Even though this Syllabus refers to “the candidate”, its requirements apply to BOTH the candidate for conversion AND any Jewish partner they may have – the same standards apply for both.
Although this Syllabus focuses on learning and the knowledge a candidate for conversion should acquire, an essential aspect of the conversion process is the actual observance of mitzvot. Any candidate who does not demonstrate actual observance of mitzvot and a commitment to continued actualobservance of mitzvot after completing comversion will NOT be allowed to complete the conversion process. The onus is on the candidate to demonstrate a sufficient standard.
There is no guaranteed timetable for conversion – it depends on the candidate’s standard of observance. Candidates should anticipate conversion taking a minimum of one year. No wedding arrangements may be made without the express permission of the Beis Din in which they convert.
Belief in G-d is fundamental to Judaism.
The 13 Principles of Faith – basic beliefs about G-d, (based on the Rambam’s introduction to the 11th chapter of Sanhedrin, the concepts of revelation & prophesy, (based on Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato’s epic work Derech Hashem or the Ways of G-d) Divine reward and punishment, the concept of the Messiah, the concept of techiat ha’metim (resurrection of the dead, and Jewish suffering and the Holocaust.
The 7 Noachide Laws (brief overview)
Respect for G-d:
What Jews call G-d and why (the different names of the G-d and what they represent)
Respecting G-d’s name in written form – how to treat holy books & writings (Siddur, Tanach, benshers etc) incl. proper disposal of holy items (shemot).
Appropriate behaviour in G-d’s presence, esp. how to behave in shule.
OTHER INTRODUCTORY CONCEPTS:
Holiness based on Rabbi Luzzato’s work Path of the Just
An understanding of the words Torah, Yisrael, and Mitzvah, including that
there are multiple meanings for each.
Pekuach Nefesh (endangering of life) and exceptions to this principle (idolatry, murder, sexual wrong-doing).
Different categories of Jews – kohen, levi, yisrael. Marriage restrictions on kohanim.
The role of a rabbi.
Rabbinic enactments – Deuteronomy 17:9-11.
The concepts of yetzer ha’tov and yetzer ha’ra based on Derech Hashem
Tanach and Chumash a historical overview and understanding how the Oral Law was transmitted.
The concept of the Chosen People
Interrelationship between Jews and non-Jews, including how converts should relate to non-Jewish relatives. Kihud av v’em to non-Jewish parents
MEZUZA, TZIT TZIT, TEFILLIN
The source of these mitzvot, their relevance and significance
Practical knowledge of how to observe these mitzvot
Note: all candidates are expected to have a kosher mezuza on every door.
Note: males should wear tzit tzit every day, and say the appropriate blessing.
Note: males should only buy tefillin with the Rabbi’s supervision.
Meaning of words kosher, traif, and pasul
Kosher meat including:
Kosher species and how to identify them.
Where to purchase kosher meat and the importance of proper hashgechah.
Knowledge of restrictions on various other foods e.g. yayin nesech, pat yisrael, which cheeses require hashgechah, blood spots in eggs, not eating meat and fish together.
Meat and milk, and waiting periods between.
How to set up a kosher kitchen – how to maintain a kosher kitchen. Dealing with mishaps incl. knowing when to consult a rabbi. Knowledge of how to kasher.
Toivelling kelim (ritual immersion of food utensils), incl. practical knowledge of which utensils require immersion, and how to perform immersion.
Note: candidates are expected to demonstrate a commitment to keeping properly kosher at all times, including when traveling or eating out (whether with friends, relatives or at restaurants, and whether in social or work contexts).
Reasons for observing Shabbat – (1) the 4th Commandment (2) remembering the creation (3) remembering the Exodus. The relevance of (2) and (3) to Shabbat.
Positive aspects of Shabbat observance – oneg Shabbat, the concept of honoring Shabbat, ways of honoring Shabbat (Kiddush, havdalah, clothing, food etc).
Negative aspects of Shabbat observance – the concept of melachah. The difference between melachah and “work”. How the list of 39 melachot was derived – brief introduction to the Mishkan and how it was constructed.
The 39 melachot, with emphasis on practical applications. Preparing the house (and oneself) for Shabbat.
Note: Proper Shabbat observance is an ESSENTIAL part of the conversion process.
Note: candidates will not be allowed to complete conversion unless they live within walking distance of an Orthodox synagogue.
Why the Jewish day starts at sunset
Structure of the Jewish calendar
Rosh Chodesh and its significance
Cycle of the year – awareness of the sequence in which Jewish holydays occur.
CHAGIM & OTHER HOLYDAYS (fasts etc).
Study of the various chagim and yamim tovim, including the shalosh regalim(Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuos) Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Chanukah, Purim, fast days, Sefirah,(the counting of the Omer) the 3 Weeks, lag b’Omer and other days of special religious significance. The significance of each (as well as any symbols they may have e.g. shofar, etrog & lulav, sukkah). Observance at a practical level.
Special attention to be paid to Pesach, including:
The significance of the Exodus in Jewish history
What constitutes chametz
How to prepare for Pesach – cleaning, sale of chametz etc. Proper observance on Pesach.
