Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I spoke to the Rabbi yesterday, and he sent me the following today. I am already reading On Judaism, but I need to read the others.

Required Reading

If you have not read all three of these books, please do not call to schedule an appointment with the Rabbinic Panel.

· Understanding Judaism (Katz) date of completion

· To Be a Jew (Donin) date of completion

· On Judaism (Feldman) date of completion

► Suggested Reading

We highly recommend you read the following books as an important step in your conversion application.

· The Shabbos (Kaplan) please check if read

· The Sabbath (Gruenfeld) please check if read

· A Hedge of Roses (Lamm) please check if read

Syllabus Textbooks

The following books are required textbooks for all candidates who are accepted for study with an RCC tutor.

· The Laws of Berachos (Artscroll)

· The Laws of Kashrus (Artscroll)

· Artscroll Siddur (or another approved English prayerbook)

· Artscroll Chumash

· Book of Our Heritage (Feldheim)

· Illustrated Guide to Jewish Law Shabbos, or The 39 Melachos (Chait)

Syllabus for Candidates for Conversion

NOTE: Unless otherwise stated, the convert is required to master all of the following areas. The tutor should sign and date the appropriate sections when the study of that unit has been completed.


Required text

· The Laws of Berachos (Artscroll)

  1. Various blessings on foods

  2. Beracha Acharona

  3. Varietal blessings, such as thunder, oceans, gomel, etc.


Date Signed

II.Taharat Hamishpacha

Preferred text

· Tutor will choose

  1. Taharat Hamishpacha – in depth.

  2. Yichud

  3. Laws of Haircovering


Date Signed

III.Shabbat and Yom Tov

Required texts:

· The Shabbos Kitchen, and

· The 39 Melachos (Chait), or Illustrated Guide to Halacha

  1. Concepts and examples of 39 Melcahot

  2. D’Oraissa and D’Rabbanan

  3. Categories of Muktza

  4. Cooking and warming foods

  5. Candle lighting

  6. When cooking is permitted on Yom Tov

  7. Kiddush, Havdalah, Lechem Mishnah, etc.


Required text

· Artscroll Siddur (or an equivalent English language siddur)

Recommended text

· The World of Prayer

  1. Requirements

  2. Priorities

  3. When and in what manner talking is prohibited

  4. Knowing way around siddur

  5. Additions and omissions on special occasions

  6. Understanding and ability to read basic Tefillos including:

  1. All of the Amidos

  2. Shma Yisroel (all paragraphs)

  3. Birkat Hamazon

  4. Al Hamichya

  5. Borei Nefashot

  6. Hallel

  7. Shabbat Services (particularly the structure of the services, and the meaning of major prayers)

V.For men only

How to do . . .

  1. Blessings on the Torah

  2. Kiddush and Havdalah

  3. Leading Birkat Hamazon

Laws of . . .

  1. Tzitzit and Tefillin

VI.The Jewish Calendar

Required text

· Book of Our Heritage (Feldheim)

  1. Knowledge of all the Yomin Tovim and fast days including:

  1. Meaning of the day

  2. All pertinent practical halachos


Required text

· The Laws of Kashrus (Artscroll)

  1. Understanding of kosher and glatt kosher meats

  2. Understanding of kosher cheese and cholov yisrael

  3. Separation of meat and milk, and waiting in between

  4. Common kitchen “shailot”

  5. Kashering

  6. Tevillat Keilim

  7. Taking Challah

  8. Bugs

  9. Meat and fish

  10. Kosher fish

  11. Stam Yinum

  12. Bishul Akum


  1. Study of the 13 Ikarim of the Rambam

  2. Mishneh Torah

  1. Yesodei HaTorah, perek 1 and part of 2

  2. Hilchos Teshuva 2, 3 5

  3. Hilchos Avodah Zarah, perek

We also recommend that you consider teaching select portions from works such as the Kuzari and Mesilas Yesharim, or other hashkafa/chasidus works of your choice.

