Kabbalah, Gematria, Holiness (and Maimonides)

I recently heard a class which left me very confused. The instructor, who claimed to be an orthodox rabbi, spoke about Maimonides’ rejection of Mysticism. Among the mystical ideas that he supposedly rejected was that:
The Hebrew language is intrinsically holy [citing the Talmud and Mishna as being against this, i.e. the concept of gematria, etc.]
The Jewish people are a holy nation
The Torah or mitzvot contain any intrinsic holiness, [there’s no intrinsic difference between the Torah and Shakespeare]
The Land of Israel has any intrinsic holiness. He taught that to believe any of the above is idolatrous since it is assigning godliness to things that don’t have it, which is precisely why Maimonides waged a war against these ideas which are truly foreign to traditional Judaism.
So perhaps you could clarify:
Are the above ideas mystical/idolatrous ideas?
Was Maimonides really against mysticism, [as was the Talmud, according to this presenter]?

Conversion: Bill of Rights

A convert in Washington drew up a “bill of rights for Jewish converts”. In this piece, she outlines ten issues which face conversion candidates or those in the process, claiming they are afraid of the rabbis, feel victimized, threatened and judged. I personally think she’s right on and have heard similar claims from women in the process. Are you involved in conversion and what is your opinion on what she claims?

Conversion: Children

We are somewhat confused and flustered. We adopted our two beautiful sons from Russia when each one was under a year old, and have raised them as Jews ever since. We were under the impression that if a child is adopted and raised by Jews then the children are considered Jewish. However, during a recent visit to Israel, our cousins told us that the children aren’t considered technically Jewish until they convert. This was difficult for us to swallow and want to find out if it’s true. Also, how is it possible to convert small children if they don’t have the maturity and understanding to accept upon themselves whatever being Jewish entails?

Conversion: Why?

Recently a non-Jewish friend asked me why someone would want to convert to Judaism. Although I could think of a lot of reasons, I’m not sure which one was the best. What would your answer be?

Christianity, Reform Judaism & Chosen People

I am writing this letter anonymously because since you know me, I am more comfortable asking you these questions and sharing my frustrations with Judaism anonymously.
I am a Reform Jew who strives to know God. I say the morning blessings and light candles on Shabbat. I usually go to services on Saturday and attend weekly Torah study. I do not keep kosher but don’t eat pork or shellfish. I say many blessings throughout the day.
So many of the prayers we say are expressing thanks for receiving the Torah and asking God to teach us Torah. Torah is primary. Yet, I study it diligently and find an exceedingly angry and vengeful God. I want to have a relationship with God but do not see that God wants a relationship with me. He seems to have an on-and-off relationship with the Jewish people, but not individuals (unless they are patriarchs or prophets.) I know you are going to say that he wants us to do the mitzvot as the basis for a relationship. But it is unlikely that I am going to do much more than I do now.
I had very abusive parents and our God feels like a continuation of that… ‘Quit whining about your food or I’ll give you something to whine about…’
I was at a Christian funeral last week. I was so moved by the unconditional love that Jesus has for those who believe in him. I wish our God loved us that way. It is very tempting… I do not feel loved by our God. I feel that He is constantly judging me and I can’t win, therefore He will never love me.
In Eastern religions meditation is the key to oneness with the Divine. I practice meditation (without religious content), and find that it brings me closer to a connection with God.
I just don’t understand how Judaism does this. Or maybe it is only for Orthodox Jews. If this is the case, I will never be an Orthodox Jew so I can never have a relationship with our God.
I don’t know if any of this makes sense. I am just very frustrated with Judaism because it does not seem to offer me a way to connect with G-d as an individual.