Take the 2-minute tour ×
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.

This question pertains to the issue of conversion, and if it makes sense in the Jewish context of some people being Chosen specifically by God.

Before beginning, this poster is aware of the long, and serious process of conversion, the commitment it requires, and the eternal nature of it. I am also aware that non-Jews can receive a share of the world to come, and that they can have a perfectly fine (albeit, less developed) relationship with G-d by following the Noachide laws and being a good, moral human being. This is a general or hypothetical question, but I look forward to your answers!

I have long been fascinated by Judaism, and I even like to think that I know more about Judaism than some Jews. I have always felt a strong connection to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and I believe I have felt his presence in my life as a non-Jew. However, I have long wanted to convert because I believe it would make my relationship with G-d closer, I love Jewish culture, and because I want to be a part of the Jewish community.

However, I am having trouble with some of the fundamental aspects of whether or not conversion makes sense in a religion where followers are, by and large (with exceptions for Abraham and so on), "Chosen" by G-d.

Therefore, my dilemma is essentially this:

Though I feel deeply like I have a Jewish soul, and I love G-d, and I wish to be a full member of the Jewish tradition...I am stuck thinking that I should not convert because, if G-d had wanted me to have a Jewish soul, wouldn't He have had me born into a Jewish family?

On some level, I have to ask myself if converting to Judaism would not almost be a rejection of G-d's plan for my life. Would I not be second guessing Him, if I was born into a non-Jewish family? Does not G-d direct who were are born into, and does He instead wish me to live as a righteous Gentile? Who is the pot to question the potter?

I would appreciate any insights you can share on this, and any real-life examples or sources to help me understand if conversion is the right thing to do.

Thank you!

share|improve this question
    
Thanks everyone for your answers, however would I be correct in assuming, based on the answers given above, that this is a question with no answer? I appreciate all of your attempts to assuage my fears but based on the answers above it seems like we must chalk it up to "we cannot understand the ways of God", or something similar. Which is a fair response in itself -- but I wonder if there is anyone who is experienced or learned enough to can give me a concrete answer here, I would be very grateful. Thank you all! –  Jeremy Glenne Mar 10 at 17:53
    
you might be interested in this chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/380532/jewish/… –  ray Mar 11 at 18:06
    
I have edited my answer with a definitive source that has Gd hand picking converts (figuratively)! judaism.stackexchange.com/a/36192/4682 wanted to make sure you saw the edit –  Baby Seal Mar 11 at 22:37

8 Answers 8

Tosefos addresses a similar line of thought in Bava Kamma 85a:

שנתנה רשות לרפאות - א"ת והא מרפא לחודיה שמעינן ליה וי"ל דה"א ה"מ מכה בידי אדם אבל חולי הבא בידי שמים כשמרפא נראה כסותר גזירת המלך קמ"ל דשרי

(Rough translation) - One may have thought that there is no right to seek healing from a sickness that comes from Heaven, as it seems like contravening the decree of the King [that this person should be sick]. This comes and teaches us otherwise. (See also Rashi there)

(Before someone misconstrues this as equating being a non-Jew to being sick, it isn't.)

Hashem puts us in situations in order that we respond to them (in the case of sickness, it may be in order that we pray or some other reason). The correct response may vary depending on the situation, but simply the fact that Hashem puts a person into a given situation is no indication that He wants the person to remain there.

share|improve this answer

The fact that conversion exists as part of halachah means that it is within the framework of options that G-d is giving you.

If you felt that really you were supposed to be a woman, then the correct response is to say "If G-d had wanted me to be a woman he would have made me one," because sex change operations etc. are not halachik options.

We can't know G-d's plans/why He arranges things the way that He does. Therefore, we will never really know why a convert was not simply born Jewish.

However, it is obvious that a convert does not have the identical life experience/background/motivations as does a born Jew. Clearly, for whatever reason a convert had to go through the process of conversion rather than being born Jewish, for their benefit.

  • Perhaps having to go through the process of choosing to be Jewish and converting will help them get in touch with their inner selves/Judaism more than if they never had to make that choice.
  • Maybe this "choosing" process is a rectification for some past life where the person chose to be irreligious.
  • Maybe the fact that the person is a convert is G-d's way of ensuring that they marry the person who's best for them (because a kohen can't marry a convert, and some people will - wrongly - reject a convert as being "inferior," or merely feel (and this can be justified) that they don't have enough in common with such a person.)
  • Perhaps the Jewish people will benefit from the knowledge/perspective that the convert brings with him by virtue of the fact that he did not use to be Jewish.

Who knows?

I don't. G-d does.

