The Teenage Convert

Here is a letter I received from a teenager who wants to convert to Judaism sometime in the future. Meanwhile, he is having problems with his family. (I have edited his letter a little.)

I am a Christian but I have strong Jewish beliefs. That is, one day I would like to be a child of Israel. The problem is, I am 16 years old and I live with two very much christian parents. I have recently engaged in never-ending arguments about whether or not Jesus is G-d or the Messiah. The problem is, I can put forward a fair argument that he is not G-d, but I can't seem to find evidence that he is not the Messiah. My main stumbling point is that I don't know how to point the prophecies of Isaiah and the like away from Jesus. My mother can interpret the prophecies towards Jesus. Could you please help me? I know that Jesus is not the Messiah and it's silly to say he's G-d. But I would like to shut my parents up with their "the only way to heaven is through Jesus" rubbish. So if you could give me any information, any quote that could help me, I would be ever thankful.

Thank you,
Michael Smith (not his real name)

Dear Michael,

Hi, I read your letter with interest. I understand the problem you have, with the conflict between what you believe and understand and what your family believes. This can be no easy trial.

I can give you the information you seek, or tell you where to get it. The information would be very useful, and eventually necessary, to you.

But before I do that, please allow me to mention something else. It says in Proverbs 3:17 that the ways of the Torah are "ways of sweetness, and all her paths are peace." It is true that sometimes we have to fight, but it is usually best to attempt the way of peace first. And after all, it says in Psalms 133:1, "How good and sweet it is for brothers to sit together." It must be even better to sit with parents, even when we disagree with them fundamentally and deeply.

You're in a difficult situation. But what you believe, you believe. It obviously does not depend on what your parents believe. I admire you very much for strongly holding on to what you believe in the face of your parents' objections. That's a good thing, and you should try to keep that. But you must also remember that the Torah commands us to honor our parents. The Talmud says that of all the 613 Commandments in the Torah, the hardest one is "Honor your father and mother."

And not only that, but the Torah commands us to treat our parents with awe also, not just honor (Leviticus 19:3).

Consider this: no Rabbi will convert you before you reach the age of adulthood according to the laws of your country or city. Do you really want to spend all your time until then fighting and being miserable?

A few days of not responding when someone is angry at you is usually enough to get them to stop. If you make it clear that you won't get involved in a fight, adults will usually stop arguing or yelling. Not always, but usually.

But more importantly, the Torah awards great reward in the World To Come, and grants tremendous amounts of spiritual attainments in this world, to people who are silent during a fight. The Talmud (Sabbath 88b) says:

The Rabbis taught: Those who are insulted but do not insult, who hear their embarrassment but do not respond, they act with love and rejoice in their troubles, the Torah says about them (Judges 5:31): "And Hashem's beloved are like the sunrise in all its glory."

And the Talmud also says in Chullin 89a, "The world continues to exist only because of those who close their mouths during a fight."

What you believe in your heart cannot be touched if you do not allow it. You can, meanwhile, study about Judaism, and be ready when the time comes, instead of being told that you are not ready to convert because you haven't studied enough yet.

Because there will come a time when you will no longer be living at home, you will no longer be relying on your parents for the things you need. You will be on your own, and you will not need to fight with your parents over every big and little thing. And when the time comes, you will be ready.

If you truly wish to become a Child of Israel and fulfill the Torah's Commandments to the best of your ability, perhaps you can start with this Commandment -- that of honoring your parents and not fighting with them.

In the long run, you will gain nothing by fighting with them, because you will never be able to convince them.

But also try and understand them. Whether they are right or wrong, they probably feel pain because you do not believe what they believe. Most parents want their children to believe what they believe. Even atheists -- who often say they want their children to make their own choices -- feel pain when their children become religious.

You have to make your own choices in life. You must be true to yourself. You can't -- and shouldn't -- go against what you believe, and that's not always easy. But you should try and lessen the pain for them. Don't make them suffer. Believe it or not, they just might love you.

So, I will give you the information you request, but please, when you write things like "I would like to shut my parents up," maybe you should consider another way -- the way of peace and honor, if possible.

The information I give you should be for yourself. You should know and understand what Judaism believes. Don't let Christians confuse you. But when you talk to your parents, try to explain to them that you love them, you don't want to hurt them, but you have to do what you believe.

The very last sentence in the Mishnah (the skeleton Laws of the Talmud) is the teaching: "The Holy One, Blessed is He, showed us that the best container to hold blessings is peace. Therefore, the Torah (Psalms 29:11) says, "Hashem will give power to His people, Hashem will bless His people with peace."

The Mishnah ends off with the word peace, and with a teaching about peace, and all our prayers throughout the prayer book end with a prayer for peace. For there is no power without peace, and there is no blessing without peace. (By the way, you greeted me with the word "Shalom." Shalom means peace, and it also means "wholeness." Without peace, there can be no completeness in a person.)

At the bottom is a link to a page you can look at with a list of pages that cite proofs against Christian beliefs.

I hope I have been able to help you. If you have questions about any specific "proof" your mother or any other Christian says, please write me and I will be glad to discuss the matter with you. If someone tries to prove something Christian to you by quoting a verse from the Jewish Bible, we can discuss it together, if that discussion does not appear on any of the websites in those links.

Also, feel free to write me about any other thing you want to discuss.

Usually, by the way, when your mother quotes you a verse, all you need to do is look up the chapter and verse being quoted. It is usually mistranslated, and it is almost always taken out of context. So, if you get a good translation, read the entire chapter (that is, the verses both before and after the verse being quoted), and you will usually see that the verse they quoted does not prove what they are saying. Quite the contrary, it usually proves the opposite of what the Christians say!

But the most important thing is to study and learn what you need to know. Read the articles on this site, and check out the links on my links page. There are many resources online from which to learn Judaism.

May Hashem be with you, and may you know only peace and completeness all your life.

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