I feel like I may be going down the right path spiritually. Like many others in the country, I was born Christian, never really given a chance to choose what to believe in as a child.
My eyes were opened when I was 14 and was atheist for two years. It was out of authoritative rebellion towards…
Ploni ben Nistar here.
I always find it interesting to see how people become interested in Judaism. However, you (or anyone else considering conversion) should know that one doesn’t have to become Jewish in order to live a good and meaningful life. One doesn’t even have to be Jewish to go gain a place in Olam Haba (The World To Come).
Being a Jew is a heavy responsibility. As you know the Jewish People are also called ‘the chosen people’. But what does ‘chosen’ actually really mean? It means that we - the Jews - chose G’d and his Torah. We chose to be a holy nation. A nation of priests.
At Har Sinai (mt. Sinai) our ancestors said “na’aseh v’nismah” (we will do and we will understand/hear). Meaning, we accepted the Torah before even knowing what it contained! We chose to accept this holy mission before even understanding or hearing about it! That’s how we became a ‘chosen people’. The people who chose for the Torah before even knowing anything about it.
Now, we are not better than any other people. We just have another job in this world. A Jew’s job in this world, is to bring holiness in it and to rectify it by doing mitzvos (keeping G-d’s commandments/good things). A Jew is always responsible for another Jew. And to a certain extent even for the world…
Whenever a Jew does a mitzvah (good deed), he elevates the world. When he makes a brocho (blessing) he elevates the food he eats and he elevates the place where he made the blessing.
But the same thing goes for whenever we violate Halacha (Jewish law). When we do so, G-d forbid, we bring negative forces to existence. Whenever we do something wrong it can affect the whole world. When I violate the Torah here in E. Israel’ it can trigger something bad on the other side of the world.
So you see, to be a Jew is an awesome responsibility. Not everyone is supposed to be(come) Jewish.
Another thing is, for a born-Jew to fall off the derech (become secular/drops Judaism) it is a very bad thing. But for a convert to leave Judaism after his conversion… is even worse. The responsibility of a convert is much and much higher than that of someone who’s born Jewish. Someone who’s born Jewish was born in the covenant that G-d made with Avraham. He had no choice and was born with this gift.
But a convert chose himself to join this covenant. To accept this beautiful gift. And so, for him to throw this gift away after first having accepted it… that is many times worse. It is like slapping the King’s face.
So what then? You might ask. Well, our sages of blessed memory teach us that just like we have the Torah, non-Jews have the Sheva Mitzvos Shel Bnei Noach - the Noachide laws.
It says in the Talmud these laws were given by G-d to Noach as a binding set of laws for all mankind. Any non-Jew who lives according to these laws is regarded as a Chosid Umos Ha’Olam (righteous person among the nation) and is assured of a place in Olam Haba. The seven laws listed by the Tosefta and the Talmud*.
- Avodoh Zoroh - Prohibition of Idolatry: You shall not have any idols before Hashem (G-d).
- Shefichas Domin - Prohibition of Murder: You shall not murder. (Bereishis/Gen. 9:6)
- Giluy Arayos - Prohibition of Sexual Promiscuity: You shall not commit any of a series of sexual prohibitions, which include adultery, incest, bestiality and homosexuality.
- Gezeila - Prohibition of Theft: You shall not steal.
- Birchas HaShem - Prohibition of Blasphemy: You shall not blaspheme G-d’s name.
- Eiver Min HaChai - Dietary Law: Do not eat flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive. (Bereishis 9:4)
- Dinim - Requirement to have a Law-system with just laws: You shall set up an effective judiciary to enforce the preceding six laws fairly.
In reality these are more like seven categories. So if you’d like to pick something up from here, I would recommend you to contact an orthodox rabbi and ask him for advice (I think Chabad is quite experienced with these things).
A way to remember these seven are that the first three are the three Aveiros Chamuros (capital sins) that a Jew must be willing to die for. The next 4 are in accordance with the first four letters of the Alef Beis (Hebrew alphabet).
Alef - Eiver Min HaChai
Beis - Birchas Hashem
Gimmel - Gezeila
Daled - Dinim
* Tosefta Avodoh Zoroh 8.4 quoted in Sanhedrin 56a for those interested in looking it up.