IX.Torah Knowledge

Suggested text

· Artscroll Chumash

  1. The student is encouraged to attend classes as often as possible.

  2. The tutor should make a point of briefly mentioning the Parshat Hashavua on a weekly basis, and assigning reading of the Parsha as homework.

The above list is intended to focus on the halachot which the convert must master in detail. As far as other areas are concerned, the RCC’s (change to Beth Din?) standard is that the candidate for conversion must be knowledgeable in all matters of daily life, and sufficiently aware of when and how to ask a competent Rav when unusual circumstances arise.

Monday, February 19, 2007

I said hey

I try really hard to have every Shabbos be the best one ever, but this weekend, I just didn't have the energy. Last week was really full of work to do, and I pulled an all nighter on Thursday to finish a paper that was due Friday morning. Friday's dinner was full of people who were tired (my friend Edgar and Caleb were there, but Caleb had also pulled an all nighter so he wasn't so talkative, and Edgar seemed to lack energy also). The host, Adara's husband, is in his third year of residency and had gotten 45 minutes of interrupted sleep the night before. After the meal, he and Caleb debated for a while about when it is appropriate to share information. One side: One should share any kernel of knowledge because of knowledge's inherent value. Other side: Unless one is fully informed, they should not try to teach others because they may mislead. I can understand both sides, however, as far as I understand Torah, no one ever fully understands it. There is always more to learn. After dinner, we went to Rabbi Fabio's, and he didn't really give an answer. His wife, though, offered to teach a class at my school, which is good. Saturday I was still really exhausted. That's really what characterizes my Shabbos. Now I am trying to get my resume together, although it's way late, so I can get a job this summer. School is hectic. That's what really characterizes what's going on.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Why even attempt to folllow the rules?

I was reading a message board discussing whether or not women should wear Tefilin. The message board has a wide variety of opinions, and some women who posted were downright hostile to women who do not. However, someone posted the following response, which I think is an excellent point for all people who like to take religions and smudge them so they are more comfortable:
A relevent question in response is: Should non-Jews and minors wear Tefilin? After all they are all in the same category: Individuals not required by the Halacha to don them. Once outside the boundaries of Jewish Law, actually anything goes. It's the Wild West. There is no need to question rules or what is appropriate when you may make up whatever your imagination wants: One may choose to colorize the T'filin, for example, and die the straps something other than model-T black. Open the boxes and insert one's favorite mantra instead.
There are so many models for this: The Passover Seder has more versions than there are Reform rabbis; look at the dozens of catalogues of women's tallitot and kippot; Messianic Jews add a cross to their worship. Why not?
It can be fun to create your own belief system and religion based loosely on someone else's fixed standard. But please, just as a modification of Mozart or Rembrant is not the original real thing, so this is not Judaism. It should properly be called 'a practice loosely based on Judaism' in the interest of honesty and clarity...
For this reason those who don Tefilin, who are not required to do so, are essentially hypocritical: they violate the very text for which they perport reverence, endorsement and allegiance...
This melts away when one decides that one belongs to a different faith altogether, in which case the parchment in the Tefilin is no more than a parchment and not an applicable edict. And that's ok.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

V Day

Yesterday was good. I know that some Orthodox are not so big into celebrating V day because it is named after a Christian Martyr, but I celebrated last night. I went out with my friend Baker, who has been my friend since 8th grade. He lives within the Orthodox community (he's a ba'al teshuva) and is in law school with me. We went to a swanky part of town that has upscale shops, nice bars, and, as we found last night, delicious restaurants. We ate, played darts, played pool. it was a good time. I really should have been doing work. I have a twenty page paper due tomorrow, and about 10 pages is written, but even those need revision. I really want to take nap. It's been interesting because I am doing my best to be shomer negiah, which changes how V Day really works. It's good that I went with Baker, though, because although he is very huggable, and an extremely good catch, he's solidly a friend.
Additionally, I had mentioned that I am having to wait to talk to the Rabbi until the new Rabbi, Rabbi Dan comes on board. Next shabbos, I am going to eat with Rabbi Dan, I think, which will be good for seeing him out in the community again.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Slow and steady

