Recently, I met someone who is interested, toying with, the possibility of conversion to Judaism. But the first meeting with the rabbi went steadily south. In fact, that’s an understatement. It was downright awful. The rabbi even made some racist comments. Whoa.
But despite one rude rabbi, this person’s interest in Judaism was not deterred. And this is something I find pretty impressive, no matter how many times I hear this story. Most sincere converts keep coming back to Judaism no matter how many obstacles come their way. It’s a testament to the tenacity of converts how often this happens.
Though I’ve heard this story countless times, each time, I’ve wondered about how many prospective converts have heard that rabbis turn converts away at least three times to test their sincerity. (Some people in the community take this so seriously, they decide to do the rabbi’s job for him by making a prospective convert’s life as miserable as possible.)
But honestly, conversion is hard no matter how difficult the rabbis make it. In this week’s “Question of the Week,” Chabad went that extra mile and got very deep about answering, “Why do Rabbis Discourage Conversions?”
6 thoughts on “The Internal and External Pressures of Conversion”
Tanks for posting that article. I think it's even inspiring for someone who was born Jewish. Like “hello people yezter hara, get up already and stop tooling around online!”
I remember reading in Marc Angel's book on Orthodox Conversion a story of a woman who went to four or five different rabbis in search of one who actually was willing to take her on. It was so discouraging to read, but this is true, what you say. It's about that complete and definite commitment, no matter what stands in the way, to make it happen. You really have to want it.
Or, perhaps more importantly, you really have to NEED it.
I can really relate to the article. I am coming to observance by choice and there is internal resistance at every step of the journey, an argument with myself and with G-d. I spend a LOT of time arguing these days. But maybe that is the point. Right now we are working out the food thing and the “because I said so” issue.
I think that making racist comments to a potential convert as a form of “discouragement” is just… not okay, though. Discourage, yes. Make someone understand the challenges? Great. Deliberately inflict emotional damage on another human being with that as your reasoning? That's just wrong. Because that isn't discouragement, that is picking up a hurtful sledgehammer and hitting someone with it.
I, for one, thought the article was worthless. Typical Chabad Kabbalistic mumbo-jumbo, “it is all about your soul” “your Jewish soul is not ready” yada yada yada. How does this rabbi know this? Where is this written in the Talmud or in the Bible? How can we know that he is not making it up to justify the appalling behavior of rabbis and Jews (in all denominations but especially in Orthodoxy) towards converts and potential converts? The mekorot say nothing about this. The reasons for rabbis discouraging conversion are not “spiritual” or “metaphysical” (whatever that means) but rather sociological and historical. It is about distrusting the goyim (the darker the most untrustworthy), it is about teaching our children that their “souls are superior” (as the Tanya does); and it is about doubting the ability of people to be sincere kosher Jews. Once again, “spiritual” arguments are a balm for naive hearts and the curtain behind which some very wicked prejudices hide.
I agree with chaviva to some extend, you really have to need it. However, at this time and age if someone is willing to move to a Jewish community and observe mizvot and he's treated like crap, that's just wrong. I've come to believe that Judaism is not about Hashem anymore but about controlling rabbis who want to manipulate people and make their lives miserable since they cant do that to we born Jews. If conversion is hard as it is , why do they make it harder, the rabbis should support and help them achieve their goals. If the prospective convert decides not to do it and I heard stories of people that right at the mikvah say that this lifestyle is not right for them, it's their decision and should be respected. Again if conversion is hard as it is why make it harder? A convert is treated mostly like crap after mikvah in the Jewish community anyway. Conversion is a life-time commitment but you cant make it happen if a rabbi does not help you. No matter how much you want it or knowledgeable you are about the religion, it wont happen if the BEis Dein says NO YOU CANT CONVERT. That has nothing to do with commitment or knowledge, it has to do with LUCKKKK. Its just a shame that a ger who loves Judaism so much and would like to be part of the fold has to be humilliated so much. What would he say to others after he found out about how the ger is treated in the Jewish community and how impossible they make it to convert? What would he do if he's rejected unfairly? More antisemitism, more hatred towards Jews. We want peace and not another HOlocaust for G-d's sake. A light unto the nations?? The messiah and the third temple?? Are we deserving of what I've just mentioned??
Have you heard Rabbi Tovia Singer's take on conversion to Judaism on the Arutz Sheva web site. Here's the link: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Radio/News.aspx/1350