The world is filled with different religions and ways of life and of course all these evolve with time. Over the weekend I'd been reflecting on how Judaism doesn't seek to convert other people to our traditions. And that caused me to wonder why this is. How did Judaism ultimately become a religion that didn't seek to convert others?
On one hand, many believe when you have the "good news" you are supposed to share it with others; it's a commandment to do so. But within Judaism it is traditional for the rabbi to turn away a potential convert three times in order to test their commitment to becoming Jewish. And following one year of studying with a rabbi and going through the holidays the convert gets to face the Beit Din which is a court of three learned Jews and this is when you get to face the tough questions like:
What would you do should the Jews become oppressed again? What makes you Jewish beyond Shabbat? How does Judaism differ from the faith of your birth?
There are many other questions, many of which I faced on the day of my beit din. Judaism can be daunting, especially the more one endeavors to practice at a greater level. But as you all know from reading this column, I love it.
I was reading a book titled recently titled Anti-Semitism in Europe: Sources of the Holocaust and a paragraph grabbed me. The author was writing about how Jews fit into European Society:
"....I dare to count as a fine trait of the Jewish character the steadfast adherence to the Law given to their fathers by the Deity himself, and I hope to have in this, the agreement of all who do not demand they should share with them the belief of their childhood, and who are not so hampered by the prejudices of their upbringing that they cannot be just toward these same prejudices in others. What seems clear and undeniable to the Christian looks dark and contradictory to the Jew; what the Christian calls blindness and stiff-necked stubborness to the Jew is steadfast adherence to what he be believes to be a divine law."
So what's clear to me is that we all have a different perspective on the nature of belief and faith. And faith requires reasoning along with belief. Faith isn't just about how persecuted you are or can become, it's about heart values that match Torah and covenant.