Kamis, 27 Mei 2010

A Simple Noahide

This is something I learnt during my die-trying seeking for conversion  to Judaism. There is a beauty in Judaism that it does not require you  to be Jewish in living a righteous life. Indeed you are always  encouraged to be what your Designer wants you to be. Every single  human has his or her own purpose in this world. You can reach your full capacity of being good, either you're an  Americans, Chinese, Indonesians or Botswanians.

Judaism believe humanity as the son of Noah, who survived the flood  catastrophy, are together bound into certain universal codes which serves as the guidance to living righteously, and eventually being saved and inherits the next world (or you may call it heaven or paradise). That is the origin of the term 'Noahides'. Some people never exercise a full conversion to Judaism and opt to be a Noahide.

The Noahidism itself is not a religion per se, it acts more like moral codes that universally bounds us, humanity, no matter what religion we adhere to. These universal codes teach that whatever beliefs you hold to, you can sit down together and agree on these seven basic things: to acknowledge one God as a single God alone and only (my emphasis on monotheism), to respect God, to respect your fellow human being, to respect the properties of others, to respect the sanctification of marriage, to treat every living creatures wisely, and to establish the court of justice. Theoritically you can remain and keep practising your faith while agreeing on these universal codes, however practically you may need to adjust certain aspects of your beliefs, like for example, the idea that no one saves unless believing in the way you do.

Among the existing religions today, Islam and Unitarian Christianity are the most compatible to Noahides. Christians in general might stumble on how they comprehend Trinity. Other religion like Hinduism is somewhat problematic that some people think it is one form of paganism that survives to this date. But this religion may have twice encyclopedic morality laws than yours. While it believes in pantheon of gods, Hinduism acknowledge the idea of one single utmost spiritual Being, although it is abstract and impersonificated. Another Eastern religion that may be problematic is Buddhism. It really does not have near equivalency of how we usually define God. In Buddhism you have Nirvana, the highest reality, but you don't have God. Alternatively, you now have The Buddha, the master, the enlightened one, but after all he's not the God himself. As I am not the expert of this area, I will leave this alone. People interested in Noahides should learn it from Torah scholars, the rabbis, who keep this teaching alive for thousands years.

My journey in seeking conversion seem having ended. I may have hard times explaining people, especially to my children about my religion. But overall, I am happy being a Noahide, keeping a good faith, in the way my Designer wants me to be, that is, being good.

Ari Ben Noah

Minggu, 15 November 2009

The fifth volumes of the Shulkhan Arukh

The legal code known as Shulkhan Arukh, compiled by the great Sephardic rabbi Joseph Karo in the mid-1500s, is still the standard legal code of Judaism. When rabbis, particularly if they are Orthodox, are asked to rule on a question of Jewish law, the first volume they consult generally is the Shulkhan Arukh.

The Shulkhan Arukh is divided into four volumes: Orakh Hayyim, Yoreh Deah, Even Hazer, and Khoshen Mishpat.

A popular Jewish folktale tells of a young student who came to a prominent rabbi to be tested for ordination. The rabbi's first question was "Name the five volumes of the Shulkhan Arukh."

The student, thinking that the rabbi had made a slip of the tongue, named the four volumes, but the rabbi asked him to name the fifth.

"There is o fifth volume." the student said.

"There is indeed," the rabbi said. "Common sense is the fifth volume, and if you don't have it, all your rulings will be of no use, even if you know the other four volumes by heart".

Source: Jewish Literacy, R. Telushkin.

Selasa, 13 Oktober 2009

Congregation of Jacob

One of the most famous verses in Parshat Vezot Habracha is the verse "Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe". It is a verse that every child knows!

The Torah that Moses commanded us is the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob" (Deut. 33:4)

"Our Rabbis taught, when a child begins to speak, his father must teach him Torah and Keriat Shema. What is Torah? Rav Hamnuna says: Torah Tziva lanu Moshe Morasha Kehillat Yaakov" (Talmud Sukka 42a)

A heritage means that the Torah is the property of generations before and after, as Rabbi Mordechai Gifter explained, it is incumbent upon the heirs to preserve it intact.

Rambam teaches that since the verse is using the phrase "Congregation of Jacob", and not "Children of Israel" as in the previous verses, it conveys a meaning that the Torah is the heritage not merely of those born of Jewish parents, but it is shared by every soul that joins the Jewish nations and accepts the Torah.

