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Why Do Rabbis Discourage Conversions?

Why Do Rabbis Discourage Conversions?

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Question:

I am a bit confused. I have many Jewish friends, but they are mostly indifferent, and sometimes even hostile, towards their own religion. I myself am not Jewish, but I have studied Judaism and love it, and am very excited about converting.

My confusion is this: when I went to speak to a rabbi about conversion, he discouraged me from converting, saying that it is more serious than I think, and that I can live a fulfilled life without becoming Jewish. I told him how excited I am about Judaism, but he still pushed me away.

What is going on? I am thirsty for Judaism and I am pushed away, while so many Jews are not even open to learning more about their own religion!

Answer:

There is a Jewish belief that Judaism is not just good for the Jewish soul, it’s natural for the Jewish soul. The soul feels at home when it says Hebrew prayers, experiences a Shabbat table, or puts up a mezuzah. These acts are what makes the Jewish soul comfortable. A Jew has an innate affinity towards Judaism.

So, why do so many Jews not seem interested in their religion? Because there is another Jewish belief that every energy has a counter-energy. If the Jewish soul is attracted to Judaism, there must be an equal and opposite force that drives the Jew away from Judaism. Materialism, cynicism, laziness, apathy—all these, and more, conspire to drive the Jew away from connecting to his or her Jewishness. In fact, the more powerful the Jewish soul, the more intense this resistance will be.

And it must be this way. Otherwise the spiritual life would be too easy—a Jewish soul would just naturally fall into Judaism. And G‑d wants us to be challenged. When Jews engage in Judaism, they are taking upon themselves the lifelong challenge to overcome these internal obstacles and find their deeper self.

When a non-Jew approaches Judaism, it is a whole different story. He or she has no “baggage,” and is open to what Judaism has to say. He may be attracted, he may not be—but he doesn’t have the emotional resistance that a Jew does. This is why many non-Jews come to respect Judaism when they actually study it. They are coming with an open heart, unlike the Jew, who has an automatic resistance to anything Jewish.

This is fine—until the non-Jew considers conversion. She may feel that Judaism has a depth and warmth that she seeks; she may feel good going to synagogue and celebrating festivals; and this may lead her to think that it would be so easy to just become Jewish and make it her spiritual home. But there is one factor that she’s not aware of.

Now it all seems so nice and comfortable, because you’re just visiting. It's not yours yet, so you can look at it objectively and just enjoy it for what it is, without any resistance. But the minute you become Jewish, everything changes. Conversion means that not only do you receive the Jewish soul, but you also receive the Jewish baggage that weighs you down and tries to hold you back from being an active Jew (again, in order to retain balance and give you a challenge).

This is one reason why we push away converts. We set obstacles in their way so they can taste what it’s really like to be Jewish. So that it should be clear from the outset that a Jewish life is not an easy one. There will always be obstacles. The only difference is, before conversion the obstacles are from without—stubborn rabbis who tell you, “Don’t bother with Judaism.” After converting, those same rabbis will welcome you with open arms, and there will still be a voice telling you not to bother—but then it will be a voice from within you.

If you can overcome the resistance set up by the rabbis, then you have a good chance of being able to overcome the inner resistance that is the struggle of every Jew.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
About the artist: Sarah Kranz has been illustrating magazines, webzines and books (including five children’s books) since graduating from the Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan, in 1996. Her clients have included The New York Times and Money Marketing Magazine of London.
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Discussion (265)
December 25, 2013
Answer to anonymous
I did a search and found the article under Chabad in search of Jewish Roots ...which has the information I told you about?
type the following in your search '"Shlach amee" and you'll get the her information.
David Aharon Lindzon-Lindsay
Toronto Ontario, Canada
December 25, 2013
RE:Maternal grandmother mentioned in 2006
Sorry,at the moment, i am not aware of any autobiography about sally Armstrong
David Aharon Lindzon-Lindsay
Toronto Ontario, Canada
December 25, 2013
maternal grandmother mentioned in 2006_Sally Armstrong
A question for David from Canada (Dec 25 2013),
is there an auto biography by Sally Armstrong ?

Thank you
Anonymous
December 25, 2013
RE:Maternal grandmother mentioned in 2006
my comments I am adding as a reminder that if you are of a mixed marriage, be sure to study the Sally Armstrong case of a Methodist woman uncovering her Jewish roots and the steps she took as confirmed in a monumental decision by the Beth Din of Maryland....as a result we have an organization you may wish to contact.... Sh'lach Ami v'avdunee [not sure of the spelling] which is now working with people like you. it must on your mother's side and you may have to trace back a few generations before... also Check with outreach groups such as Aish HaTorah, JEP, Chabad, Jews for Judaism. and of course this website.

