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Before we begin, it is important to cross reference this post with my other one, regarding the definition of a Jew. After that, why should someone become Jewish? Why is it important? When we read the Torah, we read that those who keep the instructions found in the Torah “shall live” (Leviticus 18.5; 25.18). Indeed, we read that the righteous are those who keep the Torah, and will live, whereas the wicked are defined as those who reject the Torah, and are destroyed (Ezekiel 18.1ff). The righteous, defined by those who keep the Torah, are resurrected to eternal life while the wicked, defined by those do reject Torah, are resurrected to be destroyed forever (Daniel 12.1-3). Again, we see in Psalm 1.1ff that the righteous inherit life whereas the wicked will inherit death after their judgment. Indeed, Rabbi Yosef Eliyah makes the following answer, responding to if non-Jews are given eternal life:

“The answer is no.  The Torah gives no such assurance. The Laws of Noah are the bare minimum of tolerable behavior in human society.  It is not a standard that one should aspire to or that can perfect the individual or the world.  We do not teach that those who do not enter the Torah-covenant are condemned to hell or that those who are careful to keep only the Laws of Noah will not have a place in the World to Come.  Rather, we emphasize that the belief that those who keep only the Laws of Noah are assured a place in the World to Come is a Rabbinic concept that was not agreed upon by all the ancient Sages and which cannot be found in the Torah.  We do not object to the now popular Rabbinic belief that one who keeps the Laws of Noah will have a place in the World to Come, if he does so out of devotion to G-d, with a desire and intent to uphold His commandments.  This, however, is simply our opinion.  It is not a concept found in the Torah.  We caution people not to rest their eternal life on the opinions of men which do not carry the authority of Divine revelation, no matter how nice the opinion.  We wish to ask non-Jews the question, ‘Would you rather base your eternal state on the explicit promises of G-d found in the Torah, or rest the outcome of your eternity on a disputed Rabbinic opinion that is neither found in the Torah nor given by prophecy?’”

With that knowledge, it becomes increasingly terrifying to want to place your fate in the hands of men. As Rabbi Eliyah pointed out, the “doctrine” that states that those who are keeping the Seven Laws of Noah is strictly a Rabbinic tradition and has no basis in the Tanakh at all. With that said, how does one become Jewish? Let us now begin our discussion on conversion.

Today, counter-missionaries are abundant and their following is becoming greater as each day passes by. While it is a wonderful thing what these men are doing – not only are they protecting Jews from assimilation and adopting pagan practices, they’re also liberating people from the cult of Christianity – they are not giving these lost individuals any viable alternative. Sure, there is the new “Noachide Movement” that many Rabbi’s are placing these lost souls in, but is that really enough?

When individuals are wanting to become a Jew, they usually go to the Orthodox Jews. They often find an immediate hardship or obstacle and that is having to live in a Jewish community, within one mile of the synagogue. Indeed, the individual has to find a Rabbi willing to sponsor him/her before a regional Beit Din (a Jewish court). This is explained by Rabbi Benjamin Samuels as follows:

“An Orthodox conversion process requires four commitments: one, the candidate must live proximate to and participate in a local Orthodox community; two, the candidate must pursue a course of formal and informal Jewish education; three, the candidate must increasingly observe Jewish law, custom and practice; and four, the candidate must have a rabbinical sponsor who will set up a network of partners to work with the conversion candidate and empower the candidate to be responsible for his or her own advancement through the process.”

Most Orthodox conversions take at the minimum of one year to complete. This is to teach the candidate Jewish customs and practices so that they are ready to live as a Jew when they do convert. When the potential candidate does come to a Rabbi for assistance, they may meet with resistance due to the fact that most Rabbi’s today attempt to dissuade them three times. This means that the Rabbi may be rude to a candidate, he/she may intentionally forget an appointment they set up for the candidate, leave the candidate and not contact them, etc. This may occur three times because, according to tradition, they should do all they can to dissuade a candidate. The reason being is that they want to make sure the individual is sincere about the conversion.

