Ger Tzadik (Sorta)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Why Convert Orthodox? Part I

The question at the heart of the blog. The reason is actually quite simple. While I would love to say that it was an epiphany from on high, and that I decided to do it purely Lashem Shemayim, that’s just not true. The truth is much more mundane and common: I met someone who was observant and got knocked off my feet.

Now, that statement right there is what draws so much skepticism and sneers from the Jews I meet who want to hear my story. Rightly so, might I add. The problem, of course, is that it does not do my decision any justice at all. I like to be honest, and the truth is that this was the initial catalyst.

Now does that mean that I immediately decided I would convert, no problem, no questions asked? Of course not. It didn’t even cross my mind for months; not just because of what was involved, but because I wouldn’t do something that would violate my sense of self just for a relationship.

I have spent a good chunk of my life in introspection, evaluating my strengths and weaknesses, and trying to improve them both. One thing I was comfortable with, in terms of how I approached the world, is that I was as internally and externally consistent as I could manage. One thing I had decided upon early after my religious upbringing (Roman Catholic) was complete, is that God is real. However, no organized religion I had encountered did Him any justice.

This included all forms of Judaism I had casually studied, including Orthodoxy. To an outsider studying from books, the differences between the various denominations seemed to be about how much dogma and ritual each retained. Orthodoxy seemed like the worst of all worlds to me. Very dogmatic like the Catholic church, and a whole mess of restrictions to boot. Of course, this missed thousands of years of scholarship and philosophy, but since I had no Orthodox Jews to talk with about it, my conclusions seemed sound…

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