Occasionally, I run into someone who says they’re “looking into” Judaism. Now, Judaism isn’t like other religions. We believe that the righteous of other nations (ie. other religions) will “get to heaven” too…and that less is required of them! But, for a Jew, a whole range of commandments given by God come into play.
So, when I hear someone say they are looking into Judaism, I usually respond with some form of “Well, think hard about it”. Why? There are really two reasons:
1. Conversion to Judaism isn’t easy. You’re looking at about a year of study, coming before a Beit Den that will judge your sincerity and readiness, immersion in a mikvah and, if you’re a man, circumcision. Even if you’ve already been circumcised, they’re still going to draw blood from your penis in a procedure called a hatafat dam brit. If you haven’t been circumcised, you’re looking at a painful surgery for an adult.
2. If you have no intention of keeping the commandments, then do NOT take them upon yourself. I think that Jews-by-choice will be judged much more severely than Jews-by-birth. Why? Because the Jew-by-birth was born into it. He didn’t have a choice. But, the Jew-by-choice has a choice….and he CHOSE to be measured against all the commandments given by God.
A righteous gentile could become a sinful Jew. That’s not a situation that anyone would, in their right mind, want to be placed in. If you’re guaranteed a place in the world to come as a gentile, don’t jeopardize that by taking commandments upon yourself that you have no intention of keeping. This is why Jews do not proselytize. We don’t want to make sinners.
But, if you feel like this is the path God has given to you…. if you feel like this is the step he’s urging you to take… If you feel like you are finally home, then go for it. Every Jew-by-choice has his own reasons for converting. They’re not the same as my reasons and won’t be the same as yours. But, if you feel like this is where you belong, then welcome home.
Ruth 1: 14-19
They broke into weeping again, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law farewell. But Ruth clung to her. So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and her gods. Go follow your sister-in-law.” But Ruth replied, “Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus and more may the Lord do to me if anything but death parts me from you.” When Naomi saw how determined she was to go with her, she ceased to argue with her; and the two went on until they reached Bethlehem.