Vol. 5.5 / Tammuz 5762 / June 2002 [best viewed at 1024X768]  


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Re: Ethical Monotheism
by Aron S-T on 2001/12/23 08:05:20 US/Central
An historical approach to Judaism would certainly agree with your analysis. The religion of the Israelites through the first temple period was based on a covenant between a local god and his people. The ethical concepts we associate with monothesim were initially developed by the prophets. Judaism as a distinct monotheistic religion in fact began during the second temple period and was set in its classical form during the Talmudic era, post-destruction of the Second Temple. (Please note that Orthodox Jews would contend that Talmudic Judaism was in fact given full-blown to Moses on Mount Sinai).

The question is, what does this have to do with your conversion? Modern Judaism, in all its forms, certainly recognizes the centrality of ethics. The Bible itself recognizes that ethical concerns must limit G-d's actions - as indicated in the story of the dialog between Abraham and G-d concerning the destruction of Sodom. Moreover, you will find many rabbinic precepts and stories that tie G-d's action to ethical behavior. Spent a few hours reading this online magazine and you will see for yourself. So yes, to be a Jew, you must accept the centrality of ethical behavior in our relationship with other people and in our relationship to G-d. However, it is not clear to me why you are concerned about this.

On the flip side, you don't have to convert to Judaism to lead a good and moral life. So, in fact, conversion has nothing to do with ethics at all. Jews believe that G-d requires ethical behavior of all people, Jew and Gentile alike. The classical Jewish concept of conversion has to do with the idea of the convert tying his/her fate to that of the Jewish people. In Orthodoxy this would require your assumption of the specific practices that are unique to Jews. Taking Kaplan's concept of Judaism as a civilization, even non-Orthodox Jews view conversion as the desire to partake in Jewish culture and peoplehood.

If you haven't done so already, I would certainly suggest you spend some time speaking with a Rabbi or Rabbis, discussing your motivations for conversion and what exactly it entails.

Good luck whatever you decide.

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Re: Ethical Monotheism
by Yitzhak on 2001/12/28 18:34:36 US/Central

First, many thanks for your reply and your best wishes.

To answer your question: this particular concern (and I am using the word in the sense of being, “relevant or important to” rather than being anxious or worried) is one of a number that have bubbled up as I try to work out my motivations for converting and to give some thought as to the denomination to convert into prior to making personal contact with a Rabbi.

My question is not about ethics but about ethical monotheism. To give you a bit more background, at the moment, it is near to impossible for me to separate historical perspective from religious belief and because of that, I find myself challenging the tenet of, “ethical monotheism” or, to be precise, the ethical part of it. For me, God is just God, his actions or inactions, are neither ethical or unethical and, in any case, who are we to judge?

So, I am trying to do some reconciliation.

You made me smile with your reassurance that conversion to Judaism was not necessary to lead a good and moral life. You then very succinctly put forward two reasons for conversion both of which struck a chord. Again, thank you.

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