Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Converting to Judaism- why so hard? Originally posted April 11, 2008

I have had a number of conversations with people over the years with them raising the issue of how difficult it is to convert to Judaism. Anti-Semites use this as a proof that Jews hate others- why else would we make it so difficult to convert? Some go so far as to claim that conversion is not allowed, or that converts are somehow inferior to those born Jewish. The reality- we are forbidden from treating converts any differently to those born Jewish and they are as holy as anyone else in Israel. You want proof? Ruth, the great grandmother of King David was a convert, a Moabitess- and from her we will eventually have the Mashiach, our ultimate redeemer.

So, whats the big deal? Why do Jews make it such a big deal to convert? Why the tradition of turning people away until we are certain they are genuine? You see- converting others isn’t just about them- it has implications to the person who does the conversion! Converting others to Judaism is actually a massive responsibility for the person who is doing the conversion- and an activity which can lead them to erring and sinning themselves! Why? There is a commandment “Do not place as tumbling block before the blind” Its easy enough to understand at a literal level, but at a deeper level it also means to not do something that will cause another person to err and thus be worse off than they were before.

Where this comes into play is as follows: Everyone, regardless of religion, has a path to righteousness and a place in the world to come. For the non-Jews, if they behave in a manner that is in line with the 7 Noahide laws, then they will be righteous and merit a place in the world to come- for Jews, it is through the 613 commandments.

So, coming back to the first point- what is easier, to follow 7 laws or 613 laws? Its a no brainer- 7 laws are much easier to follow. So, when we convert somebody, we are giving them an additional 606 laws that previously did not apply to them previously. Its not just a stumbling block- its a concrete barrier across the road! The person doing the conversion has to educate the convertee well enough that they will know enough about the laws to undertake to follow them, and know how to do so at a practical level- if they don’t, the person is going to err and thus the teacher is in violation of the commandment!

So making sure someone is serious about conversion is imperative. Turning people away, testing their commitment through lengthy classes and immersion into Judaism; testing their desire, and commitment thus becomes an essential part of the process- ensuring their, and their future teachers, spiritual health. If the person is not serious, and the teacher has not tested them, the teacher is in violation of the commandment and, additionally, has caused another person to sin. If the person is serious- then it is a massive mitzvah to bring them into Judaism.


June 24, 2008 - Posted by | Other Torah, Torah | ,


  1. Like the new format!

    Comment by angloam | June 25, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thanks. Still playing a bit and we’ll have to see how things end up!

    Comment by marcl1969 | June 25, 2008 | Reply

  3. This is an excellent summary. I agree that converting to Judaism should not be an easy conversion. There has to be proof of absolute sincerity and commitment. Some say our laws are meant to scare away potential converts. If they are intimidated, then this speaks even more in favor of our laws.

    Spiritual health is something that seems to be slipping away in the reform movement.

    Comment by Shoshanna | July 10, 2008 | Reply

  4. […] numbers?  I have written previously on the issue of conversions and why we make it difficult (…), but here there is an additional reason.  here we see a woman that is effectively in the position […]

    Pingback by Parshas Ki Teitzei- the spoils of war… « Musings of an Orthodox Jew | August 28, 2009 | Reply

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