I called Rabbi Adan yesterday, again, and was told by his secretary that I should call back in a week. A new assistant Rabbi is coming on board, and he will be taking over the majority of the conversion stuff. I know the new Rabbi, Rabbi Dan, and have eaten at his house once. It's frustrating to have to wait again, but I understand. These things take time. My friend Cala is writing brachas for me to place around my apartment so I can start to memorize them. I have learned to say the alphabet and can count to 10. I want to learn how to read by the end of the month. I already have plans for at least 4 weeks of Shabbos, but I would like to try to eat with Rabbi Dan again. His wife has invited me a few times, but I have always had plans. I am going to stop eating Kosher after V day. I think it seems like I am taking on a lot at once, but honestly, I feel ready to take these things on. The skirts are going to be for 2 weeks, and I will keep the Kosher for a month. This way, if I do feel overwhelmed, I can make sure I make it to my goal and then take a breather. We'll see what happens.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Thursday night I went to a bar with Baker and Cala. I had a lot of fun playing darts in my pajama pants. Friday, I wore a skirt. Saturday, I wore a skirt. Sunday, I wore a skirt. Today, I am in a skirt. My goal is to be in a skirt every day for two weeks. I would like to dress completely tznius, but I do not know if I have the will power to cover my elbows and my collar bone. Perhaps it's because of my location, but wearing longer sleeves and high necked shirts will be more difficult for me than wearing skirts, although the skirt part is more noticeable. My friend Caleb welcomed me to the 19th century when I told him. I asked him if he thought I was silly and he said that he thought that I was actually just highly susceptible to authority and the cult mentality. I argued that the authority in my life (My family and Christian Ministers) were against my conversion and that the "cult" I am trying to join does not want me. However, I can see his point. I am susceptible to authority -- that of God, whom I believe is pulling me in the direction I am heading. Additionally, the Jewish community here is wonderfully kind. Calling it a cult, though, is absolutely ridiculous.
In other news, I tried to call Rabbi Adan already this morning, but he was in a staff meeting. I am going to try again at 1.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

G-d Proof?

Shabbos is over, and it was the best Shabbos ever! I ate at Adara's, and it was as delicious as I knew it would be. I was tired, so I was not as talkative as I wish I had been, but the conversation around me was good. Adara's husband, gave a devar Torah about how God's speaking to all of the Jews at Mount Sinai is a distinctly different foundation to a religion from all of the others.
Basically, because the Torah makes the claim that so many Jews heard God speak at the same time, there were three options: 1. All of the Jews actually heard God speak. 2. Moses somehow convinced all of the Jews that they heard God speak. 3. No one heard God speak, but the Torah, whenever it was written, included the claim that all of the Jews heard God speak. If you ignore the first option for the moment, you can tackle the second two options.
It is claimed that there were 3 million Jews at Mt. Sinai who heard God speak. How would Moses be able to convince 3 million people that they had all just heard the voice of God? Sure, a few people may be convinced, but a few people does not lead to the type of mob mentality that could have convinced the rest. It does not seem plausible that 1 man, no matter how well he could speak, could convince 3 million, or even 300, people that God had just spoken to them. So, as for 3. Let's say someone came to you and gave you a book that said a few hundred years ago, your ancestors, millions of them, heard God speak. Wouldn't you wonder why you had never heard of any of this before? Wouldn't you wonder why your great grandmother's experience had not been taught to you through the generations? Or, if not taught to you, then taught to anyone? Chances are, if someone tried to tell all Americans that our founding fathers heard G-d's voice booming down from the heavens, there is very little chance that many of us would convert to a religion based on such a thing. Which leaves us with the 1st option as being more reasonable that maybe first believed.
My summary of the devar Torah is very basic, and the link "Did God speak at Mt. Sinai" goes into more detail. Of course, this argument is not completely conclusive, but it is an interesting point.
In addition to Friday night dinner, I ate on Saturday morning at Barbara's. I was walking to Shul and stopped at her house, speaking to her while she prepared to go. When we returned from Shul, it was a pleasure to eat with her family. Her parents live in my home town, and travel to the area for Shabbos. It is nice to catch up on happenings back home, and I always feel very embraced by SB's mother. After dinner, I walked with my friend Cala to Barbara's house for 3rd meal. (If you can't tell, there is a lot of eating on Shabbos). We all sung and asked questions about Judaism and tried to give ideas for answers. I would post about them here, but I am sleepy right now. I wanted to mention that I read the book A Jewish Soul on Fire by Rabbitzen Esther Jungreis on Friday night. It is linked under the section of books. It is not only inspiring, but also a very interesting read. Her writing is engaging and her stories tug at the heart.
Finally, I attended a Chaim (I think that's what it was called) for an acquaintance/friend who recently became engaged. There was more food, of course. However, it amazed me again at how much the area in which I live can be warm and inviting. People are very accepting and I, along with many others, feel a very strong sense of community. It is wonderful and strange and a bit intimidating. I am very happy to be here.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Friday Morning

