Nov 2, 2009

The Beth Din Looms.

Conflicted. Emotionally, that is. Confidence mixed with frustration mixed with assurance mixed with anxiety. I am the proverbial roller coaster of emotions.

In a mere two-ish days, I'll be meeting with a beth din in New York. This meeting is a preliminary meeting to the actual beth din conversion meeting, and the rabbis on my beth din will be feeling me out Jewishly. They asked that Tuvia come along, as well. 

Do I need to say more than that? I'm not really sure what else to say. More than six years have culminated in this meeting this week. It can't be said that from square one I knew I'd be driving the 2.5 or 3 hours to NYC just to meet with the rabbis on a council in order to help me become halakicly Jewish, but this journey has become a great and mighty beast that I love dearly. One of those big and scary looking beasts that's really fuzzy and warm on the inside. 

I don't know what to expect. I fear a "b'racha bee"-type situation. Or that they'll ask me the order of the service. Or that they'll want me to detail kashering techniques. The funny thing is, I could probably do all of those without a problem, but I'm one of those saps that breaks under pressure. Especially knowing that my entire life rests in the hands of three RCA rabbis. 

A friend calmed my anxiety a bit by reminding me that, to be honest, it really isn't that my neshama is in the hands of three rabbis, but rather that it's the "man behind the curtain" -- haShem -- that's really the one running the show. I know that's true, but it's hard to ignore the obvious: This is really big doings. 

Be yourself, people tell me. Just be yourself. 

What if myself isn't good enough? What if I crash? What if I burn?! What if I can't remember how to read Hebrew!?

Let's be honest here. I know these things won't happen. This is part of that emotional rollercoaster. One moment I'm brimming with confidence, and the next minute I'm feeling frustrated and down. I'm guessing this is what the rabbis had in mind, and if it is, then kol ha'kavod to them. 

So for the next few days I'll stew. Trying to practice b'rachot (mostly it's the food ones that have me all in a puddle). Just living my life as I always do. Being me. Wondering if it will be enough, but knowing that it is. 

What it comes down to is that I'm ready. I've been ready. I'll be ready until they're ready. As I've always said: There is no limit to my patience when it comes to things that are meant to be. And this? This is something that is meant to be. 


mekubal said...

If its a normal B"D they aren't going to start quizzing you on Brachot or intricate halakhot... they don't expect geirim to be Talmidei Chochomim. What they are looking for is where you stand hashkafically... what direction you are headed in.

There are two very good reasons not to worry about it. First is that they really are there to help people, trust me as person intimately familiar with becomming a Dayyan, no one does it if they don't want to help people.

Secondly this isn't so much a pass or fail test... as it is a measure of your growth in a direction that you are heading. In other words even if there are some unforeseen holdup(ChV"Sh) it isn't the end of the line, and will help to focus you on the next steps that you need to take.

Carla Gordon said...

Kol ha'Kavod

You will do well. You've prepared.

Beth Din is stressful, but you will prevail.

All the strenght to you.

Anonymous said...

You and me both, although as you know, I'm going the progressive route. I'm interested that you have progressed so quickly to this point. In the UK, it takes many years to convert Orthodox and during this time you are expected to live in an Orthodox community, live with an Orthodox family - no half measures. I'm not saying you are following 'half-measures' but it's interesting to see the different approach.

Good luck!

Chaviva said...

@Rachel I'm *slighly* offended by what you've said. First time ever, I think. I am sure in England, as well as here, as well as in Israel, that every conversion is done on a case-by-case basis. You can't have one set of rules and regulations for every single person, because everyone's cases are different.

There are those who maybe grew up thinking they were Jewish only to find out it was a lie. Or those who grew up Reform and later decide to convert Orthodox because their father was Jewish. There are those whose families were marranos or conversos. It all varies.

With me, because I am bound by a legal and binding contract to be at the university, and to live here, I cannot -- without immense financial hardship -- leave. I made great efforts to move into the community for Shabbos, specifically, and it resulted in me becoming violently ill. I stay -- every Shabbat and every chag -- in the Orthodox community. I eat all my meals by them during those times. I am at shul functions, learning groups, and weekly meetings with my rabbi.

I also have been doing some form of Judaism for more than six years. my knowledge is such that I didn't *have* to go through classes and primers on much of the halakah.

The reason it takes some people so many years is that they don't have the background or the knowledge and they can't adjust their situation appropriately. I went to great lengths to do this -- even missing classes last year because Shabbat was early and being threatened by a teacher with a poor grade.

At any rate, I don't think they're "half-measures." Or even that we're doing it differently. I think what it comes down to is that you can't say "this is how it's done" when it varies from situation to situation.

In the end, it comes down to two halakot: mikvah and accepting the commandments. The rest is meant to make everything streamlined, through a process, so that there's a 'semblance' of equality amongst conversion practices.

In the TRUE end, it's just me and HaShem.

Chaviva said...

@mekubal Thanks for the assuring words and comments on the process.

@Carla Todah rabah!

