I was asked to eulogize an acquaintance from my childhood and youth in Holland—the mother of friends of mine. As I prepared the eulogy, I realized how much she and her family, and other devout Christians I knew, had influenced me. Despite the clear and definite differences between our religious outlooks, their sincerity and intent inspire me.
A private response to the many who asked for illumination concerning my personal religious struggles Coming from a totally secular background, like I did, has many challenges and drawbacks, and yet, also some great advantages. When I became interested in Judaism, at 14-15 years old, it was not an easy time—neither for my parents, my […]
Judaism and the Jewish people are intertwined and interact in ways which nobody can fully grasp. Are we a religion, or a nation? If we are a religion, how can it be that somebody who does not believe in God or refuses to observe even one commandment still remains Jewish as long as he or she is born to a Jewish mother? And if we are a nation, how does religion come in, telling us who belongs to the nation and who does not? Any attempt to find a solution to this problem will always fail. This is one of the greatest mysteries of Jewish identity.
The first convert and Jew, Avraham, was only asked to observe a few of the commandments, such as circumcision. An incubation period was required to allow for Judaism to develop slowly and be solidified at Sinai with the giving of the Torah. In this time frame, the great moral-religious foundations of Judaism and the conditions for creating the Jewish nation were shaped. We should allow potential converts this option to slowly work their way up to Sinai.
Today, Israel has many thousands of immigrants who are of Jewish descent, yet not halachically Jewish. Should we convert them even though we know that they will not live a fully committed Jewish life? Or should we abandon them, basically ignoring and excluding them as we do now? I believe there is a third way, a way of reconciling these difficulties.