I called Rabbi Adan yesterday. Well, actually, I called his secretary because I figured she would be less intimidating than the Rabbi. I told her that I was calling because I had turned in my application and had been told to call back in about a week. She told me that they had received my application and she asked if I was supposed to be meeting with the Rabbi or with the panel. Now, I recently learned that before I am allowed to become an official candidate for conversion, I have to be accepted by the Beis Din. Before, I thought I saw the Beis Din only immediately before conversion, but now I know I will be seeing them at least twice. The Beis Din, for those who do not know, is a group of three Rabbis who have reached a specific level of ordination, have accepted all 613 mitzvahs and are Shomer Shabbos (follow the rules of Shabbos). I really did not know the answer to the secretary's question, although I know that I am nervous to meet the Beis Din.
The Rabbi is intimidating, but I have had Shabbos lunch at his house and have spoken with him enough that I am not too scared of meeting with him. The secretary suggested that she put me through to Rabbi Adan's voice mail so I could ask him what he wanted and give him an opportunity to call me back. So, I left him a voice mail saying that I was unsure of what I should do next and I would like him to call me to let me know. He didn't call me back yesterday and I am certain he is preparing for Shabbos today, so I am going to wait until Monday to call. It's difficult because I have been told that you have to stay on the Rabbi with matters of conversion, but I do not want to be pushy. Reaching the balance should be interesting.
In other news, today I am eating at CG's house. It's her birthday and I am so looking forward to it. She and her husband are young, fun and very accepting and I feel that I am most comfortable there. I think they have a wonderful balance of learning and relaxing so it never feels stuffy or awkward. I am going with my friend who is converting Conservative. I am hoping that some of what I believe to be misconceptions of hers will change as she sees an Orthodox home with both people working together seamlessly. Now I am going to prepare for Shabbos. I am excited and looking forward to the best part of my week.

Thursday, February 8, 2007


After years of searching for the Truth, last August I realized that I was not really a Christian and began contemplating becoming an Orthodox Jew. I went through a flurry of internet research, creating a "Religion" bookmark list of at least 100 websites. Trying to assimilate all of the information from various websites was overwhelming, but I did the best I could. I called the Rabbi at the synagogue I attend, told him I was interested in converting, and received an application. At this point, I have submitted my application and am planning on calling the Rabbi later today. I am writing this blog because I have had such a difficult time finding the personal experiences of people who are converting, or have converted, to Orthodox Judaism. I am not sure what I am allowed to write, but I am going to do my best to keep this anonymous.