Batya said...

chaviva, you're doing something really great. Good luck

There's something ironic in that people like me, born Jewish who decided to "become religious" frequently don't learn all the mitzvot properly and systematically. Thos who convert do in courses and with mentors, right. So, here I am decades after becoming religious and you may know more than I do.

mother in israel said...

Good luck, Chaviva. We're rooting for you.

Daniel Saunders said...

Just wanted to say that my thoughts are also with you. Good luck (although I'm sure you don't need luck with your knowledge!).

Jack said...

Try to enjoy it. It should make for a great memory of one stop on the journey.

Elianah-Sharon said...

You are ready Chavi. Hashem brought you down this path. If it doesn't happen this time...if they want more than you have to offer, it's because that's what is supposed to happen. It's bashert and nothing you can do and no amount of worry you can give it will change it...nor would you want it to. You will be where you end up because that's where you're supposed to be :) I, however, am confident it will be better than fine...and so will you my friend!

Risa said...

Just adding my wishes to the others.

Anonymous said...

Chavi - you will be awesome because you a yiddishe neshama. It was apparent to me when we met, and it will be apparent to the Beit Din. there is no exam to pass here with order of brachot and stuff. they want to know who you are Jewishly and where you see your Jewish life and how you see it evolving.

Know that we are with you in that room, all of your friends who have been with you so far on your journey. We are enfolding you in the hugest of hugs so that you feel comfortable and at ease.

all our love, me and the KoD

mekubal said...

@Rachel I'm *slighly* offended by what you've said. First time ever, I think. I am sure in England, as well as here, as well as in Israel, that every conversion is done on a case-by-case basis. You can't have one set of rules and regulations for every single person, because everyone's cases are different.

It is. According to halacha each has to be done on a completely individualized case by case basis, and the Dayyanim are forbidden by the Shulchan Aruch of looking at two cases similarly, as each will have its own unique factors.

I have been involved with conversions that took days, some that took weeks, others take years, and a few even longer.

Standard for a person walking in off the street with no learning, and thus needing to be in a program, both in London and Israel is a minimum of 18mos(I am going to a wedding of a girl that it only took 18mos in London) to upward of 2years.

However if a person has some sort of background and a recognized Rabbi can define that for the B"D it can take much less time.

Overall time spent in process should never factor into the value of the Geirus. It is ultimately a heart and soul issue, and the person's behavior after the B"D, teveila and kabbalat mitzvot should determine the quality of the geirus, nothing else.

HaSafran said...

Chavi -

At my last conversion, before my bar mitzvah, the rabbis started quizzing me on basic concepts of Judaism.

Having grown up in a Jewish day school environment, I knew Tanach, Mishna, Gemara, Halacha, etc. What I didn't know were these basic underpinnings of our faith - the things that FFBs aren't overtly tested with - the things that converts might struggle with.

For example - can Hashem make another prophet as great as Moshe Rabbeinu? On one hand, no, Moshe was our great teacher and Hashem would not create a "replacement" for Moshe. On the other hand, it's the old "can G-d make a stone so heavy that even He can't lift it?" thing.

When I hesitated, and then stammered a response, the most chashuve rabbi on my Beit Din looked at me and said "Yigdal. It's all in Yigdal." And he was right - all the answers to their questions were answered in the Yigdal prayer.

Now, I don't expect this sort of thing to happen to you, but you should know that, sof ha-sof, after everything you have been through, the Beit Din is there to facilitate your conversion, not to trip you up (further).

And I, for one, am not worried about you. I have known, and been friends with, many converts over time (we gravitate towards each other - ever notice that?), and YOU have nothing to worry about.

Ely S

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to offend you at all. As I wrote, I was just interested to see the difference in approach. I have no doubt of your commitment and also of the whys and wherefores of your graduate studies commitments. No way was I hinting at you falling short of any standards, but I know that things are more rigid here in the uk - which is not something I agree with. A case by case basis is definitely the right approach.

So, if I offended you, I'm sorry you took what I wrote that way. I am not at my best right now having been in constant pain for two weeks. If that's made my writings a bit blunt, then perhaps I should keep my thoughts to myself for now.

I do wish you the very best of luck, I know it's something you have been working towards with your heart and soul for a long time.

Melissa said...

B'hatzlacha! Looking forward to hearing about your meeting with the beth din, Chavi.

Chaviva said...

I want to answer you all, but it might take me all night. All I can say is, my new post is up with my Beth Din experience, so check that out and let me know what you think.

@Rachel I think that it is safe to say that unless you are at the top of the conversion court, knowing the exact details of every conversion that has occurred, you can't say that across-the-board that things are more rigid. You'd probably be surprised to hear the truth of the matter in conversions. It's hard to stand on the outside and say exactly what goes on on the inside. I don't expect this to leave any cracks in our friendship, no worries. Many worse things have been said to me. I'm so sorry with how you've been feeling lately -- I wish you only healing and comfort! Refuah shelemah, friend. I haven't been to your blog in a while (I haven't been to any with everything going on), and for that I apologize. I'll pop over soon!

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