Questions and Answers – The Conversion Diaries – Part Two
Answer the following questions…
Q1) Why do you wish to convert?
It is a surprise when I receive the reply to my email, not only that I am welcome to attend services anytime, but also that the rabbi is a woman, and I am invited to her home for dinner the following week.
Question after question plays through my mind: what I should wear, will anyone speak to me, how much should I explain, what will happen, until, finally, exhausted, I ask myself again why am I doing this?
The following evening, I park my car in a slight fluster and head inside to find a seat, realising that I do not have any cash with me for the collection. I watch anxiously as other people arrive for the evening – some smile a hesitant welcome; others proffer a handshake and kindly word. The room is far from full as we begin and the gentleman beside me turns my book over and opens it at the correct page. I realise I have no idea what to do.
Again: what am I doing here?
There, in the small wooden building, I hold a prayer book I cannot read, and hear words I do not understand. The voices around me lift in an unfathomable melody, led in their song by the rabbi standing in front.
What are they saying?
I have tried so many times to describe the moment that followed the turning of the siddur page that night, but I cannot find the words. Perhaps it is, that in these deepest moments when we come to the core of our being, reaching the depths of our soul we should not look to offer explanation, but simply cherish the experience and ask for it to deepen.
Despite my initial worries over being in synagogue for the first time, I soon resolved some of my early concerns – people were friendly, there was no need for spare change for the offering, women can indeed be rabbis. Other matters of course take longer to explore – such is the joy in Judaism as I am discovering, and for however long this takes, there is one certainty that I constantly return to: standing in silence as the Hebrew prayers filled the space around me was life changing, and in that moment, I found answers to questions I did not even know to ask.
The Conversion Diaries is a series of writings from Carmen McPherson, a student of the Masorti Small Communities Conversion Programme. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband and family.
Learn more about her at https://carmenjmcpherson.com/