by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
A reader asked:
“Would you comment on Ruth, the Moabite's conversion? Also, please explain why only Orthodox conversions are considered Kosher today?”
There is a tremendous amount of confusion on this issue. Another reader wrote a wildly incorrect statement, “The Messiah himself will come from women who were not Jews (Ruth and Tamar), and Moses intermarried, and so did David and Solomon.”
The process of conversion to Judaism is not like conversion to any other religion. If someone converts to Buddhism, and later converts to Islam (or any other religion) he is no longer a Buddhist. He is now a Muslim.
But if a non Jew undergoes a kosher conversion to Judaism, and then some time later decides to become a Buddhist (or any other religion) he is still a Jew, but now he calls himself a Jewish Buddhist.
The reason for this is that unlike all other religions, Jews are not members of a religion. Jews are a people. Religion goes according to a person’s belief, but a person who has a Jewish mother is a Jew no matter what he believes. Many people discover late in life that they are Jews even though they have never intentionally fulfilled a single mitzvah! This is why the requirements are so difficult to satisfy.
Now, among Jews there are tremendous differences in belief. So, if someone converts to Judaism according to the Reform rules, only the Reform Jews will consider that person to be a Jew. If someone converts according to the Conservative rules, the Conservative and the Reform Jews will consider that person to be a Jew. If someone converts according to the Orthodox rules, all Jews will consider that person to be a Jew. Since that potential convert wants to be a Jew, and wants to be accepted as a Jewish person, it is necessary for him or her to satisfy the Orthodox standard.
The conversion process changed when the Torah was given to us as a Nation (Mt. Sinai). Before this time, conversion was done by sincere acceptance of the Jewish People as your people, and the Jewish ways as your ways.
When Yitzchak first saw Rivka, he brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, married her, she became his wife, and he loved her.[i] Why did he bring her into his mother’s tent before he married her? Any why would such a wealthy man not give his new bride her own tent? Why did he marry her before he loved her?
This is the prime example of a holy, Jewish marriage.
Bringing her into his mother Sarah’s tent shows that Rivka filled the void that was in that tent since Sarah passed away. Rivka became the mother of the Jewish people. She accepted, and loved the ways of Sarah, and only then could Yitzchak marry her. He saw that it was proper and good, so he married her, and then he loved her. Not like those who love first, and then follow their hearts.
Since the Torah has been given to us as a Nation, things are different. Now a Jewish court has to approve conversions. The court has to be convinced that the potential convert is sincere, and is trying to convert for a proper reason. Even though the Torah does not record all of the details of those historical conversions, certainly the leaders of Israel upheld the law that G-d has given to us. Know that there were courts involved in all of those conversions.
Why is conversion discouraged? All other religions want you to join them. We believe that a person was created what they are for a good reason, and that is the path they should take. When a non Jew keeps the Seven Commandments of Noah, he or she becomes a holy person. He will have a wonderful life in this world and a share in the World to Come. This is the path he should take.
Unlike other religions, we do not say that you have to be like us. Whoever you are, we advise you to become the best possible you.
[i] Genesis 24:67