Ger Tzadik (Sorta)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Benefits of Becoming Frum via Conversion vs. BT

No suspense, here’s the biggest one: No one is trying to convince me that being frum is easy as pie. (or cholent, whichever is easier for you.)

In fact, it’s just the opposite. When I first started out, I got anti-kiruv. I got mild rudeness, distance, and no one investing any time into my soul. I got all the explanations as to why it stinks to be a Jew, and why it especially stinks to be a frum Jew. I got told that Jews are doing just fine without me. I had the Noahide Laws explained to me more than once. I got everything except encouragement.

All of this is understandable of course. I knew what to expect before I even started. I had read up a little on what it means to convert, both to the convert and to the rabbis. It wasn’t a shock, but it still takes some intestinal fortitude to keep coming back for more. Being continually rejected as a person takes it’s toll on your self esteem.

Now what's interesting is that along the way, I saw what it means to be on the receiving end of kiruv, with the benefit of a detached perspective. I know what you might be thinking, but I didn’t actually go the Chabad route. The rabbi I approached initially is a kollel guy, but this kollel also has kiruv as part of their mission. So less glamour and polish, but more down to earth facts.

So while I was a wallflower, (Trying not to be noticed too much, but still wanting to absorb) I got to see how the kiruv message worked. It was everything you’ve seen and heard elsewhere, so I won’t bore with details. It was, however, a very jarring experience for me. I had to sit and watch as others were welcomed with open arms, hugs, and smiles into something that I so desperately want for myself.

It’s a humbling experience to watch others reject or treat with indifference something that you cannot have. It’s true that you only appreciate the things you don’t have, not those which you do. When you crave learning, being told: “I’m not sure we should be teaching you that just yet” is like being denied chocolate when you’re with a world class dessert chef. I know it’s back there, just give me some!

Even still, I don’t envy many BT’s their experiences. While I will never know the joy of reconnecting with my true ancestral heritage and the traditions of my forefathers, I go into life as a Jew unconcerned that wool is being pulled over my eyes. I move into a frum lifestyle after years of effort; not by simply being encouraged to take on as much as possible as soon as possible, without understanding the implications.

(Psst. I’d still rather be a BT, because it would mean I am a Jew.)

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