For What Reasons Would a Bet Din Reject a Candidate for Conversion?|
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© Rabbi Jack Moline
Q: I am currently going through the process of conversion. I have come to truly embrace Judaism. However, I feel awkward being one of the few in class who is not doing this because of an engagement or a marriage. I am nervous because somewhere inside I feel that maybe I could be rejected by the Bet Din because there is no tangible reason for me to be doing this. I feel that this is between me and my G-d. So, I guess my question is this: For what reasons would a Bet Din reject a candidate for conversion?
A: It is not you who should be worried. It is all those people with the "tangible reason."
There are two paradigms for conversion in our tradition, Abraham and Ruth. Both of them came to Judaism in the most selfless way, and against the path that logic would have dictated. Abraham came to recognize the oneness of God and the need to listen to God's instruction in spite of the consensus of, literally, the rest of humanity. Ruth, generations later, embraced not only God but the Jewish people (who were not much of a bargain back then, given the way she was treated). There was nothing in it for either of them beyond their own spiritual integrity. We honor both of them by naming every convert the son or daughter of Abraham and by including the declaration of Ruth ("your people is my people, your God is my God...") as part of the ceremony of formal conversion.
A Bet Din is charged with the responsibility of determining that the candidate is making an informed and voluntary decision to become obligated to the responsibilities of our covenant with God. No rabbi I know will bring a person to a Bet Din unless s/he is convinced of the candidates sincerity, preparedness and enthusiasm. If your studies continue to take you down this path, you will find the Bet Din and immersion to be simply a formalization of the transformation that has already taken place within.
Obviously, you have a rabbi who is advising you. Perhaps it is even the instructor of the class. Share this question with him or her. It might be worth addressing for everyone.
A wise colleague of mine once told a prospective convert, "There are many reasons people begin to study toward conversion, but there is only one reason to convert: because you cannot imagine yourself as anything other than a Jew."
May your current conviction continue to inspire you. And may the Jewish people be blessed to benefit from your pure devotion.