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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Ten Minutes of Torah–great conversion essay!


Our synagogues emphasize the beauty and grandeur of the ancient and awe-inspiring faith known as Judaism, and we joyfully extend membership in our covenantal community to all who are prepared to accept the responsibilities that it entails.

Those who convert later in life remind us that there is no cut-off date for conversion and that we should not give up on them; neither the wedding nor the birth of a child precludes a faithful choice at a later time. And by the way: most non-Jews who are part of synagogue life expect that we will ask them to convert; they come from a background where asking for this kind of commitment is natural and normal, and they are more than a little perplexed when we fail to do so. They wonder if our reticence might not reflect a measure of insecurity and uncertainty in our own minds about the value of the Jewish enterprise.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, Houston Biennial, 2006

In the days that formed the countdown to my marriage, I remember asking myself a series of anxious questions–a sort of final cross examination of my intentions on the eve of this most important ceremony that would, I hoped, begin a lifetime of commitment: “Have I made the right choice? Am I sure of my feelings? Is this relationship the ‘real thing’? Can it last a lifetime? Do I need more time to be sure? Am I ready?”

Asking these questions helped me to reaffirm the answers I already knew in my heart. Twelve years after my marriage, I found myself asking similar questions on the eve of another equally important covenant–my conversion to Judaism. In many ways the two covenants, to my husband and to Judaism had the same essential elements–courtship leading to knowledge, love and public commitment. <!– D([“mb”,”

So how did I n know I was ready to convert to Judaism? What are the essential n elements that help insure the sincerity and authenticity of n such an important decision?

n

Attraction to, and Knowledge of the n Beloved When I first began to study about Judaism n it was out of purely intellectual curiosity. If anyone had n asked me then if I wanted to convert I would have said, “Of n course not!” There was no more deep personal commitment on my n part than I would have had on a first date. Exploring Judaism n is not the same as entering into the process of conversion. My n studies were at first casual and wide ranging and objective, n but intriguing enough to me that I wanted to learn more. In n effect, I was willing to ‘go out again’!

As time went n on I began to feel a deeper attraction, particularly for n Judaism’s ethical values. The ethics of Torah could only be n brought to life by human acts– passive belief, unquestioning n faith was not enough. One essential element in becoming Jewish n is “doing Jewish”, whether by lighting Shabbat candles, n arguing over the meaning of a verse from Deuteronomy, or n attending a family seder. I was astounded when I n found out that there was even a Jewish way to shop! According n to our texts, if you do not plan on buying an item, you should n not ask the store owner its price. He has to make a living and n your idle curiosity is keeping him from attending to more n serious customers!

My interaction with Jews, in my n husband’s family and in the larger community, affirmed that n same unique, profound approach to life and spiritual values. n The more I discovered about Judaism, the more I wanted to n know. That first casual “date” had led to a deepening n relationship and after a year I realized I had fallen in love n with a religion, a people and a n tradition.”,1] );

//–> So how did I know I was ready to convert to Judaism? What are the essential elements that help insure the sincerity and authenticity of such an important decision?

Attraction to, and Knowledge of the Beloved When I first began to study about Judaism it was out of purely intellectual curiosity. If anyone had asked me then if I wanted to convert I would have said, “Of course not!” There was no more deep personal commitment on my part than I would have had on a first date. Exploring Judaism is not the same as entering into the process of conversion. My studies were at first casual and wide ranging and objective, but intriguing enough to me that I wanted to learn more. In effect, I was willing to ‘go out again’!

As time went on I began to feel a deeper attraction, particularly for Judaism’s ethical values. The ethics of Torah could only be brought to life by human acts– passive belief, unquestioning faith was not enough. One essential element in becoming Jewish is “doing Jewish”, whether by lighting Shabbat candles, arguing over the meaning of a verse from Deuteronomy, or attending a family seder. I was astounded when I found out that there was even a Jewish way to shop! According to our texts, if you do not plan on buying an item, you should not ask the store owner its price. He has to make a living and your idle curiosity is keeping him from attending to more serious customers!

My interaction with Jews, in my husband’s family and in the larger community, affirmed that same unique, profound approach to life and spiritual values. The more I discovered about Judaism, the more I wanted to know. That first casual “date” had led to a deepening relationship and after a year I realized I had fallen in love with a religion, a people and a tradition. <!– D([“mb”,”

Freedom from Other n Attachments A love relationship demands fidelity n to the beloved. A commitment to a religion demands the same. n My relationship with my birth religion had long ago ended and, n although I respected my parents’ beliefs and valued my n background, it was no longer a part of me. I was free to n embrace this unique and singular Jewish way of life, if I so n chose.

n

Personal and Public n Commitment There is no such thing as a one-sided n covenant in marriage or conversion. Each side commits to n sacred obligations to nurture, to support, to pledge love and n fidelity. This is no casual agreement. Because none of us can n foresee the future, and because commitment is not only n wonderful but awesome, many of us feel those last minute n uncertainties before we make momentous decisions in our n lives.

A conversion process that is long enough and n profound enough will allow you to identify yourself as Jewish n before the act of converting. It will carry you to n that final ritual that will seem both right and inevitable. n How will you know when you’re ready? You’ll n know.

n

For further information on n conversion and on Rabbi Yoffie’s Biennial initiative to Invite n and Support Conversion, please visit the Outreach and Synagogue Community n website.”,1] );

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