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What is the conversion process?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

Library » Jewish Identity » Conversion | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Question:

What is the actual conversion process, and why was I told it must only be done through an orthodox rabbinical court?

Answer:

Conversion to Judaism is, and has always been, implemented via the same means the Children of Israel first entered the eternal covenant with G-d at Sinai1. The Sinai event, which created Judaism (and the "Jewish People") over 3000 years ago, was implemented through several prerequisites, and they are the very same prerequisites required for proper conversion until this very day. They are:

1. Committing to adhere to all of the Mitzvahs of the Torah2.

2. Circumcision (for males).

3. Immersion in a Kosher Mikvah.

[4. When we had an Altar, Tabernacle, or Temple in Jerusalem (may it be rebuilt speedily in our days), it was (and will be) necessary for a convert to bring a sacrifice.]3

Just as the Jews went through these steps under the guidance of Moses, the prospective convert must also enter this covenant through a qualified rabbinical court that lives by the same tradition passed down from Moses.

Naturally, only G-d can set the terms for entering a covenant with Him, and only He has the ability to make someone a part of His People. Ever since biblical times, when the Jews first became the Jewish People, this Divine mandate was the practiced standard of conversion and defining factor for who becomes a Jew.

If a prospective convert is not willing to meet the above criteria, or it the conversion is done under the auspices of a rabbinical court that does not demand the above standards or does not adhere to the same Judaism taught by Moses and passed down throughout the ages, the conversion can naturally not be considered a valid conversion.

See also www.whoisajew.com and Why should I choose an Orthodox conversion?

Footnotes

  • 1. Talmud Tractate Krisot page 9a and Maimonidies Laws of Forbidden Relations chapter 13
  • 2. Bear in mind that many of these 613 Mitzvot cannot be fulfilled today when we lack the Holy Temple. Hundreds of Mitzvot pertain to the laws of sacrifices and certain tithes which are only practiced when there is a Holy Temple in Jerusalem – may it be rebuilt speedily in our days. Additionally, certain Mitzvot are exclusive for men, women, kohanim, monarchs, etc. Thus in actuality the convert (or any Jew for that matter) doesn’t really have the opportunity or responsibility to put every Mitzvah into practice, yet s/he must accept all of them as the word of G-d and the mandate of Judaism.
  • 3. The Talmud (Tractate Krisot page 9a) points out that since the Torah clearly allows for conversion in any generation, and yet forbids sacrifices outside the Holy Temple, it is thus obvious that the Torah allows for a conversion to take place without a sacrifice when the sacrifice cannot be brought due to a Torah prohibition.

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Mikvah
A ritual bath where one immerses to become spiritually pure. After her menstrual cycle, a woman must immerse in the Mikvah before resuming marital relations.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
Tabernacle
Mobile sanctuary which traveled with the Jews in the desert, containing the Ark with the Tablets, and the sacrificial altars. When the Jews entered Israel, it was erected in the city of Shiloh where it remained for more than 300 years. It was buried when the permanent Holy Temple was erected in Jerusalem.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.