Thursday, February 23, 2012

"How Did You Know You Were Ready to Convert?"

This question comes up a lot. It's funny, since what the conversion candidate thinks about his or her readiness is often irrelevant. The beth din is the final decision on when a candidate converts, and their opinion on readiness is really the only one that matters. 

The beit din may ask the candidate whether he or she feels ready, but I think the answer is largely irrelevant. If you say yes, they're not surprised. Of course you want to move on with your life. If you say no, it's either a) The beis din seeing if you realize there are issues that still need to be handled or b) You're actually ready because you realize exactly how much trouble you're getting yourself into by taking on all these mitzvot. All three answers are more about seeing where your mind is, rather than actually considering your opinion. Yay psychology practiced by unlicensed quacks like batei din and me.

Most people feel "ready" long before there is any discussion of the mikvah. But what "ready" feels like, I'm not sure I could say. It's individual to each person, but it can even differ day-to-day with that individual. Personally, I felt ready, but my "readiness" showed itself as little emotional stabs every time someone asked me why I wasn't done yet and every time I had to point out my differences when I didn't really feel different. However, I consider myself lucky that I knew why I was being told to wait. Not everyone has that luxury (though I would never wish on any conversion candidate outside circumstances that delay a conversion).

I think the better question is how do the rabbis know when someone is ready, but I'm afraid I don't have an answer for that one.

However, I can tell you one thing: If you went out and got a cheeseburger the day before your conversion (knowing it was the mikvah date), you were not ready. I think that's question #2: "Did you eat a cheeseburger while you still could??"

Did you feel ready? How did you know? 


  1. I almost wanted to say no because I had not done a Yamim Noriam before the conversion, but I wasn't about to say no when the Beit din offered me a mikveh date.

  2. Did conversion Rabbis tell you to keep kosher and keep Shabbos before conversion as if you would after conversion or do they expect you to be lenient with this since they havent converted you yet?

  3. They want you to be shomer shabbos/kashrus. Most of them want you to do something to break shabbos, but everything else you should be keeping as if you were a Jew.

  4. For me it was most like a sudden realization that after so many years I was ready. I didn't even have a rabbi yet (since I already had so much rabbi trouble). Apparently when I finally did see a rabbi, on the first meeting he was like "Start picking some dates because you are ready."

  5. I had always intended to get a tattoo before I got dunked, but in the end, I didn't get round to it before the mikveh date came through.

    1. When did you guys know when you were ready to pursue conversion? Do you mind sharing? Thx

    2. I was 16 and I'd spent two years trying to find a religion I felt comfortable in, and after I'd spent two months considering Judaism (613 mitzvot?! For life?!) I opened a Bible at random and came across Isaiah 49:8: "Thus said Hashem: In a time of favour I will answer you, and on the day of salvation I assist you; I will protect you, and I will make you the people of the covenent, to restore the land and to cause you in inherit desolate heritages."

      I emailed a rabbi that night and six and a half years later I became a Jew. :)

    3. @ Sarah:
      Isaiah 49:8, just beautiful!
      I will keep this verse in mind.

  6. I had decided for myself I wanted to convert when I was in junior high. Personally, I felt I was ready to go for it once I turned 18, but life did not flow as I'd expected, and it didn't happen until I was 22. No, I had no desire to eat a cheezeburger (no can has).
    --Curmudgeonly Israeli Convert

  7. I think that's question #2: "Did you eat a cheeseburger while you still could??"

    I certainly hope so. I think many conversion candidates would benefit from having a last treif meal just before the conversion, followed by seriously considering the question "Am I ready to give this up for the rest of my life?"

    I think it is necessary to keep kosher for a reasonable time period before an O conversion, but one last treif meal is completely appropriate. The standard text cited in the Talmud to say to a pre-convert during the conversion is "Before you convert, you may freely eat forbidden fats but once you have converted, doing so will earn the punishment of karet." I think that statement has more impact if eating the cheeseburger is a vivid memory rather than something you last did a year ago.

  8. Hello Skylar, a bit random and somewhat unrelated to your post, but I wanted to send few quick word of thanks your way. What you're doing with this blog is of tremendous value and support to a great number of people in need. Your work here provides guidance, encouragement and inspiration to thousands of individuals, and the long term positive impact you will have on their lives, in their relationships and on the way they interact with, contribute to and support the community at large is immeasurable.
    Thanks for doing what you do.

  9. I hadn't even thought of the cheeseburgers! They are my favourite. It just never occurred to me. I had gone on thinking - oh thank goodness restaurants certify them as 100% beef! - forgetting completely about the cheese!! Clearly not ready. Thanks for reminding me :)

    Great great blog overall!

  10. Have you got a story of yourself that includes the conversion?
    Would really love to read it. Please visit my blog and let me know.

    For example, here:

    Much thanks.