Converting to Judaism is not something one decides to do on a whim. There are many factors which must be considered before making the final decision. There are questions which you must ask yourself and answer honestly.
Many of the people who are converting to Judaism are those who have come out of Christianity. Although there are others, I can only address those with whom I share a common background. You will have to get up close and personal with what you actually believe before you set out on this journey. Remember, when HaShem offered the Torah to the Israelites at Sinai, their response was, “na’aseh v’nishma“ or “we will do and we will hear.” Many of the things you will learn to do from the rabbi with whom you choose to work are things that you may not be able to fully grasp yet. Just like the ancient Israelites, you must learn what to do before the full understanding can be revealed to you. In other words, you learn from doing.
Conversion to Judaism is basically taking upon yourself the yoke of the Law. That is to say, you are agreeing to forever keep all of the commandments which apply to you or may apply to you in the future. Leaving your former religion is not a valid reason to convert to Judaism. Searching for truth is a good reason to study Judaism, but this is also not a reason to convert. Only you can make this decision and only you can really know the reason. If you are at the point in the decision-making process where you are seriously considering it, know that you might face several issues. If you are determined to go forward, it might help you to know a few things.
Since the Jewish people have been hated by every other nation at some point in history, you will also face this hatred. You will lose some of your friends. Some of your family members who don’t understand what you are doing might also sever ties with you. There might also be people in your life with whom you must sever ties. Looking through the book of Mishlei (Proverbs) you will see some of the people with whom you should not associate. It is also possible that you could encounter physical violence at some point.
If you are married, your spouse must also go through the conversion. The Beis Din (Rabbinic Court) will not accept one without the other. The Beis Din does not have to accept you as a prospective convert and will not under this circumstance. Married couples are extremely important in the Jewish community because this is the only way to perpetuate the community. Jewish couples have Jewish children and so on and so on. But there is another reason. The connection between a husband and wife is special. Each one helps the other in many ways. I can’t imagine going through this without my wife. Non-married people are free to pursue conversion. Being divorced is not an issue. Some people must choose this route if their spouse refuses to convert with them. If you have minor children, they will be required to go through the process as well. Adult children, who do not live in the home, do not have to convert. If they wish to convert, they must come to this decision on their own. Converting in order to marry someone who is already Jewish might be a problem. This really is not a legitimate reason because the one who converts may at some point come to regret the decision. At that point, there is nothing to be done. The conversion cannot be undone. If such a person ceases to be observant, they are subject to the same punishments as if they were born Jewish.
While you are going through conversion, you are in a sort of limbo. You are not considered Jewish until after you come out of the mikveh at the end of the conversion process. But you are expected to live as a Jew. This can become an internal issue. On the one hand, you don’t associate yourself with the goyim because you have stopped living as they do. On the other hand, you are not yet Jewish. So, what you actually are can become confusing and frustrating, to say the least. I spoke with the rabbi of a certain community where I was considering moving. He told me that the people in that community would not accept me or even help me out because I wasn’t Jewish. This is not the experience you will have in every community but I don’t want you to be ignorant of the possibility. He did tell me that once I finished the conversion they would welcome me with open arms. You must understand that the Jewish people have suffered at the hands of the nations for generations. Some are suspicious when a person comes to convert. There have been missionaries who have come to convert only for the purpose of converting Jews to their religion.
Becoming Jewish means keeping a Jewish home; another reason why both spouses must agree. This means keeping kosher, among other things. Many people who are just getting started assume this means not eating pork. That is just one small aspect of kashrut. There are many books on setting up a kosher kitchen. They can be a great asset. Meat and dairy products cannot be mixed at all. This might sound simple; no cheeseburgers. But, you cannot cook meat in a pan that has had dairy products cooked in it unless it is kashered. You have to get used to having certain dishes, utensils, and cookware for both. This also includes your sink and cleaning products.
Clothing is another aspect of everyday life that is affected. Orthodox Jews are required to dress modestly. However, modest clothing doesn’t mean that you have to wear black and white exclusively, but in some communities, it is the norm. Married women should cover their hair and men must wear a hat of some kind at all times, even at home. Clothing is worn for the purpose of covering the body. It must not be used to draw attention to oneself. Wearing revealing clothing could cause someone else to have lustful thoughts. It is forbidden to put any kind of stumbling block in another person’s path. If your clothing causes someone else to sin, you become culpable in that sin. This may not fit in with modern thinking. You might think other people should be able to control their thoughts. Yes, they should, but that doesn’t give you the right to make it difficult for them.
I don’t intend for any of these examples to dissuade you from pursuing conversion. As I said earlier, there are many factors which must be considered before making the final decision. It is a different way to live. This includes the way you look at the world around you. This world is a small part of HaShem. As such, it and everything in it must be respected. Every aspect of your life will change; not only what you eat and wear. The shows you watch, what you read, when and how you pray, also where you can pray must be considered. There is not one part of your life that does not change in some way when you convert to Judaism. The way you react to things in your life must also change. Understand that everything in this world, both good and bad, comes from HaShem. This concept is sometimes foreign to those coming out of the church. They teach that evil comes from the devil. The fact is that the Torah says that even evil comes from HaShem. So, when something bad happens to you, there is a reason behind it. He is giving you a reason to come to repentance. Repentance is what He desires from everyone. Read Ezekiel 18.
If you are still considering conversion, know that it will be the most important thing in your life. If it isn’t, you need to do more considering. It is not always easy, but it is not always hard either. For me, there are times when I can’t imagine living any other way. The conversion process is only the beginning. (As for me, I am still in the process. I have yet to move into a Jewish community. With help from HaShem, may this come soon?) You can expect a lifetime of learning. Learning does not alway come in the form of reading books. HaShem himself teaches us through realizations. Moses said to HaShem, “teach me your ways so that I may know you.” If someone at the level of Moses still needed HaShem to teach him, how much more must we? HaShem is still active in the lives of His people. You can ask Him to teach you what He wants you to know.
I hope this has helped you in your journey. I know it helps me to write these articles for you. We are all learning. Even those who have been studying for fifty years still learn. If I can answer any questions, please leave them in the comments. If I don’t have the answer I can point you in the direction of someone who does.
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