A Reform View of What Acceptance Means

Excerpts from June 2001 Conference

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In the "Guidelines for Rabbis Working with Prospective Gerim [Converts]" adopted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis in June 2001, the section on "readiness" specifies the commitments required of a convert to Reform Judaism. Whereas traditional Judaism's requirement of kabbalat ol hamitzvot, acceptance of the yoke of the commandments, suggests a broad commitment to traditional halakhah, or Jewish law, the term kabbalat mitzvot, acceptance of commandments, used here suggests a commitment to a more limited set of laws and practices. This article is excerpted from the complete guidelines with an integral commentary.

Readiness

Prior to completing the process of conversion, a rabbi should require that each prospective convert make commitments within each of the following areas. These commitments should be viewed as a demonstration of a dedication to kabbalat mitzvot within the context of the brit [covenant] between God and the Jewish people and as a starting point for increased Jewish involvement by the prospective convert.

The traditional formula for an individual's acceptance of the system of Jewish observance--kabbalat ol hamitzvot--is no longer descriptive of Reform attitudes to Jewish life. This document proposes the substitution of the phrase kabbalat mitzvotas being more appropriate for our times. The phrase is open as to which specific injunctions constitute commandments and is thus descriptive of Reform attitudes to Jewish life. This list is not intended to be given to prospective converts at the outset of the process, nor is it to be used by the rabbi simply as criteria for conversion. Rather, it is intended to be used during the process of exploration as a guide for prospective converts and a means to open up further a discussion of and entrance into all areas of Jewish life.

1) An acknowledgment that the prospective convert is freely choosing to enter into the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people. The rabbi should make clear to converts that this is a lifetime commitment.  

2) An acceptance of Judaism to the exclusion of all other faiths and practices in his/her life.  

a) Klal Yisrael: sharing in the fate and faith of the Jewish people. The term as it is used here is intended to refer to a commitment to the support of Jewish communities around the world, particularly the local community in which the prospective convert lives.  

b) Home and synagogue observance of Shabbat [Sabbath], chagim [Jewish holidays], and Yamim Noraim [high holidays].  

c) Creation and maintenance of a Jewish home. The creation of a Jewish home should be understood to mean the presence of items such as Jewish books, Jewish music, Jewish art, a tzedakah box [for charitable donations], and mezuzah, as well as adopting Jewish practices that may include kriat shema [reciting of the Shema prayer] and the recitation of hamotzi [blessing over the bread] and birkat hamazon [grace after eating] at meals.  

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