My Parents Will Believe I’m Going to Hell

And I’m too afraid to talk to them about it.

In 2016, after years of identifying as a lukewarm atheist/agnostic (depending on the day), I began the process of converting to Judaism. I’m going to write more about that at some point, but there’s far too much there to get into it now.

The problem is, my parents are Presbyterian, with strong Puritan influences. They believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation, and that the salvation He promises is a tangible reality. They believe in a literal hell where everyone who is not saved–everyone who does not believe in Jesus’ divinity–spends eternity.

They don’t take joy in that belief. It worries them immensely that so many good people will be condemned to eternal damnation because they never saw the truth of Jesus Christ, but, as my dad once told me “We didn’t make the rules.”

For them, my conversion to Judaism will mean that I am officially and formally forsaking Jesus and salvation. It will mean that I am making a conscious and informed decision to accept eternal damnation.

And I don’t know how to tell them that. I don’t know how I could sit across from them and explain that I am making a choice that–to them–endangers something far more precious than just my life.

The thought of hurting them in that way is almost impossible to bear. But at the same time, I don’t see how I could stand before a beit din and say “Yes, I want to be a part of the Jewish People…but please don’t tell my mom.”

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What the Heck is a (the?) Targum

In embarking on this project, I’m stepping into a rich and intimidating pool of history. People have been translating, interpreting, and expounding upon biblical texts since before a written bible existed. Some of the earliest known biblical interpretations are known as targumim.

Targumim: The plural of targum. Targum relates to the Akkadian word for interpreter or translator. Targumim were oral translations of biblical text from Hebrew into another language–usually Aramaic.

A targum would be relayed by a meturgeman, a professional interpreter, who would frequently add in his own or others’ commentary on a given passage or section. This extremely early exegesis is still studied by some religious traditions, although a prohibition against writing them down means that many interpretations were likely lost to history.