I speak in a number of yeshivas, Jewish day schools, and synagogues across the country. The number one question I receive, besides "what did your mother say when you told her you'd converted" is: What was the one thing that convinced you that Judaism is true?
The humorous answer I usually give is "chulent", that gastronomical mixture of beans, meat, potatoes, barley, and whatever else you can throw in that is put up on Friday afternoon and slow-cooked for hours till served at Shabbat lunch. Chulent is a distinctly Jewish food, consisting of ordinary ingredients, yet possessing an extraordinary taste. Non-Jews have many unique foods - but chulent is not among them. (Follow this link to learn more about chulent than you ever wanted to know: chulent.)
So, the answer to the question of "the one thing that convinced me" is best understood by the chulent analogy; it was a combination of things which, slow-cooked over time, distilled into a uniquely flavored conclusion: that what I'd learned about Jesus was inaccurate and I would follow this path of realization wherever it would lead. I did not expect at the time that I would become a Jew, much less an observant one. Maybe I could just become an honest person without a need for religion of any kind. Maybe I could be spiritual without creed, dogma, or ritual. (More on this in another post. It's a separate and critical subject. Hint: maybe we can have societies without laws, business deals without contracts, marriages without exclusivity, and actions without consequences.)
Having left the church formally in 1986, I slowly entered the realm of agnostic for about eight years. I played peek-a-boo with my old life, visiting a church now and again to see if I could reconnect. Sometimes the heart would go for what the head could not support. I had been so deeply in love with so many aspects of it all:
- the music,
- the celebration,
- the wistful, personal God experience,
- the community,
- the certainty of the salvation message,
- the simple solutions to complex issues,
- the power of the charismatic, Pentecostal style of preaching & praying
And I had feared a number of aspects:
- by denying Jesus as my lord and savior, wasn't I doomed to eternal hell? (This is considered by many as "the unpardonable sin".)
- how could a billion Christians in the world be wrong?
- maybe the problem was just me?
- the Baptists told me once saved, I was always saved. Was I? Wasn't I?
- my Dad was a Baptist. He was saved, right? He said I was. Right?
- what about all the 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in the New Testament?
- what about the accounts of Jesus physical resurrection from the dead?
- what about all the spiritual experiences I had over the years? Didn't my belief in Jesus change my life from hopeless sinner to one saved by grace and sanctified by the spirit?
In the next posting, I'll explore the last three questions listed here. They are three legs of a tripod in Christian apologetics. In my book "A Minister's Journey to Judaism", I'll go into more depth on all of these issues, G-d willing.