by our traditions, sages and rabbis. For those who choose to join us in this eternal covenant the same is true. Just as Jews must decide what flavor of Jewish practice motivates them, so too converts must determine which flavor of Judaism speaks to them. This decision is critical.
Some schools of Jewish thought are very demanding. Converting through such groups can be painful, even personally demeaning. Members of such sects sometimes avoid associating with other Jews, even family members, preferring to maintain an air of spiritual superiority and exclusivity. If this is your image of being Jewish such groups may work well for you. If not, you might want to convert through a different school or beit din. In Judaism strictness often does not equal “the best.”
As we will discuss in our opening presentation, the sages of the Talmud debate the necessary requirements for one who wishes to convert and do not achieve consensus. Most Orthodox rabbis agree that the requirements in our generation need to exceed those listed in the Shulcan Oruch. Traditionally such decisions have been determined by the Orthodox rabbi and beit din (i.e. Jewish court) assisting the convert and is often personalized.
Since the break-up in Ashkenazi Judaism between the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox movements, determining these requirements have become more difficult. Generally speaking it is not that Orthodox rabbis reject the majority of would-be converts, its that they reject the rabbis and courts overseeing them. In an effort to safeguard Jewish integrity, community and marriage, most Orthodox rabbis reject non-Orthodox candidates out of hand. They point out that if the rabbi or court does not embrace Jewish halacha based upon their views there is no way their conversion candidates will. Indeed, it is doubtful they will even be taught traditional Judaism.
This begs the question however of who has the authority to declare what is and is not halacha? Does not such determinations fall to the rabbi? So Orthodoxy rejects non-orthodox rabbis and hence their conversion candidates. This further divides our people rather than seeking agreement.
Sephardic Judaism escaped the divisions caused by European Haskalah (the so-called “Jewish Enlightenment” that lead to the creation of the Ashkenazi movements). The liberalism and religious assimilationism that led to the Ashkenazi movements never gained much of a foothold among the Sephardim. For this reason Ashkenazi Jewish authorities accept Sephardic Jewry as “Orthodox.” Many who wish to avoid the Orthodox/non-Orthodox infighting choose to convert Sephardic for this reason.
The sectarian struggles have hurt a LOT of good people. They have turned many people away from the G-d of Israel and has even led many to embrace antisemitism. The results of Haskalah on all sides has caused untold sorrow to the Jewish people and to those considering conversion.
The Seven Law Covenant
In order to be considered for conversion a person must first embrace the Covenant of his/her birth and live with it for an unspecified time. There is no halachic nor biblical need for anyone to convert to Judaism. One who wishes to live in harmony with the One Creator may do so fully and completely under the terms of Noahide Seven Law Covenant.
Who Should Consider Conversion?
The Jewish sages state that every Jew, past, present, or future, was personally present at Har Sinai in some form (Deuteronomy 29:13-14, Talmud, Shevuot 39a). Because of this some few non-Jews feel an undeniable yearning in their hearts to reconnect with the Jewish people. For most, but not all, this desire is present from a young age. For such people there typically is no sense of “converting” but of “returning Home.” Generally speaking these are the only people recommended to seek conversion. Indeed, “conversion” to Judaism is not even actually possible since one who was not at Har Sinai can not be part of the Covenant. One may be able to convince a rabbi or beit din to grant them entry into the mikveh, but only those who were present and said, “na’aseh v’nishma“ – “We will do and we will hear/understand” are of the Covenant. Since we have no record of who was there it falls to the Rabbinate to make these determinations in consult with the perspective 'candidate'.
Conversion does NOT require giving up ones family, placing ones children into the hands of high priced ill-educated religious teachers, dressing in Middle Ages style clothing, moving into an intercity neighborhood you hate or can't afford, living like a joyless monk etc. The story of the Jewish people is that HaShem granted us freedom from slavery, not enslavement to religious clerics. Don't listen to the naysayers.
If this yearning to 'convert' burns like a flame within your consciousness, if you desire to return Home to your people, then by all means contact a qualified rabbi and seek his guidance. Conversion is not to be done lightly but for some it may be the most fulfilling decision they will ever make.
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