A Convert's Soul

September 5, 2011 | by Aish.com

I have read that someone who becomes a Jew through conversion has a Jewish soul already – and the conversion is just correcting a mistaken birth. Can you give me some insight on this?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

Indeed, I have spoken to many converts who have described the feeling of having been Jewish their entire lives.

The idea that all converts already have a Jewish spark comes from a verse in the Torah. On the last day of Moses' life, all the Jewish people gathered together and God spoke to them, saying: "Not with you alone do I seal this covenant and oath. I am making it both with those here today before the Lord our God, and also with those not here today." (Deut. 29:13)

This verse is rather perplexing. Who is the group that God refers to as being “not here today"?

The Talmud (Shevuot 39a) explains that this refers to future converts, whose souls were also at Sinai. (By the way, this helps explain why one of the primary requirements for conversion to Judaism is the acceptance to keep all the 613 mitzvot – just as the Jews did at Mount Sinai.)

A close look at this verse in the original Hebrew reveals something startling. In the first part of the phrase, "but with those here," the last letters of those four Hebrew words actually spell out the name "Yitro." Yitro was the father-in-law of Moses, and the first convert to Judaism following the exodus from Egypt.

Another source for the phenomenon you describe is found in the Talmud. In discussing the laws of conversion. It says: "A convert who comes to convert..." This begs the question – why does it say "a CONVERT who comes to convert"? Rather, it should say, "a GENTILE who comes to convert"! The reason is because the future convert already has a Jewish spark inside of him.

One of the most well-known converts was the Polish nobleman, Abraham ben Abraham. He converted to Judaism in the 18th century, and was sentenced by the church to death. It is said that even before his conversion, unidentifiable feelings, which testified to the greatness of his spirit, would overwhelm him every Shabbat. Rabbi Yoel Schwartz in "Jewish Conversion" quotes him as saying: "Although the nations rejected the Torah, individual members of those nations sought to accept it. Only the refusals of their peers prevented them from realizing their aspirations. The souls of these individuals appear in every generation as converts."

We would be happy to hear from any converts who have experienced this phenomenon.

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