Ger Tzadik (Sorta)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

From Popes to Gedolim

One thing I have noticed during this process is that not many people are surprised I am Catholic. It seems like a disproportionate number of converts and prospective converts were raised Catholic. A commenter on an earlier thread asked about this, and I have my own theories which may or may not have a reflection on the real world.

I grew up in the Tri-State area. Just as it is the largest concentration point for Jews in the US, the same is true for Catholics. The proportions may be different, but the effect is the same. Thus to me, Jewish culture was just as much a reality of growing up as anything I was raised with. It wasn’t at the center of course, but it wasn’t foreign by any stretch.

I grew up with Jews, my folks had Jewish friends and bosses…You get the idea. Now as I mentioned before, none were observant, so it’s not like I got a real dose of what it would mean to convert Orthodox. Even still, I think that alone clears a lot of the initial hurdles. It removes the feeling that this is an entirely alien way of life. I’m not sure a Lutheran from the Midwest would ever feel the same way with as much ease.

The second part has to do with the day-to-day basics of the religions. Catholicism and Judaism share some basic structural concepts: Dogma and Ritual. The execution of both are obviously very different, but in many ways it made me feel a lot more at home than I have ever felt with my Protestant friends. Their observance was too directed from within themselves.

Now, I consider myself a very smart person, to the point of quiet arrogance at times. (That I need to work on.) But I never have been so arrogant as to think I can identify the will of God and do what he desires. So that method of worship seemed like guessing at best, and supreme human arrogance at worst. Now if you take the 30,000ft view, you realize that this same kind of reasoning is why Judaism as I knew it never appealed to me: I knew mostly Reform Jews.

So you can imagine; when I started to learn more about Orthodox observance, I was in for quite a shock. It was foreign, sure…but it also had a very strong appeal of truth to it. That was the first big step for me.

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