What is Conversion? – The Conversion Diaries – Part Four

Jewish ritual By Carmen McPherson 01st Jun 2023

This was the question asked at our recent class. 

As expected, the most common answer related to change; how we change in this process; and what that can mean and impact; both of us as individuals and those around us. 

I certainly expected, and wanted, to experience ‘change’ when I embarked upon my conversion journey, and inevitably this has happened. I am very different now, and if I am honest with myself, I both want and need to embrace this process as an ongoing and continuous expression of my growing faith. Other class members also speak of the varying ways converting to Judaism has required them to do things differently – some of which was expected, some less predictable. 

Very recently the enormity and beauty of my place within Judaism has begun to feel different, in ways that go far beyond the day-to-day acts and festival dates. Moreover, just as the emotion itself came out of left field, it has happened when life has taken quite a tangential shift.  

A few weeks ago, I had a catch-up call with my supervising Rabbi and found myself breaking down in tears as I talked through the worry and chaos that we were experiencing as a family. The careful planning I had put in place for the final months of my study had entirely flown out the window, and instead I found myself clinging tightly to the few precious moments that I had for myself and to give to study, classes, and deeper reflection. Rabbi Oliver saw my distress and went on to explain that in caring for my family, accepting the feeling of helplessness, and in letting life happen, I was also expressing my faith, and that sometimes that is as much as we can and need to do. His words gave me comfort and relief, but more than that it felt as if a missing piece dropped into place. 

A few days later we began to count the Omer in anticipation of the festival of Shavuot where the journey of conversion is so welcomed and cherished. Each day I said the blessing and received the lesson. I did not do this in a carefully orchestrated study session, instead I participated via a WhatsApp group, in the stolen moments between the frenzy of my life right now. It was not as I hoped, but it was as much as I could manage, and the few moments I spent reading the words and reciting the blessing anchored and nourished me. As we completed the counting, the message that day read: “I will meet you on Mount Sinai to receive your Torah anew.” 

I stopped for a moment to pause. On each of those 49 days I had taken one step closer to the Torah and the other souls that stood with mine at Mount Sinai. It hadn’t been at all how I had imagined it should be, but I recognised that amid all that was happening around me I had found a way to hold on tighter still to the lessons I needed to hear. Things felt different because I was different. Judaism had once again been a constant to me when I needed it most, even though time for it was diminished. Ordinarily I would have battled with the notion that this was insufficient, perhaps even insignificant. But I refused to allow those thoughts this time. Life hadn’t gone to plan, changes had to be made, and the change in me had been wholly unexpected.  

Click here to read part one of The Conversion Diaries.

Click here to read part two of The Conversion Diaries.

Click here to read part three of The Conversion Diaries.

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/

Click here to learn more about conversion with Masorti Judaism

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