Conversion to Christianity?
Shalom and thank you for turning to us. Your question is extremely important. You contemplate conversion to Christianity. I will not try to refute the arguments that you have been exposed to, but I will explain some things about Jewish belief and practice.
Judaism predates Christianity and Islam by many years and they are based on it. Islam is based on the alleged prophecy of one person, and Christianity is based on the teachings of a Jewish person who was able to perform some supernatural feats by the use of secrets he learned from Jewish Kabbalistic teaching, according to certain sources. According to the renowned scholar Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides) the purpose of the Christian and Muslim religions was to help perpetuate the awareness of Messianic Redemption, which we are still waiting for. The Jewish people on the other hand, received the commandments from G-d as an entire nation, at the foot of Mount Sinai, rather than from an individual. You ask how we know this? The entire body of the Bible and Torah law was handed down from generation to generation starting with that entire nation who heard it from G-d. A practicing Jew from Australia will tell you this as well as a practicing Jew from Tunisia or anywhere else in the world.
The Midrash, which is part of the Oral Law that was handed down through the generations, explains how Abraham discovered the Creator. He spent the first three years of his life hiding in a cave because King Nimrod, the mighty ruler of that era, decreed, (as did Pharaoh in Egypt years later) that all newborn boys should be killed, since his astrologers predicted that a boy would be born who would seriously challenge the people’s belief in Nimrod as a deity. When Abraham, obviously a gifted child, emerged from the cave at age three, he wanted to understand who was in charge of the world. Observing the moon at night shining and presiding over the whole world, he thought that perhaps the moon was G-d. When the mighty sun rose and the moon disappeared, Abraham thought that certainly the sun was G-d. However the sun set, and soon Abraham realized that someone must have created the moon and the sun and the stars, the wind and the rivers, the mountains. valleys, people and animals. He began to spread his belief in monotheism. No human being is G-d, although some human beings in history have indeed been granted the power of prophecy. Moses was the greatest prophet and he received the Written Law, which comprises the Five Books of Moses, the writings of the prophets, and more, and the Oral Law, which comprises the Talmud, certain commentaries, and more. To understand the Written Law, we need the Oral Law. Along with the Torah that Moses and the Jewish people received at Mount Sinai, came the Thirteen Principles of exegesis, which enable true Torah scholars to understand what the Torah is trying to teach us.
An example of the importance of the Oral Law is that the Torah states in Deuteronomy 25:3; “You shall not allow a fire to burn in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath.” This has been misinterpreted to mean that we must sit in the dark on the Sabbath and eat cold food, which is the antithesis of the idea of the Sabbath, which should be a day of warmth and light. The Oral Law details how to fulfill this instruction, by explaining that we do not actually light a fire on the Sabbath, but we can and should make sure our homes are well lit on the Sabbath, specifically so that we do not stumble in the dark and endanger ourselves physically or compromise our domestic harmony. Commentaries also explain that we should be extra careful not to light ‘fires’ of contention on the Sabbath, since it should be a day of peace and harmony. What if someone is ill on the Sabbath or on a festival, do we still abstain from switching on a light or kindling a fire? The Oral Law emphasizes that we must do what is necessary to save a life, as it is preferable to ‘transgress’ one Sabbath to save a person’s life so that he or she may live to keep many Sabbaths. This holds true even if it is not sure that the person will indeed live for many more Sabbaths.
When Noah left the ark after the flood, G-d taught him the Seven Noahide Laws, which include setting up courts of justice, not committing murder, adultery, not blaspheming G-d’s name and more. These laws are for all of mankind, but Jews have six hundred and thirteen commandments, and every commandment corresponds to the unique spiritual source of each person, and affects all of our limbs and body parts. The Hebrew word ‘mitzvah’ which means commandment, not only refers to the idea of a commandment, but comes also from the Hebrew root ‘tzavta’ which means connection. Each commandment is a means of channeling G-d’s light and energy to us, you could say it’s like charging a battery, only each commandment affects a different aspect of our being. There are many commandments that we cannot directly carry out until the third Temple is rebuilt, (may this happen speedily in our day) but when we learn Torah and we learn about these matters, it is considered as if we performed them.
We were given so many commandments, as the Sages teach us in tractate Avot, “to increase our reward”. The Sages also teach us that the reward of a mitzvah IS a mitzvah. How are we to understand this? Much can be said about it, but as mentioned above, mitzvah has to do with connection, and carrying out a mitzvah – a commandment of the Torah, is the way to connect with G-d. One of the most central prayers in Judaism is the recitation of the Shema prayer, “Hear O Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The G-d we want to connect with is the one G-d who granted us the Torah. In that Torah we also learn, right at the beginning, that G-d created the world so that the Jewish people would learn the Torah and carry out its commandments, despite trials and tribulations, and this helps the world come to a rectified state where G-d will be happy to openly ‘dwell amongst us’. If you were born from a Jewish mother, (or you are a person who converted totally according to Jewish Law,) it is your privilege and duty to learn the Torah and carry out its commandments to the best of your ability. Even if you undergo a ceremony that according to a different religion converts you to that religion, according to the Jewish religion you haven’t done anything. You are still Jewish.
I hope this has been helpful in shedding a new light on some of your dilemmas, and wish you all the best. Feel free to ask more questions!