Experiences and Emotion
Wrestling with God
A core feature of Judaism is the questioning of one’s beliefs in order to have a deeper understanding. This is sometimes referred to as ‘wrestling’ or ‘arguing’ with God. Many Jewish traditions tend to encourage followers to explore their personal relationship with God. Indeed, some Jewish people may refer to themselves as the ‘Children of Israel’, which is related to the biblical story of Ya'aqob (Jacob) who wrestles with an angel and is renamed ‘Israel’ (‘one who wrestles with God’) (Bereshit [Genesis] 32:22-28).
Becoming Religiously Jewish
The requirements and practices related to conversion vary among the different streams of Judaism. For instance, a traditional rabbinic court usually expects a conversion to be on the basis of one’s desire to become religiously Jewish, while some rabbis may allow for a conversion for the sake of an upcoming marriage. Nonetheless, rabbis often urge those interested in converting to carefully consider their motivations.
The conversion process usually begins by speaking to a rabbi to help guide the process. The person might commit to in-depth study into the Jewish religion, history and culture. Thereafter, a rabbinic court is assembled to assess the male or female candidate’s knowledge, intent and motivation to follow the Jewish tradition. If successful, the candidate is immersed in the ritual pool (mikveh) or some other pool of water to represent a spiritual rebirth and purification. If the person converting is male, it is also a near-universal requirement across Judaism for him to be circumcised. If the male is already circumcised, a ritual circumcision (in which a small cut is made to produce blood) is still usually required.
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