Friday, May 23, 2008

For the Sake of Heaven

I had considered naming this post, "What! Are You Nuts?". There are so many hardships one faces in the decision to convert to Judaism. First, the mind is unsettled. It took me almost 3 decades to realize I needed to do something about those inner promptings. Those promptings consisted of a need to study Judaism, to study Israel, and to study the history of the Jewish people, which I did over the course of those decades. Those prompting became so pronounced that for the last year(about 5-6 years ago) when I attended Mass very sporadically, I literally had to bite my tongue to keep from shouting out loud that all of this was so very wrong.

A Simple Jew has a guest post. He asks Yirmeyahu to reflect on the following:

In Imrei Pinchas, Shaar Toras Adam, 79, Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz taught that a holy spark falls and burns inside a Ger. It compels him to complete his Geirus and actually does not give him any choice in this matter. Only after his Geirus, is the Ger given free choice.

This is so true. A ger really has no choice except to follow the promptings of the spark. You can deny the spark all you want but it will not be quiet. This spark gives you the strength to face rejection by your biological family. It gives you strength to face living the mitzvot. It gives you the strength to face possible rejection by your new Jewish community.

It gives you the strength to carry on when a beloved family member walks out of the room you are in.

It gives you the strength to live by kashrut even when you have to make a three hour trip or order kosher meat through the internet.

The reward for this is not the acceptance of your fellow man. The reward is the peace and tranquility of a mind at rest. The joy of Shabbat starts on Thursday when sings and niggun echo and you find yourself singing snippets throughout and then they burst forth on Shabbat.

The reward comes from the prayers said daily and the hunger for Torah is satisfied.

You see the changes coming over you. Before the mikveh, ridding the house of hametz and cleaning the house for Pesach seems to be an overwhelming task. But after the mikveh, you find yourself thinking more of what it means to be living in slavery. You find yourself reflecting what are some of the things that you need to throw out of yourself in order to move closer to Hashem.

And as that first Shavuot approaches after the mikveh, you know in your heart that you have stood at Sinai and said with all the generations, "We will do and we will hear".

Abraham and Sarah were the first Jewish gers. They are my parents: Shira bat Sarah v'Abraham. Their hospitality and kindness to other gers is a guideline on to how to treat other gers. Gers are only strangers in the sense they are still learning. But since it is a basic tenet of Judaism that all should learn to each one's ability, does this not make all Jews gers?

Each of us approaches Torah as a ger, not knowing how the words in a particular Mishnah, Pirkei Avot, or prayer will affect us. Studying Torah can seem like we are entering a new land and it is the knowledge that so many other gers in past generations and this new generation are entering this new land of discovery that binds us as a community. It is the back and forth of discussing "we will do" that binds us. And each of us has to decide what "we will hear".

It used to bother me that a convert is called a ger. I thought perhaps orphan would be a better word. But the more I study, do, and hear, the less it does. Ultimately, each of us is a ger before Hashem.

1 comment:

Gail said...

Wonderful post.