Introduction to the Seder.
Thorough knowledge o the Pesach kosher list.
How observance of yamim tovim differs to that of Shabbat. Yom Kippur as an exception to the general principle.
Lighting candles on yom yov – differences between 1st and 2nd night.
“3 day yom tov” situation.
Special features of yom tov shule services – hallel, birkat kohanim etc.
Kiddush on yom tov.
Permissibility of melachah on rabbinically ordained holydays
The special Shabbatot – e.g. Shabbat Mevarchim, Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zakhor, Shabbat Parah, Shabbat haChodesh, Shabbat hsGadol, Shabbat Shuvah etc.
Fast days. Which restrictions are applicable, how minor fast days differ from major fast days, what each fast day commemorates.
An understanding of the basic concept of tzniut, including that it applies to men as well as women and is not limited merely to clothing.
The requirement for married women to cover their hair.
Note: candidates are expected to show a commitment to improve their standard of tzniut.
Note: men must wear a head covering at all times.
SHULE AND RELIGIOUS SERVICES
Overview of various features of a shule – Aron hakodesh, bimah, mechitzah etc. and what they represent.
Chumash – understanding the layout of a standard Chumash.
Note: candidates are expected to be able to follow a synagogue service.
Note: from the time their candidature commences, candidates are expected to attend synagogue every Shabbat, as well as on yom tov and for other appropriate occasions e.g. Megillah reading on Purim. As a minimum, women should attend all of and at least some of Kriat haTorah. Men should also attend Shacharit, including, where feasible, on weekdays
BLESSINGS AND PRAYER
The reasons for prayer and what benefits it provides.
The obligation to pray – for men, for women.
Awareness of the differences between a siddur and a machzor (prayer book for the High Holidays and the festivals..
The order of the siddur.
Blessings upon arising in the morning – modeh ani, nagel vasser (washing one’s hands) etc.
Note: candidates are expected to wash nagel vasser every morning.
The obligation to say blessings both before and after eating. Knowledge of the blessings over food. Awareness of all three brachot achronot, and familiarity with benshing and al ha’michya at least in English.
Note: candidates should be fluent in the brachot rishonot in Hebrew, as well as in the blessing boray nefashot (in Hebrew).
Note: candidates are expected to be in the habit of making all appropriate blessings whenever they eat, including washing hands before eating bread.
Overview of other blessings for various occasions – e.g. traveller’s prayer, blessing for new clothes, for affixing a mezuzah, sh’hay’che’yanu, al ha’tevilah.(upon the immersion of new utensils in a mikveh)
The Shema – its significance, and an understanding of its contents.
The Amidah – overview of its significance and contents, study of the first 3 brachot. Awareness of differences between weekday and Shabbat/yom tov versions.
Overview of the prayer services and the major prayers therein e.g. Kaddish, Alaynu. Candidates should be aware of and familiar with mah tovu.
Overview of Kiddush, havdalah, the Haggadah.
LIFE CYCLE EVENTS
Brit Milah, naming babies, Pidyon haben, Bar/Bat Mitzvah
Marriage – incl. the concept of kiddushin. Get (divorce).
Death & mourning.
MORAL & ETHICAL DIMENSIONS OF JUDAISM
Meticulous business practices
Birth control, incl. acceptability of various methods of contraception. Abortion.
Organ donation, euthanasia.
Treatment of animals, care of the environment.
TAHARAT HAMISPACHAH (FAMILY PURITY) Separate for Men and Women
The importance of observing taharat hamispachah.
Jewish attitudes to sex.
Brief overview of the laws of taharat hamishpachah.
Advantages of observing taharat hamishpachah
The concept of tumah and how it is related to niddah.
Mikvah as a symbol of spiritual rebirth and its ability to remove niddah.
Note: ALL candidates are required to undertake this part of the Syllabus.
Detailed study of the laws of taharat hamishpachah.
Note: only candidates likely to marry in the foreseeable future are required to undertake this part of the Syllabus.
An overview of Jewish history from Biblical to modern times.
All candidates are expected to learn to read Hebrew, with emphasis on reading basic religious texts, e.g. the Shema, the Amidah, Birkat Hamazon.
In addition, candidates are expected to demonstrate ability to read unfamiliar Hebrew text.
Note: candidates should focus on reading accurately, rather than on reading quickly
REQUIRED READING LIST:
Derech Hashem (The Way of G-d) by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (the Ramchal)
The Path of the Just by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (the Ramchal)
The 39 Melachos by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat
The Classic Artscroll Siddur by Rabbi Nossan Scherman/Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz (Ashkenaz)
The Stone Edition Chumash by Rabbi Nossan Scherman
The Living Torah by Rabbi Arye Kaplan
Note: There are many books in English on all the subjects discussed in this syllabus. Anyone interested in further reading can ask about that particular subject.
SCHEDULE FOR CLASSES:
The classes meet twice a week for an hour and a half per class. The student has full access to Rabbi Coffman and can make appointments during the week for further clarification and guidance.
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