Monday, 11 June 2007

Conversion and Parsha Korach

I read an interesting article on Parsha Korach, written by Rabbi Noson Weisz in which he refers to the Laws of Torah relative to Marriage, Divorce and Conversion. You can read the entire article at:

Here is a portion of what he had to say (italics mine):
Both (marriage and divorce) pale into relative insignificance when compared to conversion. Conversion is the severance of human life itself from its old bonds, and its rededication to a new context, in this case the Jewish community. Such a solemn occasion definitely requires the powerful symbolism of a religious ceremony to give it expression.
Under the laws of the Torah as we understand them religious ceremonies have nothing to do with devotion or emotions. They are all about bringing back the merchandise.
Thus in conversion the convert is the equivalent of a new born child...Talmud Yevomat 48b. He is no longer related to his parents or to his children. He begins his life anew as a child of Abraham and Sarah. He hasn't only made a mental trip of dedication. He has altered the merchandise.

What strikes me are the following statements:
--Conversion is the severance of human life itself from its old bonds...
--Thus in conversion the convert is the equivalent of a new born child...Talmud Yevomat 48b
--He is no longer related to his parents or to his children.
--He begins his life anew as a child of Abraham and Sarah.

Anyone entertaining the idea of conversion should read these sentences over and over and over again. Too many people think of conversion as a "whim" or a "feeling" or even as "something to do". Wrong! Converts become one with the Jewish people and as such are under obligation to observe the same laws and mitzvot (as in the 613). Unless you are prepared to take on this obligation--for the rest of your life--stop now! You have other alternatives to conversion--for instance, check out the Noachide Laws at this link: [ ]
One of the biggest hurdles converts face is "all those that came before". Every day I see people who have gone throught the process, been to the mikva, and haven't changed a thing in their life. The modest dress, keeping kosher, keeping Shabbat have all vanished.
These people are not only putting their own souls at risk, they are also putting all the rabbis who helped them at risk. When a rabbi accepts a convert, he in effect is taking responsibility for that person's future behaviour, regarding the laws and mitzvot. If he has made a mistake, than he will be held accountable for allowing someone who is unable (or unwilling) to follow the laws, to take the burden. This is not a joke. Other religions may not care what happens after you "join" but Judaism does!

The laws and mitzvot for an observant Jew are not just a long list of "don'ts". Rather, they are the guidelines for a full and happy life both now and in the hereafter. The whole purpose of being a Jew is to become closer to Hashem and in order to do that we must follow His "guidebook". When we do then we are on the path to true joy in our lives.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Orthodox Conversions

Many people come to Israel and many people want to stay. For the most part you must be Jewish to live permanently in Israel, which leads me to the topic of conversions. There are many people trying to convert for as many reasons. Some wish to marry a Jew, or feel they should be living in Israel for one reason for another, others read the story of Ruth and dream of finding their "Boaz", and then there are those who believe Judaism is the only truth.

Mikvah for Immersion
Whatever the reasons, the process seems to have become a nightmarish experience. The news often carries articles on the problems

The internet is full of sites that have "conversion stories" but as with everything on the net you must be careful. The state of Israel has very strict laws, and the conversion process is carefully governed. In this current year alone there have been and continue to be changes in the requirements. It is important that anyone considering this life-altering process do you with full knowledge. Any other approach will ultimately lead to extreme stress, frustration, and most likely a negative view of the very goal you wish to achieve.

Over the next period of time I will be looking at the topic of conversions from the point of view of converts who have succeeded, failed, and are currently in the process of trying to convert. As I am in Jerusalem, the case histories will of course be primarily from people who have tried to convert here, in Israel.

First of all one must consider--who, or what is a Jew by definition? A Jew is any person whose mother is a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism. If your father was Jewish it may give weight to your case, but unfortunately Jewishness is passed through the mother only.

To understand this clearly you should read the article at this link:

Another good site to visit for information is Machon ITIM, The Jewish Life Information Center--as their home page states:

ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center, is an independent, non-profit organization, dedicated to making Jewish life accessible to all.

I strongly suggest that anyone interested in conversions should start with the above sites. Next post I will share some stories from people who have gone through (or tried to) the conversion process in Israel.

Israel, Jerusalem, Judaism, Zionism, Middle East, Aliyah, Conversion, and everything else that pops up