Monday, October 31, 2011

Working Towards Conversion: Set Aside Regular Time to Study

A conversion takes a lot of time. More than you ever expect it will. There is a lot to learn, and the frustrating thing is that there is always more to know. You will be learning Judaism until the day you die, and you will always find something new. It's frustrating to realize how much you don't know and may never know, but I think the drive to learn and grow is a trait found in almost all converts more than the average population. In other words, we tend to be a nerdy bunch, but I like it that way.

As hard as it is to decide what to study, you need to discipline yourself to decide when to study. Set aside regular time, just as you would schedule an appointment or a work meeting. This is your appointment with Hashem...and with your future. Whether that time is weekly or daily, set it aside. Make it sacred. It's easy to allow that time to escape when a more immediate priority arises. Don't let that illusion distract you. That is your yetzer hara, saying, "You can always study some other time. This needs your attention right now!" (Check this post out for tips on how to deal with the yetzer hara!) But as with anything, there are legitimate emergencies that may require your time and sometimes you just need a break. When you miss your appointed study time (and you will sooner or later), don't beat yourself up about it. Resolve to do better today. 

As Hillel says, 
Do not say, "When I have [free] time, I will study," lest you never have [free] time.


  1. Some core personal suggestions (I'm a ger):
    Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
    Nineteen Letters (Hirsch); Horeb if you like it
    Challenge of Creation (Slifkin); Finding Darwin's God (Miller) if you want more
    Classic Jewish Philosophers (Schweid) (expensive)

    I used to be a Rabbi Tatz fan; less so now. It was good for what ailed me at a certain stage of development. Letters to a Buddhist Jew was majorly thought-provoking.

  2. Three things that helped me keep at it:

    Turning commuting time (if public transit) and lunch time at work into study time.

    Using my local library as much as possible so I'd always already have a second book handy to read (or readily available)--so no excuses on not studying.

    Using an e-reader (in my case, a Nook) to purchase and study Judaica resources--this was great--instant and ongoing access to tons of resources living permanently in my bag!

  3. I do 4 one hour slots per week (plus one with tutor) and decide in advance what I'm going to learn, it helps me stick to it for sure.

  4. If only the entire community would devote as much time to study as converts do...

  5. The appointment thing helps a lot - especially if you remember that you can tell any potential interuptors that you have an appointment and can't attend to their needs until after.