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Conversion in Biblical Times

If a person has a Jewish father and was raised Jewish, why are there such strict requirements for him to become Jewish? Abraham was the first Jew and he never converted! Likewise how did Moses marry Zipporah? The Torah does not seem to specify a long-drawn conversion process. Why is it different today?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Thank you for your good observation. You are right that before the Torah was given at Sinai there was no formal process for conversion. It was just a matter of accepting the Jewish beliefs and marrying in. Men were also required to have circumcision – one of the few obligations the Jewish people had been given before Sinai (see Genesis 17). This is how, for example, Jacob’s sons took wives and Moses was able to marry Zipporah.

Once, however, the Torah was given at Sinai, God outlined a formal process of circumcision, immersion, bringing certain offerings (in Temple times), and acceptance to observe the Torah, all done before a Jewish court.

(Sources: Talmud Keritut 9a, Ramban Leviticus 24:10, Chidushei HaGriz Sotah 9.)

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