miércoles, 3 de junio de 2009

What is a Former Christian Minister to Do, Convert?


What is a Former Christian Minister to Do, Convert?


By: Rabbi Tovia Singer

http://www.outreachjudaism.org



Shalom my friend,I am an ordained minister who has been studying the Hebrew roots of Christianity for around 10 years. Over time I have been forced to "unlearn" much of what I inherited and learned at higher levels of education. The bottom line is that much of Christianity is a false faith which detracts from the true faith given to all mankind at Sinai: Biblical Judaism.I am questioning converting. It seems to me that as a god-fearer I have the best of both worlds. Let me explain. Understanding the Laws of Noah, and then going on to choose those things that please Hashem and taking hold of His covenant in Isaiah 56 by acquiring other mitzvoth and incorporating them into my life....is this not a better position for me to be in than full conversion where I would then be obligated to fulfill all the 613? You see where I live there is not a Jewish community close which could support me. Buying foods and meats killed in a kosher manner, observing regulations of travel on the Sabbath, etc....these seem to be so difficult living in a Gentile society today which is blind to Torah. Can you advise for I value your comments very much. Blessing on you and your family I pray. Shalom.


Rabbi Tovia's Answer:
You are raising an important question which is asked of me almost daily. 

What should a former Christian do when he discovers that the Almighty's salvation program has never changed, and the path to express His eternal truth is still uniquely realized within the Jewish faith? This is a dilemma which confronts so many seeking souls who have emerged from the church and have embarked on the very same spiritual journey you have.

Remember that you were created in the image of God and should walk in the path of the righteous gentile. This journey is realized by your commitment to observe the seven laws of Noah. There are thousands of men and women with your religious background who have come to proudly identify as a Noachide, or B'nai Noah (children of Noah). They diligently remain on this sacred path of observance of the seven Noachide laws, which will ultimately bring each of them into the presence of God for all eternity.

Be mindful that as you observe these seven mitzvoth, do not say in your heart, "I am performing these commandments because they make sense to my intellect and understanding." Rather, proclaim that you are fulfilling them because the God of Israel commanded you to keep them.

The seven Noachide commandments are:  

  • The prohibition of idolatry
  • The prohibition of blasphemy
  • The prohibition of murder
  • The prohibition of theft
  • The prohibition of immoral sexual relations
  • The prohibition of eating the limb of a living animal
  • The commandment to establish courts of law enforcing the above commandments



It is a mistake to suppose that since the children of Israel have 613 commandments and the children of Noah have seven commandments, that the ratio of spiritual worth of a gentile to a Jew is proportionally seven to 613.
In reality, the seven Noachide laws are general categories of commandments, each containing many components and details, whereas the 613 commandments of the Torah are precise, each relating to one basic detail of the law of the Torah. Therefore, the numerical disparity in no way reflects the relative spiritual worth of the two systems of commandments.


Because of their profound spiritual connection to the nation of Israel, many righteous gentiles symbolically commemorate some of the Jewish festivals. For example, it is not uncommon for B'nai Noah to in some way celebrate the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and Day of Judgment. This festival is of particular interest to the righteous gentile because God judges all of mankind on that day - the Jew as well as the gentile. Rosh Hashanah also is the day Adam, the first man, was created by God, and all mankind is descended from Adam just as we are all descendants from Noah.

The holiday of Shevuoth (the Festival of Weeks) is also of unique interest to the Noachide because the descendants of Noah received their commandments at that time as well. When the evening of Shevuoth arrives, righteous gentiles often spend the entire night contemplating the momentous occasion of the giving of the Torah to the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai. In essence, the affinity that the truly righteous gentile feels for the Jewish people ignites within his soul a fervent desire to cling to the God of Israel and His people.
Bear in mind though, that whatever observances B'nai Noah choose to keep, they must not keep the Shabbat according to Jewish Law, for the observance of the Shabbat was set aside for the Jewish people alone (Exodus 31:16-17).
There are gentiles, however, whose experience with the children of Israel runs much deeper than a feeling of profound affection for the Jew and his Torah. These individuals throughout their lives have often felt a longing and desire to be a part of the Jewish people. In fact, one middle aged woman recently confided in me that she inexplicably knew she was Jewish for as long as she could remember. This is not an uncommon phenomenon. Because the vast majority of B'nai Noah were brought up within the Christian religion, their attachment to the nation of Israel has always been more than just a passing interest or fascination.

