As I've previously mentioned, one of the most common questions I am asked is: How did I know I could commit to a Jewish life? There are many reasons, but one in particular was my ex.
We met six years ago last week, and it was one of those instant connections. Although we were thousands of miles apart throughout the entire duration of the relationship, our bond proved unbreakable, several times over. There was just one tiny problem: He was Muslim. And I was not.
Could I convert for a man? Well, I'll be honest. I was open to it. Certainly I had not considered myself a Christian for many years. So, as visions of a chic East-meets-West wedding danced in my head, I picked up a few books and read them. And I felt...nothing. It still took a long time for us to let go (He even came to Chicago to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with me in my first year), but from the point I told him I couldn't become a Muslim, we both knew it was over.
In case you are unaware, allow me to point out here that a conversion to Islam is probably the easiest out of the three major world religions. Christians may believe they're saving your soul, but even they will require some studying. To become a Muslim, one recites what is called the shahadah in front of two Muslim witnesses—any two will do. That's it. I should probably also mention that my ex was very liberal, so I would not have had to give up alcohol (quelle horreur!) or wear a head covering or anything of the sort. We pretty much would have been the Muslim equivalent of Jews who go to shul for High Holidays and ignore everything else. My life would have been so easy compared to what it is now. So why couldn't I just do it?
The only explanation I can point to is what I felt when I picked up that first book on Judaism three years into my relationship with my ex. I felt...everything. The answers I'd been seeking my whole life started to fall into my lap. There was no Jewish man in the picture, I was in love with someone of a non-Jewish faith, and yet everything in my being knew I had to become a Jew.
Last summer, while on the phone, my ex told me that he was looking for the Muslim version of me. That broke my heart. So I prayed. I asked G-d to send my ex his soulmate before He sent me my beshert. I knew I had the strength to see him get married first, and it seemed only fair, since it was my decisions that did us in, after all. I am happy to report that my ex became engaged last month, and the wedding will be in June.
Has it been scary to date as a Jewish convert (a 33-year-old one at that)? Gehinnom yes it has. I've joined a rather small people—it's like going on The Bachelorette and having three choices instead of the usual twenty-five. And yet, I wouldn't have it any other way.
People ask me if I'm really happy that my ex is getting married, like really? Thanks to Judaism, yes, I am. The mitzvot that help to cultivate my yetzer ha-tov take me outside of myself and make me think of others. I don't believe in nasty endings or labeling the other person as a jerk just because we didn't work out. It gives me great nachas to know that I was loved, and I loved, unselfishly. Could I say we really loved each other otherwise? My beshert owes a lot to my ex—I am a better woman today because of him. And his soon-to-be wife is more than merely a Muslim version of me; she is his true and perfect fit. The same G-d Who brought me home to Judaism, Who so graciously granted my prayer, is also guiding my love life. And yours, metukim. So love fearlessly, selflessly, and unconditionally—as G-d would have you do.