Minggu, 13 September 2009

Highs, Lows, and Depression

Highs and Lows During the Conversion Process

The conversion journey is made up of highs and lows. Can't find a rabbi - low. Find a rabbi - high. Rabbi gets busy, misses meetings, doesn't return calls, and doesn’t return emails - low. You find a mentoring family(ies) - high. You feel that your practice is increasing and you know what you are doing - high. You learn more and take on more and realize you know nothing - low. You take a break from increased observance learning for 1 day to several years - low. You get re-energized and begin learning and adding practices - high. Your rabbi says you are ready for a biet din - high. You start thinking about the beit din - freak out, I'm not good enough, I don't know enough, etc. - low. You go in front of the beit din and pass - high (real big high). 2 days to 6 months later - you have this major downer low for no apparent reason - its because your focus has changed and just like planning a wedding afterwards there is a "what do I do with myself" and "what are my goals" - low. Once you realize that is a normal part of the process - lows and highs become based on normal life stuff (marriage, kids, illness, death (g-d forbid), etc.). And every now and then I've heard this from people who I'm in awe of as converts that converted like 20+ years ago - you'll feel like a fraud that's going to be found out -low. People come to you for assistance with their journey (BT and pre-convert) - high.

I wish someone had told me the above - I'd have been more prepared. My advice (wish I'd really done all of this) is to create a personal statement (this I did and have posted to the file section) tracking my progress by date - and continued to do it post-conversion (this I didn't do) - but I think this would have helped me when I have those down moments/feeling like a fraud.

Post Conversion Highs and Lows

Many of us right after the conversion feel a high - some just a little one and others a major one. Then days/weeks/months afterwards we feel a down - usually in proportion to the level of the high. The higher you are the harder the down is. I've only known a few converts that did not go through this (and there is nothing wrong with not having the high/down cycle).

Converting is even more intensive than getting married. You spend years studying, proving yourself, focusing your energy on the goal - converting. And then you reach the goal. What do you do now? You have time that you never used to have how do you fill it? Then there are the doubts that can creep in and make one wonder "am I really a Jew" and "I feel like a pretender".

My only advice is to watch out for these thoughts. When you hit the down know that it is normal. Pick a mitzvah to "refine" your practice of. Try to find a "study buddy" and create a chavrusa to study with weekly, if you can not find anyone local contact Partners in Torah (http://www.partnersintorah.org/ ) and get a study buddy. Keep reminding yourself that the beit din would not have converted you if they did not feel you were ready. Make use of your support system that hopefully you developed during your conversion process.


Depression is pretty common during conversion. At different points we find ourselves focusing on what we have not learned yet or what we are not doing yet. This is one of the reasons I doing the personal statement and to keep a running list of what mitzvah you are taking on with the date next to it and checking it monthly to update it with "am now keeping" or "did not go as hoped and have these questions so have backed off on it and am now trying to do x". I also recommend keeping a list of the books you read. Again, check this list monthly to update it. If you have good jewish friends that have been with you through your process have them look at your personal statement, specifically the section on what mitzvot you have taken on/are taking on and see if they find things that you forgot.

When you get depressed pull out your list of what you've taken on and read to remind yourself that you do have forward movement and to give yourself credit for what you have accomplished.

I also found that I got depressed when either I had taken on too much too quickly or when I had been stagnate with no forward practice for too long. So look at what is going on when you feel these moments of depression. Look at what you have accomplished. Write a list of what you still want to learn/take on and set priorities and maybe dates for forward action. If the depression is coming on because you took too much on too quickly, take a step back, and stop whatever the last mitzvah was you took on, and stay steady for a few weeks/month, then pick a different mitzvah than the one you were stressing over.

One of the reasons I stress for someone to have a rabbi is that the structured study with a rabbi does help in maintaining a more even keel. It also gives you someone you can take those lists too for advice on what to do next.

You also need to develop a network of friends that can support you during this time. When you start feeling depression over this get together with them. Let their warmth surround you. And if possible get them to talk with you about what you have accomplished and what you are stressing over. It sometimes also helps to be in therapy while going through conversion as conversion is very stressful and a therapist can help you learn stress relieving techniques.

Going through the "study guide" or the list of things the Sydney beit din requires will give you an idea of what you know and what you may still need to learn. You can find all of these documents in the conversion folder within the files section (http://tinyurl.com/bhyxp ). Many people find that they know more than they realize when they are in a depression. And that they know less than they think when they are riding one of the "highs".

