Jewish Identity

Conversion

Inspiration

One story from Talmud (Shabbat 31a) tells about a gentile who wanted to convert to Judaism. He stated he would accept Judaism only if a rabbi would teach him the entire Torah while he, the prospective convert (giyur), stood on one foot. Hillel, a renowned sage accepted the challenge, and said: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation of this—go and study it!”

Unlike most every other religion, which only requires a declaration of faith, conversion to Judaism first requires study. Yet, the conversion process does not end with a test of knowledge but rather a confirmation that there has been a change of identity and a renewal of faith. The support of a mentor as well as family and friends is critical to the process. A celebration of the completion of the process is an uplifting tribute to the convert’s dedication and transformation.

Scroll down to find resources for this lifecycle moment. 

Prayer

בָּר֣וּךְ הַ֭בָּא בְּשֵׁ֣ם יְהוָֽה׃

Blessed is the one who enters in the name of the Lord. (ps. 118:26)

From L’cha Dodi,
Awake, awake!
For your light is rising, shine.
Wake up, arise, release your song
The glory of God is upon you, revealed.

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, ruler of the universe,
Who bestows upon the daring personal strength and the power to change,
Who has granted me an abundance of personal strength.

Response:

May the One who has bestowed on you personal strength and the power to change, continue to bestow and abundance of personal strength on you. Keyn yehi ratzon, let it be so!

Text

Ruth 1:16 – 17
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.”

Tanhuma Lekh Lekha 6
Resh Lakish taught, “the convert who converted is more beloved ot God than Israel when it stood at Sinai.” Why? Because had Israel not heard the thunder and seen the lightning and heard the mountains tremble and the sounds of the shofar, they would not have accepted the Torah. Yet the convert, who neither saw nor heard any one of these signs, nonetheless comes and affiliates with the Holy One and accepts the rule of Heaven. Is there anyone more beloved than such a person?

Poem

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.

If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.

If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily

to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely

but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?

The door itself makes no promises.
It is only a door.

Adrienne Rich
 

Transcendental Etude
Adrienne Rich

But there come times – perhaps this is one of them –
When we have to take ourselves more seriously or die;
When we have to pull back from the incantations,
Rhythms we’ve moved to thoughtlessly;
And disenthrall ourselves, bestow
Ourselves to silence, or a severer listening, cleansed
Of oratory, formulas, choruses, laments, static
Crowding the wires. We cut the wires,
Find ourselves in free-fall, as if
Our true home were the undimensional
Solitudes, the rift
In the Great Nebula . . .

Psalm

Psalm 23:3

God renews my life, God guides me in the on the path of righteousness as befits God’s name.

Song