Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What are the essential requirements of conversion to Judaism, such that if one of these requirements is not fulfilled the conversion is invalid?

share|improve this question
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Someone wishing to convert will work with a rabbi, who will guide the convert through the process and ensure that the following requirements are met before proceeding to the beit din (court).

A convert, first and foremost, must accept the yoke of the mitzvot (kabbalat ol mitzvot). In other words, a convert must be doing it out of a sincere desire to join the Jewish people and take on its responsibilities. Rabbis will initially discourage converts.

Some course of learning will be required. From what I understand, this is a combination of nuts and bolts (b'rachot, t'filah, shabbat, kashrut, some Hebrew, etc), Tanakh, history, and theology. Once someone converts he becomes liable for transgressing mitzvot, so he needs to know how to live as a Jew first. In the US today this learning tends to be a combination of classroom study and individual study with a rabbi.

Some lifestyle changes may be necessary, ranging from replacing kitchen utensils and kashering to changing work schedules to, possibly, moving into an observant community within walking distance of the shul. The rabbi working with the convert will provide guidance here.

The ritual requirements are (per R. Maurice Lamm, Becoming a Jew, p119):

  • Going before the beit din, a court made up of three observant adult male Jews (in liberal movements, this may include women). Usually the beit din is made up of rabbis.1 The beit din will question the would-be convert on motives, knowledge, secular/family impact, and other topics.

  • If accepted by the beit din: for men, circumcision or, if already circumsized, hatafat dam b'rit, drawing a symbolic drop of blood from there.

  • If accepted by the beit din: for everyone, immersion in a mikvah (ritual bath). (My understanding is that for male candidates the beit din witnesses, and for female candidates they stand outside the door and rely on the mikvah attendant to confirm complete immersion.)

When the temple stands, the convert is also liable for a korban (offering).

My understanding is that once a conversion is done by a qualified beit din, it stands even if something happens to call the convert's motives into question. If it turns out that the beit din was not qualified, I'm not sure what happens -- I think there is disagreement.

1 R. Lamm (p133) says that one of the three must be a rabbi, and that rabbi chooses two other knowledgeable and observant men.

share|improve this answer
define "qualified"? If the beit din are the three biggest experts in the world, but two minutes after dunking the convert says "ha ha I fooled you all along I never meant any of this, and here's a tweet I did five minutes before dunking to prove it" then clearly there was nothing doing. If the convert was 100% sincere but it turns out a member of the beit din was ten years old, again nothing doing. – Shalom Jun 26 '13 at 18:47
Other than the technical requirements of who can serve on a beit din, the "qualification" of a beit din is simply this: if we see a person converted with Rabbi X, and a year later they no longer keep much, do we assume the whole thing was a joke, or that they were sincere and later changed their mind? On that one my judgment might hinge on who Rabbi X was. – Shalom Jun 26 '13 at 18:48
@Shalom, by "qualified" I meant what I said about the beit din (to which I should add "adult", oops). AFAIK there is no requirement that the beit din consist of rabbis, though that's the norm. – Monica Cellio Jun 26 '13 at 18:50
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein makes it clear that they need not be rabbis, though it's expected that someone knowledgeable put some serious thought into: "is this person sincere in their commitment? Do they understand what they're getting into? And is the Jewish people better off with the addition of this person?" – Shalom Jun 26 '13 at 23:17
@Shalom thanks. In particular, I didn't know that "is the Jewish people better off with the addition of this person?" was a factor. – Monica Cellio Jun 27 '13 at 0:00
  • Sincere intent to accept the Written and Oral Torah. (Some would add: to the best of their understanding.)
  • For men: circumcision, or drawing blood if already circumcised.
  • Immersion in a mikvah before a panel of three Jews who are eligible to render halachic testimony.

(And add an animal sacrifice, back when those were doable.)

share|improve this answer
Is three Jews who are...etc. really l'ikuva? Can it be at night? – Double AA Jun 26 '13 at 18:29
@Shalom if he does 3 alone is it a valid conversion in shamayim? also how is 1 measured by Beis din? – ray Jun 26 '13 at 19:57
+1, but sources would be good. – msh210 Jun 26 '13 at 19:57
  1. have a reason you feel the need to convert or to at least explore the idea of doing so. find a sponsoring rabbi who will be your teacher and guide through this whole process.
  2. acceptance of all Jewish beliefs and a rejection of any beliefs from other religions. a good source is the 13 principles of faith by the Rambam
  3. acceptance of all of the commandments and understand how they relate to daily life as well as the Sabbath and holidays
  4. see a bes din who will decide whether to approve your request
  5. mikvah
  6. bris mila or hatfas ha-dam habris for males
share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.