-Malka Esther

Rabu, 02 September 2009


Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition

The greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He, is primarily revealed when the non-Jewish nations, too, come to know that there is a Divine Authority. As the Zohar states: When the idolatrous priest Jethro decided to serve God and declared, "Now I know that God is greater than all powers," the Divine name was glorified and exalted from every aspect (Zohar II, Yisro, 69a, citing Exodus 18:11) (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Likutei Moharan I, 10:1).


"And Jethro the Priest of Midian, father-in-law of Moses, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel, His people…" (Exodus 18:1). Because he was the father-in-law of Moses, he heard and converted. For everything Moses worked to accomplish, during his life and now, after his death, was only to make converts [and bring all humanity back to God] (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Likutei Moharan 1:215).


Through converts (geirim) and penitents (baalei teshuvah), the Oneness of God is revealed through the very multiplicity of creation. Since they, too, come forth in order to become incorporated into His absolute Oneness, this is most precious to God. Therefore, the Torah stresses that one should love and encourage the proselyte. Similarly, our Sages greatly praised the spiritual levels attained by penitents, who, after having distanced themselves, strive to return to God (Rabbi Noson Sternhartz, Likutei Halachos, Prika Ute'ina, 4:3).


"Peace, peace, to the far and the near" (Isaiah 57:19). Converts and penitents often feel the pain of their distance from holiness, due to their past sins and the extent to which they have not yet purified their bodies. Nevertheless, they must also realize how close they really are to God - just as they are right now - for God's love and mercy is limitless. When they grasp this, they can truly draw close to God. These two seemingly opposite perceptions are implied by the verse, "Peace, peace to the far and the near."

This principle is also reflected by the tradition that when a non-Jew comes to convert, he is initially discouraged (Yevamos 47a). This is a consequence of his distance from holiness. However, the entire purpose of this initial discouragement is only to strengthen his resolve and draw him closer. For if after everything, he says, "I know that I am unworthy," that is, he recognizes his distance from holiness, then he is immediately accepted (Rabbi Noson Sternhartz, Likutei Halachos, Shilu'ach HaKan 5:17).


In the Ultimate Future, speech will be perfected. Even the non-Jewish nations will use their power of speech to call out to God, as it is written, "For then I will convert the nations to a pure speech, that they shall all call upon the name of God" (Zephaniah 3:9). Thus, speech will be perfected.

At present, speech is lacking and incomplete, for the whole world is not using the power of speech to call out to God. However, in the Ultimate Future, they will all use the power of speech to call out to God, even the non-Jewish nations. Then speech will be perfected. This is the aspect of "a pure speech," since everyone will use speech to call out to God (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Likutei Moharan I, 66:3)


Rabu, 05 Agustus 2009

Man does not live by bread alone

Parshat Ekev introduced us to the popular phrase "Man does not live by bread alone" (8:3). However, end of that verse is far less famous, although the second part contains the true message. It reads, "Rather, by everything that emanates from the mouth of G-d does man live." If the point is that G-d's emanations are the source of our lives, why use bread as the subject, when bread only becomes edible through the toils of man? Wouldn't fruits be a better example of G-d's influence on the world?

I heard Rabbi Shmuel Greenberg and saw Rav Hirsch explain that bread is used as the subject because it exemplifies the toils of man, and that the message here is that even when you toil for the bread you eat, don't forget that Hashem (G-d) has toiled for everything that we have, and His goal is not just to sustain us, but to help us live physically AND spiritually. Man should not only seek physical nourishment from the work of his hands, but should seek spiritual nourishment from the word of his G-d.

Jeff Seidel
Worldwide Jewish Network

Kamis, 30 Juli 2009

Bring vitality into the performance of the mitzvot

When Rebbetzin Rivkah (wife of Rabbi Shmuel, the fourth Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe) was eighteen, she fell ill and the physician ordered her to eat immediately upon awakening. She, however, did not wish to eat before praying, so she woke up even earlier and prayed—so that she could eat breakfast at the time she had been used to waking up beforehand. Understandably, her new schedule, with now reduced sleep time, did not cause her health condition to improve...

When her father-in-law, the Tzemach Tzedek (Rabbi Menachem Mendel, third Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe) learned of his daughter-in-law's behavior, he said to her:

"A Jew must be healthy and strong. Regarding mitzvot, the Torah says: 'Live in them,' meaning, one should bring vitality into the performance of the mitzvot. To be able to infuse mitzvot with vitality, one must be strong and joyful."

He concluded: "You should not be without food. Better to eat for the sake of praying than to pray for the sake of eating..."

Source: Hayom Yom 10 Sh'vat