Deciding to convert
When I visited in Netanya on the opening of a new class, I asked Polina how long it took her to make the decision to start the conversion process? She replied, “nine years”. “And what happened during those years,” I asked, “I tried to convince myself I do not need to convert. I’m A Jew here more than anyone else, and no one can decide for me whether I’m Jewish or not.” “So why did you still decide to go through the process of conversion?” I asked. “Because after nine years I decided I’m sure enough about myself to want to become Jewish.”
The first sentence of the phone call I received this week was: “I have been waiting 14 years to make this call.” Then she added: “I want to convert.” On the other side of the line was Galia. The truth is I wasn’t surprised. Most applicants to conversion talk about it for several years before stepping forward.
NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming is a method of treatment which aims to bring changes in people, with an emphasis on quickness, by changing the inner voice and connection to all the senses.
When people at NLP try to teach you to make decisions, they tell you to make the decision within three seconds, with a minimum of emotional load and the understanding that there is no perfect.
This method can work in many nodes of decision-making. But it does not work with the huge question of those who turn to us: Should I convert?
The questions: , “Why convert?” Or “Should I convert?” are related to self-identity. This question is even more difficult when dealing with the identity of our children or spouses.
True, when deciding on whether to convert, applicants sometimes make decisions under the influence of external factors: Desire to marry in a Jewish wedding, what will I tell my parents, a birth is expected or an upcoming Bar Mitzvah. These events can trigger the will become Jewish, but in order to make the decision, process of “ripening” occurs which can take years and sometimes one is not even fully aware that it is happening.
A good friend just finished building his home recently. He told me they had a lot of difficulties in finishing the construction. At one point, when the contractor ran off, leaving them with huge payments and no home, he picked up the phone to ask a Rabbi-friend for a tip on how to deal with the crises. The Rabbi quoted a saying of Rav Kook: “Great things have large obstacles.”
The truth is I could not find this saying explained anywhere. But the idea behind this phrase is: sometimes its not clear what makes things significant: difficulties on the way, or the importance of the goal itself.
What is clear, is that to convert and join the Jewish people, is the most significant decision you can make in life. Unlike most “important” decisions in our lives (what to study, should I buy this apartment or should I change my job), this decision has a direct impact on the past and future of the coming generations, and it is also a truely important decision in itself.
One needs to know how to make a decision, rather than just dropping the issue, even if it takes a long time. Otherwise we will leave our children with the problem of uncertainty of their Jewishness.
The “Ami” Team and myself will be happy to help you at any time.