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Choosing Judaism

It’s one of the most difficult questions prospective converts to Judaism face. You’ve found a rabbi, learned a ton about Judaism, and begun integrating Jewish practice into your life. When is the right time to take the plunge?

Many converts expect there will come a moment of deep knowing that the time has come. And sometimes that’s exactly what happens. But not always, and that’s OK too.

According to the Talmud, there are just two things that are expected of a convert: A sincere desire to become Jewish and the knowledge that the Jewish people have a history of oppression and exclusion. If the convert passes this threshold, they are given some minimal instruction in Jewish practice and embraced. There is no requirement of perfect faith, no expectation of complete Jewish practice. Which is to say -- there is no need to wait until you feel fully ready.

Jewish Star

As with all things related to conversion, the particulars vary with the rabbi and the denomination. But typically conversion entails three things: the appearance before a group of Jewish authorities, immersion in a body of water, and the adoption of a Hebrew name.

Immersion in a mikveh, or tevillah in Hebrew, is the central ritual of the conversion process, the act that physically symbolizes a person's complete spiritual transformation. Jewish tradition teaches that this act renders the convert akin to a newborn child.

All Jewish denominations expect converts to make some declaration of commitment to Judaism. Traditionally, this declaration was known as kabbat ol hamitzvot — acceptance of the yoke of the commandments.


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