Today was the day when conversion to Judaism went viral. There were supposed to have been 40 odd converts. Some of the groups had decided not to participate in part because of bad feelings between them. Somehow however when we got there the miracle of healing occurred and the leaders who had been at odds were reconciled and now everyone wanted to participate. People called each other and more and more converts kept arriving. The hallway in front of the room where the Bet Din met was filled with potential converts. It was like the famous scene of Charlie Chaplin working on the assembly line with more and more candidates coming and the Bet Din simply not able to keep up. They were heroic and won the distinguished service award for Bate Din interviewing converts so to speak from sunrise to sunset.
It was a good day for the Jews. When asked why they wanted to become Jewish most said that the Jews were chosen by G-D and that Jews had the correct understanding of scripture and that Judaism was the true religion when others were not. There was none of the cultural relativism so common in our neighborhood. If one understanding was true the others were obviously false, something even a Malagasy toddler would understand.
There was some talk of semi magical prayers that could heal not only broken hearts but back aches and landlord tenant issues. Almost every candidate was Shomer Shabbat and kept kosher. If their dedication was good for the chickens and the cows it was most certainly hard on the fish.
Tomorrow we are planning to have all the converts dunk in a riverine Mikvah. We Americans were concerned about dunking in the cold river water of wintertime in the southern hemisphere. Those more familiar with the locals laughed at our concerns saying that the people of Madagascar were tough and would not be fazed in the least.
We visited one of the community’s religious leader in his home. It was down a narrow street which led into an even narrower alley which led to a courtyard at the end of which stood his home, It was around the size of one of those walk in closets that are found in upper middle class homes in the United States. It was home to one of the pillars of the local Judaism his wife his son his daughter a cat and two Madagascar parrots. On a small side table stood his greatest treasure, internet access which connected our local leader to the great wide world of spiritual teaching and from which he was privileged to spend his time listening to the sages of the Kabala expound on gematrias, the sephirot and the mystical secrets contained in the verses of the Torah from the Holy Land.
Tomorrow rain or shine we journey to the river where our candidates will dunk the iver for spiritual purification.
-Rabbi Gerald Sussman