Unfortunately, when a person converts via an ordained Orthodox Rabbi, it’s entirely possible that the conversion would not be valid according to the Rabbinate of Israel. It is a complex topic in the Orthodox world. Yet, nowhere in Talmud Bavli do we really see this. Indeed, if we are to consult the Sages, we read the following:

“The rabbis taught: When someone nowadays presents himself for conversion, we say to him: Why do you wish to convert? Are you not aware that nowadays Israelites are careworn, stressed, despised, harassed and persecuted? If he responds, “I know, and I [feel] unworthy [to share their troubles]”, we accept him at once. We instruct him in some of the easy mitzvot and some of the hard ones, and inform him of the sin [incurred through neglect] of leqet, shikhcha, pe’ah and the poor tithe, and of the punishment for [infringing] the commandments. We say to him, “Be aware that before you reached this stage you were not liable to karet for eating prohibited fats, nor to stoning for breaking the Sabbath; now, if you eat prohibited fats you are liable to karet, and if you break the Sabbath you are liable to stoning.” Just as we inform him of the punishment for [infringing] the commandments, we inform him of the reward [for obedience]. We tell him, “You should know that the world is made for the righteous, but that Israel nowadays cannot endure either too much well-being or too much suffering.” We don’t [alarm him] excessively, nor do we enter into too much detail. If he accepts, we circumcise him at once; if strips [of foreskin] are left that invalidate the circumcision, this is corrected {*see note 1}. When he has recovered, he is immersed in the pool without delay. Two learned men stand nearby, reminding him of some of the easy mitzvot and some of the hard ones. As soon as he emerges and dries himself, he is an Israelite in all respects.”

The Babylonian Talmud never says that the candidate has to undergo one year, move near a synagogue, needs a Sponsoring Rabbi, and needs a Beit Din. Rather, it says that the candidate needs to be told of the persecutions of the Jewish people and then they are converted via mikvah. Yet, Orthodox Judaism claims to uphold Oral Torah, which is the traditions of the Sages.

Yet, what does the Tanakh teach about conversion? After all, the Tanakh we know for sure is G-d’s revelation to mankind, especially the Torah. The Tanakh has quite a different perspective.

According to the Tanakh, if someone wants to convert to become part of Israel, they must renounce all idolatry, all man-made traditions, religions, and have a desire to serve the G-d of Israel. They must make a profession that the G-d of Israel is their G-d, the Jewish people is their people (Ruth 1.16), they must be circumcised and keep the Passover (Exodus 12.48), and because we have no Temple standing, we pay with the “bulls of our lips”, meaning our prayers are considered sacrifices (Hosea 14.3). There is a traditional Karaite requirement and oath that is often imposed upon the candidate, as follows:

I believe in YHWH of Hosts as the only God, and renounce all others.

I believe in the Tanakh, the Hebrew Scripture, as the word of YHWH and the only religious authority and renounce all other writings, creeds, and doctrines as the words of men.

I undertake to study and keep the Tanach, striving to interpret it according to its “plain meaning”.

You must also accept the principles expressed in the ancient Karaite Vow:

“By the covenant of Mt. Sinai and the statutes of Mt. Horev I will keep the holy appointed times of YHWH according to the New Moon and the finding of the Aviv in the Holy Land of Israel, when possible.”

To quote a Karaite booklet, As it is Written: A Brief Case for Karaism, “Regardless of what a certain Karaite, Rabbanite, or political authority might claim about who is Jewish, the Biblical model suggests that anyone who is 1) circumcised [for males only], 2) accepts the G-d of Israel as his/her own G-d, and 3) accepts the people of Israel as his/her own people is a full-fledged Jew [Israelite]. (See Exodus 12:43-49, Isaiah 56:3-8, and Ruth 1:16).” [10]

After going by the Tanakh-guided conversion, the individual is a Israelite – a Jew. There’s no difference between the “natural-born” Jew and the Jew who chose to become part of Israel. More than that, if a Jew keeps the Torah strictly and does not live in sin, he/she has has the World to Come to look for! May we strive for that today.

Sources

  1. https://thetanakhjew.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/definition-of-a-jew/
  2. http://bejewish.org/index.php/our-articles/all-articles/12-qaa/conversion/39-can-non-jews-have-eternal-life
  3. http://www.jewfaq.org/gentiles.htm
  4. http://judaismconversion.org/
  5. http://www.jewishboston.com/how-do-i-convert-to-orthodox-judaism/
  6. http://www.beingjewish.com/conversion/becomingjewish.html
  7. http://www.jta.org/2014/10/06/life-religion/so-you-want-to-convert-to-judaism
  8. https://www.thejc.com/judaism/books/what-the-talmud-says-about-converts-1.9461
  9. http://www.karaite-korner.org/conversion_faq.htm
  10. As it is Written: A Brief Case for Karaism, by Shawn Lichaa, Nehemia Gordon, and Meri Rekhavi, 2006 second revised edition, Hilkiah Press.
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