Since in its most primitive beginnings Christianity began as a heresy of Judaism, "Jews" play a more than incidental role in the church. This role is most often not a flattering one, yet the mere mention of the Jew is enough to ignite a fervid and inquisitive spark within the soul of the destined convert. The discussion about the nation of Israel may have occurred at home, or even taken place in church or Sunday school. Nevertheless, this simple discussion generates an almost unbridled enchantment with the Jewish people. These are the gentiles who experience an irresistible calling to convert to Judaism.
Ironically, there are some gentiles who have this undeniable yearning to somehow connect to the Jewish people and mistakenly get caught up in the Messianic movement. When at first they hear about Christians who worship using Jewish symbols and liturgy, they become very excited. They imagine that this is precisely what they were looking for. They believe that they can finally express their desire to associate with Judaism by attending Messianic congregations. Once they get involved, however, they quickly realize that a Messianic "synagogue" is nothing more than an evangelical church deceptively designed to appear as a synagogue in order to lure those Jews who might otherwise resist the Christian trappings of a church. They finally grasp that the Messianic movement exists in order to generate the very opposite effect that they wish to be a part of. They realize that this modern movement seeks to make Jews into Christians, using nefarious means. In essence, they conclude quite correctly that the Messianic movement is thoroughly Christian, and look elsewhere for authentic expressions of Judaism.


The decision to convert to the Jewish faith is quite different than the commitment to continue as a B'nai Noah. For whereas the Noachide has embraced the faith of the Jewish people alone, the righteous convert, on the other hand, has, in every manner become part of the Jewish people - sharing in full their Torah, as well as their wondrous history and eternal destiny.
The distinction between the righteous convert to Judaism and the Noachide is often difficult for Christians to comprehend. For whereas Christianity and Islam are both religions of creed alone, Judaism comprises both a faith and a distinct peoplehood. For example, if a Christian declares that he does not believe in Jesus, is he still a Christian? Or if a Moslem confesses that he does not trust in the prophet Mohammed, is he still a Moslem? Certainly not. On the other hand, if a Jew declares that he doesn't believe in God, or he has embraced the alien deities of surrounding peoples such as Hare Krishna or Jesus, is he still a Jew? Yes, although a sinner who is called by the prophets to repent. Paradoxically, the word religion appears nowhere throughout the Bible. The Jewish people are referred to as an am, a nation.


There is a Jewish tradition amongst the children of Israel that many of those unique individuals who genuinely convert to Judaism are those gentiles who somehow possess a Jewish soul that tirelessly cries out for truth and clarity.
The request of a gentile to convert to Judaism is never taken lightly by a rabbi. On the contrary, this petition is considered with the utmost concern and apprehension. The rabbi or scholar who is asked to perform a conversion will in almost all situations repeatedly attempt to dissuade the petitioner from going on with his conversion and send the potential convert away. This effort of dissuasion will continue throughout the conversion process. For once a gentile has converted to Judaism, there is no going back. There can be no undoing of this eternal decision. Once the conversion has occurred, the convert is forever a Jew.


Bear in mind that there is no sin for a gentile to eat pork or violate the Sabbath. Once the conversion ceremony is completed, however, the Jew by choice is required to observe all 613 commandments as any other Jew. If a convert backslides and returns to his former heathen ways, the conversion that he has endured has now become his spiritual affliction. In a sense, he would have been far better off had he not converted, for before his conversion these iniquitous acts were not sinful, and now they are. Rabbis are extremely sensitive to this and carefully screen a potential convert.


We see this principle in the Bible as well. When Ruth entreated her mother in law Naomi to return with her to the land of Israel and join the Jewish people, Naomi made three attempts to dissuade her daughter in law. Only after Naomi realized that Ruth was unshakable in her commitment to return did Naomi relent and bring her to her home in Bethlehem (Ruth 1:8-18). Ruth went on to become one of the most extraordinary women in Jewish history, and was the grandmother of King David.

May the Merciful One guide you on your own sacred path.

Sincerely yours,
Rabbi Tovia Singer