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Can You Conver o Non-Pracic
By Aaron Moss

Question: Why is it that if a Jew does not observe Judaism they are still considered Jewish, while a convert to Judaism must observe Jewish law to be accepted into Judaism? It doesn't seem fair. There are so many born Jews (like me) who are non-practicing . Why can't someone convert to be a non-practicing Jew?

Answer: Converting to Judaism and not practicing is like pulling the carpet from under your own feet. You are removing the very foundation that is supporting you.

There are Jews by birth, and Jews by choice. The former were born from a Jewish mother; the latter converted according to Jewish law. Both have a Jewish soul, but one received it through biological means; the other, by legal means.

The laws of conversion have clear requirements. One is that, after a period of study, the would-be convert must wholeheartedly commit themselves to observe Jewish law to the best of their ability. If they refuse to do this, or it later becomes clear that they were not sincere in their commitment, then an essential requirement has not been fulfilled, and the conversion is meaningless.

The reason is simple. How can someone become Jewish through a legal process if they themselves do not subscribe to that law? It's like a democratically elected official using his power to state that democracy is redundant. If he's correct, then he has no position! It was democracy that gave him power; take away democracy, and you've taken away his power. Or like a judge who declares the law to be irrelevant. If so, then he is irrelevant too, because he only has a right to judge by virtue of the law - the very law that he is rejecting.

If you're Jewish by birth, then nothing can take that away. It is a biological fact. But a convert is Jewish only by virtue of Jewish law. Conversion is a spiritual legislation that endows a person with a Jewish soul. If they flout that very system, then on what basis are they Jewish?

On the other hand, a genuine convert is no less Jewish than a Jew by birth. In fact, we all descend from converts. We are Jewish today because our ancestors stood at Mt Sinai over three thousand years ago and made the exact same acceptance of Torah that a convert makes. Our forebears went through a form of conversion, so we, their descendants, are irreversibly Jewish.

This event repeats itself at every conversion. The convert stands before G-d at their own Sinai and is offered the Torah. If they accept it sincerely, and live up to their commitment, then they and their future children will be forever Jewish.

The devotion of true converts can inspire us biological Jews, that we should be more than just Jews by birth, but also become Jews by choice.

Rabbi Moss

E-mail the author at: rabbimoss@chinuch.com.au

Posted on August 25, 2005
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