At his point after writing about the Sally Armstrong case, May I add that any potential convert should check his/her lineage carefully to determine if they can qualify to become a returnee [ba'al teshuva] without going through the formal stages of conversion... This is only applicable to those who are not affiliated with the many false outreach movements or messianic groups who are looking to strip you of your being Jewish. Identity. Like Sally Armstrong, you may find out that other members are also Jewish [cousins and nieces] ... this point needs to be stressed that the rest of your 'Jewish' family may NOT be interested to come home. this is the message Hashem sends us in this week and next week's Torah Portion.
David Aharon Lindzon-Lindsay
Toronto Ontario, Canada
December 25, 2013
to Anonymous in Blackpool
You said "boy meets girl, they fall in love, have lots of children, only difference was, we were born without place or religion" As a thiinking Jew, I'm aware of situations like your.s
1st Rule of thumb, here is to find out about the 7 Noahide laws and be sure to follow them meticulously ... for many Non-Jews this is a spiritual path ordained by G-d to the Sons of Noah and re-established at Sinai.
2nd get yourself a teacher in traditional Judaism who will guide you step by step in the process of conversion. this is the only to learn and practice Judaism before making any headways into Conversion.
This applies to both males and females.... I am aware of a young man in Toronto of mixed marriage who was a convert by the Beth Din of Rabbi Lowy who made him pass an Oral exam and then go and spend a year in a yeshiva.after conversion.
he is married to a fine young convert and is now a Bobover Chasid. I'm writing this to make sure you understand the seriousness of being a convert.
David Aharon Lindzon-Lindsay
Toronto Ontario, Canada
December 20, 2013
germany and others about living in a Jewish community
I grew up in a non-Jewish neighborhood. It was a mistake; my parents thought it was a Jewish neighborhood and then were unable to move. I was the only Jewish child in my elementary school. (My mother taught me to ride the bus to get to the Junior High and High School in the Jewish neighborhood.)

I spent three weeks one summer in a Jewish sleep away camp.

For the first time, I experienced Jewishness as normal. For the first time, I didn't have to swim upstream. Services every morning. Kosher food everywhere within reach. Shabbos observance every week automatically.

Not like being out in the world where dovening, Shabbos, and kashrus are ignored and we have to do it all by yourselves.

Of course we need other Jews to support us in living a Jewish life. Christian numbers mean they easily find support for their way of life. Jews are few, so we need to live in a Jewish neighborhood, where Jewish life is normal.
hymie
Nawlins
December 19, 2013
Jewish father, catholic mother and a yearning to be Jewish, what are the chances?
I am 57 now, have 5 non religious children, 2 failed marriages and all my life i have only wanted one thing. To be Jewish. We all know the story , boy meets girl, they fall in love, have lots of children, only difference was, we were born without place or religion. Can someone advise me please, my heart is aching from this dilemma.
Anonymous
blackpool, lancashire
November 19, 2013
to anonymous
I actually converted pretty young. I was only 22, so I was not married or had children.

To Leanne,
from what I have heard, here in the US it takes a year or more. I believe it all depends on the person, the beis din and the circumstances. It took me about a year and a half.
Anonymous
Germantown
November 19, 2013
Topic of Distraction
There is no one more qualified to determine one's intention and worthiness to practice the ways of our spiritual discipline than one's self. Discouraging anyone from entering upon this path is an antithesis to our essential core teachings and feeds the identity "survivalism" and "victim-ism." We Jewish People will thrive if we embrace those that seek and practice our ethics and grow a personal relationship with Hashem. We will not do more than survive, at best, if we act towards others in an exclusionary fashion. There's room for everyone one at OUR TABLE. So if HaShem doesn't exclude any spiritual sojourner, why would any rabbi or beit din? Please, come, learn, and join our family....
Avi Mevyah
California
November 18, 2013
Living in a Jewish community is a requirement for my conversion process, too, is what the Rabbi of the community here says. I will move, too. I'm looking for another job and a new home in or at least near a Jewish community. How I wish we still had something like the "Stetl" people talk about sometimes. I'm not only moving because it's part of the converion process, but because I cannot live like this anymore. I need Jews around me to feel alive. Every place is empty without other Jews. It's hard to explain.
k.
germany
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