Friday, June 02, 2017

Converse or Convert?

Faith and courageYesterday, my daughter performed what has become a weekly ritual:

She hands me a book or magazine, saying, "Abba, you have to read this!"

This time it was a moving historical novella with a strong cover (see image on left) but deceptively bland title (originally published 25 years ago with a slightly better title).

The heroine is a 17th Century Jewish orphan who resists intense pressure to convert to Christianity and in so doing, saves her entire community.

The idea of conversion is fascinating to me, regardless of the angle you look at it.

It's well known that Jews don't seek converts. Why would anyone?

I suppose converts give a tremendous validation for those religionists who do. (One would hope that the majority are motivated more by a sense of compassion and truth than for building their own self-esteem.)

But look at it from the convert's perspective - what sort of incredible courage does it take to foresake your birth culture and embrace another?

And look at it from those who have been told to convert or die - for all the Jews who resisted and even died rather than convert, there were many who gave in and did convert to Christianity or Islam. We don't like to think about them too much, although some books are treating this subject with great sensitivity (such as Lehmann's magnificent Family Agilar).

So thanks to my daughter, and inspired by yesterday's special megilla reading, I'll ask today's question for your table in three different ways.

For the Jews (by-birth or by-choice) at the table: What if you found out that, through some mistake, you were not actually Jewish? Would you convert (or convert again, as the case may be)?

For the non-Jews at the table: What if you found out that you were actually Jewish? What would you do about it?

For everyone: It's well known that Judaism welcomes converts but does not seek them. Is it about time that we did?

Shabbat Shalom

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