Guide to the Beis Din: Geirus (Conversion)
Guide to the Beis Din
The Beis Din is a rabbinic court that administers halacha (Jewish law) in several categories of Jewish life. This guide offers a basic understanding of Beis Din operations. For specific questions, please contact the Council of Orthodox Rabbis, extension 106.
The Council of Orthodox Rabbis works closely with Jewish Family Focus, a project that promotes educational programming and support for individuals seeking to convert to Torah Judaism. Individuals who are actively interested in pursuing conversion should review the Jewish Family Focus information below, and then contact the Council at extension 109.
What is Conversion?
Jewish Family Focus
Judaism is not just a religion but a way of life that governs every aspect of our existence, from waking in the morning to going to bed night; from before birth until after death; and every moment in between. It is not merely a list of dos and don’ts which proscribe what we can eat and who we can marry, when we should work and how to deal with our fellow human beings. Judaism certainly does speak to those elements, and many more, but the essence of Judaism – what Judaism offers to the world – is something vastly more sublime and profound. Judaism teaches us that human beings exist, constantly, in the presence of G-d, Who created Heaven and Earth. Judaism teaches that G-d, just over 3,300 years ago, gave the Jewish people a set of instructions, through Moses, that guides humanity in general, and the Jewish people specifically, how to live the most meaningful and rewarding life possible. The path to attaining that meaning and reward, the Torah, defined more than just a list of rules – it defined a perspective and an attitude towards life. As such, Judaism is both a tremendous blessing and an awesome responsibility. And that is why converting to Judaism is not at all a simple matter.
Converting to Judaism requires a complete change of lifestyle and outlook. Since every aspect of a Jew’s life is governed by Torah, a candidate for conversion must be ready to make a total commitment to changing his or her lifestyle by complete observance of Jewish law (halacha). This involves studying, accepting and performing all of the mitzvos of the Torah as taught by the Sages of Israel throughout the centuries, and an unyielding commitment to moral and ethical behavior, as well as the theological and philosophical backdrop of Judaism. These new commitments will, undoubtedly, significantly alter every aspect of a person’s life, including relationships with family members, friendships, schooling for children, job/career commitments and travel. Nothing of value can happen in a vacuum, and Jewish conversion is certainly no exception. There are many people involved in every step of the process, both to ensure that the decision to convert is right and healthy for the candidate, and to make sure that the procedures are followed in both the letter and spirit of the law. This protects both the candidate, his/her spouse and children when relevant, and the Jewish community as a whole. It should be clear by now that the decision to convert cannot be made without extensive thought, learning, and preparation. The process of a halachic conversion to Judaism is a lengthy one. Before a bais din (rabbinic court) will approve the conversion, its members must be positive that the candidate is sufficiently knowledgeable and committed to observing all of the laws and precepts of Judaism, and that he/she is comfortable with the Jewish way of life and is fully integrated into the Jewish community. In short, it is the job of the bais din to ensure that an individual converting to Judaism will be able to live a full and productive life as a Jew. Those up to these challenges will certainly reap the immeasurable rewards of a rich, satisfying and focused way of life, both in this world and for eternity.
What will be expected of me in order to convert?
There are three fundamental steps in the conversion process. All three are performed or assessed at the point where the individual is prepared to convert, which is at the culmination of what is generally a multi-year process of learning and lifestyle changes.
Acceptance of Mitzvos
Every convert must state, before a Bais Din (Jewish Rabbinic Court) their acceptance of, and unquestioning allegiance to, the entire system of halacha (Jewish Law).
The ritual circumsion for men, Milah represents the eternal covenant of God with the Jewish people, dating back to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation.
Immersion in a halachically approved Mikvah represents the re-birth of the convert as they leave behind a previous life, and enter into their new existence, as a Jew.
What else do I need to know?
It is important for a candidate for a Torah conversion to be familiar with all aspects of daily Jewish life. For information about conversion under the Council of Orthodox Rabbis, call the Council’s geirus line at extension 109.