"Rabbi Akiva is the hero of all converts," my friend Moshe declared. I was stunned. We were discussing conversion in spite of my creeping reluctance.
Rabbi Akiva was a simple herdsman who converted at the age of 40 for the sake of his Jewish wife Rachel. I was near 40 at the time, I am married to Rachel and, by accident, I have RabiAkiva as my alias on many a website.
You see, once upon a time I had to fill out a form on the internet and had to fill out my address as well as choosing an alias. We lived in Rabi Akiva street at the time and I got the cells mixed up, so that RabiAkiva became my alias. I got used to the name and kept it.
Will I ever convert? You know, if they will come up with a secular version of conversion I surely will. But recently I heard of this concept "יהודים לא-יהודים", referring to non-Jews who live in Israel among the Jews and regard themselves as Jews, identify with Jews and are in no way different from the secular Jewish majority in Israel. That's me all right. So in that respect I AM already a Jew and indeed, ever since I proudly requested and acquired Israeli citizenship, that is exactly how I feel.
Rabbi Akiva is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of Judaism. I tickles me senseless, to carry that name and identify with him, but I fail to see how I could ever become one. In any case, I study Judaism in my own way. I'll write about the podcasts and the reading in entries to come, but at this point i can only express how I am intimidated and at the same time fascinated by the vastness of Jewish learning. That is so much above and beyond of whatever Christianity I grew up with and got to know. I'll never begin to grasp that, I feel, and I have completely the wrong head for it, I feel, but you know what? I may have some original insight. Some footnote to Rabbi Akiva, why not?