Tekiah: Embrace the Covenant! – A Weekly Letter From Rabbi Davis – August 10, 2018
This summer, I have had the privilege of taking a number of adults to the mikvah to supervise their conversion to Judaism. They emerged from the mikvah wet from the water and from their tears of joy.
Having studied and reflected, wrestled and experimented, they decided to formally and officially join the Jewish people. In some cases, these adults were introduced to Judaism by a fiancé/fiancée. In other cases, they were spiritual seekers who came to Judaism on their own. In all cases, they found Judaism personally compelling and meaningful. (I also took a baby adopted by an Israeli to the mikvah. This has become more and more common in recent years.)
It is inspiring to work with people considering conversion. They are eager learners, open to trying new traditions, considering a new identity and participating in a new community. And after completing the process, they continue their learning and become active in Beth El.
I admire the courage of Jews-by-choice. Indeed, I consider their commitment greater than my own. I didn’t choose to be Jewish. It was chosen for me. People who choose Judaism make a greater leap and therefore are worthy of greater praise.
A midrash makes this point: “Had the Israelites not witnessed the lightning, thunder, quaking mountain and shofar sounding on Sinai, they would not have accepted the Torah. But the convert who did not see nor hear any of these things, came before God and committed to the mitzvot. Can anyone be dearer to God than such as person?” (Tanchuma, Lekh Lekha 6:32).
According to this teaching, it took a loud blast of the shofar to awaken the Israelites to God and the commandments. Jews-by-choice, on the other hand, need no pyrotechnics. More like Abraham than the Israelites, they heard an internal shofar calling them in a quiet, yet insistent voice. Becoming a Jew was their way of answering that Call.
In their book, Embracing the Covenant: Converts to Judaism talk about Why and How, Rabbi Allan Berkowitz and Patti Moskovitz write about that shofar call:
The impulse to become a Jew is often beyond reason. People may attribute their conversion to childhood experiences, family friends, falling in love, being drawn to ethical precepts. But there is more. Since the heart and the soul have their own reasons, the Voice murmurs from within. It resonates like the shofar heard long ago at Mt Sinai. In fact, the Voice within is the shofar at Sinai. In the end, the Jew-by-Choice and the Jew-by-Birth stand together at Sinai, both hearing the shofar as it proclaims, “Tekiah, Embrace the Covenant!”
The authors go on to outline the path of choosing Judaism:
- Meet with several rabbis to learn about the conversion process
- Consider the different movements (Conservative, Orthodox, Reform)
- Choose a rabbi to serve as your spiritual advisor
- Make time for study
- Consider how the decision will affect your family of origin
- Learn Judaism by doing Judaism
- Attend synagogue regularly and participate in a Jewish community
- Surround yourself with those who love Judaism
- Take time
- Trust your heart
If you are interested learning if Judaism is right for you, let’s talk. If you know someone who might be open to exploring Judaism in a safe, supportive environment, forward them this email or have them call me. We still have room in this year’s Introduction to Judaism class which will begin in the fall. Find out more about the class here.
Beginning this Sunday and for the entire month of Elul, we will blow the shofar to prepare for the High Holy Days. May it awaken all of us to riches of Jewish tradition and inspire a year of growth.
Rabbi Alexander Davis