Ask the rabbi

  • Halacha
  • Christianity and Islam

converting to being a Jew


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Tammuz 7, 5775
I was born into a Christian family in Zambia. In 1985 I took a keen interest in the old testament. I used to read it and had the deep desire to follow it. Even though I diid not understand it. Eventually I found a conservative Christian group that seemed to be followers of the old testament. But through a lot of study, it became obvious to me that Christianity is a made up religion. So I stopped my belief in them and started reading about Judaism. Very serious study followed. I know you do not encourage conversion to Judaism. But since 2005, I have been reading the Tanak and I have so many Questions. I would deeply appreciate your guidance in my learning. Also I have read that goyim need to follow the Noachic laws. But we also need to be guided on so many things.
As you well know, Judaism is the most tolerant of religions, and isn’t at all interested in gentiles converting to be Jewish. It's preferable for gentiles to carefully practice the 7 Noachide commands, rather than the much more demanding and difficult 613 commandments, which obligate the Jew. That being said, one who seriously wants to convert (after we first try to convince them not to do so), is willingly accepted as a total 100% Jew. On the other hand, other sources (like Yirmiyahu 3, 17, M’lachim (Kings) I, 8, 41-43) are referring to the gentile nations who remain gentiles, yet see the God of Israel as the Univeral God, the Tanach and 7 mitzvot of Noah as their values, and support Israel and Jerusalem as the spiritual capital of mankind. Like any serious topic, one can’t study Judaism from afar, and needs to meet personally with rabbis, see the “Living Torah” up close by spending time with practicing Jewish families, and ask his/her questions and raise his/her difficulties personally, and not by “long distance”. I suggest first reading Herman Wouk’s book, “This Is My God”, to get a first-hand “overview” and explanation from a practicing orthodox Jew, and if you are still interested in practically converting, contact an orthodox rabbi in the country which is most “live-able” for you (obviously preferably, the Land of Israel), and proceed accordingly. All the best in your search for truth!
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