-Rebbetzin HaQoton

P.S. Good luck on your journey, wherever it takes you. You sound like a a very sincere, searching person, who thinks. Most people don't take the time to think...

share|improve this answer
    
As a not-very-strict Jew, can you elaborate on how you know which of G-d's plans are there for us to change as a challenge and which are there to accept as what He wants? –  thumbtackthief Mar 11 at 14:23
2  
@thumbtackthief, Welcome to Mi Yodyea! The point of this answer is that processes that are explicitly provided for in Halacha, which we believe describes how God wants us to behave, must therefore have their place in God's plan for at least some individuals, while processes that are forbidden by Halacha must not. I agree with your implicit suggestion that this post could be improved if the author would edit in sources for the assertions about what is provided for and what is forbidden. –  Isaac Moses Mar 11 at 15:36
    
... If you're interested in learning more about the many, many details of Halacha, I recommend starting with the description of the concept on JewFAQ and branching out from there, as well as, of course, asking questions here. –  Isaac Moses Mar 11 at 15:38

Converts are a way that Gd rewards us for doing His Will. He selects a righteous individual from the nations and attaches them to Israel, like a King who rewards his well-behaved son by planting a beautiful plant in his garden, (Yerush. Berahot 2:8).

We'd be sorely lacking without these beautiful plants:

  • Odabia, was an Edomite convert, praised even more than Abraham, (Sanh. 39b). Gd chose him above all other prophets to channel vital messages for us about messianic times.

  • Ruth and Naamah, Moabite and ammonite convertesses, respectively, were matriarchs of our messianic line of kings, (4:18-22, Yevamot 63a, Rashi ibid).

  • Rahab, a convertess of the Seven Nations of Canaan, married Joshua, and among her descendents were a number of Prophets and Priests, including Jeremiah! (Megillah 14b).

share|improve this answer
3  
My mother is a convert :) –  Baby Seal Mar 11 at 22:31

...if G-d had wanted me to have a Jewish soul, wouldn't he have had me born into a Jewish family?

It's possible that you are being tested to see if you will go all the way and convert.

We see that Abraham was tested; had G-d wanted him to live in the land of Canaan, why wasn't he born there?

(That said, we firmly believe that there's no obligation for anybody to convert. This answer is not an appeal / suggestion that you convert.)

share|improve this answer
    
That is an interesting proposition Danny, but I think the question still remains if the explanation about 'testing' is valid...Namely, Why did God choose to test me in this aspect when others are born into a Jewish family? Thanks! –  Jeremy Glenne Mar 10 at 17:57
    
@JeremyGlenne - now you're asking to explain why G-d runs the world the way He does.... if only we knew the answer to that. That said, don't think that people born into Jewish families have no tests; remaining a faithful Jew is a daily test for some people. –  Danny Schoemann Mar 11 at 8:50

The Gemara in Pesachim 87b writes:

R. Elazar said: The Holy One, Blessed be He, did not exile Israel among the nations save in order that converts might join them.

From this gemara it is clear that God desires that there should be converts.

share|improve this answer

Jeremy,

I am stuck thinking that I should not convert because, if G-d had wanted me to have a Jewish soul, wouldn't he have had me born into a Jewish family?

First of all, your interest and respect in God's will already makes you a good candidate for conversation. Secondly, there's actually a tradition that one who converts to Judaism does so because they already have a soul which is 2/3 Jewish. Meaning that of the three parts of the soul that all humans have (nefesh, ruach and neshama), a convert to Judaism already has a Jewish nefesh and a Jewish ruach. A Jewish neshama can be gained through effort, learning, and observing the mitzvot.

Don't be discouraged by the your circumstances of being born into a non-Jewish family. Perhaps God has put you there for a particular reason - but it doesn't exclude the possibility that you can take the steps for yourself to convert to Judaism and affirm the connection with our people that it sounds like you soul already feels.

Learn, read, pray, and seek out a rabbi to begin the process of conversion. Feel free to message me for any recommendations on the above or further questions.

izmargad

share|improve this answer
    
Any source for your claims in the paragraph starting "First of all"? –  msh210 Mar 10 at 15:14
    
Note incidentally that Stack Exchange (by design) has no private-messaging system. You can, however, chat. –  msh210 Mar 10 at 15:15
    
@msh210, you can find a discussion of the partial soul of a convert on Zohar II:98b-99a. –  izmargad Mar 10 at 17:50
    
Also, it's worth looking at the Ari in Sha'ar haGilguim (Ch. 7) where he discusses that a convert's soul is actually an entirely new type of soul, one that has not undergone prior incarnations (the nefesh at least), and thus it can be a vehicle for an incomplete ruach which needs rectification. Either way, the principle remains that someone who feels they have a Jewish soul shouldn't think that it is God's will that they remain a Gentile. –  izmargad Mar 10 at 17:51
    
izmagarad...that last bit is very interesting, can you elaborate on "the principle remains that someone who feels they have a Jewish soul shouldn't think that it is God's will that they remain a Gentile." Thanks! –  Jeremy Glenne Mar 10 at 17:54

Judaism has always encouraged a dialog with G-d. He wants you to challenge Him, like Avraham argued against the destruction of Sedom. Don't just accept what's put in front of you - work to make it better.

share|improve this answer

we were not created as inanimate pots to be kept on display but rather as human beings with free will to choose and to grow spiritually. What would have happened if Ruth thought like you?

I am not saying it is right or wrong to convert. (one may even lose out in converting.) only that we cannot know the reasons for many things, since who can understand the ways of God?

share|improve this answer

protected by msh210 Mar 11 at 20:27

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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