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Re: Ethical Monotheism
by Aron S-T on 2001/12/23 09:05:20 US/Eastern

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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