Should a Non-Jew Convert to Judaism?

Israel refers to non-Jews as gentiles — or "clans," from the Latin — or "goyim," or literally "nations," in Hebrew. Non-Jews are also called B'nai Noah, the children (or descendants) of Noah, as opposed to that branch of B'nai Noah called B'nai Israel, the children (or descendants) of Israel/Jacob.

For this is your [Israel's] wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, that, when they hear all these statutes, they shall say, 'Surely this great nation [goy] is a wise and understanding people.'— Deuteronomy 4:6

Declare His glory among the nations ["among the goyim"]. — I Chronicles 16:24

The Torah maintains that the righteous of all nations merit infinite and eternal reward. A non-Jew or goy who adheres to the Rainbow Covenant by fully living the Noahide Law is likened to Israel's High Priest himself! This is the cohen gadol, a living model of human rectitude and purity.

Whoever professes idolatry rejects the Ten Commandments. . . and whoever rejects idolatry professes the entire Torah.— Midrash, Sifre to Numbers 15:22

A cohen is a direct descendant of Israel's first High Priest, Aaron, Moses' older brother. The cohen gadol, or great priest, serves as the chief officiant at Temple services in Jerusalem (when the Temple is operational), Israel's chief representative before God. Obviously, this is a person of the very highest status — and a pious Noahide is considered to be on that same exalted level! See Talmud, Bava Kamma 38a, Avoda Zorah 3a; Midrash, Sifra to Leviticus 18:5.

Whoever wishes to adopt the religion of Israel is required to accept, not the Torah with all its statutes and ordinances, but the precepts which were promulgated for b'nai Noah. - Maimonides, Responsa #124

Someone who is not born into the people of Israel — someone who isn't born to a mother who is Jewish — becomes a truly righteous, decent, enlightened human being by keeping the Noahide Law. Again, the Torah compares such a person to Israel's cohen gadol. However, some people want even more, religiously, than they think that the Noahide Law has to offer. (Very few people understand how much the Noahide Law actually does offer.) So, if he or she feels inclined to take up a radically different level of religious discipline, along with a different social — not to mention family — circle, he or she can plunge into the sort of study that will eventually allow one to convert to Judaism.

You [Israel] shall be Mine own treasure from among all peoples, . . . a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. — Exodus 19:5

Converting to Judaism doesn't just involve a change in one's religion. Conversion means joining the Jewish people, the people of Israel — as a literate, full-fledged member of a people, an ethnic group and a nation, as well as a sacred society. It means a change of destiny, by changing one's cultural and national identity too.

He who has never been persecuted is not a Jew. — Talmud, Hagigah 5a

Genesis 12 gives the example of Abraham leaving family, city and country in extremely zealous servitude to God, HaShem. Similarly, the Book of Ruth gives the example of Ruth, a Noahide who joined Israel, who became a Jewish convert, by joining Naomi, her beloved mother-in-law, according to the ancient formula, "Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you dwell, I will dwell, your people shall be my people, and your God my God; where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried; the Lord (HaShem) do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me." (Ruth 1:16-17).

Our nation [Israel, the Jewish people] is a nation only by virtue of its Torah. — Saadia Gaon, Emunot v'Deot 3:7

You are My witnesses, says the Lord [HaShem], and My servant whom I have chosen. — Isaiah 43:10

One can serve God and man very well without belonging as a member to the people of Israel. One need not adopt the religion of Israel as a member of Israel to be all that one can be. God cherishes the righteous of all nations (Mishna Tosefta, Sanhedrin 13.2).

Before embarking on a path leading to membership in the people of Israel, one should first learn and keep the First Covenant - the universal laws and moral precepts which apply to all mankind, including the people of Israel.

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