By: William J Jackson
When many of us left Christianity, a vacuum was created. Worship, community, and the Christian writings once filled this empty space. The feelings that now fill that void are bittersweet and can be attributed to two opposing emotions: relief and fear. As many of us learned earlier in the Christian sect, when you leave one church you usually go to another. So it is not wrong that our instincts told us that once we rejected the Christian religion we should go to another religion – for example, Judaism. However, maybe we should spend time reflecting and studying in this transitional phase. There are many things we need to unlearn from Christianity (theology on life, salvation, the afterlife…etc.). Remember you loved God enough and studied enough to begin this journey. What makes you different from everyone else is that most just don’t have your ambition. This is because you possess two things that are unique to you alone: God’s will for you (Jeremiah 29:11-13, Psalm 33:11, 40:6) and your brain. As for your brain or mind is concerned, it got you out of a bad place, and it is capable enough to get you in the right direction. Use this time to immerse yourself in Torah and establish your footing to be able to step off in the right direction. Just be aware – rushing things can lead to making bad decisions.
One of our initial moments of confusion, our relationship with the Almighty starts to change. At first we gave all to His alleged son thinking this was God’s will. Now after finding out that God is our only savior (2 Samuel 22:3, Isaiah 45:21-22, 43:10-13, Hosea 13:4, Zephaniah 3:17), we are left with feelings of betrayal. We were lied to in our past relationship, and we inadvertently lied to others. The inclination is to jump to the “right” religion to set things right. As we delve into our Tanakh (which was once our Old Testament), we quickly discover that the Jewish people are God’s chosen people (Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 14:2, 26:17-19, 2 Samuel 7:23-24) and are a holy people (Exodus 19:6, Deuteronomy 26:19, Isaiah 62:12). “Aha” you say, “this must be where God wants me.” Not surprisingly, this was the same promise given to us in Christianity (1 Peter 2:5, 9, Colossians 1:13-14, 2 Timothy 1:9, Revelation 1:6, 5:10). Yet, although we know Christianity is wrong (Deuteronomy 13:1-6, Numbers 23:19, Jeremiah 29:8), we owe it to ourselves and to God to process where we are at in our relationship with the Master. Proverbs echoes the same theme again and again: “Be cautious in everything” (Proverbs 14:8, 15, 18, 22:3, 27:12). So why not especially this? There is so much at stake.
Tzvi Freeman, an accomplished author and senior editor for Chabad.org, gives this advice to a person considering conversion:
“Your next step is to become a better person. Develop greater faith in your soul, in your destiny, and in your Maker. Do more good, reach out to more people. Learn more wisdom, apply whatever you learn, and make life worth living.”1
He goes on to say you don’t need to become Jewish. In fact, nowhere in the Torah does it tell us that the Gentile must convert.
Rechabites, Jeremiah 35:5-6
A good example of this was the Rechabites (Rekhavim), a non-Jewish clan that lived in Jerusalem. They were probably descendants of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law2. In Jeremiah 35, God uses this clan as an example to Israel. The Rechabites are a devoted people who kept the laws of their forefathers. God has Jeremiah use them as an example to shame the Israelites. At the end of chapter 35, God curses Israel (V14-17) but blesses the Rechabites (V18-19). The lesson here is that our relationship needs to be right with God, not with our religion.
Yet the Torah often refers to God as the God of Jewish Patriarchs (Genesis 31:42, 53, 32:9, Exodus 3:6, 15, 16, 4:5). This might lead one to believe that God’s relationship is exclusively between Him and the Jews but it is not. He is the God of everyone. For example, in Ezekiel 18:4 it states that all souls are God’s. Interestingly, the rest of Ezekiel 18 explain how we are considered either righteous or wicked before God. If we go back over 100 years from Ezekiel, Isaiah 56 takes it a step further and states:
And the foreigners who join with the Lord to serve Him and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, everyone who observes the Sabbath from profaning it and who holds fast to My covenant.
I will bring them to My holy mount, and I will cause them to rejoice in My house of prayer, their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. So says the Lord God, Who gathers in the dispersed of Israel, I will yet gather others to him, together with his gathered ones.
Many people say that Isaiah’s “foreigner” is referring to a convert or proselyte, but the term many Jewish people use for convert is Ger (tsedheq or ha-berith) 3. The word for foreigner here in Isaiah 56 is “nekar,” which means aliens, foreigners, or stranger.
The up side is the confusion in how to worship God will end during the Jewish eschatology or “End Times.” When we read Jeremiah 3:17, Isaiah 18:7, and Joel 2:28-32 (the Mashiach arrival), the world will recognize and worship the one and only God.
As a parting message, if it is on your heart to convert, please do it and go after it with everything you have. But for those who are still weighing things out, dive into His written word in Tanakh. Get a firm and solid grasp there, first. It is the foundation of all. Know it beyond a shadow of a doubt, then His written word can be a good, true sounding board for you to make all of you decisions from. As well; if you do get to the place that you’re searching for community, don’t feel compelled to make any choices or to join yourself to groups or sects, until you have researched them out thoroughly. Like an oil stick, dip them into His written word and see where they come out on the measuring stick of being where His written word tells us all to be, or to not be. Lastly, please always remember, whether you convert or not, there is a place for you in His world. 6,
- Joseph Jacobs, Emil G. Hirsch, PROSELYTE (προσέλυτος, from προσέρχεσθαι): The “Ger.”, Jewish Encyclopedia, n.d.