"Why are You Converting?"

by Gedalyah Reback

So as everyone knows, I am converting. The most frequent question is “When will you be finished?”

That is an interesting question but it is not the most important one for me.

“Why are you converting?”

I get the question about once a week. I enjoy trying to answer it, because it reminds me of what those reasons were to begin with. So much has gone into this decision and I would hope a lot of my thought and spirit in the last year. No matter how much I write in a particular journal entry about it, every time someone asks the question I will probably add on to my reasoning. Thus far, every person to raise the question has come to ask it from a different angle, making me make them understand my particular view on their particular concerns.

I am not JUST doing this to look good for the Orthodox. Some people have phrased their questions that way. That is either because they phrased their questions oddly, or their views of the conversion process are not as deep as they should be.

Conversion is not so simple as to smooth out the rough edges. It is the most sensitive issue in Jewish religious politics. Who is actually coming through the door that will contribute to our people – or your people – and who is trying to get in for the sake of marriage or self-absorbed “spiritual” quests?

I have a dedication to this people, and not only to myself. I believe in this religion and would not have put myself through this shaky and seemingly unending process if I believed in anything less. Believing in God the way Jews do is only part of the equation. Accepting the validity of our fundamentals is only an additional note.

It is accepting the laws and standards of this nation that I have to take upon myself to demonstrate this is the real thing. That is why “CONVERSION” in Hebrew is called “גיור,” which relates to the root that means “to RESIDE.” I am not entering into a one-on-one mystical relationship with God as so much as I am taking up RESIDENCE in a NEW COMMUNITY. This is not conversion, this is immigration. Showing your own personal dedication to this people is at the core of this process, and it is deliberately shaped that way to emphasize the responsibilities you will have once you enter this bond.

Our covenant with God is not to be taken lightly or passively as I so unfortunately see everyday as Jews who do not have to undergo conversion devalue this system of laws and values as if it were backwards and regressive – an ironic critique from a society that is struggling to maintain family as a credible institution, prevent teenage pregnancy and utterly failing at keeping overbearing corporations from maintaining a stranglehold and absolute monopoly on shaping American culture.

This is not about me as so much as it is about others. This is not so much about others as it is about God. And it is not so much about God as so much as it is about truth. In the end, none of that matters compared to what is right.

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