Yikes – it’s been almost five months since I last wrote! I went out of town to visit my family in June, and then caught Covid, and everything was so hectic for a few months that anything that wasn’t of great importance fell to the wayside.
Just before I visited my family in June, I had the first meeting with the Beth Din. During the meeting, which was held between four Geruth members, my sponsoring rabbi, and myself, I was asked question after question. Could I give an example of law that came from the Torah which we could not practice without rabbinical enumeration? Did I know the prayer to say immediately upon waking up? Could I say it for them now? What is the order in which Shabbat must be brought in? Why is the prohibition against mixing meat and diary mentioned three times in the Torah?
In addition to kashrut and halachic questions, the Beth Din wanted to know about my background, including my previous marriage. Why hadn’t it worked? Why was I confidant that Udi was different? What was my childhood like – was I raised religiously? Were my parents still religious? Where did I grow up? What does my family think about my conversion to Judaism?
The meeting lasted for just over an hour, after which the Beth Din sent me to the Zoom waiting room so they could deliberate about my candidacy. I waited for a very anxious 20 minutes or so, and then they let me back in, told me I had been accepted as a candidate, and had very nice things to say about my knowledge and abilities thus far. Just as my sponsoring rabbi had told me, the meeting wasn’t intended to serve as a kind of “gotcha” with any questions; just to assess knowledge and to provide guidance for future studies. The Geruth members were very friendly and seemed genuinely interested in my backstory and desire to be Jewish.
Udi was able to come visit me at the end of August for a couple of weeks, which went by far too quickly. He was working on a home project for a job he had applied to, and I got to see him working in real time. He is even more creative and talented than I knew, and when he needed to write some copy for the project presentation, I worked alongside him and did most of the writing. It was really fun.
We also took engagement pictures, essentially all of which Udi hated. I’m still telling him he’ll thank me one day for taking them, although I did promise to comply with his insistence that I never make him take pregnancy pictures. Ha! Fortunately, we are in agreement that couple pregnancy pictures almost always end up cringe.
Fast forward a few months, and we have the second meeting with the Beth Din coming up in a week. Udi has been meeting with my sponsoring rabbi, and will be attending this meeting with the Beth Din. We are not entirely sure what to expect, but based on the conversion curriculum and the practice questions, we anticipate the meeting to mostly be focused on my increasing knowledge and practice of Judaism. The following books are from the Beth Din’s curriculum, and I’ve added to them with podcasts, YouTube videos, and other sources.
- The Kosher Kitchen, Rabbi Binyomin Forst
- Maimonides’ Principles, Aryeh Kaplan
- The Book of Our Heritage, Vol I, II, II, Eliyahu Kitov
- The Shabbos Kitchen, Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen
- Halichot Bas Yisroel, Rav Yitzchak Yaacov Fuchs
- The Jewish Way, Rabbi Irving Greenberg
- A Crash Course in Jewish History, Rabbi Barel Wein
I also highly recommend This Jewish Life with Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe. He’s a great lecturer with a good sense of humor, and the episodes are succinct and informative. I’ve also been making my way through the Chumash.
In terms of personal prayer practice, I spent more time davening almost every day now. In the morning, I say modeh ani and al netilat yedayim upon waking up; Asher yatzar every time I use the bathroom; brachot before and after eating, whether a full meal or a snack; the morning and afternoon Amidah, the Shema and its blessings, Ashrei, Boruch Sheamar, etc.
Remembering the minute halachic details about daily kashrut observance is time-consuming and tricky; learning all the ways to do things without violating Shabbat laws is even more difficult. But I’ve really enjoyed learning almost everything (I admit the chapter in The Shabbos Kitchen about kneading on Shabbat was confusing and not very interesting, but I’ve got it down now.)
Further, I am constantly challenging myself to life up to Jewish values in matters that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to previously. I won’t go into all my personal misbehaviors that need correcting, but I have a mentor who is particularly observant about not violating laws around lashon hara, and her example has made me much more conscientious about gossiping, whether it’s coming from me or from other people.
Despite Covid restricting social interactions, I’m fortunate to have a solid crew of people I can lean on for advice and questions, and few people I know well enough to say hello to at Shabbat services. I know where I am during basically the entire Shabbat service now, and I enjoy them more and more. Udi and I continue to study together and increase our observance, which constantly provides an engaging topic of conversation and something to connect over. Udi recently bought a condo in a suburb outside of Tel Aviv, and is in the process of moving in. He is handling all the bureaucratic matters in utmost patience and competence, and I feel very fortunate to be on his team. We’re trying to figure out things floor polishing and furniture arrangement from a very long distance, and it’s all very confusing and exciting! Hopefully Israel opens up to international travelers soon and there will be a vaccine available so we can visit with Udi’s parents without fear of transmission.
Overall, things are progressing forward, and I feel ready for this second meeting and am looking forward to seeing what more I can learn. I promise not to wait so long between updates next time!