My rabbi asked me if I want to schedule my bet den, I just don't know how to know if I'm ready!
Ooh, that’s a really tough question to know the answer to because it varies so much, person to person. I knew that I felt ready when I thought about my “goals” for Judaism and found that none of them could be solved by not going to the mikvah. I don’t know if that makes any sense.
Like, before my thoughts had been along the lines of “I need to learn what the holidays are, I don’t really understand services yet, and what really makes Judaism different from the religion I’ve practiced previously?” Those were things I could study more, and felt like I needed to study more before conversion. But at that point I was thinking more like “I’d like to feel more a part of my Jewish community, I want to incorporate x practice into my daily life.” These were specific things I could work on as a Jew, not as a convert-in-progress.
So here are some general questions you can ask yourself to try and gauge whether you’re ready:
- how often do I think about Judaism and Jewish practices? is it something that’s centered in the synagogue and in my classes, or do I think about it at home, at work, going about my daily life?
- do I feel comfortable at my synagogue? even if I am occasionally nervous or anxious, do I feel like this is a community I want to join? do I feel comforted, inspired, nourished by the service? does it feel familiar, or is it still a little strange?
- when I celebrate a holiday, or Shabbat, or witness a life cycle event like a bar/bat mitzvah, am I thinking about how I want to celebrate it on my own? am I making plans for my future, or am I still thinking of it as someone else’s celebration that I’m just sitting in on?
- can I explain some basic aspects of Judaism to people who don’t know much about it? do I have at least some confidence in my knowledge of kashrut, holidays, rituals, ethics?
- do I disagree with anything I’ve read or witnessed? if so, can I articulate why I disagree in a way that draws on Jewish resources? (for example, at my beit din, my rabbi brought up the fact that my synagogue doesn’t have the kohenim bless the congregation on Yom Kippur, and asked if I agreed or disagreed with this break from tradition)
There’s one other thing that was very powerful to me that is hard to phrase as a question; it’s the way that, sometimes, I was recognized by others as (almost a) Jew, and how that made me feel. One of the first times I thought of myself as almost-a-Jew was when I was at a Yom HaShoah vigil, when my school’s rabbi recited the Kaddish, and I responded at the proper points, with the proper words, automatically, as did every other Jew in the crowd. But all the gentiles there looked around, puzzled, and one of my friends asked me later what cue she had missed. That sort of made me think Oh, I’m really learning this. I’ve changed.
Then, several months later, just a few weeks before I ended up converting, similar things like that kept happening. I was walking to my synagogue, and a couple recognized me and called “Shabbat Shalom!” from where they were walking across the street. A girl in one of my classes said something casually antisemitic, and another Jewish girl in class made eye contact with me before we both tried to correct her. One of my dormmates said she was really happy that I lived in the same hallway as her, because “this would have been the first time I lived without any other Jews.”
And every time this happened, I felt a little shiver of this feels right. I didn’t feel guilty, or like I had to prove myself. I felt that, not only could I pray by myself and light candles for myself, but I could be a Jew publicly and be recognized by other members in my community.
So. yeah. That’s what being ready felt like for me. And this got kind of long, and I’m sure I missed out on some other things, but those are some suggestions. Also, before I went before my beit din, my rabbi had me journal four questions: What has been my path so far? What do I love about Judaism? What does living a Jewish life mean for me? What (if anything) is still holding me back? These are much broader than the questions I suggested, but if you’re really stuck, getting a few sheets of paper and really taking the time to write out thoughtful answers might help you decide. And it’s a great way to “study” for the beit din, too!