Who Chooses to Convert?

6 02 2007

This comment was left on the first of my posts about why I’m converting ( see that one here and the second one here )

“I know that it’s what G-d wants me to do”

Really? I thought Judaism taught that HaShem wants each human being to achieve their potential where they are. Non-Jews should observe 7 Noachide laws, Jews 613 commandments but to think that HaShem wants a non-Jew to become a Jew?

That YOU want to realize YOUR potential as a Jew, that YOU might not be satisfied with the Noachide Judeophile role in this life … thats is what YOU want? Don’t blame HaShem!

Hope you don’t mind me playing devil’s advocate

First of, I’m not blaming G-d, I love what I’m doing, and find it deeply rewarding.  It’s one of the things in my life that makes me happiest, and sure, it’s frustrating at times, but I think anything worth doing is going to be difficult.  I really hope it doesn’t honestly seem like I’m blaming anyone for that, much less G-d. 

I think you’re correct that G-d wants everyone to do the best they can in the situation their in, and yes, for most people that’s doesn’t involve being Jewish. But converts arn’t most people. 

“Because there’s more to a convert to Judaism than meets the eye.

The Kabbalah teaches that a true convert actually always had a latent Jewish soul, which for some cosmic reason had to go through a long spiritual journey in order to find its way back. This is one reason why the conversion process is made to be difficult: we are really just testing to see if this person indeed has a Jewish spark; if they do, then no obstacle in the world will be able to stop them rejoining their people.”

(Source)

If all Jewish souls were at Sinai to accept the covenant, then converts were there too.  We’re already supposed to be Jewish, but for what ever reason (Because HaShem wants us to go through the challenge of conversion?  Because we bring something important to Judaism from the outside world? There are countless possibilities)  we were born into a non Jewish family.  It seems to me that a Jewish soul finding its way back home is exactly the sort of thing HaShem would want. 

Also, there is a subtle but important difference between “I know this is what HaShem wants me to do” and “HaShem told me to do this”.  I don’t for a moment think that if I don’t convert I’ll be punished in some way, but at the same time, I think that in the end, if I choose not to convert (because you’re right, it is my choice, and even HaShem can’t make it for me) that I’ll be missing a huge part of what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. 

I can’t offer any proofs that I’m really one of the few people who is supposed to convert, but this feels so right I can’t imagine that anything else is true.  Yes, being Jewish is hard, and at times dangerous, but in the end, even when something bad happens, I still think of Judaism as a “we”, not a “you” or a “them”.  (And yes, I know that from experience, tragically) Any every week I feel like I’m being unspeakably pretentious to think that I have some place in this, that I deserve to tie my destiny in with the Jewish one, but the emptiness I feel when I think of walking away outweighs the sense that I’m probably not good enough.  (And strangely, when you talk to orthodox rabbis, that sense of not being good enough is something they think indicates someone who really should convert and understands the magnitude of what they’re taking on.  Probably the only time I’ll ever get something good out of that. :))

So in short, yes, you’re right.  This is what I want, but I’m right too.  I don’t think the two statements necessarily exclude each other.   (And no, I don’t at all mind you asking, if my confidence in my answers could be shaken by having someone challenge them then I think the answers would need serious questioning.  Questions are always good!)

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7 responses

6 02 2007
Y-Love

“Supposed to convert”? How would anyone know beforehand?

The commentator Aruch La’ner, commenting to Yevamos 47b, says that one of the reasons that the Talmud teaches us that “a convert is like a newborn child” is to show that following the conversion process, it shows retroactively that the person was never “really a goy”.

So too here — the conversion shows: if you made it, you were “meant to be here.”

I also wrote an article recently on my blog extolling G-d for making me a convert as well. Maybe it’s the new year vibe in the air (15 Shevat) 😀

6 02 2007
Emily

True, you can’t know for sure until you officially convert, but you can still have a pretty good idea. I could back out now if I wanted to, but if all that i’ve been through so far hasn’t scared me off, trust me when I say that nothing will. 🙂

7 02 2007
freedom

Beautiful and heartfelt! Davarim hayotzim min halev, nichnassim el halev – Words that emanate from the heart, penetrate the heart

7 02 2007
zed

I feel like I’m being unspeakably pretentious to think that I have some place in this, that I deserve to tie my destiny in with the Jewish one, but the emptiness I feel when I think of walking away outweighs the sense that I’m probably not good enough.

Very well said!

7 02 2007
Emily

Freedom and Zed- Thank you, it’s good to know that I at least make some sense. 🙂

16 12 2007
Keliata

In my very humble opinion, I believe that each of us (gerim) always had a spark of a Jewish soul. The conversion process, which is often frought with insecurity and many times, loneliness, kindles this spark until it becomes a flame.

A flame that dances when a breeze strikes it and can never be extinguished. What keeps this very fragile flame flickering? It’s source–Hashem!

I suppose you could compare the development of a ger’s Jewish soul to the development of a human being–first a zygote, then embryo, infant, child, adult.

Personally, this journey has been both wonderful but at times filled with insecurity and a felling of being inferior to those blessed to be born Jewish and raised as Jews from birth. And the anti-Semitism is another thing, which in a way does prepare us for lives as Jews. We will face persecution as they have and do. Still, considering past and current persecution the Jewish people have experienced I feel odd complaining about my x number of months, years of “persecution.”

To use a metaphor an old TV show, it’s sort of like a white girl trying to sing Old Man River with it’s themes of suffering with the same sincerity as an African American.

The hardest part is before a committment to convert is made, when you feel as though you are on a bridge, right in the middle, not on your way to anyplace, just stuck in the middle between the faith you were born into (in my case Catholicism) and the faith you were destined to be a part of (Judaism).

13 04 2008
Tammy

“I feel like I’m being unspeakably pretentious to think that I have some place in this, that I deserve to tie my destiny in with the Jewish one, but the emptiness I feel when I think of walking away outweighs the sense that I’m probably not good enough.”

i am currently going through the conversion process and it is so nice to know that i am not alone in this feeling! reading your blog has been really touching! thank you for posting!

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